The subtle art of quiet firing…and what to do about it

You’ve probably heard the term “quiet quitting” over the last few years, but how about “quiet firing”? If you haven’t heard this term, then it may surprise you that 56% of managers say they have employees they wish they could fire. Could this describe your current situation? Let’s dive in and find out.

Quiet firing explained 

When employers engage in “quiet firing,” they deliberately establish an environment that is unwelcoming or lacking in support for an employee, with the intention of encouraging an employee to quit voluntarily. By opting for this strategy, employers can sidestep the need to terminate the employee and avoid potential legal challenges or the obligation to provide severance pay. 

This approach can be seen as a passive-aggressive form of management, where the burden of ending the employment relationship is solely on the employee. And while it may temporarily save costs or avoid immediate conflict, quiet firing leads to a toxic work environment, contributes to a nosedive in employee morale and can damage a business’s reputation in the long run. Let's take a look at what you should consider. 

7 signs you may be quietly firing your employees 

Managers may not be aware when they’re exhibiting behaviors that could be considered quiet firing. Recognizing these signs is crucial for maintaining a healthy and supportive work environment.

  1. Avoiding communication. If you find yourself actively avoiding meetings or conversations with a specific employee about their progress or performance, you may inadvertently be pushing them away.

  2. Excluding from projects. Regularly leaving out an employee from important projects or meetings where their contribution would be valued or necessary can indicate quiet firing.

  3. Withholding opportunities. If you’re consistently not offering a certain employee the same growth opportunities as you do to others—like challenging projects, training or education, or promotions—you may need to consider why. 

  4. Ignoring contributions. Neglecting to recognize or acknowledge an employee’s achievements or contributions, particularly if you regularly recognize others, can be demoralizing and push that employee to leave. 

  5. Failing to address concerns. If an employee brings up concerns or requests feedback and you ignore or minimize these, it can feel like you’re intentionally pushing them away. 

  6. Setting unrealistic expectations. Insisting upon unreasonably high or unclear expectations that can only result in the employee failing can be considered quiet firing. 

  7. Providing minimal support. Not giving employees the support and resources they need to succeed can give the impression that you don’t want them to succeed. 

5 ways to prevent quiet firing

To avoid quiet firing, it’s important to actively promote a positive work environment, encourage clear communication and provide growth opportunities. Here are five strategies you can adopt. 

  1. Enable open and transparent communication. Regularly communicate with employees about their performance, the company’s goals and how they fit in. Meet with employees consistently so they can ask questions and provide candid feedback. 

  2. Provide constructive feedback and support. Focus on helping employees improve and grow by providing timely and constructive feedback on a regular basis. Ensure you’re providing the resources they need to do their job well, and encourage opportunities for professional development. 

  3. Conduct regular performance reviews. Implement a structured process for each employee that allows for an honest discussion about their goals, strengths and career aspirations. 

  4. Recognize contributions. Acknowledge and reward your employees for a job well done. This doesn’t have to be a financial reward, but it should be announced publicly and provide opportunities for professional growth. 

  5. Nurture career development. Provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills and advance their careers within your company. This can include training, mentorship programs or designing a clear path for promotion.

Final thoughts

Recognizing signs of quiet firing in your own behavior is the first step toward creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment. Aim for transparent and constructive communication, fair treatment of all employees and being proactive in supporting your team. 

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