Quiet Promoting: We’re not gonna take it!

Do you know the story about the frog who boiled to death? He wasn’t a dumb frog who carelessly jumped into a pot of boiling water. No, he was a normal frog, just like you and me, enjoying a well-deserved soak in a pot of warm water until… Someone slowly but surely turned up the heat. The frog recognized the change in temperature, but he adjusted – stuck his head out a little further to cool down, maybe draped his arms along the side of the pot. But even those efforts weren’t enough, and, over time, the heat reached an unbearable level and despite his attempts to adapt, the frog finally succumbed to the heat.

This, my friends, is what Quiet Promoting looks like… slowly giving employees more tasks and responsibilities without the title or compensation to match, until, one day, they croak. Well, hopefully, there’s no croaking, but employees do reach their boiling point

In recent years, Quiet Promoting has been on the rise. According to a survey by the employee-review platform JobSage, 78% of American workers have experienced a ‘quiet promotion,’ with 57% saying they’ve felt manipulated or taken advantage of by an employer asking them to do more work.

It’s easy to assume employers are happy with this arrangement. After all, they’re just looking to squeeze the most amount of work out of their employees without concern for what’s right or their employees’ health or wellbeing, right? That’s simply not true – most of the time.

Employers are tasked with getting a job done, and they rely on their team to make that happen. When the team loses a few players, however, the expected results remain the same and now the remaining team has to accomplish the same amount of work with fewer players. This can lead to unfairly (and often unintentionally) taxing the players and an inevitable boiling over.

But employers aren’t helpless, either.

What Employers can do to avoid boiling your frogs

Communicate the current problem and plans to solve it

“Joe quit the team and we are posting the opening by the end of the week. We expect it to take 60-90 days to hire and onboard someone new.” Having a plan with a clear timeline helps your team feel like part of the process and less like they’re being taken advantage of. It also gives them realistic expectations for how long this new situation will last.

Acknowledge how this situation impacts your team

“I realize many of you will have to take on some extra work in the interim. I apologize for that and will do what I can to support you and make sure your workload isn’t too overwhelming.” Again, communication goes a long way toward getting your employees on board with the new plan. More importantly, demonstrate your empathy by jumping in! Take on tasks that might be outside your job description to help lighten the load for your employees.

Keep employees in the loop

“We’re having trouble finding someone with Joe’s experience and skill set. We expect the search to take longer than the original 90 days.” No one wants to feel like they’ve been lied to and that’s exactly how your employees will feel if the search for Joe’s replacement goes beyond the communicated date. Hiring can be complicated (Hint: This is why you need to partner with an expert!) and often doesn’t go according to plan. That is not necessarily in your control. Keeping the lines of communication open with your employees who are carrying the weight of the work during the hiring process is.

Take action!

Words are appreciated but of little use when you’re the team members working extra hours or taking on multiple roles. DO something for your team to show you see them and their efforts. If a salary increase isn’t possible because Joe’s role will eventually be filled, reward employees with extra PTO, increased bonuses, or hybrid or flexible work schedules.

Employees, you don’t have to take it… but you do need to do something about it (besides complain). Check out this great article on how to take that quiet promotion and turn it into a real promotion or raise.

And for those of you too young to understand the article title reference…