Quiet quitting and quiet firing are two emerging workplace trends that have gained traction in recent years. Both refer to employees disengaging from their work, but for different reasons.
What is quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting is when employees do the bare minimum required at their job and nothing more. They no longer go above and beyond expectations or take on additional work outside of their formal job duties. Quiet quitting is a response to feeling overworked, underappreciated, or dissatisfied with an employer.
Some key characteristics of quiet quitting include:
- Only working required hours, not answering work emails/messages outside of work hours
- Declining extra work that falls outside one’s job description
- Avoiding taking on additional responsibilities unless formally recognized/compensated
- Calling in sick when needed, using all vacation days
- Halting unpaid overtime
Quiet quitting does not mean completely neglecting one’s duties or responsibilities. Employees still perform their jobs in a professional manner. However, they no longer force themselves to work beyond expectations for an employer that does not provide adequate compensation, benefits, flexibility, or appreciation.
Reasons for quiet quitting
There are several key factors driving the rise of quiet quitting:
- Burnout: Employees are burned out from overwork, longer hours, and constantly being connected to their jobs via technology outside of work. Quiet quitting allows people to establish healthier work-life balance.
- Boundaries: Employees want to set better boundaries and not let their job dominate their lives. This includes not checking emails after hours or feeling pressured to take on extra work.
- Lack of appreciation: Employees do not feel adequately recognized or rewarded for going above and beyond. Quiet quitting is a response to feeling taken for granted.
- Stagnant wages: Despite rising productivity, wages have largely stagnated. Employees see less incentive to work extra when pay increases do not match output.
- Rethinking work: The COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to reevaluate their priorities and relationship with work. Employees are pushing back against overwork culture.
Is quiet quitting the same as laziness?
No, quiet quitting is not simply laziness or irresponsibility. Employees who are quietly quitting still perform their core job tasks. However, they no longer force themselves into unpaid overtime, burnout, or sacrifice work-life balance for employers who do not reciprocate their extra efforts.
While some very disengaged employees may cross into neglecting core parts of their job, the quiet quitting trend fundamentally refers to only doing what you are formally paid and recognized for, then clocking out. It does not mean avoiding all work or responsibilities.
Can quiet quitting get you fired?
Most legal experts agree that quiet quitting alone is not grounds for firing someone, as long as they are satisfactorily performing their assigned job duties. If an employer fires a worker for refusing extras they deem “voluntary,” they could face wrongful termination lawsuits.
However, quiet quitting may indirectly lead to termination in some cases if taken too far:
- Consistently turning down additional tasks could paint someone as not a “team player.”
- Habitual absenteeism and maximizing unused vacation days could demonstrate lack of dedication.
- Bare minimum effort could hamper quality of job performance over time.
Additionally, some at-will employment states allow termination without cause. But generally speaking, quiet quitting itself does not constitute a fireable offense. Workers are typically within their rights to push back against unpaid overtime expectations.
What are the pros of quiet quitting?
There are several advantages workers can gain from adopting a quiet quitting mindset:
- Work-life balance – Silently quitting reduces burnout and allows people to better manage their work-life balance by not overextending themselves.
- Boundary setting – It enables people to firmly set boundaries around their time and availability, preventing work from creeping into nights, weekends, and time off.
- Focus – Eliminating extra or ambiguous responsibilities enables greater focus on core job tasks, potentially improving performance.
- Stress reduction – The pressure to constantly go “above and beyond” is a major source of employee stress and anxiety. Quiet quitting alleviates this.
In essence, quiet quitting benefits mental health by freeing workers from unrewarded overwork and allowing greater focus on non-work activities.
What are the cons of quiet quitting?
There are also some potential downsides to consider with quiet quitting:
- Career stagnation – Consistently declining extra projects could impede skill development and career advancement opportunities.
- Peer tension – Co-workers may have to pick up slack from those quietly quitting, causing friction or resentment.
- Financial incentives – In some jobs, going above and beyond is directly tied to pay rates, bonuses, or other financial perks that quiet quitters miss out on.
- “Slacker” stigma – Those loudly quitting may develop a reputation among managers and colleagues as lazy or not team players.
Employees considering quietly quitting should weigh whether the improved work-life balance outweighs potential career limitations or social tensions.
What is quiet firing?
Quiet firing refers to employers pushing out unwanted workers through indirect means rather than formal termination. Tactics may include:
- Cutting an employee’s hours or workload
- Excessive monitoring or micromanaging
- Removing them from desired projects
- Withholding training or development opportunities
- Deliberately excluding them from meetings or communications
- Unfairly criticizing their performance
The goal is to compel the employee into resigning on their own accord. Quiet firing is typically done when formal dismissal procedures are difficult or require justification.
Reasons for quiet firing
Why do managers quietly force out employees rather than fire them properly? Some common motivations include:
- Avoiding wrongful termination lawsuits – Quiet firing enables pushing out unwanted workers while avoiding potential legal consequences.
- Preventing unemployment payments – If employees resign voluntarily, it prevents them from collecting unemployment benefits.
- Eliminating a position – Quiet firing can be a method to cut staff or eliminate positions without going through formal layoff procedures.
- Performance problems – It may serve as an indirect approach to addressing poor or non-improving job performance.
- Personality conflicts – A manager may want a specific employee gone but lacks clear cause for termination.
Is quiet firing illegal?
Quiet firing inhabits a legal gray area. While not overtly illegal, it can cross into wrongful constructive dismissal territory if mishandled. Constructive dismissal means creating intolerable work conditions that effectively give an employee no choice but to resign.
Actions involved in quiet firing like cutting hours, stripping job duties, and micromanaging could qualify as constructive dismissal. While difficult to prove, employers engaging in quiet firing run the risk of lawsuits alleging hostile work environment, retaliation, discrimination, or wrongful termination.
Can you take action against quiet firing?
If you are being quiet fired, there are several potential actions to take:
- Document every incident of unfair treatment or retaliation as evidence.
- Speak to your manager first about your concerns to try resolving internally.
- Review company policies and your employee rights if the issues persist.
- File a formal complaint of retaliation or hostile workplace if warranted.
- Consult an employment lawyer about your options.
Threatening legal action can motivate employers to back off quiet firing tactics. At a minimum, documentation creates a paper trail if pursuing further action like wrongful termination lawsuits.
How can managers avoid quiet firing correctly?
Managers should avoid quietly forcing out employees through indirect means. Ethical and legal best practices include:
- Using performance improvement plans to address any employee struggles
- Providing coaching and support to remedy issues
- If no improvement, being fully transparent about intentions to terminate employment
- Only firing employees for legitimate, documented reasons
- Following all company protocols and employment laws around discipline and dismissal
Avoiding quiet firing protects organizations from legal risks while creating a more supportive, performance-driven culture.
Can you get unemployment benefits if quiet fired?
In most cases, resigning voluntarily due to quiet firing would make you ineligible for unemployment benefits. However, if you can demonstrate you were pushed out through constructive dismissal, wrongful termination, or discrimination, your claim has a stronger chance of being approved.
It comes down to showing you did not truly choose to leave the job but were effectively forced out through employer harassment or retaliation. Strong documentation bolsters arguments for unemployment eligibility after quiet firing.
Key Statistics on Quiet Quitting and Quiet Firing
Quiet Quitting Statistics
|Gallup September 2022||50% of U.S. employees now embrace quiet quitting philosophy|
|ResumeLab August 2022||95% of Generation Z embraces quiet quitting mindset|
|Qualtrics August 2022||53% of millennials have quietly quit a job in the past|
|AttaPoll July 2022||65% of employees say their company has unrealistic expectations of employee’s time and workload|
|GoodHire May 2022||62% of employees say they are quiet quitting currently or have done so previously in their careers|
Surveys indicate a significant number of employees, especially among younger generations, have adopted the quiet quitting mindset and approach to their jobs. This suggests quiet quitting will remain an impactful workplace trend.
Reasons Employees Are Quiet Quitting
|Reason||Percentage Citing Reason|
|Unsustainable workload or hours||39%|
|Lack of advancement opportunities||38%|
|Better work-life balance||36%|
|Burnout and exhaustion||35%|
Feeling underappreciated, overworked, and burned out rank among the leading causes spurring employees to adopt quiet quitting behaviors.
Quiet Firing Statistics
|Resignation Lab July 2022||30% of employees report having been quietly fired previously|
|Owl Labs 2022||24% of managers admit to having quietly fired staff|
|GoodHire 2022||25% of employees feel they are being quietly fired currently|
While not as pervasive as quiet quitting, a significant number of workers report experiencing or observing quiet firing tactics in their workplaces.
Common Quiet Firing Tactics
|Hours cut back||56%|
|Receiving the “cold shoulder” from management||47%|
|Being left out of meetings||45%|
The most common manager tactics associated with quiet firing involve indirect means like cutting hours, excluding employees, and micromanaging.
Quiet quitting and quiet firing represent new workplace power dynamics emerging between employees and employers. Both are indications of breakdowns in the traditional employment relationship and point to larger cultural shifts around work.
For quiet quitting, employees are asserting their boundaries more firmly against perceived overwork and underappreciation. Meanwhile, quiet firing underscores some manager’s desire for more control in pushing out unwanted staff easily. These trends appear poised to continue escalating absent structural changes in how companies engage their workforce.
Organizations must re-examine everything from their compensation practices, advancement opportunities, recognition programs, and performance management systems to stem the tides of quiet quitting and quiet firing. Creating open communication, transparency around expectations, accountability, and rediscovering purpose and meaning in work will help bridge the emerging divides.
With awareness, planning, and renewed focus on the entire employee experience lifecycle, leaders can curb dysfunctional behaviors like quiet quitting and quiet firing. This will require letting go of outdated mentalities around work and control while embracing employee-first models tailored to modern sentiments around purpose, flexibility, and holistic well-being.