Quiet hiring – a recruiter’s perspective on how some employers are responding to quiet quitting

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Just remember that this job is the one that gets you your next one, advises HR consultant Siwe Sibeko.
Just remember that this job is the one that gets you your next one, advises HR consultant Siwe Sibeko.
Lumi Nola/Getty

As an HR specialist, I have crossed paths with several types of people.

Some are inherent over-performers because that’s simply what their work ethic is like. 

I have also met people who will go as far as saying, “If it won’t be a line item in my scorecard or payslip, I’m not getting involved.”

We cannot escape the existence of both types of people everywhere. In workplaces, and even in families and relationships. 

Read more | Loadshedding stage 6 – what now? This is what it’s like when loadshedding is your daily reality

From “the great resignation” and “pivoting” to “quiet quitting”, the way we talk about our careers has been filled with loaded terms that show a growing inter-generational divide and rapidly changing times.

On social media, the term that has been topping trends when it comes to career conversations is “quiet quitting”.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have come across this phrase many, many times, with some social media users enthusiastically in favour of it, and others advising caution, arguing that quiet quitting is the best way to prove to your employers that you’ve checked out.

My summary is that quiet quitting is in essence doing what you’re being paid for, no more and no less. 

For most, it’s not even really “quiet quitting”, it’s just normal working. 

In case you missed it, here is one of the best explanations of it that I have come across.

Quiet quitting comes against the backdrop of employees feeling that going the extra mile is overlooked, completely ignored, not appreciated, or costing them too much in terms of their personal time or mental health, without any kind of reward or recognition from their employers.

Indeed, highly acclaimed workplace psychologists such as New York Times bestselling author Adam Grant have warned about the “passion tax”.

“If you love your job, people are more willing to ask you to do extra work unpaid – even if it’s demeaning and not part of your role – and to sacrifice sleep and family time.”

“Managers, it’s time to stop taking advantage of enthusiasm. End the passion tax,” Grant tweeted, warning against the downsides to going the extra mile – the direct opposite of “quiet quitting”.

But while some employees who were once enthusiastic are choosing to set more firm boundaries at work, according to Forbes, there has also been a “quiet firing” reaction by some employers in the US. This is described as “a phenomenon in which employers demoralize unwanted workers to the point that they decide to quit.”

Another phenomenon, similar to this, is quiet hiring, reports Entrepreneur.

Quiet hiring is when prestigious organisations have started looking for employees whose work ethic is the opposite of quiet quitting. 

These organisations have intensified efforts to reward, recognize and even hire or promote employees in proportion to how much they go above and beyond. 

How it works is that they monitor these “over-performers” and start earmarking them for specific roles within their company. 

What’s most intriguing is how this phenomenon includes observing external talent and then head-hunting and quietly hiring them to join this winning team of loud “over-performers”. 

As an over-performer myself, I’d say if you’re working for a company that neither acknowledges or rewards your over and above work, continue going the extra mile – on your way out.

It is incredibly demoralizing to put in more than what was requested and be treated as though it’s nothing. However, your company’s poor behaviour shouldn’t lead you to behaving poorly in return. 

Be yourself, pump your all in while you work on getting out and going where they give stars for blood, sweat and tears. 

While you may think that quietly quitting is a good way to retaliate at your current employer, it might also be a great way to ruin your reputation with other employers. 

Read more | OPINION | Here are 5 reasons why you should be wary of accepting a counter-offer after resigning

Remember that we are all interconnected. When I leave where I currently am and find a new amazing home, I remember who from my former employer would be worth headhunting to come here. 

This is how a lot of headhunting happens. 

Also bear in mind that when your quiet quitting begins, those observing are none the wiser to the fact that you’re lashing out at your line manager. All they’re thinking is, “Siwe used to be so switched on and a shining star, I guess she’s really changed. I wonder what happened”, and it’s a wrap. 

Now add to this the complexity of how much certain groups of people struggle for employment, fair pay, general recognition and adequate development in the workplace. Some demographics, such as women for instance, face biases that see them having to prove themselves over and over again – even after they’ve been hired.

Having struggled to get in and stay in because of inexplicable biases and myths about their inability to do certain jobs, does quiet quitting become a form of protest, or a self-fulfilling prophecy and a confirmation of the biases and myths?

I’ll leave that question to be rhetorical.

Now I know that the “know your worth” parade is itching to inflict violence upon me at this point.

But let me further say this: if you’re being treated poorly at work, try to get it resolved (through a line manager discussion, HR grievance process, or CCMA) and if your attempts don’t amount to much, leave. 

Never tolerate abuse, being undermined or being undervalued. Do not do it, ever. 

Equally, don’t sink your entire career and risk reputational damage because you’re trying to teach someone – who may not even be aware – a lesson. 

Have boundaries and work tirelessly to have them respected by your immediate line manager, colleagues and everyone you encounter at work. 

Just remember that this job is the one that gets you your next one. 

Even when I’ve worked for impossible leaders or unreasonable employers, I always had meetings with myself to beg for patience and resilience so that I never drop the ball. When friends would ask why I bother, I’d say, “It’s because I’m not just doing a job. I’m busy compiling my CV or show reel for the next gig.”

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