Shhhh… I’m “Quiet Working”!


Apparently, the latest most talked about trend in the HR space is “Quiet Quitting”, and now we’ve got “Quiet Firing”! What is this all about?

What are these “Quiet Quitting” and “Quiet Firing”?

I’m not going to try to do a deep dive, but here’s some context.

“Quiet Quitting” is where you’re not really quitting your job, but you’re just doing enough to get by. This also signals that you’re not really interested in wanting to do more.

On the flip side, “Quiet Firing” is where employers would provide just the bare legal minimum to their workers hoping that they would find it so unsatisfying to continue to work and eventually quit on their own accord.

Not New

While the term “Quiet Quitting” and “Quiet Firing” are new and create a little bit of buzz on social media, the concept is not new. These are basically Employee Engagement or Organization Engagement challenges that we deal with in most modern organizations.

I Like It, but…

For one, it is refreshing. Come on, the alternative? “We have an Employee Engagement” issue!”. That’s like so 2010!

One could argue that I’m engaged, but just not that engaged!

As we “Quiet Firing”, we’ve seen it so many times in organizations that managers just don’t want to make that tough decision of letting someone go. I’ve had many conversations with managers where they would have some issues with their employees, but just not causing them enough pain to pull the trigger to let them go.

It’s really a new name for an old issue and I kinda like how much attention it’s been getting. I mean,” Finally, we’re getting some attention to this chronic problem!”. It’s like dealing with hypertension, it’s a problem, but it’s not going to kill you today! That doesn’t mean you don’t need to deal with it.

The “But”!

Here’s what I “don’t like” about it. The unintended consequence of popularizing an issue like this can be a double edge sword. On one hand, you have awareness, but on the other hand, without a good understanding of what it really meant, how you as a manager/ employee can go about dealing with it would potentially cause problems.

Especially when we are just coming back from dealing with covid and how it pushes organizations to take a more flexible work-from-home arrangement. We have to remember that this arrangement wasn’t the “choice” of many of these organizations that haven’t adopted this flexible work arrangement prior. Thus, many of them would still prefer in-person face time over having to work with remote teams.

Now with a “convenient” way to label an employee engagement issue, and inadequate understanding of how to go about managing this, you could have managers going on a witchhunt for employees that seemed to have “Quiet Quitted”! That seed of doubt would be enough to cause problems for the relationship between the manager and employee.

Likewise, there are employees who could need constant reassurance. Not everyone can work remotely and not everyone is comfortable with being away from the team/ manager. A lot of people I know need that check in with their managers to make sure that they’re on the right track and doing it right! So, if you’ve got a manager that’s remote (or if you’re remote), and that level of engagement is low, it is easy to go into that self-doubt mode where you would wonder if you’ve been “Quiet Fired”!

“Communication” is the Silver Bullet

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

As cliche as it may sound, “Communication” is really the way to resolve this. It’s a simple check-in and it would help remove all that doubt around “Quiet Quitting” or “Quiet Firing”!

Here are 3 Simple Steps that you can take (Both as a Manager/Employee):

Step 1: Initiate The Conversation

This can be the hardest step to take, but remember, you have every right to ask for a “chat”. It doesn’t have to be a performance review meeting whatsoever. You can always ask your manager/ staff for a 15 mins call, and the agenda could just be “checking in”.

You can just drop an email or a message that says,

  • Hi John, would you have 15 mins tomorrow for a quick check-in?

If you’re asked “why”, you can always say something like,

  • We haven’t spoken in a while, or we didn’t manage to speak the last time…
  • I wanted to just get connected and catch up…
  • I am just so occupied with this project and wanted to come up for some air…
  • Or, even just a simple, “Just wanted to catch up for a casual chat!”

Step 2: Be Open

This could be easier said than done. I always advocate conversations, to be honest, open, and non-judgmental. There could be different reasons/ situations that lead up to this conversation. Maybe you’re not getting enough resources, or support for the project, or maybe it’s something personal that’s affecting your mood. Regardless of the reasons, be open and have a conversation about it.

However, do take note of these pointers:

  • Share and not demand. Say you’re not getting enough resources for the project, share that. However, stop short of trying to demand a remedy for it (unless the meeting is meant to address that resource issue). Remember, you’re trying to have a check-in conversation, you’re not trying to corner the other person and push an agenda.
  • Just enough and not too much. This is hard to gauge. How much is enough and how much is too much? Say you’re in a bit of a rough patch at home, maybe your dog just passed, and you’re not feeling all that good. You probably want to share a little about that with your manager, and just to let your manager know that you’re dealing with some emotions and will need a bit of space to process. You may need some time off or not, but it’s always good to get it out there. However, I would stop short of trying to download everything on my manager.
  • Keep it conversational. I know of folks that enjoy “winning” that war of words. Especially when they’re angry with the other person, it would really kill them if they don’t say something to provoke and get a reaction. Regardless if you’re the manager or employee, remember that this conversation is really to improve that engagement and get things going. It’s not so you can be sarcastic and make the other person feel lousy!

Many of us like to keep our personal life separate from work and not let it affect our performance, so we tend to compartmentalize our emotions and keep them separate. However, this could sometimes be really tough to do and with work going round the clock (as we have more flexible work timing), separating work and life can be very challenging. So, I would always be open about how I’m feeling and if it’s affecting my work, I would be open about it, take some time off to recover, and come back to work.

Step 3: Ask For a Follow Up

If you’ve gotten past the above 2 steps and had gotten a conversation going, pencil in a follow-up. You’ve done the heavy lifting, why stop there? The tough part of initiating the conversation and talking’s done. Why not keep it going?

You can say something like, “This was very useful, can we do this again next month?”. The duration or when you do your next chat is really up to you. It could be tomorrow or next week. If you’re sharing something personal that is affecting your mood, you can also say that “I just need a little space to process this, and will be fine. Give me a couple of days, and I’ll drop you a message to let you know that I’m ok!”.

It works!

I’ve shared the above with quite a number of people. Folks who at some point in their career got a little “stuck” and were looking for the next move. Some did move on to a new role, and many stayed on. Sometimes, your career can feel a little under the weather and need a little fix. Likewise, sometimes your staff could be dealing with something in their lives, or just not on top of their game.

A little conversation could be just the remedy to fixing it!

“Quiet Working” and “Quiet Managing”!

One of my first experiences working with a remote manager did come as a shock for me. As I took on the APAC portfolio, I had a direct reporting line to a manager based in HQ. Daniel Sonsino’s an amazing manager, and I learned a lot from him.

Without a local manager, I had to work independently and rely on our weekly 1:1 calls to check in. It was my first APAC leadership role, and not being able to get “instant” feedback, coupled with the fact that I’m leading a large team now just made the whole experience scary.

Reporting to someone with a large span of control is challenging too. This means that I might not get all the “love” and “attention”. For a young manager, self-doubt can quickly set in, and it can be quite daunting.

I should have probably coined the term “Quiet Working” and “Quiet Managing” back then.

Not getting a lot of attention from your boss doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about you. (Or that he’s “Quiet Firing” you!). And by the same token, not messaging him every other moment to chat about stuff doesn’t mean that I’m “Quiet Quitting” or disengaged.

In fact, we used our weekly check-in very efficiently (and I remembered that it’s always on the dot, not a minute more). I felt empowered to do my job and I have the space to flex.

With Daniel, I made sure that the weekly update was on point, and he knows what I’m up to, and what I’ve prioritized and deprioritized.

The Future of Working

A huge part of the discussion around the topic of “Quiet Quitting” and “Quiet Firing” centers around remote work or work-from-home arrangements. The absence of a physical office and face-to-face interaction does its a lot harder to drive engagement. However, like it or not, this is going to be the future.

As organizations move to embrace this new way of working, enabled by technology and a new generation of talent, this is fast becoming a norm.

Crossover, a career site focusing on Remote Work

In fact, one interesting site that I came across recently was Crossover. This is a job site that focuses on remote work, and I was impressed with how they’ve moved beyond the traditional hiring methods and how they are assessing candidates for suitability for remote work. (Note: This is not a paid mention, and I’m not in any way affiliated with Crossover.)

I’m sure there are more sites like this, and more will come as the demand for remote work goes up.

How does this change the Talent Landscape?

As we get more career choices and get to choose where and how we perform our work, we will see a shift in stance from both employers and candidates.

Candidates will have the option to choose the most rewarding job for their time, and with the location constraints out of the way, candidates will have a lot more options to choose from.

Employers will soon need to compete in this new model and be more flexible with where their next hire would come from. With this, you will see a lot more traditional roles being redesigned for remote work.

Over time, the job market and the talent landscape will become a lot more international where location becomes a nonissue. Compensation may become more competitive as there’s a larger pool of candidate tap into, and also a higher demand for top talent. We may see the “low-cost region” effect go away in the future. It’ll be an interesting space.


I hope the article helped you with navigating the topic of “Quiet Quitting” and ‘Quiet Firing”. While it’s not a new thing, the challenges it brings are real and it’s going to get more common with more remote work.

If you liked (or learned from) this post:

Please consider clicking the 👏, below, highlighting, commenting, or sharing with anyone who’d enjoy it. Thank you for reading!

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark. His experience spans various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering, and Talent Management. Connect with him on Linkedin.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post