‘Quiet quitting’ has been a buzzword in the corporate world recently – staff members are taking back their personal lives by setting boundaries on how much extra effort they put into their work. This has sparked many conversations as to why employees felt the need to quietly quit in the first place, and one such reason may be due to the rise of ‘quiet firing’.

The second phrase to be logged in the ‘quiet –’ saga, quiet firing shifts the focus to a managerial perspective, and refers to those leaders who are assigning some members of staff menial tasks, setting unrealistic expectations, and consistently denying them time off work. Essentially, instead of communicating with these employees to help them improve, they are quietly pushing them away until they finally decide to leave of their own accord.

While some leaders may be doing this consciously, this new phenomenon does bring into question whether managers who are being inattentive are at risk of unknowingly quietly firing their staff.

Being in a leadership role means you may not have a lot of time to spare, but a crucial part of being a manager is finding a balance between being attentive to those above and below you. Members of your team may feel they are being neglected due to a lack of direct engagement with them, and this can be perceived as quiet firing and can push people towards leaving. This is reinforced by Gallup’s report which found that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager. In other words, a manager has the largest effect on how engaged their employees are at work.

This highlights the importance of finding that time to offer clear and consistent feedback. Leaders who are essentially giving up on those workers who they deem as underperforming, instead of taking the time to tell them how to improve, are failing their staff.

Underperformance is a sign to managers that they are not being as attentive as necessary. The relationship between leader and worker needs to be nourished, and this nourishment comes from communication – through the implementation of a regular feedback session – and from clarity, as only about half of workers actually know what is expected of them.

Communication and clarity are especially important with the rise of hybrid and remote working models. Research shows that employees working from home often receive less performance feedback for their good work than those in the office, and this can be simply due to the fact that remote working removes the chance of bumping into one another. Gone are the days of grabbing someone for a quick chat or catching up by the water cooler. All these little opportunities for micro-feedback sessions are much harder to achieve through Zoom or Teams, as now, a formal effort has to be made to speak to colleagues.

Implementing ways of giving regular feedback to employees who work remotely will help mitigate the risk of quietly firing staff. On top of this, it helps enhance your culture – in the office and digitally – to be open and approachable, which can ultimately better staff engagement and improve the quality and quantity of their output.

If you need guidance on how to avoid falling into the trap of quiet firing, you can get in touch with us here.

Hybrid and remote working have become a post-pandemic norm, and have paved the way for an entirely new working environment - the metaverse. This is a virtual reality environment where employees can meet and interact from anywhere around the world through avatars - digital versions of themselves - which they have designed.

The concept of the metaverse has started to gain significant traction, with a poll conducted by HR Magazine finding that over a third of respondents thought the technology was suitable for business, and that they were excited about using it. Many companies have even started rushing to buy virtual ‘offices’ in prime locations in these simulated universes.

On the one hand, the introduction of a digital working world can offer those working remotely the ability to interact with their colleagues more authentically. However, the rise of the metaverse also brings with it the question of how to approach it from a HR perspective.

How do you monitor diversity and inclusion when people can choose what they want to look like?

The process of designing one’s avatar is important for the metaverse to work. Having face-to-face interaction is what makes this technological development so attractive to organizations, but this will require a different set of people policies to those we currently have in the real world.

For example, when someone is creating their avatar, they will probably want it to look like them – but it will likely be an ‘enhanced’ version of themselves. After all, this is an opportunity to make yourself look the way you have always wanted! This is known as the ‘Proteus effect’ with employees adjusting their height, age, wardrobe, etc. to fit their desired self-image.

However, this risks creating an expectation that avatars should be physically 'perfect' which, in turn, could undermine the self-esteem and mental wellbeing of some individuals.

And while altering your avatar to have features which are manifestly different to your own might be considered harmful (or even offensive), organizations will need to decide whether there certain circumstances where significantly changing your avatar's appearance might be acceptable. For example, if a wheelchair user were allowed to create an avatar which does not use one, would this create a workplace culture where people can be recognised for their ability to do their job rather their physical differences – or one where physical conformity is a requirement for an individual to feel that they belong? These are difficult ethical choices.

How do you design people strategies for people that are no longer physical?

Creating policies surrounding the creation of avatars is one thing, but the way employees behave towards each other in the metaverse workplace in another.

‘Trolling’ is a common internet phenomenon in which people will bully and harass others online through harmful comments. In the context of the workplace, if a colleague is offensive to you online it would probably be considered equally as severe if they were offensive to you in person. Most organizations already have procedures in place to deal with this type of verbal harassment – digital or otherwise.

But what about 'physical' harassment in the metaverse?

There have already been issues of avatars being assaulted by virtual colleagues, which begs the question whether this would (or should) be dealt with by employers in the same way they would respond to a similar assault in the real world. If I virtually strike your avatar, is that as bad as actually striking you?

So, the full implications of working in the metaverse are yet to be determined, but it is already clear that the HR strategies and policies we will require for this virtual workplace to be safe and inclusive for every employee will require careful consideration.

And although this may be a vision of the future, organizations should be starting to think about it in the present.

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