Quiet quitting vs. quiet firing: having tough conversations in the workplace

Nov 14, 2022
min read

If you’re an avid social media user, you’ve probably heard of ‘quiet quitting’ by now, and you might’ve also caught wind of ‘quiet firing’ – two phenomena that are wreaking havoc in companies across all industries. They’ve exploded in workplace conversations, but there’s still so much confusion surrounding both: why are they occurring in workplaces to begin with? How are employees and employers responding? And arguably the most important question: how has it come to this?

In this blog, we’ll dive into these questions and more, to unpack the truth behind quiet quitting and firing.

I haven’t heard of quiet quitting or firing – what’s this all about?

Quiet quitting is on the side of employees; it’s the idea that employees should only have to work within actual working hours, and only fulfill the outlined responsibilities of their role – and they shouldn't feel ashamed for doing so. It’s a response to overly-demanding jobs that throw work-life balance out the door. In recent years, the concept of ‘hustle culture’, or having to push yourself past your limits to achieve goals, has become the expected, and it has resulted in burnt out, tired, and unmotivated employees. So, when employees are expected to go above and beyond but they don’t, they’re said to be ‘quiet quitting’ – but really, they’re just doing their actual job and nothing more.

On the other hand, quiet firing is the employer’s doing. Quiet firing is when an employer intentionally treats their workers badly so that they eventually leave their position, as opposed to the employer having to lay off or fire them. (We know – yikes.) It includes the employer making an employee’s ability to do their job very difficult, by taking away resources, micromanaging, stalled development opportunities, and/or piling on workload. It comes down to managers and other leadership being unwilling, unequipped, and/or afraid to take ownership and deal with these situations the right way.

Ultimately, both quiet quitting and quiet firing come out of a lack of communication: employees being unable to voice their capability to take on more/less work, and employers not being able to have tough conversations with their employees. 

What people are saying 

With the amount of buzz behind both quiet quitting and quiet firing, many people are taking to social media to voice their opinions. 

Here’s a look at the TikTok that started the whole conversation on quiet quitting:

We gave our two cents in our own LinkedIn post on quiet quitting…

… and quiet firing:

Our Director of People Operations, Andrea, also spoke to CTV News about why quiet quitting is actually just a call for balance in the workplace:  

And here’s a hot take on quiet firing from Leadership Burnout Coach, Kim Hires, on TikTok:

The response to quiet quitting and firing on social media is a resounding rejection. People across all platforms understand that the concept of quiet quitting tries to shift blame away from employers that have unrealistic expectations of their teams to begin with – and quiet firing is just downright wrong. 

How to have tough conversations in the workplace

Quiet quitting and quiet firing are both disappointing practices that ask the current work landscape to be and do better. What it boils down to is a need for communication, honesty, and trust in every and any workplace. 

As always, communication is key

At Humi, we’ve always advocated for a feedback culture, where all members of a company are comfortable giving and receiving feedback at any time (aka not just once-a-year in performance reviews!). By adopting this culture, your workplace can avoid problems of quiet quitting and firing. Employees can feel comfortable enough to open up about their ability to do their work, and employers are able to talk to their employees about performance and expectations before decisions like a layoff or termination need to be made. It may be that an employee needs more guidance in their role; or perhaps, people managers at your company need additional training to better handle these situations with their team members. Communication is key here! The first step will always be to have an open conversation about the issue so a plan can be devised to overcome it.

Not only is feedback a way to avoid these situations, but it’s also a gateway to better employee engagement, satisfaction, and positive change in the workplace. (Want to learn how? Read our blog, The importance of a feedback culture.)

Honesty is the best policy 

One of our values here at Humi is to “be honest and have integrity”. We uphold this value because honesty creates a strong foundation for a company; being open with your employees shows that you respect and value them as a person, which in turn leads to stronger working relationships. When employers are transparent with their employees, it makes it easier to connect with them and work through tough situations, such as one where a layoff or termination might need to happen. 

Communication + honesty = trust

Open communication and honesty builds trust in your company, and trust is paramount to any business. It increases morale, motivation, teamwork, and collaboration amongst your team – and when it comes down to something like a layoff or termination, your employees will trust and understand that you’re making a decision that’s best for the company. 

Learn more with Humi

To learn more about building a company culture with values of communication, trust, transparency, and open feedback, check out our eBook, 10X your team’s performance with real-time feedback.

If you’re interested in learning about how we can help you with performance management and building a feedback culture, connect with our team today!

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