The trend in the workplace in 2023 is quiet firing, and it’s spreading like a virus. This will create a toxic work environment, and more importantly, it will make you lose the talents that are difficult to recruit. So, how do you recognize quiet firing and deal with it?
Did you know over 80% of employees have witnessed or experienced quiet firing, based on a LinkedIn poll?
And according to the JobSage survey, 56% of managers said they have employees they wish they could fire, and about 30% of managers admitted that they’ve quiet fired an employee.
There are such alarming statistics about quiet firing. They prove that this negative behavior is happening everywhere.
But it shouldn’t happen in your workplace!
In this article, we will help you recognize and prevent quiet firing to foster a positive work environment in your organization.
What is quiet firing?
Quiet firing is a term that describes situations where managers fail to provide adequate coaching, support, and career development to employees, resulting in pushing them out of an organization.
In the worst-case scenario, quiet firing happens when managers intentionally subject employees to a toxic or miserable work environment to force them out. This behavior can be considered a form of gaslighting.
Managers may quietly fire employees to avoid conflict, reduce costs, or avoid bad publicity after layoffs.
While this might be a common practice in today's workplaces, it is not good leadership but the wrong thing to do.
Quiet firing vs. Quiet quitting
Quiet firing is carried out by an employer. Quiet quitting, on the other hand, is carried out by an employee.
Quiet quitting happens when the employee is not engaged and no longer giving their best efforts at work.
Quiet firing and quiet quitting usually go hand in hand.
As Pavel Turner, a business performance advisor at Insperity, put it, “Quiet firing is the beginning of quiet quitting.”
When managers fail to offer adequate coaching, support, and career development to an employee, it will cause that employee to lose interest in or passion for their job.
Signs of quiet firing and examples
Overwork or underwork
The most common sign of quiet firing is the discernible shifts in workload.
For example, employees may be overloaded with tasks, unable to complete them within regular work hours, and compelled to work overtime. Conversely, employees might be assigned overly simple and monotonous tasks.
It will make employees feel tired and bored in their jobs and quit.
Experiencing a consistent and disproportionate level of criticism is another red flag.
In cases of quiet firing, managers may excessively critique an employee's performance as a subtle strategy to build a case for their departure, eroding confidence and morale in the process.
No feedback or discussion
In contrast to the above, employees may not receive feedback about their performance or discussion about their future.
Research shows that only about 33% of employees globally agree that someone has talked to them about their progress in the past six months.
Managers intentionally avoid communication, leaving employees in the dark about their professional standing and future prospects within the company.
Or managers can give unconstructive feedback such as “You are doing fine” and decline to give suggestions to improve.
This lack of transparency fosters a sense of uncertainty and unease.
Lack of support from management
The lack of support from management is another warning sign of quiet firing.
Maybe the leaders repeatedly don't give the necessary information or resources to the employee, even when asked for.
Or managers fail to inspire or motivate employees to embrace new challenges and opportunities.
Exclusion from the team
According to HAL’s research, workplace relationships are an important factor in job satisfaction.
When trying to fire an employee quietly, managers often isolate them from the team. Individuals may be consistently excluded from team activities, projects, or social events.
This deliberate detachment aims to create a sense of isolation and alienation, contributing to a toxic work environment.
Delay or deny raises, bonuses, or promotions
Delays or denials in raises, bonuses, or promotions signal a reluctance to invest further in an employee's professional growth.
Unexplained setbacks in these areas underscore management's strategic disinterest in retaining the individual, leaving them without the incentives essential for career development.
What to do in case of quiet firing?
Talk with your manager
Communication will take the “quiet” out of quiet firing.
If you think or find yourself being quiet fired, you should start openly communicating with your manager. Open communication can uncover misunderstandings or provide an opportunity for improvement.
Only an organization that values honest communication is worth working for.
Read up on company rules
Although quiet firing is not illegal, your company might forbid it somehow. Thus, you should read clearly about raises, promotions, and pay scales in your company rules.
That way, you will know whether you have valid reasons to escalate a complaint, engage in negotiations, or take any legal action before deciding to leave the company.
Look for a new job
When considering the possibility of quiet firing, you should actively explore new job opportunities.
Update your resume, network with professionals in your industry, and actively search for positions that align with your skills and career goals.
This advice may sound negative but having a backup plan ensures you are prepared in case the situation at your current job does not improve.
Effects of quiet firing
Low employee morale
One obvious result of quiet firing is low morale.
Naturally, the targeted employee will feel demotivated and unhappy. However, their colleagues may also be affected negatively.
It's challenging to maintain a positive work environment when mistreating certain employees, regardless of how subtly it's done.
It is hard to have good teamwork when excluding a team member.
By isolating certain team members, quiet firing will limit the team's potential and disrupt its dynamics.
In today's work environment, successful collaboration is crucial, and singling out team members makes it impossible.
Quiet firers may target individuals, but there is no guarantee that the effect will not spread.
In many cases, one employee's resignation can lead to a chain reaction, causing others to leave.
Observing management's actions, other workers might fear they could be next. And they might not have favorable views of the company because of how their teammates are treated.
By pushing out one employee, quiet firing can lead to the loss of high-performing employees as well.
A significant downside of quiet firing is the waste of potential.
Many of these employees are not bad, and they just need the opportunity to learn and grow. They might perform well when they move to another company.
Giving up on these employees too soon hinders their growth and eliminates the possibility of them contributing positively to the organization.
Recruiting and retainment struggles
When word gets out that your company uses quiet firing to treat employees, recruiting and retaining new talents could become challenging.
People wouldn’t want to join an organization that lacks honesty and transparency, especially when it comes to performance and growth opportunities.
How to stop quiet firing?
Normalize honest discussions
Encourage a culture of open communication within the organization.
Normalize honest discussions between managers and employees about expectations, performance, and career development.
This transparency helps identify and address issues before they escalate into situations that might lead to quiet firing.
Assess your managers
Regularly assess and evaluate managers' leadership skills, communication abilities, and employee management.
Identify and address any patterns of behavior that may contribute to quiet firings, such as lack of support, excessive criticism, or exclusionary practices. Provide training and resources to help managers improve their leadership skills.
Build relationships with employees
People who experience quiet firing often leave their jobs because they believe their bosses mistreated them, and they feel they have no one to turn to.
It's crucial for employees to have connections with leaders beyond just their immediate supervisors.
When employees know and trust higher-level leaders, they are more likely to raise concerns like quiet firing.
Establishing a positive relationship with all employees creates a foundation for them to approach you when they have nowhere else to go.
Enable lateral transfers
As the saying goes, "Employees don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses."
Sometimes, the issue may be that the employee is in the wrong job or working with the wrong manager.
Instead of losing the employee permanently, you can enable lateral transfers. This means the employee might thrive in a different department under a new supervisor.
Shifting to another area within the company offers employees alternative options instead of leaving and reduces the stress of the situation.
The next trend after quiet quitting & quiet firing
The workplace trend in 2022 is Quiet Quitting, and in 2023, it is Quiet Firing. Then what should we expect in 2024?
Apparently, it’s Quiet Cutting.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, many US employees now face situations where they are still employed, but their positions are gone.
The term used to characterize this situation is quiet cutting.
Quiet cutting is when companies eliminate certain job positions without firing employees in those roles. It results in employees being shuffled and reassigned to different roles within the company.
Many big corporations such as IBM, Adidas, and Adobe are doing it under the name "reassignment".
It happens because companies do not want to lose talent, as in the long-term goal, they can fill new positions. And it’s more cost-effective to reassign old employees to new positions.
Overall, quiet firing is a toxic behavior that should not be ignored.
Organizations must actively address issues contributing to it, such as inadequate feedback, managerial shortcomings, and exclusionary practices.
By promoting a culture of openness, investing in leadership training, and enabling career mobility, companies can cultivate an environment where employees feel valued and engaged.