Quiet Firing: What is it and How to Avoid It

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For many of us, one of the worst things we can imagine is being fired from our jobs, especially during a time such as now – when inflation is in high gear, and economic crisis seems just around the corner. Unfortunately, however, as far too many of us have experienced, firing isn’t exactly the worst way to lose one’s job.

Instead, that title falls to what is now being called “quiet firing.”

As its name infers, it’s not nearly the direct firing process most of us know. As Team Building, a company that focuses on team development, says, it’s a “passive-aggressive approach to performance management” that can manifest itself in several different ways, both intentionally and inadvertently.

Basically, it’s the much more silent and damaging process of encouraging certain employees to quit by making their workdays as unpleasant as possible. Sometimes this takes the form of neglect, where employers or managers begin to ignore employees they either don’t like or feel aren’t performing well.

Other times, it presents itself as outright bullying.

As Annie Rosencrans, the director of people and culture at HiBob, says, it isn’t really a new technique. In fact, quiet firing has been going on for decades throughout the U.S.

According to a poll by LinkedIn News, roughly 48 percent of employees have seen the process at work before. And another 35 percent have experienced it themselves. Over 20,000 individuals responded to the poll.

Again, this isn’t always done intentionally. As Rosencrans says, it is sometimes done “subconsciously, by managers who are fearful or hesitant to give direct feedback when things aren’t going well with an employee.”

Instead of facing or addressing the issues head-on, they will let that employee struggle through their day on their own, denying them both resources and feedback. As a result, the employee becomes unhappy with their work or the atmosphere and usually leaves on their own.

So what exactly does this look like?

Well, it can be difficult to detect on occasion, especially if the manager is unintentionally doing it. However, some signs might indicate that management isn’t thrilled with you and passively encourages you to quit.

• Your salary or base pay hasn’t increased in over a year or two
• Your manager doesn’t give you feedback on your work
• Your manager avoids engaging with you
• Your ideas are ignored
• You aren’t being challenged or given new projects/opportunities
• You get singled out to answer tough questions or handle impossible projects
• You get left out of meetings, social gatherings, and/or work-related events

If you have noticed your manager or boss showing any of these signs, you should be a little worried.

However, as Paul Lewis of Adzuna explains, it doesn’t mean you should quit or give up on your current employer.
Instead, there are a few things you do to remedy the situation.

First and foremost, you have to begin a solid line of communication, be that with your manager directly or someone in human resources.

As you can imagine, quiet firings do not usually happen when an employee has broken work policy or done something terribly wrong. Instead, it’s usually because you just aren’t performing well or as quickly as managers would like. Maybe you consistently make the same mistakes or aren’t hitting your quotas.

Therefore, the easiest way to get on top of the situation before it becomes unmanageable is to just come out and address it.

That might look like going to HR and making a complaint. If you work for a good company, these are usually handled seriously and with discretion.

Another good idea is to simply talk to your manager. If at all possible, come to them with your concerns. Of course, it is best when this is done without an accusatory tone; instead, be teachable.

Ask what they have a problem with and how you might best go about fixing that. Ask for further instruction and opportunities for growth, and try to prove your worth and ambition to them. You might be surprised how far that will take you.

However, it’s important to know that neither of these ideas will always work, even if you do both. As Lewis explains, quiet firing is usually far more about management than you. While there might be areas where you could improve, quiet firing is not ethical or professional. If the company won’t do something about it, maybe it’s not the right company to work for after all.