Management’s answer to quiet quitting — some are quiet firing

Quiet quitting is a buzz phrase right now — disengaged or unhappy employees doing the bare minimum of what their job requires of them, sometimes for work-life balance reasons.

It doesn’t go unnoticed by managers, a recent survey of bosses by ResumeBuilder finds.

In its survey, 91% of managers said they have taken some action against quiet quitters, including denying raises or promotions, and even taking steps to terminate them.

If the employee is doing what the job description says, is termination legal?

“All states and Washington, D.C. are all at-will employment states, so that means employers don’t need a reason to terminate an employee. Having said that, very few organizations just go around firing people without at least talking to them or putting them on a performance plan. And certainly terminating an employee is also costly to an organization,” said Stacie Haller, a career expert at ResumeBuilder.

Quiet quitters may feel they are doing themselves a favor in terms of the quality of their personal lives, but they aren’t doing much to advance the quality of their professional lives.

“It certainly will affect your career at the organization. All organizations want people to be engaged, and most managers are the ones who have gone above and beyond and they expect the same of their employees. It doesn’t bode well if that person wants to move along in that organization, and it certainly doesn’t bode well and they end up being terminated and need to explain that to their next prospective employer,” Haller said.

While most managers said taking steps to address performance issues is the preferred solution, 75% of managers surveyed said it is justifiable to fire someone only doing the bare minimum. Of that 75%, 43% said they would be “somewhat justified” and 32% said they would be “‘very justified” in firing someone for only doing the bare minimum.

Thirty-one percent of managers do admit they make the work-life balance more difficult for quiet quitters, in the hopes that those employees will quit.

While quiet quitting and quiet firing are getting more attention right now, Haller said neither is actually anything new in the workplace.

“I think this is really putting new labels on old things, and it is a reflection of the new remote environment. Managers aren’t trained necessarily on how to communicate with remote folks. And when you’re working remote, it is a lot easier to do the bare minimum,” she said.

“And when you’re working remote it is a lot easier to be passive-aggressive as a manager. I think it is all coming up now because we need new ways of working in the workplace. A lot of it really isn’t new, but it is more challenging.”

ResumeBuilder’s survey included 1,000 managers and was conducted Sept. 1. Full survey results are online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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