As a human resources professional or leader, you may have heard of “quiet firing” or “silent firing.” But what exactly does it mean? Simply put, quiet firing happens when employees are pushed out of their jobs without explicit communication or formal termination. This can include underutilizing employees, denying promotions and raises, or making the work environment uncomfortable or unbearable.
Recognizing the signs of quiet firing
Recognizing the signs of quiet firing can be difficult, as they are often subtle and quickly go unnoticed. Here are several indications that quiet firing may be an issue for your company:
Qualified employees are denied promotions and raises
One of the signs of quiet firing is when employees are consistently denied promotions and raises, despite their hard work and accomplishments. As a result, employees often feel frustrated, demotivated, and undervalued. Quiet firing examples include:
- Making unnecessary pay cuts or skipping annual raises.
- Denying bonuses that were expected.
- Managers who make promises about promotions but fail to follow through.
Employees don’t receive manager support or feedback
Managers who are quiet firing may refrain from giving employees constructive feedback or help. This intentional lack of communication can leave an employee feeling isolated and unappreciated. Pay attention to the following manager behaviors:
- Meetings that are canceled regularly, especially 1-on-1s.
- Offering vague and unconstructive feedback.
- Becoming less responsive to questions and concerns.
Employees are alienated or excluded from the team
Quiet firing can also create a hostile or unwelcoming work environment, leading to feelings of disconnection or being bullied. Examples of silent firing include:
- Leaving an employee out of important meetings and decisions.
- Excluding an employee from team-building activities or social events.
- Subjecting an employee to passive-aggressive behavior or microaggressions.
Employees are not challenged or developed
If an employee expresses that their job has become stagnant, it may signal quiet firing. This can make an employee feel undervalued and underutilized. Watch for these signs of quiet firing:
- Decreased training and development opportunities.
- Assigning responsibilities below an employee’s skill level.
- A lack of newly assigned tasks or projects.
Employees are overworked
A manager who is quiet firing may give an employee an overwhelming workload or unreasonable deadlines. Feelings of employee burnout create an unbearable work environment, leading employees to quit or be fired. Watch for manager behaviors, such as:
- Asking an employee to work excessively over time.
- Failing to provide an employee with needed resources.
- Assigning unrealistic timelines and goals.
Learn More: How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace
Employees who are treated unequally or unfairly
It could be a sign of quiet firing if employees are treated differently than their colleagues, such as receiving different hours or duties. This can create a sense of resentment and mistrust. Employees may be subjected to the following:
- Receiving disproportionate negative feedback or criticism.
- A lack of recognition for achievements or contributions.
- Discriminatory behavior or language.
Recognizing the similarities and differences between quiet firing and mismanagement is essential. Quiet firing deliberately pushes an employee out of a job without formal termination. Mismanagement refers to poor or ineffective practices that may negatively impact employees.
Is quiet firing illegal? Not necessarily, but it becomes questionable when employment laws are violated, or there is evidence of discrimination or retaliation.
Quiet quitting vs. quiet firing
There are also similarities and differences between quiet quitting and quiet firing. As mentioned, quiet firing is neglect that forces an employee out of a job. Quiet quitting, on the other hand, happens when an employee chooses to stay in a role but does only the bare minimum to remain in a job position.
Put simply, quiet firing is initiated by the employer. Quiet quitting is triggered by the employee. Additionally, quiet firing may involve negative treatment or exclusion of the employee, while quiet quitting is typically a personal decision based on their circumstances or reasons.
Adverse effects of quiet firing in the workplace
The adverse effects of quiet firing can be far-reaching and impact workplace culture. Additionally, quiet firing can lead to difficulty with recruitment and retention, as word spreads about the company’s harmful practices and reputation. Left unchecked, quiet firing can have a significant effect on the workplace. Here are some examples:
Low employee morale
Learn more: How to Improve Employee Well-Being.
Decreased teamwork and productivity
When an employee is intentionally excluded from the team or not given opportunities to develop their skills, it can decrease teamwork and workplace productivity.
It’s important to highlight how leadership impacts organizations, teamwork, and productivity. Effective leaders inspire and motivate employees to work together towards common goals, while poor leadership has a negative impact.
Recruitment and retention challenges
Quiet firing can significantly impact recruitment and retention, as it’s one of the reasons why employees leave. High employee turnover rates resulting from quiet firing can also contribute to a negative company reputation, making it more challenging to attract and retain top talent. This can create a cycle of resignations, as other employees may follow suit in response to the company’s harmful practices.
Learn more: How to Improve the Recruitment Process
Learn more: How to Improve Employee Retention
Decreased employee engagement and effectiveness
Quiet firing can lead to decreased employee engagement and effectiveness. Employees who feel the organization does not value them will likely become less motivated to perform at their best.
Employees who feel isolated, disconnected, undervalued, and underappreciated may become less effective in their roles. Finally, quiet firing wastes a manager’s time that could be better spent finding more effective ways to develop and retain talented employees.
Learn More: How to Improve Employee Engagement
Learn More: 17 Key Drivers of Employee Engagement
Learn More: How Employee Engagement Drives Growth
How Top Workplaces can help
Companies can benefit from seeking recognition as a Top Workplace to mitigate the adverse effects of quiet firing and create a positive work environment that values employee engagement. Using employee survey insights, the program provides companies a unique opportunity to learn what matters most to employees, where culture excels, and where it needs improvement.
Earning an employer-of-choice award and featuring that recognition on a Top Workplaces company profile signals prospective employees that the company values its people and is committed to creating a positive work environment.
Using a combination of employee survey intelligence and employer branding tools helps companies to:
Who are the nation’s employers of choice? Check out the Top Workplaces Awards Page to search for and find examples of companies with people-first, engaged cultures.
Companies with great cultures deserve to be recognized as employers of choice. Take the first step and nominate your organization today.