A woman with a Mona Lisa smile seated forward wearing a blouse. Unveiling the Unethical Reality of Quiet Hiring: A Risky Path for Businesses

Unveiling the Unethical Reality of Quiet Hiring: A Risky Path for Businesses

The heated debate continues about working from home versus the mandate to return to the office, the line drawn has been deepened. As we watch the dramatic game of business ping pong between management and workforce, have the business owners scored with “quiet hiring”? Perhaps this new game plan is giving validity to “quiet quitting” and “the bare minimum” as those in charge continue to misunderstand the workforce revolution.

What is Quiet Hiring?

I first read an article in 2022 where Bosch had decided to invest one billion euros to reskill and upskill its workforce to be ready for the future. A welcomed innovation as strategic sustainability, employer responsibility and people-centric focus work in harmony. Fast forward two years and the investment has doubled as market trends and AI technology are changing the way we approach business.
Although now the definition of quiet hiring has been broadened. It’s now described as a new recruitment strategy by the business to “acquire new skills without hiring a person for the role”. It’s giving the existing team members additional responsibilities beyond what they are currently hired to do. The strategy therefore evolved into something quite different to the initial announcement by Bosch. It has strong resemblances to old practices of the employer expecting the individual to go above and beyond.
It sounds ethical and another step in the right direction to “la dolce vita”, ensure that the people of the business are looked after by training them for the technological future, rather than replacing them. That is until it’s revealed that the bosses are selecting those individuals who are going above and beyond. If the worker can show they can do the work of the promoted job, they could be in luck at getting a promotion. Remember, it’s quiet hiring so it’s for the individual to know they are being assessed, they can only hope they catch the attention of a person with the power to make it happen.

The Potential Benefits of Quiet Hiring

Suggested to be a talent management strategy to counteract the problem of non-engaged and disengaged workers, personally, I see it as a hack and a step backwards for businesses who proclaim that the people of their business are the core. Here we go again making strategies that appear to be in line with the moves of a villain.
While it’s a smart move to upskill your existing team where possible, if only because it’s an employee’s market. Headlines are still grabbing the attention as the ongoing battle of WFH and mandatory return to the office continues.
However, this cuts across the board as all sectors of business have been affected and continue to go through the aftermath of the pandemic.
Woman of colour dressed in business attire in an office setting with a serious expression as we get down to business on supporting the change from Use it or lose it mantra to HouseRules tailored to the business Unveiling the Unethical Reality of Quiet Hiring: A Risky Path for Businesses

Benefits for the Internal Community

There is a benefit to having the internal community experience firsthand the other departments of the business where possible. From a HouseRules standpoint, it gives them greater understanding and empathy for others and the company. Say you have the person in the stock room cover parent leave for someone in the sales team. They will not only know the stockroom procedures:
  • when deliveries are received,
  • the picking packing and shipping process
  • the returns/exchanges process
Moving to the sales team, the individual will have exposure to another side of the business:
  • speaking to the customers via email, phone or social media.
  • answering queries
  • handling complaints

Don't let "Quiet Hiring" Practices Tarnish Your Hard-Earned Reputation

Is your business secretly engaging in “quiet hiring” without realising its risks? This trending practice often stems from poorly developed talent management policies that unintentionally alienate your dedicated team members.

CAS Ltd offers a comprehensive Dust Off Review to guide you through an ethical transformation. An in-depth assessment of your hiring and promotion practices, highlighting any issues that need addressing.

Together, we can work to overhaul your policy and procedure – implementing your own set of HouseRules aligned with transparency, fairness, and genuine employee development.


Drawbacks and Risks of Quiet Hiring

Finding the right candidate in today’s market is not so easy therefore companies have started to look at the existing workforce and promote homegrown talent. However, there is a side to quiet hiring that does sound too good to be true or a greater advantage to the business owner than the employee.
for example, a well-crafted rescheduling or no-show policy can set clear expectations around mutual respect for one another’s time. Yet the language and positioning of such policies are crucial. They should be presented transparently as a professional framework for a seamless experience, not brutish language that makes clients feel like they’re being held to ransom.

Lack of Interest and Engagement

If a person has no interest in advancing in that area the lack of engagement and new expectations could be the final push that the individual needs to call it a day. The quiet part of this practice may assume that the responsibilities are assigned with little to no communication.

Scenario - Lack of Communication

Consider this: The company has had to let half the team go because orders have dropped off due to the cost of living crisis and everyone tightening their belts. Having lost the team leader, the management team identified that Trevor has been with the company for some time and has consistent performance. They identify him as the ideal person to manage the team.

Business owner in a relaxed formal business wear getting comfortable with the uncomfortable truth that is quiet quitting
If they are to have the conversation with Trevor there is a concern that he may ask to be compensated accordingly and the business doesn’t want to be in the position of offering the position of team leader. Instead the quiet hiring recruitment strategy is to explain to the team that the business structure is being evaluated and in the interim,  a few measures put in place. More responsibility is given to Trevor and management can then monitor how he adjusts to the changes.
Without a frank discussion, the management team are unaware of Trevor’s plans to reduce his hours in the future because he’s been studying to be a counsellor and has the opportunity to gain experience at a reputable organisation. His current job with the company is to top up his pension pot. Trevor’s interest is not with the company and so the additional demands are something which he could easily walk away from, leaving the company in a tricky predicament.

Ethical Considerations and Alternative Approaches

Some may say in response to quiet quitting, employers and business owners have gone on the offensive and come up with quiet hiring. Yet apparent underhand practices may win the battle but prolong the war. If businesses’ are failing to have the conversation with individuals that they see as having the potential to contribute to the success and growth of the business, there is a fundamental issue.

Importance of Trust and Respect

We revisit the implied term of mutual trust and respect of those who have chosen to work for the company. Remember it’s a selection process on both sides, not only the employer. This is why many business owners and managers are often shocked when a person says they are leaving. Lack of communication results in decisions being made on assumptions and that is not the best method of how to run a business.

Avoiding Deceptive Practices

Furthermore, secrets in the workplace don’t last very long. While dealing with the transformative process, in addition to some individuals feeling left out, it is also necessary to work out how to implement the changes. Abandoning the gimmick of quiet hiring means you can focus on setting out a plan of what will serve the internal community to support the growth and success of the business.
Should it be a case of the seniors selecting who they think displays the most promise? In fairness, it’s more logical to set out expectations and purpose of the business and then see how others engage and follow through with the alignment of that vision. As humans, we have this little habit of being biased. The nostalgia of yesteryear and see promise is a contributing factor to wrong hires.

Risks of Discrimination

Avoid creating a new form of segregation in the workplace. A secret plan to upskill a highly favoured person is complete madness and if you’re not careful could see your business in the Employment Tribunal (the scope for discrimination is wide!). Stop trying to cut corners or follow the trends of larger organisations. Ask yourself whether you have deep enough pockets to take the unnecessary risks.
Quiet hiring has an air of deception about it. We have all seen the headlines (even if you can’t be bothered to read the reports), business owners are not highly favoured. Often seen as the villains in situations of job cuts, profit reporting and dividend payments, there is no need to attract more negative publicity and deepened distrust within.

The Role of HouseRules in Talent Management

Life is not fair because of the choice we make for it to be that way.

As a business owner or the one in charge, it is your responsibility to find the balance and offer the best opportunities within your capabilities for people within the business. With the right structure, the business can only benefit from the investment made in those individuals who are invested in the company.

Ethical and Transparent Approach

Quiet hiring shouldn’t be a term to justify giving a reduced team more work and then selling it as upskilling. Reports have already shown that in the UK burnout and stress have doubled in the last 12 months. When applying the HouseRules methodology, ethics is a key consideration not to be swept under the rug.

A mature man dressed formally in a suit wearing glasses with a sceptical expression Finally the signs of change in work culture.

Assessing and Transforming Practices

Recognising that you have something to resolve or review is the hardest step of all, especially if the business is ticking over. Embarking on a transformation is a stressful process and it can be harmful if there is no balance to the process.
I’m not sure of the history of adopting the term, maybe someone thought it wise to mislead others to conjure up magical images of a fairytale business. However, without a proper assessment of the practices and rules already in place and conscious and monitored the changes required to get on track.

Fostering an Engaged Internal Community

Without a decent framework (that would be the HouseRules when you work with CAS Ltd) it’s a reality that during this process existing team members who have not been “cherry-picked” will start to question “Why not me?”. This can allow the seeds of resentment and discontentment to grow and that is harmful to the business.

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In Summary

Quiet hiring, while sometimes portrayed as a talent management strategy, carries significant risks that can jeopardise a business’s success and reputation. This insight has shed light on the unethical realities of quiet hiring, including employee disengagement, legal implications of discriminatory practices, and the potential for damaging trust and reputation.

Two women working on the new strategy of the business through quiet hiring methods
Alternative ethical talent management strategies emphasise the importance of open communication, inclusivity, and aligning talent development with business goals. By avoiding the pitfalls of quiet hiring and keeping in mind transparency, businesses can establish clear expectations, encourage feedback, and recognise contributions fairly.
Ultimately, building a transparent workplace culture is crucial for sustainable success. This requires leadership that leads by example, fosters a sense of belonging and collaboration, and embraces continuous improvement and adaptation. By rejecting unethical practices like quiet hiring and embracing ethical excellence, businesses can unlock their full potential, attract and retain top talent, and cultivate a thriving, principled place of work.

Don't Let Quiet Hiring Your Reputation

As a business owner, your reputation is everything. Don’t let the allure of “quiet hiring” cloud your judgment on ethical talent management. It’s time to get your HouseRules in order and maintain transparency.

Uncover the Hidden Risks with Expert Guidance

During a focused one-on-one Humming Session, we’ll review your current hiring and promotion practices, identifying potential pitfalls of “quiet hiring” that could lead to disengagement, resentment, or legal issues.

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Want to talk more about how we can work together to elevate your company through the implementation of your HouseRules? Be sure to connect and secure your complimentary Sip & Chat session

I’m Cas Johnson, The Ethical Strategist working with business leaders who envision a business of interdependency.

Serving you in business to get your house in order with HouseRules

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