Quiet Hiring - When Your Responsibilities Increase, But Your Pay Doesn’t

Written by
Mahevash Shaikh

You may have heard of quiet quitting, but have you heard of quiet hiring? It is a new term for a practice that has been around for years. Joy Pittman, creator of HR for the Culture - an HR Outsource & Staffing Firm for black women-owned businesses, defines it as follows.

Quiet Hiring is when companies expand people’s jobs, not their pay.

In other words, a person’s official job description may be one thing, but when other tasks and responsibilities from jobs outside their scope are added to their workload, it becomes something they never signed up for, and may not even be equipped for. This trend is often masked by managers, supervisors, and executive leadership as a career elevation, when, in fact, there is no promotion, no graduating job title and no increase in pay to qualify for the added workload.

The impact of quiet-hiring. 

Daisy*, a manager at a media company, was fairly optimistic when she spoke about her experience. She said, “Honestly, I’ve been dealing with quiet hiring for the past 8 years. I don't mind it at all anymore because now I've understood my own skill set so well, that I can let the higher-ups know that I can take on something beyond my scope of work. At the same time, I am realistic about timelines and upfront about whether I am the right person for the task or not. I will give a full disclosure at the very start. Also, now that I am in a senior position, I  have begun to see things holistically and not in a task/operation-specific manner. Since the pandemic, quiet hiring is happening in every single company now. Taking it in my stride has made me kind of indispensable in a way…they’ll need to train someone quite intensively before they can even think of replacing me.”

According to CNBC, we may see a global recession. By adapting to her increased stress and workload, Daisy has more or less made herself recession-proof. She may not see a pay raise, but she can rest assured that she is far more likely to have a job than her colleagues in the event of layoffs.

On the other hand, Sheetal*, a UI designer at a private firm, has had a markedly negative quiet hiring experience. In one of her jobs, she worked on thrice as many projects in a year as anyone else and also acted as the HR – and the latter was not part of her job description. So while others worked on an average of 3 projects, she worked on 7 projects. Plus, she organized offsite and team collaboration activities as if she were a human resources person! But when it was time for a promotion, her boss took credit for most of the work she did. Since she was quiet and introverted, it was easy for him to steal her ideas and slyly get someone else to implement them. Sheetal was furious, but she decided to wait. So she bid her time, fought tooth and nail to get her rightful promotion, and quit shortly after. 

Preeti, a Principal of an English medium school, had a mixed experience with quiet hiring. 

“I put up with it for years. However, when I didn't get the salary hike and the promotion despite working really hard, I clearly expressed my discontent and disappointment. Still, it took 4 years of waiting to get the salary hike and the promotion I deserved. And the promotion came with the job description of having to do all of those things I was already doing, but this time, as a part of the new job!”

So, what was she doing earlier? She had no business doing extra labor without a promotion or a pay raise, or at the bare minimum, an acknowledgment of some sort. As a disgruntled teacher in her school said on the condition of anonymity, "I got hired for something, ended up doing something else, and was expected to learn and deliver as well. I feel it was unfair because it affects somebody's profile on a whole different level. And secondly, if you want to change your job, it is challenging to explain your current job situation. When I spoke up about this recently, I was given the work I was hired for, along with other responsibilities. Yes, it is a learning opportunity, but there is no pay raise or promotion, only an increase in stress levels."

How to identify quiet-hiring?

Andrew Fennell, a former recruiter and Director at StandOut CV, a  resume advice service says, “Quiet hiring could be happening to you if a skills gap has been identified at your workplace and you’ve been asked to fill it. You might have to upskill with courses and learning from peers if you’re to carry out your new job, or current adjusted job. Importantly, this may or may not involve a promotion and/or a pay increase. It’s always worth taking your time before saying yes, as the employer could be looking to take advantage of you.”

According to Jamie Sieja, Director of Marketing at Flex HR, a full-service HR firm , there are both pros and cons of quiet hiring, and it can either help or hurt your career. “In terms of career, it could help you become more knowledgeable and gain more experience with the additional responsibilities absorbed. However, more job duties may lead to burnout and frustration, which is a burden on you and the organisation.”

How can you benefit from quiet hiring? 

Andrew specifies, “Take the time to review and weigh the pros and cons of the quiet hiring proposition. You might respond by saying something like - ‘Thanks very much for the offer. While it sounds like an exciting opportunity, I’d like to take a few days to think about it.’

Be prepared to go away and research course options so that you can present your employer with the best upskilling deals. Ideally, choose an industry-recognised accreditation that you can use in another business/ company. Consider the impact on your pay and find out the expected salaries for professionals with an expanded range of skills. Thus, you will be in a strong negotiation position once you’ve filled the skills gap internally. Do what’s best for you, and know that if your role changes too much, there’s always the option to look elsewhere for a job.”

* Names changed to protect privacy. 

Work-life conversations that question the status quo.
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Work-life conversations that question the status quo.
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