Can Quiet Quitting Get You Fired?
There is a workplace trend booming on social media among Gen-Z and young millennials (sorry guys, you get blamed for everything) called “quiet quitting."
What Is Quiet Quitting?
There are two viewpoints on what quiet quitting really means. One view is that it means not going above and beyond your job duties, like not volunteering to work nights or weekends could be quiet quitting. The other view is that it means doing the bare minimum or just enough to keep your job.
However, quiet quitting isn't just a phenomenon with the younger workforce. In the wake of the pandemic, many people are rejecting “hustle culture." They want to avoid job burnout by refusing to work overtime and weekends.
Post-COVID, we experienced the Great Resignation, in which people quit their current jobs to pursue better work environments and opportunities. Some people just retired.
A Gallup poll shows that as many as 50% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in quiet quitting. However, it has less to do with people being lazy and more with overall disengagement in the workplace.
But can employers fire employees for quiet quitting? Generally, yes, if they are “at-will" employees.
What Is an 'At-Will' Employee?
An "at-will" employee is an employment status where the employer can fire you with or without cause and with or without notice. As long as the reason is not unlawful, an employer can fire you.
For example, if you are wearing a hat and your boss says, “I hate hats," they can fire you without penalty. But if you wear a head covering such as a Muslim headscarf (hijab) as part of your religion, your boss can't fire you because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects religious garb in the workplace.
In all states except Montana, unless you are signed to a specific contract that says otherwise, your employment is “at-will."
When Is Termination Unlawful?
However, a company can't fire you in a discriminatory manner or fire you:
- Based on your race, gender, national origin, disability, religion, or age
- If you legally took time off for work (for example, jury duty or medical leave)
- If you report harassment or discrimination
- If you signed an employment contract and the terms govern when or how your employment ends
- If you are protected by a whistleblower statute
In these cases, you have the right to keep your job even if you are an “at-will" employee.
What is Quiet Firing?
Quiet firing is when employers actively discourage employees so much that the employees quit in frustration. In a LinkedIn post, Bonnie Dilber, a job recruiter from the Seattle area, lists the following ways a company engages in "quiet firing":
- They don't give you praise or feedback
- Your raises are 3% or less, and your peers receive more
- They do not discuss growth or advancement opportunities
- Your boss does not give you new or exciting projects
- Your boss often cancels or reschedules regular meetings with you
- Your boss keeps you out of the loop on information critical to your job duties
So quiet firing may be your employer's response to your quiet quitting. If you are not performing your expected duties (or performing minimally), they may have cause to let you go. And if a company enacts layoffs, they may focus on the minimal performers.
How to Let Your Boss Know You Aren't a Quiet Quitter
Not everyone is a quiet quitter and wants to do a good job for that next raise or promotion. But how do you show your company that you aren't one?
- Review and clarify your job description with your manager to show you put in the effort to meet (and even surpass) expectations.
- Request scheduled one-on-one check-ins with your manager. Prepare questions and topics before the meeting and take notes of what you and your manager discussed.
- Keep open lines of communication with your manager to let them know what you are doing and your progress on assigned projects.
Show you are engaged, working, and not just doing the bare minimum.
Alternatives To Quiet Quitting
If you are considering quiet quitting, think about your motives. Is it truly about your well-being and creating a healthy work-life balance? Or are you unhappy in your position or don't feel a part of the company culture? There are alternatives to quiet quitting.
- Apply for a new job or transfer to another position at your workplace.
- Ask your manager for hybrid work where you can work at home part of the time or remote work if you want to work from home full-time.
- Actively quit and pursue a job with a different workplace culture.
In summary, employers can fire "at-will" employees for any reason. However, if you feel you have been terminated for a discriminatory or unlawful reason, you should seek advice from an employment law attorney.
- Find an Employment Lawyer Near You (FindLaw Lawyer Directory)
- Can You Legally Refuse to Do Your Job? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Employee Rights After a Job Termination (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.