Discover more from Succeed from the Middle
When you find yourself “quiet firing”: 5 things to do instead
Hello readers! I am back from my vacation, and, boy, did I need a refresh. It was great to get away, get a slight tan (well, tan for me), and spend time enjoying reading mindless FBI thriller novels and lounging by the pool. I highly recommend taking a break whenever you can.
I hope you enjoyed two weeks of my favorite posts from my vault for those who subscribe. For those of you who don’t subscribe, please do! You get my weekly post right to your inbox Sunday mornings, Chicago time, whether I am here or not.
Before I left, I posted my take on quiet quitting and what we can do as managers to help alleviate this phenomenon. Although, I suspect there have been people who have “quiet quit” before our recent times. Alongside quiet quitting are other passive-aggressive measures; one of these is “quiet firing.” Now, this is certainly not a new phenomenon. I have witnessed quiet firing many times in my career, unfortunately.
There are times when we may have hired the wrong person. They interviewed well, but they either didn’t fit the culture, couldn’t make the transition, or decided to quit quietly and not perform. We should face them head-on when these situations happen and have candid conversations. However, most of us hate conflict, and we would rather avoid the situation than deal with it directly. This is not all of us, of course. The leaders I admire most are those who are transparent, direct, and helpful.
What does quiet firing look like? It can take many forms, such as the following:
An employee starts to feel passed over for special projects and growth opportunities
An employee no longer has access to their manager or skip-level manager regularly
An employee doesn’t get that anticipated raise, reward, or bonus
An employee can be excluded from meetings, social events, or other presentations or projects they should be consulted or informed on
An employee feels like an outsider with no real connection to the organization
All of these look like the person is being squeezed out. Some of this happens because we move too fast or don’t consider inclusion. So, some of this can be active, and some can be passive. Regardless, the employee feels shut out, thus causing them to either quiet quit or just plain quit.
Some have argued all of this “quiet” behavior is because we are remote, and if we were in a physical office, nothing would be “quiet.” I certainly see that argument, but for those of us who have worked globally for decades, like me, I have never sat next to my team. I have engaged people around the globe and vice versa with lesser technology than we have today.
I will say, however, it takes a special person to work globally and to ensure working effectively in a remote or distributed manner. I say “special” because we need to focus more intentionally on connecting, communicating, and collaborating. We need to make rewards and recognition even more front and center. We need to ensure people know they are valued and not to be left to guess if they are. These are not complex skills, but they take some conscious level of effort.
So, what can you do if you don’t want to get caught in quiet firing? Well, here are five things I recommend. These take effort and a little bravery as a manager, but this is what good management looks like.
1. Set expectations.
So, get ready because none of my points are unique or earth-shattering. They are pretty ordinary and what we should be doing regardless of the quiet phenomenon. Back in the day, Marcus Buckingham came out with his thoughts on how we can be effective through his book: “First, Break all the Rules.” This led to engagement surveys and the onset of Gallup’s Q12 survey. Decades later, we have evolved, but this still holds up. The first statement of the 12 on that survey was: “I know what is expected of me.” There is no single most significant contributor to purpose, engagement, and productivity than I know what I am supposed to be doing. To skip this means you are not helping your team members connect to their job and can easily lead to false assumptions and bad feelings.
After setting expectations, invest in educating your team on those expectations. If they need to develop skills or knowledge to accomplish their expectations better, make room for them to grow. This can be training, shadowing, coaching from you or others, or simply allowing them to try something new. Education can also mean explaining the why behind a request and how your employee will be measured against the need.
3. Hold accountable.
This is the most challenging part I find for managers. We must hold people accountable for what they are expected to do. Now, how we do this matters a lot. I was held accountable in grueling and demeaning ways early in my career. But, I have also been held accountable in ways that give me autonomy and the chance to share my progress and success with leadership, which was a far more positive experience.
4. Give feedback and praise.
Giving feedback and praise is the best way to engage your team and help them develop. This does take time, but it doesn’t take much. In less than 15 minutes, you can acknowledge something specific and timely that went well or needed improvement. This is a tailored and personal way to engage your team and help them feel valued.
5. Be transparent.
Nothing feels like you are quietly being pushed out than either being omitted or even lied to. Transparency is tricky. There may be some news or information you cannot share. For those bits that you don’t need to hold confidential, share them. Knowledge is power. When people feel “in the know,” they feel better about their position. You would be surprised how much information-sharing makes people feel included and part of the team, even if the message isn’t positive. Knowing the facts and information to do their jobs is not only engaging but can be empowering too.
There are many more things we can do to avoid quiet firing. In my day, I have had managers inadvertently cut people off. Just be conscious that if you are heads down as manager, think about how your team will feel. Be transparent. Tell them you need to be heads down for two weeks, and they may not hear from you. Setting that expectation will help prevent rumors and bad feelings. Better yet, figure out how some of them can help you and let them in on the work you are doing all by yourself (if you can, of course).
If someone truly needs to go, don’t avoid them until they leave on their own. This wastes everyone’s time, creates bad feelings, and, unfortunately, can impact more than just the person who decides to leave. In the past, I have witnessed a person who was outcasted take more than a few good employees with them.
Instead, have coaching conversations, document performance, and candidly discuss how it may not be working. If you need to let someone go, as hard as that is, I find that this usually benefits the employee as much as the organization in the long run. That person gets a push to find a better fit, and they always find a better fit.
It is easy to quiet fire, but the dominoes that can fall from this activity are not worth it. Engage with your team members, give feedback, and help them find another opportunity or help them to exit the organization. Being direct with kindness is always best.
Thanks for reading Corporate Safari! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.