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I once promoted a part-time employee to a full-time position. He did well for the first month, but then his performance deteriorated because he was unhappy with the pay and overwhelmed with responsibility. He did just enough work to collect a paycheck and spent most of his working hours applying for other companies.
I didn’t want to fire him. So I linked his hours to the number of customers he served. In the end, the clients ran out and he didn’t have a job by default. This was terrible leadership on my part. I should have pulled the band-aid off and let him go. Instead, I extended a period of negativity for both of us.
Related: ‘Dream Jobs Are Dead’: Quitting Quietly Is the TikTok Trend That Encourages Workers to Take it Easy at Work
What is silent stopping?
I grew up in the 1980s with baby boomers who taught me to value hard work. Times have changed and people view “quiet quitting” – where people do just enough to keep their jobs – as a negative response to the busy culture. Many TikTokers jumped on the trend in support of the concept. However, one TikToker’s push back was to explain that quitting quietly doesn’t really change one’s work schedule, salary, or happiness level.
Emotions can overwhelm people when their expectations don’t match their professional results. They may experience fear or anger, and feelings of helplessness become passive aggression. The end result is a quiet stop. That’s why many managers have responded with ‘silent shooting’.
What is silent shooting?
Silent shooting is a passive-aggressive technique that managers use to get people to quit their jobs. Some TikTokers have explained the symptoms of silent firing, such as taking responsibilities away from people and not providing feedback for improvement during performance reviews. In reality, 1 in 3 managers have responded to quiet quit firing, according to a research project I helped with. Silent shooting has been compared to summary dismissal, and advice for employees includes talking to your boss and documenting everything.
Related: ‘Quiet Firing’ is taking the workplace by storm. What is it?
Why does silent firing fail?
Silent firing can cost much more than a clean divorce. The most obvious is the direct cost of paying an ineffective employee. In addition, the negative relationship between management and the employee will be apparent to many other people on the team. Tension will build, and if you keep making the employee’s life miserable, they will retaliate. The end result is a toxic work environment that everyone wants to get out of.
What should employers do instead of silent firing?
If an employee has checked out, do not respond with passive aggression. Instead, start a conversation. Ask them what they were most excited about when they first joined the company. Ask what might have changed since then.
Ask them about their values and whether they think the company’s core values match theirs. If the answer is no, dig deeper to find out more. If the answer is “yes”, then the problem is solved.
Work with your employee to set a goal that appeals to them. Agree on a set of measures of success against which employee performance will be measured. Then link those stats to each project they’re working on and check in regularly.
If things don’t improve after this, maybe it’s time to part amicably so that everyone can move forward. Find a replacement who can do the job well and whose values are also in line with the company’s. Then give the employee a reasonable severance payment and wish him success.
That also applies to managers. You may notice poor leadership practices in your managers, including “silent layoffs.” Get it done quickly and directly. Give them feedback, training, tools and a chance to do better. Show them that good leaders care about their teams. If that doesn’t work, replace them as well.
Related: Giving Up Employees Only Harms Your Business
How to avoid silent quitting in the first place?
As an employer, there are a number of methods to reduce the chance or extent of silent shutdowns within your organization. Start by fostering an environment of open communication. Work with your management team to set up systems where they check in with other team members – and you.
Be sure to check out everyone’s pay structure and history of raises. Inflation in 2022 was reported to be more than 9%. If the pay rises haven’t kept up with inflation, maybe it’s time to give people pay rises if you can afford it.
Then recognize that quiet quitting is often a result of poor leadership. Invest in leadership training and create a culture of inspiration and purpose – instead of fear and punishment. Try mentorship, pay for a trainer, or invest in leadership books.
In addition to money and leadership training, you need to strengthen the sense of purpose and values among your team members. Organize a workshop to outline your company’s mission, vision and core values. Invite your team to be part of the process of reliving what your company stands for. They will feel valued, and they will be more confident in its success.
In short, work on continuously improving your company culture. For example, your team may value flexibility in hours, work days, meetings and responsibilities to maintain a good work-life balance. Others may appreciate attending trade shows or earning company-sponsored certifications. Find out what your people value and see what opportunities you can offer to help them integrate these values into their work.
It is time to move beyond this era of passive aggressiveness. Make your organization part of this movement and foster a culture of communication and values. Take steps to eliminate passive aggressiveness when it manifests. Your team will feel better and they will be inspired to be a valuable part of your organization.