If getting fired is an employee’s nightmare, firing them is as big a nightmare for their employers. Therefore, to tackle the uneasiness that comes with the confrontational nature of terminating employees, the “quiet firing” trend has emerged. Highly problematic in its concept, quiet firing is a form of psychological manipulation or gaslighting of an employee. While initiated from the employer’s end, it is rooted in the idea of making an employee feel that they want to quit their job for specific reasons or rather personal problems.
Quiet firing is a toxic trend that gives insight into poor leadership. While employers reserve the right to terminate employees they deem unfit for their organization, employees also have the right to be informed about their employer’s decision so that they can look for other, more befitting job opportunities. One might think that such skewed methods of termination are adopted in small organization with bad management. However, per a report by the Harvard Business Review, quiet firing is prevalent even in companies like Tesla and Meta.
Employers and employees can come to a mutual understanding on approaching the end of their association rather than adopting this method. Still, against our better judgment, quiet firing is gaining popularity for all the wrong reasons.
What Is Quiet Firing?
Quiet firing is a trend where an employer intentionally creates or continues to create hostile working conditions for an employee, driving them to quit their job. They may do so by stalling the employee’s promotions, denying them raises, reassigning valuable or important tasks to other employees, announcing pay cuts, isolating them or treating them unfairly.
Employers may find it more convenient to indulge in this practice rather than outright firing employees for several reasons, such as cost savings (financial and legal), conflict avoidance, negative publicity, etc.
In our opinion, quiet firing is like slow poison. It makes employees believe their working environments are unbearable until they finally quit. Eventually, the employer achieves their purpose without becoming a bad cop. Quiet firing is the opposite of “quiet quitting,” and both practices are highly discouraged.
In the case of quiet quitting, employees want to quit but to avoid the confrontation, they withdraw themselves from work or avoid delivering good performance until their employers terminate them.
Warning Signs of Quiet Firing
Some warning signs of quiet firing include:
- Holding back an employee’s promotion, pay raise, or career advancement opportunities
- Demoting an employee or cutting their pay
- Assigning an employee work that is out of their job role
- Overworking or underworking an employee
- Reassigning important job responsibilities to other employees
- Denying training
- Providing mundane or meaningless work and a lack of new growth opportunities
- Setting up unreasonable performance targets
- Isolating or excluding an employee from company meetings, group projects, etc.
- Treating an employee unfairly
- Lack of feedback or providing only negative feedback
Why Organizations Are Adopting the Quiet Firing Approach
Research shows that by December 2023, there is a probability of 47.31% of the US falling into another economic recession. Therefore, more and more organizations are looking to narrow down their workforce to prepare for the unexpected economic downturn. However, instead of taking proactive measures to cut down their workforce by firing employees, they are taking the quiet firing route to save costs and avoid conflicts.
Terminating an employee comes with several coverage costs, such as severance payouts. So, employers maneuver the cost by having them quit. Additionally, the recruitment costs for a new candidate can also be delayed as long as the employee does not quit.
A confrontation around driving someone out of employment can be a tough one to handle. Many employers quietly fire employees for a reason as simple as “avoiding having a conversation.” This is more prevalent when both parties share a strong professional relationship. Employers may want to avoid a conflict if the employee they are firing has the inclination to have an emotional reactivity to the news.
At the end of the day, there can always be a personal angle to why an employer is quietly firing an employee. It is not always easy to “keep the professional life separate from personal life.” Additionally, favoritism, nepotism, or bias can also make for a reason an employer neglects or isolates a particular employee. For example, an employer may want to rope in their relative for the already-occupied job role.
Sometimes, it’s not the employer but an employee who is responsible for getting fired quietly. As harsh as it may sound, it may very well be true that an employee is not carrying out their duties properly despite all the prior training and investment in their support. In such a case, however unjustified still, employers may choose to deprive them of a good working environment so that they usher themselves out of the organization.
Effects of Quiet Firing
Quiet firing can have far-reaching effects on an organization or its manpower. These can include:
“Torturing” an employee into quitting their job can be extremely toll-taking for them both mentally and emotionally. Losing one’s job is a difficult phase of life, let alone setting them up for it with malignant tactics. It can break employee morale and motivation.
Poor Brand Image
An employee who walks out of your organization after suffering wayward conditions for a long time will hardly recommend your organization to someone else. This is especially impactful in the age of social media when resentful employees often take to social media platforms to voice out the unjust working conditions of your company. Additionally, other employees who are observant of the treatment meted out to the target employee may also disapprove of your management and leadership.
Problems With Talent Retention
Employees who notice the problems associated with the target employee’s termination would also look for a more secure job opportunity because of their belief that what happened to their co-worker can also happen to them someday. Additionally, the fabric of teamwork also weakens because of a lack of trust and confidence in authority.