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Call “Quiet Firing” What it is: Workplace Retaliation

Call "Quiet Firing" What it is: Workplace Retaliation


Sarah Noll Wilson 0:02
Hi, everyone, Sarah and Teresa joining you again. Hi, Teresa,

Teresa Peterson 0:07
Hi Sarah.

Sarah Noll Wilson 0:10
we’re eager to jump into the topic that we are going to talk about. And as you know, from our first recorded conversation a few weeks ago, we are periodically just going to hop on and have conversations and talk about things that are current in the news related to the workforce, things that are questions that are coming up to us from our clients and people we support. And, and then just just have a dialogue around it. And as we’re talking and as you’re listening, you know, maybe think about what’s coming up for you. What questions do you have what, what thoughts and perspectives? Would you add to it? What differences of opinions might you have? And just to engage? So we’re going to hop in, and it builds on our first conversation, which was exploring this, this the whole quiet quitting, which I mean, I, I’m a little bit to a point of like, I’m tired of, I’m not tired of talking about setting healthy boundaries, I am not talking about paying people properly and treating them with respect and inclusive environments. But the language game has just, oh, yeah, often diluted and removed responsibility and done lots of things. So we were sent this article that was published back on September 15. So just a few days ago on Sherman’s website, and the title is quiet firing is not the antidote to quiet, quitting Theresia thoughts?

Teresa Peterson 1:44
I mean, where do you start? I’ll tell you, I was thinking about how I’ve been quietly fired. And I thought of one very specific example where I felt I had been quietly fired. And what sticks out to me about that situation is the assumptions they must have been making about me, based on some of the treatment or the actions or the maybe purposeful exclusion that happened because I It wasn’t in I wasn’t thinking of leaving quietly or otherwise, you know, I, I was in the game. But when I look back on it, I feel like wow, they must have been holding a lot of assumptions about me as a worker to make some of the changes that they made. So that was my first that was my first Yeah,

Sarah Noll Wilson 2:41
no bad go for it. I mean, now I want to make a note so we can come back. The assumptions. Yeah. Okay, folks, I we just, there’s no such thing as quiet firing. No, it’s retaliation. Let’s be very, very clear, because the way that people are describing it when they’ve been interviewed or surveys, is that you know, just looking at this article, they said some managers are responding by using quiet firing practices according to resume builder.com survey, that one in three managers, one in three managers are using passive aggressive tactics to make work uncomfortable for the employee, in hopes that the quiet quitter will just leave.

Teresa Peterson 3:31
Okay, I love that, like, and let’s have a fun statistics moment. Those are the ones who self reported they were they were honest enough to check a box that said, I am absolutely passive aggressive. When working with an employee, I would also like let’s just bask in that one for a minute.

Sarah Noll Wilson 3:51
That’s a really great point. Because it could be higher. And yeah, so again, folks. Quiet quiet firing isn’t a thing that is called retaliation, or creating a hostile work environment. Yeah,

Teresa Peterson 4:07
just unlike apt, or at its most basic form, horrible management. Like, horrible.

Sarah Noll Wilson 4:16
It. I mean, you know, we we were laughing about it, not because it’s funny now, because it feels so ludicrous. To me anyway, that we’re at this point, and we’re talking about it. Now, that said, it is important for us to talk about retaliation. It is critical for us to talk about creating a toxic work environment. And if you are showing up in ways where you go, I’m just going to make it so awful for this person that they will leave. I want you to get real curious and clear about your intention. I want you to get real clear and curious about accountability, about what’s the impact that you want to make. And and what are you gaining from it because when I, when I hear when I hear someone’s like, Well, I’m just going to make it so bad that they’re not going to want to stay. One that tells me a whole host of things, that you’re not a good manager. And possibly in this moment, you’re not behaving like a good human. You aren’t taking responsibility or accountability, to set expectations to clearly coach somebody, to give them the feedback that they need to have the conversation you need to be having with them that you clearly aren’t. There’s also an element for me. And, you know, I’m trying to think, in my own career, if I’ve, I mean, I’ve certainly seen moments of a definitely seen retaliation will say that, like, for sure. And if I’m being honest with myself, there’s probably times when I retaliated and wasn’t conscious of it, or it was unchecked and yeah, right. Or was conscious of it, but wasn’t going to take ownership for it at the time. Let’s be very real there. Yeah. But, but it’s always interesting to me. You know, that people feel like their hands are tied, then it’s, it’s like, well, first of all, if you if you think this person, this worker, and we’re gonna get back to your point you’re making assumptions. Is not doing the job you need, then you need to have that conversation. And there needs to be accountability in that perspective, right. And this, you know, we also need to think about bias and right, all of those things play into it. But yeah, I don’t even know if the point I want to make is other just, it’s your retaliating if you’re acting passive aggressively if you are doing things that are related to clear, handed, compassionate kind, or even just direct communication. That I mean, that’s just a form of retaliation.

Teresa Peterson 7:08
And it feels like a great moment to for all of us to remind ourselves that we control how we show up, we don’t control the actions of the other folks. So if if you’re seeing something that you think is less than you don’t meet that by also being less than, and that’s what it feels like, even in the title of this article, you’re meeting something that maybe isn’t great with something that really isn’t great. That I don’t understand. It’s like a does not compute for me. Yeah. For, for the relationship for the worker, for the manager for the company. mean that that feels very short sighted. Yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson 7:47
Yeah, there’s, there’s almost an element of like, again, that power over you, oh, yeah, of like, I’m going to manipulate the situation, I mean, essentially, I’m going to create harm, so that it’s so painful for you, you will then leave, I mean, just like, listen to that for a second, if you have found yourself in this situation, if you maybe are coaching somebody in the situation, if my intention is to raise the heat in an unhealthy way. What I’m what I’m essentially setting out to do is to harm you to the point where you will leave, and is that the impact that you want to make is that now you want to show up? And again, get really curious and clear about answering that question of why and what does that give you? And what are you what are you betting on? Like, how are you benefiting from showing up in that way?

Teresa Peterson 8:42
Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Noll Wilson 8:45
So, you know, one of the things you were talking about truce in the beginning was just the assumptions in your experience that people were making. And I think that you know, again, this phrase quiet quitting has been used in a lot of different situations and, and and, you know, in our there are there are people who may feel frustrated, maybe are also coming from a place of feeling vindictive, or what have you have of wanting to potentially, like, I don’t want to say sabotage, but you know, I’m going to do bare minimum bare, like bare minimum, or I’m going to make it look like the bare minimum. Yeah,

Teresa Peterson 9:27
you know, something takes way longer than it writes to just so I can kind of be I mean, clearly, we’ve all worked with those folks, but they are a really tiny percentage of workers.

Sarah Noll Wilson 9:41
Yeah, the vast majority of people who we see who are again, this is it’s it was happening pre pandemic, and it became clear it’s just, I am going to be okay, meeting expectations. Right. I you know, I, I think I mentioned this last time, but I remember Having a leader go sometimes it’s okay to meet expectations. And I was so impressed. Like, I never thought about that, because I always wanted to write be more, do more, you know, have people be personally, you know, perceive the value that I bring? Yeah. And and you know, and and I feel like a conversation that always comes up is yeah, you are going to have people who will go above and beyond who want to contribute more, they’re really excited about the work, they’re really motivated by what’s happening. And then and then you’ll always have people who are really good. I mean, I hate the term worker bees, because I don’t like the I don’t like that. I just don’t like that language. But a lot of times, that’s how your people say it is like, yeah, come in, they get the job done. They’re consistent. They’re, you know, whatever. They’re

Teresa Peterson 10:49
very proficient employee, just very efficient. Yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson 10:54
And you need those, like, we need people kind of in all phases, and all cycles of where they are in their career. Yeah, drive and their values. And I can’t help but wonder how many more assumptions people in positions of power and authority might be making? Because there’s been such a focus on this idea of essentially setting boundaries at work, and just like, meeting the expectations, and so I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Teresa Peterson 11:29
No, I think that I’m chewing on a lot of things you said. And I, it keeps coming back to assumptions, right for me. Because the the, I guess I’m making the assumption that they’re not talking about if the perception is that the quitting is quiet in the firing becomes quiet. So there’s no impact, the quiet part could be that no one’s talking about it, not that it’s happening under the radar. Right. But, um, and when I think about something that you just said, but about, you know, setting boundaries, that’s a great time for checking your bias. Am I applying the belief that everyone who is like me is a great a, doing it, killing it nailing a, you know, passionate above and beyond? And the people not like me? Aren’t, you know, how am I drawing those lines? And I guess, even replaying more of my own situation, you know, I can’t not mention that I was pregnant at the time, right. And so, we know, pregnant women face many obstacles in the workplace, many of which related to other people’s ideas or assumptions about them their commitment, what’s going to happen after. And so I am wondering what role people’s beliefs, past experience translated, you know, just cut and paste onto this experience relates to that.

Sarah Noll Wilson 12:58
What, you know, we do a lot of work on assumptions and right, and we know, there’s the whole familiarity bias, right, I’m more likely to promote or to align with people who look something and behave like me, you know, where there’s that familiarity? What, you know, what, or when we think about So, let’s say somebody’s listening to this, and they’re maybe like, oh, that’s me. But I have a really good reason. You know, why, you know,

Teresa Peterson 13:28
yeah, why I’m doing a quiet firing. Yeah, why I’m engaged? Got it. Okay.

Sarah Noll Wilson 13:33
Um, you know, I want to look at it through sort of two lenses internally, what are some, like, you already started to hit on them? What are some biases we should be aware of? What are some questions we should be asking? You know, because I remember, when I was, first, when I first got into when I was in my first supervisory role, I was such a, I mean, I was such a go getter, I was such a, whatever I can do to exceed expectations, right to rise to the top and do whatever. That’s why I would struggle with people who weren’t like me, I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to work hard to get the A to write to, to exceed expectations. And, you know, obviously, as I started to live my life and increase awareness and all of that there’s 1000s of reasons why somebody may this isn’t, this is I’m gonna give it this energy. I’m not gonna give it that energy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, but when we think about being putting ourselves in the position of being the person in management, who might be feeling frustrated, you know, with maybe what is the reality or perception that people may be doing less than they were before or less than what we expect in internally, what are some good reflection questions for folks to consider things to be aware of?

Teresa Peterson 15:08
You know, this, the first thing that’s coming to my mind for the manager is reflecting on how you got to your management role. Because what we know about managers is they’re often technically very proficient, they were likely the highest performer in the group. They may be shocked that not everyone, almost like the story you were telling, like, why isn’t everyone doing? But I’m sharing that in terms of historically, managers haven’t been as versed in the people side, right, which is what you and I are so passionate about helping managers with. But so I think for them to think about what is the people side of this problem I’m going to have to get curious about, because I think there might be a default to if I tighten the reins on this process, if I ask for more things to be submitted this way, if I review everything that’s going out, right, that kind of work back to the work stream, as opposed to what’s the human side on the other end of this that I might not be considering? That’s the first thing that’s coming up for me.

Sarah Noll Wilson 16:12
Yeah, yeah. Because I mean, we know that some companies have over rotated, and they have, yeah, tracking on their member sites, or, you know, different ways that they’re trying to monitor, not the output, but how much time they’re doing something. And, you know, and the thing is, is if you are coming into this relationship with that team member from a place of distrust, then further doubling down on behavior that is showing them that you don’t trust them, isn’t going to move the needle towards greater trust, it’ll just continue to deepen the distrust. And you know, and I actually just posted something on Twitter about this. And related to this, of, of, if that’s the, if that’s, if that’s the position I’m coming into, I mean, a couple of things are true, I, as the manager may feel a lot of stress, because I don’t feel the level of trust, and I’m creating stress. And when somebody is in stress mode, they’re going to be in survival mode, which means they’re not going to be able to partner with you, they aren’t going to be able to be as creative or as innovative or collaborative, or whatever the case might be. And you know, and I think that that a good check to is, yeah, what story am I telling myself? And, and one of the things that can be so seductive for our brain and assumptions is to go, yep. And here’s these, sir, I can come up with three examples of what will validate it, and I invite you to think about and what are three times that it is invalidated? Yeah. Right. What else might be going on in their world? What kind of conversations can we have? You know, I mean, this goes into our curiosity, first approach of like, getting curious with yourself and then getting curious about others. You know, and then and then from the standpoint of really reflecting on are we clear about expectations, right? Are we clear about? Are we on the same page with what what productivity means? And looks like? Is there an opportunity for us to question the status quo of only measuring time and not necessarily measuring output? As a manager, if you are noticing disengagement, the first place you need to look is yourself. Yeah, are there things? Are there things that that we as individuals bring to the table and need to be held accountable for? Absolutely. And I can tell you, from our experience of working with teams, the teams that struggle with disengagement also have really low levels of trust with their direct supervisors have low levels of trust with each other, the ones that have high level of engagement have super high levels of trust. And they’re really intentional about building that. You know, and so just some, like quick things to think about as a check is, are the expectations clear? Is there an opportunity to do the trick? Does the team member have the resources they need in order to be successful? Yeah, have you appreciated them recently?

Teresa Peterson 19:32
Recognition goes a long way.

Sarah Noll Wilson 19:35
Huge way. Are they are you including team members on important projects? Are you looking for opportunities to develop and to strengthen and to expand? And you know, and are you respecting them? Right, like, you know, and then and we are focused on the leader in part because, you know, this is part of their job. I mean, this is their job and They have a ton of influence and control. And you know, and then and then I guess, you know, we can look at this through the lens of the team member of like, if you’re struggling, you know, what, what, what do you need to get curious about what do you what do you need in this situation, may it maybe it is a situation where you go, I don’t have any other options. This isn’t an ideal situation, I’m going to do what I need to do to show up to do, you know, like a good enough job. And then I’m going to leave because I don’t have other opportunities, I’m not going to be able to leave or whatever the case might be. What else comes up for you, Teresa, as we just explore this topic?

Teresa Peterson 20:39
I think I think a reminder for the person in the formal position of leadership that everyone will be watching how this how your interaction goes, your best people will not be insulated from the way you handle this person who may be decentralizing work from their identity or establishing a healthy boundary, or, you know, maybe really struggling with whether to work here or not. And there’s, neither of those things are evil, right. So everyone will be watching. And I think a good reminder that trust is damaged, even on the periphery. You know, I trust but between you and I could be damaged based on how you address that person, even if I’m not particularly fond of them. Because we go to that’d be me.

Sarah Noll Wilson 21:30
Yeah, yeah, that’s the I mean, that’s the the ripple of retaliation, is it doesn’t just impact the person who you might be targeting. But if other people start to become aware of it, even if it’s not like a conscious thought the seed is planted of would you do that to me? Am I you know, and that’s the other thing that, you know, we’ve talked about and are working on an article is the retaliation doesn’t feel like retaliation to us when we’re the ones doing it. It feels justified. It feels

Teresa Peterson 22:06
appropriate, almost. Yeah. Say, yeah, they earned this outcome. Yes. You. You picked the behavior, you picked the consequence. Right. So and the other unintended consequence of retaliation, beyond damaging trust with people you’re not intending to damage trust with? Or the flip side, the other people watching think this is okay, here. That it’s assumed that this is how we can treat one another all the time. So you have to remember everyone is watching. Mm hmm.

Sarah Noll Wilson 22:45
Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and real quickly, you know, when we say retaliation, retaliation isn’t always obvious. It isn’t always I’m mad at Teresa, therefore, I’m going to retaliate against her and pass her over for this promotion, because she didn’t sign up for the extra work or what I mean, whatever the situation might be. And so it’s much more subtle and much more nuanced, right? It can be, it could be passing someone over for promotion, it could be not giving somebody opportunities to help them develop. It could be

Teresa Peterson 23:20
something as simple as really ignoring their emails, not giving them the timely responses they’re relying on.

Sarah Noll Wilson 23:27
Yeah, that’s, that’s something that we see a lot like, I just, I just don’t even respond to them. Right? Like, I’m just not even gonna, they’re not gonna give them the time of day. They’ll get it when they get it. Right. And it’s in really they’re making, making a point. Ignoring them in meetings, right. And again, it’s not like, I don’t want to I you can be looking at someone nodding and smiling. And in your head going, Man, I don’t agree with anything you’re saying. So I’m going to just discount it. And then we have to remember there are real, real consequences to retaliation and especially when you’re a person in a position of power and authority. Yeah, real consequences, to someone’s livelihood, to their sense of self, to again, to the point you are making Teresa, other people who are watching, how they how they show up with it. So what’s the what’s the central point of what we’re chatting about here? If you’re talking about my firing

Teresa Peterson 24:27
guy, I think, yeah, rise to the occasion. Yeah, go, you know, what, what would the best you do? What would you how would you respond with the person you respect the most watching? And it’s probably not ignoring the other person. It’s probably talking to them. Mm

Sarah Noll Wilson 24:45
hmm. That’s a great, that’s a great practice. Like what’s, what’s the best version of you? And how does that person show up in this moment? Yeah. And we would like to, you know, we’d love to hear from you, you know, what’s the experience so that you you’ve had, you know, as I mentioned, Teresa and I are, we are interested in exploring this idea of retaliation. So if you have a story that you would like to share, anonymously, let us know, we’re working on an article to hopefully publish and some larger publications, and we’d love to hear from you or hear your perspective and maybe where it’s different. And, and obviously, we can’t cover everything here because, you know, we can have a whole conversation on so what if we have someone who is a poor performer? What if we have somebody who is a team member who is actively resisting, if you will, right? And it’s clear, and it’s obvious, and what do we do in those situations, but, but for now, let’s just get really curious about the language we’re using. And, and I love that practice of like, at your best self, what does that look like? And how do you want to show up in a way that you know, the other person deserves the relationship deserves and you deserve? Yeah. Final thoughts, Theresa?

Teresa Peterson 26:09
Always love these conversations. excited to hear from people. Yeah, we’d love to hear from you. We really mean that.

Sarah Noll Wilson 26:16
Yeah. So shoot us a message at you can send it to Hello at Sarah wilson.com and Theresa and I will both see it. So thanks for joining us folks talking about this topic. I’ll see you again. Bye

Unknown Speaker 26:29

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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Sarah Noll Wilson is on a mission to help leaders build and rebuild teams. She aims to empower leaders to understand and honor the beautiful complexity of the humans they serve. Through her work as an Executive Coach, an in-demand Keynote Speaker, Researcher, Contributor to Harvard Business Review, and Bestselling Author of “Don’t Feed the Elephants”, Sarah helps leaders close the gap between what they intend to do and the actual impact they make. She hosts the podcast “Conversations on Conversations”, is certified in Co-Active Coaching and Conversational Intelligence, and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities. In addition to her work with organizations, Sarah is a passionate advocate for mental health.

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