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Unraveling the Practice of Quiet Firing in the Workplace

Quiet firing refers to the subtle, often unspoken and indirect practice of terminating an employee while avoiding potential conflict of a direct conversation.

Not surprisingly, this practice raises issues of fairness, ethics, and transparency in the workplace. Quiet firing can manifest in various ways, making it difficult for the affected employee to realize what's happening until it's too late.

Often described as the manager’s side of quiet quitting, some common indicators of quiet firing include:

    Reduced responsibilities and opportunities: Employees being quiet fired may find their workload decreasing or diminishing in perceived value, often without explanation. Once-crucial tasks or projects are handed over to others, and they are excluded from meetings or decisions that they were once included in.
    Marginalization: The employee who is being quiet fired is often isolated from their team and coworkers. They may be moved to a remote section of the office or put in a position in which they have little to no interaction with colleagues. They may even find they are downgraded from a private office to a cubicle.
    Lack of Feedback/avoiding contact: Constructive feedback and opportunities for improvement are virtually nonexistent for those being quiet fired. The employee is left in the dark about their performance, making it impossible to address any concerns or challenges. Even worse, management largely ignores the employee and, in many instances, blatantly avoids them.
    No Advancement: Promotions, raises, or opportunities for career growth become scarce. Even when the employee is well-qualified, they are not provided with opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities, nor are they afforded the chance to participate in professional development activities.
    Unreasonable Expectations: Employees who are being quiet fired may be subjected to unrealistic expectations or goals, setting them up for failure. They may perceive that the bar is lower for others in similar roles, thereby impacting their ability to shine.

The Consequences of Quiet Firing

Quiet firing not only affects the targeted employee but can also have far-reaching consequences for the organization overall. Here's why:

    Stifling Employee Morale: Regardless of how they feel about the person, when people witness a coworker's silent exit, it can lead to a climate of fear and distrust. Morale declines, and productivity suffers.
    Legal and Ethical Implications: In some cases, quiet firing may skirt labor laws, potentially exposing the employer to legal repercussions. It also raises ethical questions about fairness and transparency.
    Loss of Talent: Organizations risk losing valuable talent due to quiet firing, as capable employees, seeing co-workers marginalized, may seek opportunities elsewhere.
    Negative Reputation: Word about such practices can spread quickly, damaging the organization's reputation and making it challenging to attract and retain top talent.

    Addressing Quiet Firing

    To combat the negative impact of quiet firing, organizations should consider the following steps:

      • Provide training for managers. More often than not, people avoid confrontation and remain silent rather than address issues up front. Establish an expectation for open and transparent communication in the workplace. Reward leaders who exhibit courage in communications.
      If the organization has a formal evaluation process, ensure that it is followed. Hold managers accountable for having regular check ins with all employees and providing clear and constructive feedback.
      Establish a safe path for employees to express concerns and provide a mechanism for them to report perceived unfair practices without fear of retaliation.
      Monitor for Signs of Quiet Firing: Senior leaders and HR departments must be vigilant about detecting signs of quiet firing and intervene when necessary to ensure fair treatment of employees.

    Quiet firing may be a silent threat, but it's a threat nonetheless, and one that can have a profound impact on individuals and organizations. Addressing this issue requires a commitment to open communication, fair treatment, and transparency in the workplace. By recognizing the signs and consequences of quiet firing and taking proactive steps to prevent it, organizations can foster a healthier and more productive work environment.

    For more on loud quitting, check out the segment: "Quiet Firing" and its impact on the workplace", which recently ran on WTVR's "Virginia in the Morning."

    Your OneDigital HR consulting team can provide both individual and organizational support during times of disruption and uncertainty in the workplace.