The Silent Killers of Company Culture: Sleepworking, Quiet Firing, and Quiet Quitting

Jessamy Amic

Posted: March 27, 2023

Table of Contents

Even if you’ve never heard of the words sleepworking, quiet quitting or quiet firing, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening at your company. These lingering labour trends—that all have one thing in common: a disenfranchised, underperforming workforce—are predicted to persist unless something is done. 

According to research by Gallup, the huge ‘drop in engagement’ among employees began more or less at the same time as the ‘great resignation’ when employees started to seriously evaluate their careers, salaries and how they are treated at work. According to a Pew Research Center survey, a lack of advancement opportunities, low pay and feeling disrespected were the top reasons people quit their jobs in droves in 2021. A big chunk of those who didn’t resign are now either quiet quitting, sleepworking, or subject to quiet firing. 

We unpack these three pervasive labour trends and show you how to identify them in your workplace, in your employees (or yourself) and offer concrete steps you can take to reinvigorate your workforce and stem the tide of lacklustre performance and resignations. 

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting—a term that went viral on TikTok and runs its own hashtag #quietquitting—is when unmotivated, disinterested, and checked-out employees do the bare minimum at work, primarily because they no longer subscribe to the ‘hustle culture mentality’. While some call it laziness, that’s not really it. It’s more a case of employees psychologically withdrawing from their company because they’re not being engaged at work.

Signs of quiet quitting

  • Not attending meetings
  • Arriving late or leaving early
  • Reduced productivity
  • Low contribution to team projects
  • Not participating in planning or meetings
  • Lack of motivation, passion and enthusiasm

The reasons behind quiet quitting could be because an employee is not happy in their position, is experiencing burnout, or has checked out because they’re looking for another job. Whatever the reason, in the vast majority of cases, it is a management and leadership issue.

How to fix it

Undoing the damage that leads to quiet quitting comes down to creating a work environment where employees feel they have a sense of purpose, understand their roles and responsibilities, have a pathway to career growth, and believe their skills align with the outcomes they’re working to achieve. 
This requires those in management to lead with intention and empathy while providing employees with direction, recognition, and motivation. When leaders actively engage their employees, they return the favour, and performance—individually and in teams—is greatly enhanced.

Ways to prevent quiet quitting

  1. Communicate regularly through one-on-ones, team meetings, and company updates.
  1. Democratise decision-making by delegating responsibilities. This creates trust, promotes engagement and increases productivity.
  2. Align projects with employees’ individual skills and goals and clearly define responsibilities, outcomes and checkpoints along the way to reignite their passion and bolster their confidence.
  3. Invest in employees’ career development by partnering with external training providers, providing in-house coaching and mentoring, and engaging tech for upskilling, micro-learning and continuous learning opportunities.

What is sleepworking?

A new Global Report from Domo shows that more than 60% of workers polled are, in fact, ‘sleepworking’ – unable to perform to their full potential due to a lack of access to relevant technology and strategic data. 

Here are some of the most significant findings 

  • 58% say their need for technology has increased in the last five years, but their access to tech tools hasn’t kept up.
  • 31% of employees are in the dark about key business objectives and insights and feel uninformed about their company’s overall strategy. 
  • 45% said they wished they had more access to data to inform strategic ideas. 
  • 62% don’t feel properly equipped to tackle today’s workload, with the majority saying they could get more work done if they had better tech tools.

How to fix it

Employees’ access to company data and modern technology directly impacts their ability to meaningfully contribute to business results. Technology enables companies to get the most out of their employees, making tasks easier, faster and simpler, as well as opening up a whole new world of improved communication, collaboration, and analytics. There are dozens of tech tools, systems, products, apps, and services available to help companies avoid sleepworkng. 

These range from communication and collaboration programmes to task management and automation software—all designed to streamline processes and free up teams to focus on the more high-value and impactful work that they were actually hired to do.

User-friendly dashboards that convert raw data into business trends and insights and allow departments and individuals to make data-driven decisions. 

Department-specific software solutions include HR Software that simplifies hiring, Customer Relationship Management Software that reduces overheads and frees sales staff to think creatively and focus on customers, and Project Management Software that aids in managing project stages, tasks, deadlines and productivity goals.

What is quiet firing?

Quiet firing describes how managers fail to adequately provide coaching, support and career development to an employee, resulting in the employee quietly being pushed out of the company. In a worst-case scenario, quiet firing can happen when managers allow employees to have toxic or demoralising experiences at work as a way to squeeze them out. 

Quiet firing destroys team trust, tarnishes an employer’s reputation as a good place to work, and can even hurt a company’s ability to keep the business afloat when key employees exit.

Management mistakes that lead to quiet firing

  • No performance feedback
  • No development opportunities
  • No individualised recognition
  • Small or no raises
  • Limited time off
  • Micromanaging
  • Leaving the employee out of the loop
  • Reduced working hours

How to fix it 

Help employees set their goals and create an individualised development plan and career path that they can take ownership of through hard work and accountability. 

Have meaningful conversations with your employees about their priorities and provide coaching and training to help them connect with their goals. Show you care by ensuring they have the proper resources and partnership to reach their goals. 

Importantly, feed enthusiasm and boost employee confidence by looking for opportunities to praise and thank them, both within a group and individually. Celebrate even small wins during team meetings and encourage employees to recognise each other to help foster a culture of recognition.

How MasterStart helps businesses re-engage employees

MasterStart can help business leaders take active steps to ignite employees’ emotional and mental investment in their work and create a healthy work culture that is based on more than simply pushing them to work harder.

Key actions MasterStart can help you take

  1. Upskill your employees in their professions—whether that’s data analysis, operations management or digital sales management—so they are up to date on the latest business trends and tools and can see a clear path to realising their personal career goals.
  2. Invest in Strategic Leadership training for employees in management roles and our Leading With Impact course that teaches the four pillars of self-leadership.

Contact us today to learn how our accredited courses can benefit both employers and employees and strengthen your workforce.

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