quiet firing

Move Over, Quiet Quitting — This is What You Need To Know About Quiet Firing

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While workers are rejoicing in quiet quitting, managers have been employing quiet firing for years. “Quiet firing is when an employer does the bare legal minimum to get rid of an employee. This can often involve reducing their hours or making them do undesirable tasks until they eventually quit,” according to Michelle Hague, HR manager at Solar Panels Network USA.

A recent Gallup study revealed that quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce. 

It would be harder to quantify the amount of quiet firing happening because it’s not exactly a management practice to be proud of or one that leads to healthy workplace cultures – but it’s unfortunately common. Just ask anyone who’s ever been pushed to quit their job through sneaky tactics like being deprived of advancement opportunities or not-so-subtle moves like creating a hostile environment that leaves you no choice but to leave. 

“Think of quiet firing like you would a personal relationship showing the first sign of trouble. The calls become less frequent, emails much curter, and while you can’t be certain, it starts to feel like the other person is losing interest in you,” says Teresa Vozza, executive coach and HR thought leader. “Eventually, you start to wonder if a break-up is imminent. Quiet firing is similar. Your boss might become less available, cancel meetings, fail to meet your expectations, and no longer provide any reward or recognition, leaving you with no choice but to question whether you are no longer needed.” 

Here’s what you need to know about it to avoid getting “quiet fired.” 

Why quiet firing is common 

“There are several reasons why quiet firing is so common. Sometimes employers want to get rid of workers who are difficult or expensive to manage, or who aren’t meeting their targets,” says Hague. “Alternatively, the company may be going through a tough financial patch and can’t afford to lay people off properly.” 

“It’s common because it’s easy,” adds Vozza. “Rather than confront an employee and engage in a direct, honest conversation about a performance concern,it’s easier to avoid the situation altogether and hope they will ‘take the hint’.” According to her, leaders who aren’t skilled communicators, relationship builders, or training in how to effectively provide feedback tend to gravitate towards quiet firing.

Signs that you’re getting quiet fired 

Worried about getting quiet fired? There are signs to look out for to protect yourself. Vozza says that the five behaviors below are telltale indicators that your boss may be trying to quiet fire you. 

  1. The boss cancels meetings, becomes less available, and avoids you.
  2. They change the subject quickly on sensitive topics. 
  3. They start to act differently around you, displaying obvious discomfort or irritation.
  4. They don’t respond to email requests in a timely fashion.
  5. You aren’t being invited to critical meetings. 

Not being given feedback on your career progression or opportunities to take on high-visibility projects can be clues about where you stand too. Additionally, if your boss gives you impossible tasks or extremely unpleasant projects, it may also signal that they are trying to get you out the door. 

How to avoid getting quiet fired 

“If you’re worried about getting quietly fired, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. First and foremost, stay on top of your work and meet all your deadlines,” recommends Hague. “Additionally, try to build good relationships with your co-workers and management so they’ll be more likely to fight for you if your job is at risk. Finally, stay up to date with your industry and look for other job opportunities so you’ll be prepared if the worst does happen.” 

Staying on top of your performance is always a good idea no matter what. “A high performer who can clearly articulate their value and contribution to an organization is well-positioned,” says Vozza, who also suggests being upfront with your manager to try to open communication lines. “’Hey, is everything okay? I sense a distance between us and it’s concerning me’ is a great conversation starter,” she says. 

“Last, and only if the situation doesn’t improve, seek help from your boss’s boss or HR. Be prepared to be factual, honest, and have specific examples available.” 

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