Layered Listening: The Most Effective Way to Quit the ‘Quiet’ Takeover


February 22, 2023


From ‘quiet quitting’ to ‘quiet firing’ and now ‘quiet hiring’, the rise of ‘quiet’ trends reflect how a lack of communication and collaboration–two key pillars of psychological safety–have prevented professionals from speaking up about their expectations in the workplace. Countering the ‘quiet’ takeover requires managers to understand how their people really feel. To do this, progressive leaders are founding their strategies on a particularly powerful practice: ‘layered listening.’

Leadership is in the spotlight. If the boom of ‘quiet’ trends have taught us anything, it is that rates of burnout, disengagement and attrition are exponentially increased when there is a lack of empathetic, inclusive, and values-based leadership. The ‘quiet’ takeover can essentially be linked to leadership: Each trend underscores a lack of trust and transparency between managers and their people. Fortunately for leaders looking to pop the ‘quiet’ bubble, all is not lost: Leveraging ‘layered listening’ may be the most effective way to re-engage teams, prioritize mental health, and foster a sense of belonging at work. To understand why this is the case, and how to put ‘layered listening’ into practice, let’s first look over the trends wreaking havoc in the workplace. 

Quiet Quitting

In the second half of 2022, the ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon went viral when a TikTok video on the subject garnered 3.5M views in the first month. In that context, the term ‘quiet quitting’ was used to refer to professionals who quit the idea of going above and beyond at work, who stopped ‘subscribing to the hustle culture mentality’ that work has to be your life’, and started understanding that personal ‘worth is not defined by your productive output.’ However, the exact definition of ‘quiet quitting’ is constantly under scrutiny. While some see it as a form of slacking off, doing the bare minimum, or mentally checking out from work, others take it to be a way of not accepting additional work without additional pay. A recent MIT Sloan Management Review article went so far as to state that labeling professionals who decide to scale back efforts as ‘quitters’ is ‘decidedly derogatory’. Terminology aside, the trend kickstarted a global debate about work-life balance, leadership, and organizational culture as a whole, ultimately uncovering a number of other unfavorable workplace trends. Enter ‘quiet firing.’ 

Quiet Firing

When a company denies a person a raise for years on end, fails to offer feedback, and does not provide opportunities for growth or promotion, it is essentially pushing their talent out the door. With ‘quiet firing’, their goal, it seems, is to make the workplace as unpleasant as possible, encouraging professionals to leave without having to fire them directly. Professionals who fall prey to ‘quiet firing’ are often left feeling frustrated, unable to progress despite often looking to develop their careers. The irony is that, in some cases, leaders are oblivious to the fact that they are falling short. Research from Gallup shows that 43% of managers believe that they are actively helping employees clarify expectations and set priorities in order to develop their careers, yet only 22% of employees strongly agree that this is the case. The flip side of this workplace attitude is ‘quiet hiring’, a habit that, due to the slumping global economy and building pressure to keep costs down, is becoming ever more prevalent. 

Quiet Hiring

Gartner has identified ‘quiet hiring’ as the number one Future of Work trend for 2023, stating that savvy HR leaders will be flipping ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘quiet firing’ practices on their heads in order to acquire new skills and capabilities without bringing in new employees. Essentially, organizations will focus on leveraging internal talent rather than going through lengthy recruitment processes–ultimately saving time, money and resources. While some professionals can use this to broaden their skill set and expand their network, many may feel taken advantage of.

All three workplace trends have very different implications, yet the root of the ‘quiet’ takeover boils down to one issue. Quite simply, ‘quiet quitting’, ‘quiet firing’, and ‘quiet hiring’ are born from a lack of communication between leaders and their people. A failure to listen, to build trust, and to collaborate has created a workplace culture that drives disengagement and disillusion. 

Fortunately, there is a solution.

Layered Listening 

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, American businessman Stephen R. Covey underscores the importance of empathetic listening. “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations,” says Covey, “it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Leaders who build their strategies around this maxim can not only foster a sense of belonging at work, but also boost engagement and productivity. 

Carving out time to listen to everyone, however, is tough. Luckily, technology can be leveraged to give people the tools they need to speak up about their experiences, and ensure that leaders have systems in place to receive–and act–on their feedback. ‘Layered listening’ is the practice of routinely inviting everyone in your organization to share how they feel about their working environment–then taking steps to meet their expectations and strengthen their sense of belonging. Using digital platforms to implement ‘layered listening’ not only allows companies to provide different channels for people to express themselves freely, they also help leaders by integrating data and presenting actionable insights to further understand how they can best serve their talent.

‘Layered listening’ is the practice of routinely inviting everyone in your organization to share how they feel about their working environment–then taking steps to meet their expectations and strengthen their sense of belonging.

– StarMeUp 

When it comes to implementing a comprehensive ‘layered listening’ strategy, therefore, companies should be looking to deploy surveys, facilitate 360° feedback, and enable one-on-one meetings between leaders and their people: Engagement surveys play a particularly powerful role when it comes to learning how your talent really feels; continuous, 360° feedback that is functional and frictionless gives leaders a window into behavior and performance, highlighting systems that may be falling short and providing actionable insights into how to improve the talent experience; and regular one-on-one meetings give leaders the opportunity to gain deeper understanding of an individual’s personal and professional wellbeing.   

Leveraging Technology to Listen

The ‘quiet’ takeover can only end when companies put ‘layered listening’ at the core of their leadership strategies. StarMeUp gives managers the tools they need to execute this, providing an integrated platform where data from engagement surveys, feedback, and one-on-ones is collected and processed. By pinpointing the areas where people are less than satisfied, StarMeUp helps companies improve talent well-being and increase retention rates. The platform also helps leaders supercharge their ‘layered listening’ strategy by providing a strong recognition program, enabling companies to create a people-centric culture that engages and empowers.

With disengagement rates on the rise, leaders who leverage a ‘layered listening’ approach can create a company culture that makes people thrive–giving talent more than enough reasons to stay. 

Looking to implement a ‘layered listening’ strategy?

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Quiet firing, Quiet hiring, Quiet quitting, workplace culture


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