Viewpoint: What 'quiet firing' looks like at hospitals

Leaders in industries across the U.S. are aware of "quiet quitting," in which workers reduce their enthusiasm at work and stick to the minimum expectations of their role. Similarly, there is a trend called "quiet firing," in which managers are tacitly pushing employees to leave their jobs.

Managers who quietly fire workers are ignoring employees' requests for promotions or a pay bump, hoping they will choose to leave, Fortune reported Aug. 30. Team Building, a team development company, describes the trend as a "passive-aggressive approach to performance management."

In healthcare and other industries, quiet firing is not new, but the trend accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Michael Charlton, a member of the American Hospital Association's board and the board chairman of Atlantic City, N.J.-based AtlantiCare Health System. In a recent LinkedIn News poll among 20,062 Americans, 83 percent of respondents had either seen quiet firing in the workplace or faced it at work.

"When it comes to quiet firing, I think this has been ongoing, whether it's in healthcare or any industry. And I don't necessarily see it as a one-off thing. I see it as a result of multiple symptoms," Mr. Charlton told Becker's

Among the factors related to quiet firing in healthcare, he views challenges related to culture as one of the largest. 

"When [an organization's] core management team, its senior leadership team, doesn't value the employees, their development … that's where you get what is what is now termed quiet firing," Mr. Charlton said. "You get managers who then jump in, and whether it's they don't give [employees] development opportunities, they don't put them on a project, they don't communicate with frequency, they don't provide feedback … essentially, we all know what the end result is going to be. You're going to have a frustrated team member who's going to look for and seek other opportunities."

He advises hospitals and health system leaders to focus on ensuring a heterogeneous culture at their organizations. Mr. Charlton said this is especially important amid today's workforce shortages and as younger generations make up large portions of companies' staff.  

"I don't want to say that you're going to have multiple cultures, but you're going to have segments within the culture because the population base of our workforce is going to be segmented now," he said. "And I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I think that's a scary thing to a lot of people in healthcare, because we're very good at saying, 'OK, here's our culture, it works great. It's extremely defined.' But I think [if] you're coming out of med school, or you're a nurse, and you're coming out of nursing school at 23 [years old], your viewpoints and your needs are much different than somebody who's 38, 40 years old, and now has a family and has different responsibilities and different concerns."

Additionally, Mr. Charlton, who also serves as president and CEO of ICON Hospitality, encouraged hospital and health system leaders to prioritize engagement with employees. 

"At the end of the day, our people have to come first because they are in turn taking care of our patients," he said. "So if we're not taking care of our people and keeping them healthy, that's a challenge."

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