Quiet Firing: Here’s All You Need to Know
You’ve probably heard about quiet quitting — now it’s time to get yourself acquainted with quiet firing, a more insidious phenomenon that impacts the workforce.
Managers deliberately creating hostile working environments to push out unwanted coworkers is nothing new. Quiet firing is a building block of a toxic workplace and makes life at work miserable for countless workers across all industries.
Quiet quitting is nowhere as malicious as quiet firing:
- Employees who are quietly quitting still do their job in full to avoid being fired; quiet firing is detrimental to one’s career, mental health, and budget;
- Quiet firing often consists of tactics that are not only unethical but against the law entirely.
Let’s dive deeper into quiet firing to learn how to avoid being on either end of the stick since consequences are bad for both employers and employees.
What is quiet firing?
Quiet firing is a method of intentionally creating a toxic working atmosphere, to encourage employees to quit the job themselves instead of firing them.
It is a passive-aggressive endeavor, and it can be very subtle and difficult to detect; maneuvers may vary from avoidance and neglect — to outright bullying and instilling fear and insecurity.
What does quiet firing look like in practice?
There are some obvious red flags that reveal an employee (or several workers) is being quietly fired, i.e. gaslighted into quitting the job.
Here’s what quiet firing looks like in the workplace.
Noticeable workload changes
There are two sides to this coin:
- You’re suddenly tasked with way less than before, there are no growth opportunities ahead, and your assignments are menial and non-challenging;
- You’re given an almost impossible list of work to complete in a short time frame.
Pay attention to both!
The first case might mean that your role is slowly becoming obsolete. The second might be a form of bullying you away from the company or letting you do the biggest amount of work possible before you’re officially laid off.
Workload changes are often followed by pay cuts and missing promotions and bonuses when they’re due.
Being excluded from decision-making
Attending fewer meetings isn’t always a good thing.
Team leaders sometimes cut back on meetings to increase productivity, but there’s no reason they’d keep that information hidden from you. If no such tactics were announced upfront, it might mean that you’re not considered when important decisions are being made — and they’re preparing to continue without you.
Receiving no feedback
Feedback is always a good thing; positive showing you’re on the right track, and critical helping you improve.
The lack of positive feedback might mean the employer is not appreciative of the employee’s work. On the other hand, the managers who adjust your work without informing you what to correct in the future probably don’t count on you anymore.
Seeing new job openings for your position
HRs and team leaders lowkey looking to replace you is a sure sign you’re being quietly fired — and soon to be fired in real life.
Unless your company is growing or the management was open about needing additional workforce, noticing job postings for your position might mean trouble.
A (not so) subtle shift in their demeanor
A more or less subtle change in overall tone and the way your managers communicate with you is the first sign something’s wrong. It may include:
- Withholding important work-related information;
- Not inviting you to team building activities;
- Avoiding the talks related to your promotion or career trajectory;
- Becoming distant and professionally cold in a casual setting.
Is quiet firing legal or is it another form of mobbing?
Quiet firing is never a good thing.
It creates a toxic work atmosphere at best and brushes uncomfortably close to mobbing at worst. Depending on the severity of the actions that could be a part of the quiet firing strategy, companies can even get sued.
Employees who face quiet firing will:
- Start being insecure, stressed out, and perform poorly because of it;
- Respond with quiet quitting and leave as soon as possible;
- Pursue legal action against the company.
In the end, using quiet firing as a strategy to get rid of people will create a negative reputation if the word gets out, and it will — because people talk.
What to do if you suspect you’re being quietly fired?
Quiet firing doesn’t always end in actual job loss, so don’t panic!
There are a few steps you can take to improve your position and avoid changing the workplace.
Assess and document the situation
Record, document, and get a paper/ digital trail of everything that’s making you doubt you’re being quietly fired. Additionally, take notes of your achievements, contributions, and all the goals you’ve achieved.
This will help you stand up for yourself (see the next step), or god-forbid build a case against them if legal issues arise.
Communicate openly with higher-ups
The best way to put an end to this situation is to reach out.
Schedule a meeting with HR, supervisors, and managers so everyone can lay their cards on the table. At the meeting, express how you feel, and explain why, laying out the evidence and reasons why you think you’re not being treated right.
It might even turn out they’re not doing it on purpose, and aren’t even aware of it. In other cases, one of your higher-ups might hold a personal grudge against you and sabotages you — and that’s when HR should step in and resolve the conflict.
Try doing your best
Quiet firing may be the response to *your* actions (or lack of).
When assessing the current situation, investigate the steps that led to it and see what you could’ve done differently.
Performance reviews will give you plenty of clues. Were you unproductive or late frequently? Did your work decrease in quality? Were there any reasons for complaints?
If you’re interested in keeping the job, be sure to do everything that’s within your power and reasonable expectations.
Respond with quiet quitting
Sometimes it’s not you — it’s them. If there’s no effort on their part to improve the situation or be open about your future within the company, prepare to leave.
The only reasonable way to respond to mistreatment is to remove yourself from the situation. Do your part, but start disengaging emotionally and look for new career opportunities.
Consider legal action
The subtleties of quiet firing might make it difficult for you to pinpoint the exact offenses. If possible, consult a labor attorney or your workplace union and see whether your rights are being threatened, or they’ve breached the contract.
Quiet firing is a toxic workplace practice that often presents as withholding opportunities from employees that are supposed to result in them quitting the job themselves.
Companies should avoid quiet firing by all means, deal with a soiled reputation, an unsatisfied and unproductive workforce, or even legal action.
Open and honest communication will create the best possible outcome for both sides, and create a pleasant working atmosphere.
A journalist turned content writer – Anja uses her investigative skills to produce high-quality SaaS, Marketing, and HR content.