By now, you’ve heard about “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing.” After these TikTok-boosted terms became a phenomenon that set workplaces around the world in conflicting directions, there have been so many debates about workers being expected to go the extra mile or about managers pushing their employees out the door.
These trends, however, aren’t new. Workplaces, big and small, suffer through difficult situations that affect office morale and productivity — now they just have Gen Z-approved names for them. It’s a “rebranding of a problem that’s been around for a while,” as business media brand Fast Company puts it.
But for Pearl Hoang, a human resources expert, these trends shouldn’t be taken negatively but rather as “opportunities for continuous improvement and innovative solutions” in the workplace.
Quiet quitting and quiet firing are concepts that have existed in Vietnam for some time now, especially as workplaces navigate the complexities of digital transformation and generation gaps.
Pearl, who has nearly 15 years of experience in people management, has witnessed how Vietnam’s labor culture has evolved and how these changes have impacted the way workers and managers interact with each other.
Quiet quitting, or doing the bare minimum and being emotionally detached from the job, has become increasingly apparent with the young generation emphasizing proper work-life balance. It’s the exact opposite of the hustle culture of the Millennials.
“Labor culture and employees’ perspectives have changed,” Pearl explained. “Today, employees have more expectations from their work than just salary or position/title. They tend to envision a comfortable work environment that allows them to be flexible in terms of hours or locations, an open work culture where they can contribute their own voices, an exciting project to help them grow, or attractive work policies that allow them to be recognized and honored, or just simply a fun and refreshing workplace for them to enjoy every day.
When these desires are not met, they may slowly lose motivation or commitment. This leads to them working only moderately, even at the minimum, or gradually leaving the organization.”
The lack of emotional resilience and patience also affects an employee’s performance on the job. Younger employees tend to be more vulnerable and have the tendency just to give up when faced with challenges, added Pearl. “This is inevitable due to the hustle and bustle of life and too many options available, making people want to have results or achievement more quickly, as well as to live less deeply or with less dedication.”
But employers play a significant role in why quiet quitting happens. It’s possible for companies to inadvertently create a feeling of silent dismissal for employees.
“For example, tiptoeing to a high shelf to pick up a book. If this action is repeated with sufficient frequency, our toes become stronger and more flexible. But if this action is repeated continuously 24/7, our toes go numb, and the feeling of exhaustion arises. Expecting our associates to work as hard and emotionlessly as a machine will always be met with countermeasures or protests.”
In some cases, however, quiet firing is a strategy to slowly part ways in the “most polite and constructive way” with individuals who no longer contribute to the organization.
In Vietnam, where even tech-focused companies still follow traditional office management, firing an employee is a task no one wants to take. Quiet firing is rooted in a company’s desire to avoid unnecessary conflicts and minimize financial risks and legal consequences.
“But again, quiet firing is not always intentional. Some of the signs of quiet firing are the results of poor management. Lack of feedback, no support, or an annual evaluation might signify an overwhelmed, inexperienced, or unorganized manager or leader.”
Pearl Hoang gives three practical tips to avoid quiet quitting and quiet firing — or any counterproductive work behaviors — and maintain a healthy work culture.
Continuously improve the working environment to improve the employee experience.
This does not mean the company has to invest too much in facilities because that could burden the operation and business. This means being open to changing work policies and communication methods to suit the constantly evolving technology, mindset, and age of the new labor force. In addition, it also means that the company needs to treat employees as humans, not t physical resources like machines or tools.
At the same time, investing in training and development has long-term benefits for both employers and workers. Learning is an inherent need, and constantly developing is an instinct of humanity. To most people, getting promoted is not just a matter of getting a raise or benefits; it’s a form of recognition of their value to the organization. And as the business grows, each employee in the organization, especially those in the management team, should also grow to keep the momentum together.
Focus on core values and build a team that is in tune with those values.
Everyone has their own values and beliefs, and that’s perfectly fine. Even if we’re vegetarian, that doesn't mean that meat lovers or fast food eaters have to stay out of our orbit. But if we live and work in a community that is empathetic and in tune with our beliefs, it shall be easier to understand and support each other to achieve common goals. OKRs will no longer be a nuisance, and SOPs will no longer be harsh but become necessary and practical tools to work together in one direction.
Help everyone blend their work and personal life better.
We convey a message or value through a business or a job. So business and job are tools we use to survive in life, but they are not our life. Working to the point of exhaustion or getting double shifts to earn extra money don’t bring long-term benefits. Avoiding difficulties and living in seclusion aren’t great options as well.
It should be a priority for companies to create an environment where employees are encouraged to find a good balance between work and their personal life.
The term working smart instead of working hard couldn’t be more true — and should be a mantra for everyone. Leveraging technology, optimizing resources and working time, empowering the team, encouraging members to spend time with society and family, and allowing them time for entertainment and relaxation are the fundamental definitions of a healthy and positive workplace. Only then can a company retain the best and most positive talents.