My “quiet quitting” podcast last week got a bit of negative feedback last week. A lot of people really objected to my criticism over the concept of quiet quitting, and why I thought it was a poor way to approach work, as well as life. “But what about my jerk of a boss!!!” was the essence of most negative feedback that I received. So I thought this week it would be fun to do a follow up episode about your jerk of a boss. And interestingly enough, in looking more into the quiet quitting phenomenon, I came across this concept known as “quiet firing,” that’s also making something of a splash on social media.
What Is Quiet Firing?
Quiet firing is a passive aggressive technique that management at a company uses to push undesired employees out the door or into another department. This management style can take a variety of approaches. It can mean giving employees mediocre performance reviews, regularly skipping their 1 on 1 meetings, not giving annual raises, excluding them from special projects and opportunities to grow, giving them undesirable projects and assignments, and otherwise just treating someone as a “warm body.” All this is done in hopes they just get frustrated and go somewhere else, without having to go through the mess of firing someone.
And sometimes firing someone is made very difficult by corporate HR and legal departments, who are worried about lawsuits and the mountains of paperwork that often is associated with firing someone. When I worked for the Big Bad Bank for a decade, I could count on a couple fingers all the people I knew that had been fired. That’s not to say I didn’t know a lot of employees who absolutely deserved to be fired. There were plenty that fit that bill. But because of all that would be required to fire subpar employees, which practically took an act of Congress, management often just resigned themselves to quietly firing someone by just giving them the cold shoulder.
And this was no dirty little secret. It was openly talked about by just about every manager I ever had. It was the official unofficial style all were pretty much forced to embrace, whether they liked it or not. Unless you did something fraudulent, illegal, or something ridiculously over the top, you would never get fired from your job.
And the funny thing is, there were some employees that knew this and took advantage of the system. They deliberately became sub par employees (if they weren’t already such, because they knew they could get away with being such and still collect a paycheck.)
So, why do I think quiet firing is a bad practice?
Quiet Firing Is Morally Unjust
First, the apostle Paul taught, “Masters, grant your slaves justice and fairness, knowing you too have a Master in heaven.” I don’t know about you, but the entire “quiet firing” thing doesn’t seem very just or fair. Justice demands action be taken in regard to how we treat other individuals.
Simply allowing someone to squirm and to make their lives uncomfortable at work in hopes they “get the picture” and leave and go somewhere else is a really unjust and unfair way to treat another person. Justice demands we treat people in a way that makes them whole. And in quiet firing, there is no sense we are looking to make a person whole.
It Violates The Golden Rule
Second, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This requires a deep level of empathy that’s willing to walk a mile in another persons shoes, and a willingness to get back what you dish out.
So, boss… how would you want to be treated? Do you want healthy boundaries at work? Do you want to be generously compensated? Do you want opportunities to grow and advance? Do you want to be acknowledged for a job well done? And if you are underperforming and having a hard time at work, do you want someone to provide you with constructive feedback and additional training to help you flourish in your job? And if you are truly a bad employee, and the job you have isn’t a good fit, wouldn’t you you rather be fired with dignity than to be treated constantly with disrespect and as a nuisance that people just want to go away?
Quiet Firing Hurts Everyone
Third, a disengaged employee is just going to pull down your business. It’ll kill morale, and doesn’t make your workplace a better place. Quiet quitting an employee simply makes that person a liability instead of an asset. Other employees will notice, while star employees may jump at the opportunities afforded them because someone else on the team isn’t carrying their weight, you can create resentful negative emotions on a team once they figure out what’s going on.
I remember having a position where it wasn’t uncommon for me to hit 125%+ of my required production metrics. Yet there were sub-standard employees who barely hit 50% of their expected goals. While I was usually happy to pickup their slack, as this often gave more opportunities to me, there were some times where, especially in mandatory overtime situations, where I found myself working simply because I was being forced to, and not because I always wanted to. And when you start having to work 55+ hours a week because your drowning in work, and not everyone on your team is performing at levels expected of everyone else, you not only start to resent those who are subpar employees, but you start resenting your managers and company for keeping such people around.
And once this poison sets in, a manager or corporation can lose some of their best talent to other teams and the competition when they see better opportunities elsewhere. Meanwhile, that lackluster employee may just continue to under perform and drag their team down because management refuses to do what management should, all while losing better employees to somewhere else.
In conclusion, I hate the concept of quiet firing as much as quiet quitting. Both are really terrible ways to behave. They create a dysfunctional work environment, and destroy the God given potential of all involved with such individuals.
Quiet quitting and quiet firing don’t make the world a better place. Instead, they are a cancer that grows and slowly kills its host. We need to live and work in such a way so has to help foster human flourishing. And I believe we do a real disserve to not only ourselves, but the rest of humanity, by participating in these rather broken ways of working.