We have been noticing a growing trend with employees who have disengaged with their employers doing a disappearing act – simply not turning up for work and being uncontactable – which is incredibly frustrating, disruptive, and time-consuming for management.   It so happened that one of our regular HR publications popped into our inbox yesterday, highlighting the problem and how to deal with it, so be assured – it’s not just you, it’s out there, sadly!

We’ve highlighted some of the key facts and how to deal with this below.

Resigning Employees

Quiet Quitters

As referred to above in our intro, it seems that many employees are now quitting by text, ghosting, and walking out of their jobs.  There are many different forms of ‘quiet quitting’, and we thought it was important to look at the consequences of employees resigning in this way and how to prevent it.

Instaprint has produced a study of 1,000 UK employees which found that 15% of workers declared their resignation by ‘ghosting’- which is the act of ceasing all contact and ignoring any communication from their employer.  The data revealed that just under half (47 per cent) had quit via text, email, or voicemail, just under a third (29 per cent) had walked out and 28 per cent admitted to purposefully underperforming at work (Mayne, 2023).

‘Quiet quitting’ is now associated with employee burnout.  The employees become disengaged with their work and do the bare minimum of their duties with the term now even gaining attention on TikTok with viral videos.

Legal Implications

Richard Kenyon a partner at Fieldfisher, says anyone who leaves their job without giving notice – for example, someone who only sends a text to say they quit – is in breach of their contract of employment.  As a result, the employer cannot demand that the employee serves their notice.  The employer’s lawful course of action, he suggests, would be to seek damages if it can demonstrate any monetary losses caused by the violation.  But, “such losses may be difficult to identify and relatively small, especially faced with how time consuming a legal process could be”, he adds.

When an employee leaves with no notice, this can put the business in a difficult position where the employee’s duties need to be covered, putting pressure on the rest of the team to take on the extra work.  Always refer to the employee’s contract provisions before you make any final decision.

However, when you are faced with a quiet quitter, try not to jump to conclusions, and considering the incident as an unauthorised absence can help to establish why an employee is not at work.  Sometimes it also helps to have someone that is not in the business (one of our team!) try to establish the employee’s reasons for their absence. In our experience, we have found that the employee will often open up and explain to us the exact reasons for their absence and why they are feeling that they cannot face work.  This is helpful to determine whether they need further support.  Sometimes it can be something as simple as the employee needing extra training or that although the support was in place, they had simply ‘switched off’/lost interest.

Preventing and Managing Quiet Quitters

An employee stopping communication with the business can often mean that they are avoiding any conflict or awkward discussions with their line manager.  This does not always suggest that they felt there was a bad work environment as some people may leave as they do not like change, and they do the bare minimum until they leave.  Managing employees with this type of attitude isn’t easy and if you have been consistent and open with them in trying to help them to improve, then it may be time to take a more formal approach to facilitate an improvement in their work.

At the same time though, try not to expend too much time and energy on someone who feels that the employee/employer relationship is past the point of no return and their intention is to leave no matter what.  The employee may just stop showing up for work, making their intentions unclear.  Again, try not to assume they have resigned and take the appropriate steps to contact the employee, following a fair process to end the employment, if this is applicable.