Is Quiet Firing the Antidote to Quiet Quitting?

Serious senior African American female mental health profession gestures while talking with clients in a support group or group therapy session. She is holding a clipboard.

Sarah loves her job. There’s nothing more rewarding for her than being able to help people define their careers and encourage them to maximise their potentials. She loves her colleagues too and now that COVID is over, she looks forward to physically connecting with her colleagues whom she has only met virtually since she joined the company seven months ago.

All that enthusiasm soon died two months after she resumed to their Corporate Office on the other side of the city. Sarah soon got tired of the commute to and from work. She now had to wake up earlier than she normally would, spend about an hour to get to the office and when she finally left in the evening, got stuck in traffic like everyone else thereby getting home really exhausted. She, alongside a few other colleagues have asked her manager to give them some flexibility with a hybrid schedule just like their colleagues in other departments who are physically at the office only three times a week. But her manager will not hear of it. Additionally, she recently feels stuck being in the same role for more than six months. Her probationary period ended a couple of months earlier because of her outstanding performance but while she expected more responsibilities, nothing has changed.

Sarah has decided not to quit. Not when she doesn’t have another offer or job. With the increasing cost of living in her city, she can’t afford to be without a job for too long. But she has found new tactics to manage her schedule until she eventually sends in her resignation. She calls in sick every other week, leaves work at work, and well, she’s never at the office past 5pm to join in whatever happens after work. She has decided not to go above and beyond anymore. If it’s not her KPI, it’s not her business. Afterall, who else knows about maintaining a healthy work-life balance better than her.

Sarah’s boss, Celine can tell what is going on. She knows the tell-tale signs of quiet quitting. She has seen it too many times with high performing employees who suddenly begin to disengage at work. Sarah’s one of the best girls on Celine’s team, and Celine empathizes with her, but this new attitude is frustrating and cannot be tolerated.

In the past, Celine would have matched Sarah’s energy with quiet firing. It’s a simple game; an employee who wilfully disengages herself but hangs around till she gets another offer elsewhere would be neglected and tactically frustrated out of her job to avoid a direct layoff and unwanted unemployment claims. But Celine is learning that although it is easier, quiet firing is not a good practice. She plans to have a conversation with Sarah before the end of the week and hopes they both would be able to develop a realistic plan towards re-engagement.

To achieve this, Celine (or any other manager or leader) would need a 5-Point strategy. This would ideally entail a difficult conversation with the quiet quitter, which in this case is Sarah. To have this conversation the Celine would make a mental note to practice and rehearse what to say and how to hold the conversation. In doing so, Celine would get to know Sarah and other staff, conduct informal check-ins, and be intentional about increasing communication and engagement within the team.

Will Celine’s strategy work? Are there other proven strategies that may be helpful in this case?

This story is adapted from:

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