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What’s Quiet Hiring… And is it a Bad Thing?

So, first we had quiet quitting… then came quiet firing… and now there’s quiet hiring? What are all these workplace trends, where are they coming from, and why do they all have to be so silent?

Quiet hiring is the latest in a series of names for trends in business that, quite frankly, aren’t actually new. Quiet quitting was a new name for giving up on your job, and quiet firing was a new name for giving up on an employee. Quiet hiring doesn’t involve giving up on anything, but some folks believe it’s just as detrimental an action.

Quiet hiring is the act of subtly getting your current team to take on the responsibilities of another hypothetical employee you’re not planning on hiring. It saves time and money on recruitment for an employer and only involves a tiny bit more training instead of a full onboarding week.

For example, let’s say an elementary school is starting an afterschool program for kids whose parents are picking them up later in the day. Instead of hiring a dedicated program leader, the school might divide the responsibility between the P.E. teacher and the history teacher and give them a bit of overtime pay on top. The school just “quiet hired” a couple current staff members instead of adding a new one.

This happens in different forms all around the world in all types of industries. While quiet quitting and quiet firing are clearly damaging to teams, quiet hiring doesn’t seem as malicious. Is quiet hiring a bad thing?

The Pros and Cons

The positives from the employer’s point of view are apparent: you don’t have to hire or train a new worker when you can get one or two current employees to take on their responsibilities. Most companies will give this person some sort of raise to compensate, then simply move on to something else.

Opponents of quiet hiring, though, aren’t happy with a raise acting as a Band-aid for harder work. Many of them feel like “organizations are tricking [them] into doing undesirable jobs,” says Anthony Nyberg, scholar at the Academy of Management. 

Depending on a workplace’s situation, quiet hiring might fail even if your employees are okay with it – workers may be stretched thin enough between multiple assignments that their productivity overall will suffer. In that case, you’d lose money instead of saving it. So, if you’re an employer, what do you do if you find yourself considering quiet hiring? 

Well, this is much more “case-by-case” than the other quiet trends – every employee, responsibility, and culture is a bit different. Firstly, take a good look at your budget and staff to see if hiring someone new is really that unrealistic. A new team member may save you money in the long run, given the increase in team productivity.

If you truly cannot bring new talent onto the team, and you really need your current staff to pick up a couple new responsibilities, then it might seem like you’re stuck. Even in the most dire of straits, though, never quiet hire… try “loud” hiring.

As alluded to by Anthony Nyberg, the biggest issue modern workers have with this trend is the lack of communication and honesty coming from management. An employee might find themselves getting a raise, and before they know it, their work days just got far more difficult. They didn’t ask for this, they’ll become disengaged, they’ll quiet quit, then they’ll get quiet fired, and everything will be so gosh darn quiet.

If you’re a manager looking to assign someone new tasks with a raise, be extremely honest with them. Ask them if they have the time and ability to add something new to their project list along with a raise (or even a promotion) and see what they think. If they ask why, don’t be afraid to simply admit it’s not in the budget to hire someone new – transparency is always appreciated. 

No employee will ever feel tricked or cheated if you specify your intentions and how their position will change. You’re much more likely to find a willing “new hire” by asking your team and working out a deal that makes sense for them. 

If you speak with everyone you can and no one seems comfortable with the upskilling, even against a promotion, then that’s a definite sign the work you’re asking about is meant for a brand new hire. Every case is different, though, and we trust you to make the right moves. Just don’t be quiet about it!

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