Quiet Quitting, Quiet Firing: What Are These Workplace Trends And How Are They Affecting The Relationship Between Employer And Employee?

Whether it is the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting or Quiet Firing, there are more ways than ever to describe various workplace trends and the relationship between employer and employee. While all these new terms have taken over social media, HR and our Linkedin accounts, they may not necessarily be new phenomena. After all, each generation of workers has its challenges (and the unfortunate tendency to label the generations that follow them). Millennials were labelled as “strawberries” when they first entered the workforce and now that it’s Gen Z’s.

In the end, it is the relationship between employer and employee that matters. So, what can these workplace trends tells us about employer and employee engagement?

Read Also: Would The Great Resignation Become The Great Retrenchment?

Quiet Quitting Is Just Work Or Just Slacking?

Depending on who you ask, you may get completely different answers to the same question “what is quiet quitting?”. Some see it as just doing what it’s in your job scope and not going above and beyond while some may see it as slacking.

Most of us can identify a slacker in the office. It’s the person who somehow never gets their job done and needs your help, has a ton of excuses when it comes to any extra responsibility or chipping in to help, has a long lunch break (and maybe multiple smoke/coffee/tea breaks) and leave the office on the dot. Getting this person to help cover you for any leave or shift changes is near impossible, and other such behaviours that make us think this person is a slacker. Yet is such a person a quiet quitter?

Quiet quitting is a bit of a misnomer because it isn’t about quitting the job (in spite of the word “quit”), but it is about quitting the hustle or just coasting. Quiet quitting isn’t about shrinking responsibilities but about not letting work take over your life. However, the definition of quiet quitting has expanded to cover workers who are just doing the work they are compensated to do (and not unpaid overtime) to workers who work multiple jobs while working remotely.

Has Singapore Normalised Hustle?

If we see quiet quitting as just taking back our work-life balance, it may resonate with you. Employees in Singapore work one of the longest hours in the region (44.4 hours per week), and we also have one of the lowest scores on employee engagement surveys (13% engaged according to Gallup). Given these statistics, it would be hard to disagree that Singapore workplaces have a tendency towards hustle. To some, this may constitute overworking.

As an employee, quiet quitting has its appeal as a way to recalibrate our lives. For most of us, the pandemic broke our routines in a way that annual leave, work retreats and sabbaticals could not. It may have forced us to re-examine our values and priorities. However, it may be inevitable that work has peak periods that require us to put in extra hours, but we also enjoy lull periods when there’s less work to do. What we need to do (and communicate to our employers) is manage the fine line between doing the work we are hired to do and slacking off.

For quiet quitters, the real danger is whether you would be quietly fired by your employer. After all, most quiet quitters don’t intend to leave their jobs, they just want to have a better work-life balance.

Read Also: What Is The Average Working Hours In Singapore For Full-Time And Part-Time Employees

Quiet Firing Has Always Been A Way For Employers To Manage Out Underperforming Workers

On the flip side of quiet quitting is quiet firing or minimising an employee’s significance to the point where they quit on their own accord. While quiet firing is a trending term, it is a workplace practice that has been long practiced to some extent. HR professionals call it “managing out”, while in employment law, “constructive discharge” is when a worker’s resignation or retirement may not be voluntary because of a hostile or intolerable work environment.

Most of the time, employers don’t enjoy firing employees. It leaves a poor impression on potential hires, demoralises existing employees, and can be an administrative nightmare to ensure the termination fulfills employment regulations. Unless it is illegal or clear-cut negligence, employers prefer to avoid termination. Instead, they tend to choose to manage out underperforming workers. This includes tactics like cutting responsibilities or denying promotions and raises.

 While the reduction in workload may be beneficial to our work-life balance (and be seen as successful quiet quitting), it may also be a precursor to us being deemed as underperformers that may need to be managed out (or quiet firing).

Engagement Is Different From Competence And Performance

The truth is that performance is relative. If we work in a team full of hustlers and overperformers, just doing our due work will make us look like underperformers even if we are executing our tasks perfectly. While it may feel like overperformance is expected, employers need to differentiate between what is reasonable achievement and what is overachievement, even for teams that hustle, and reward accordingly.

Employers and employees also need to differentiate between engagement and competence. Competence is necessary for performance. If an employee doesn’t have the necessary competencies, it is unreasonable to expect them to perform.

However, a competent employee may not be an engaged employee and an engaged employee may not be an employee who is able to perform. In the end, engagement is a mindset while competence is about having the necessary proficiency and finally, performance is about being able to use those proficiencies to execute tasks and how well those tasks are done.

Read Also: Managing Notice Period: Understanding Employee Entitlements When They Are Leaving Your Business

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