If Your Quiet Quitting Is Going Well, You Might Be Getting ‘Quiet Fired’
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If Your Quiet Quitting Is Going Well, You Might Be Getting ‘Quiet Fired’

Workers who coast risk being written off—and eventually laid off—by bosses with ‘productivity paranoia’

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Sep 30, 2022 9:09amGrey Clock 4 min

It can feel like you’re getting away with it.

You’ve dialled down the intensity at work, passing on late nights and extra assignments with seemingly no negative consequences. In fact, your boss appears to respect your new boundaries and has lightened your workload.

Careful. Your “quiet quitting” can lead to your “quiet firing”—and eventually your actual firing. And it’s already happening in some companies, human-resources specialists say.

“If all of a sudden you find you’re not invited to the meetings you used to be, or being offered the projects, that’s an indication that management is not viewing you as well as they used to,” says Victor Assad, a former HR director at Medtronic PLC and Honeywell International Inc. who is now a consultant.

Much like quiet quitting, the trendy term for reducing effort, quiet firing refers to minimising an employee’s significance. Companies have always had subtle ways to nudge people out the door. Tactics include sidelining them by cutting responsibilities or denying promotions and raises to make someone miserable enough to leave—what the gang in legal calls a “constructive discharge” and the rest of us know as managing out.

The difference now is the scale. Many companies are renewing their focus on what employees put out at the same time that a lot of workers are recalibrating what they put in.

Gallup reports the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers is at the lowest level in a decade and that half of the U.S. workforce is allegedly quiet quitting—that is, doing only what’s in their job descriptions and no more. For much of the past two years, executives have largely put up with this. In a tight labor market, a warm body is better than nobody.

Plus, companies want to be seen as sensitive to employees who seek balanced work and personal lives, says Paul Lesser, who launched a talent advisory firm last year after a long career in human resources at Fidelity Investments. Events like the pandemic and police killing of George Floyd prompted many to re-evaluate their priorities, he says, and it would have been bad business and worse optics for management to demand a greater focus on work during the most acute periods.

With more businesses expecting a recession, “every company has associates that have been poor performers or haven’t been as productive,” Mr. Lesser says. “In the marketplace we have right now, it’s good corporate hygiene to be looking at them.”

Managers at all levels should form lists of employees to let go if better or harder-working talent becomes available, says Jay McDonald, an executive coach who sits on the board of several Atlanta-area companies.

“A leader should always have that list, at least in their head,” he says.

So, are you on the boss’s list? It’s hard to know, especially now, when some managers are insisting that they really, truly don’t mind workers not giving 150%.

Some changes, like being asked to do less, could simply indicate that your supervisor takes limits seriously and understands that every team needs role players in addition to all-stars. Or your days might be numbered.

Bosses are at risk, too, says Ash Wendt, president of Cowen Partners Executive Search. He says some businesses that held off on leadership changes during the pandemic have hired his firm to discreetly hunt for upgrades.

These searches to replace executives who will soon get a shove toward the exit are called “confidential backfills.” Last year, they were 15% of Cowen’s business; this year, they’re 30%, he adds. They can amount to quiet firings because the incumbents may be neutralised for months before they’re ousted.

The top complaint about these leaders: “Companies are saying they’ve noticed a drop-off in an executive’s productivity or they’re not holding people accountable like they once did,” Mr. Wendt says.

Workers, unsure where they stand and whether they’re doing enough, are seeking help with job-related anxieties, says Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, which provides mental-health services in 32 states.

She cautions against overanalysing every decision—being left off a project doesn’t necessarily reflect diminished status with the boss.

Still, an uncertain economy and broadscale office returns in many industries put hybrid and remote workers on especially high alert for signs of being managed out.

A large-scale survey by Microsoft Corp. published this month revealed a wide gap between employees’ assessments of their own remote productivity and managers’ perceptions of how much gets done away from the office. (Some 87% of the rank and file say they’re just as effective at home, but 80% of bosses disagree.) Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella scolded supervisors for “productivity paranoia” and assumptions that people aren’t working hard at home, but the study’s findings underscore why certain workers fear falling out of favour.

Some firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc., have reinstated performance reviews to help identify and cull underachievers, after suspending that practice during the pandemic.

One-third of medium-to-large businesses have adopted employee-surveillance systems since 2020, according to Gartner, joining another third that already used such tools.

If people who are coasting haven’t been dismissed yet, that could be because the boss is storing a layer of fat that can easily be trimmed when it’s time to downsize, says Leslie Tarnacki, senior vice president of global human resources at WorkForce Software.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think we’re headed toward a recession, and managers do like to have that cushion if they see that cuts may be coming down the road,” she says. “They may have employees that are considered mediocre, but keeping them around for now makes having to deal with those cuts a little bit easier.”



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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