Quiet quitting? Or quiet firing?

“Quiet quitting” has been in the news and on social media in the last couple of months or so. Is “quiet quitting” lazy workers just coasting? Or is it being used to describe employees who put boundaries on their work time and personal life – like not answering your phone on vacation. Some are linking burnout and quiet quitting: burnout can lead to “quiet quitting” which in turn can lead to potential rejuvenation. Then too, the people who have the highest rates of burnout, and who often can’t afford to “quiet quit” or actually quit, are women and people of color

Arianna Huffington believes quiet quitting is a cop-out. “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job, it’s a step toward quitting on life,” she wrote on LinkedIn. “Work can give us meaning and purpose. It’s part of a thriving life…pushing ourselves beyond the bare minimum is how we grow, evolve and expand our possibilities.” Not everyone agrees. 

Bonnie Dilber, a business recruiter, posted on LinkedIn that she thinks the real conversation should be around “quiet firing.” Her now-viral post lists some warning signs: “ You don’t receive feedback or praise. You get raises of 3% or less while others are getting much more. Your 1:1s are frequently canceled or shuffled around. You don’t get invited to work on cool projects or stretch opportunities. You’re not kept up-to-date on information that is relevant or critical to your work. Your manager never talks to you about your career trajectory.” She says it happens all the time and Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, agrees. 

Grant has made multiple posts on his social media accounts that support the view that “quiet quitting,” when it occurs, can be placed at the feet of bad managers and unhealthy, even toxic, work environments. “In toxic cultures,” he writes, “time off is a reward earned by working to exhaustion. Burnout is proof of commitment, and vacations are required to recover.” People who work in healthy cultures, however, know that “time off is a right granted to everyone, well-being is a top priority, and vacations are encouraged to rejuvenate.” 

Forcing people out by ostracizing them, expecting them to never take time off, requiring outcomes without giving them authority to execute, not clarifying expectations, passive-aggressive behavior, changing job responsibilities to ones that the employee isn’t trained for, and gaslighting at work are all forms of “quiet firing.” 

A poll done by LinkedIn News found 83% of some 20,000 respondents had either seen it or personally experienced quiet firing.  “I was TOLD as a manager some years ago that we were to do this, and these tactics were to ‘encourage people to take a new path on their own accord because they might not fit the culture’ … a.k.a. tiring them out so they’d leave on their own because there wasn’t enough to say they weren’t good at their job, or they weren’t doing their jobs,” said Alexandra H. on the poll site. “It’s disgusting yet a well-known way of management in many organizations. I’ve seen it done, I have experienced it as well.”

After her post went viral, recruiter Bonnie Dilber wrote that she found it “pretty disheartening” to see how much the “quiet firing” post resonated. She has four pieces of advice for people who feel like they are being pushed out. First, ask for direct feedback and be clear in your experiences. Second, find other allies at work, ie: build your support system. Third, start looking for another job right now. Finally, she says, “don’t let your experience lead to doubts about your abilities,” advice that may be easier to give than to implement. Being “quiet fired” is demoralizing and can undermine self-worth. In the end, it’s not about you – it’s about them.