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Avoid Quiet Firing As Its Effects Can Be Pretty Loud

November 15, 2022, 5-min. read
Quite firing

A word of advice to our community of business leaders - “quiet firing”, if not handled well, can be a subtle weapon that can destroy a company's workforce.

Quiet quitting has dominated the recruitment discourse for the last few months, and for an understandable reason - salaries aren’t stretching in line with people's expectations, employees are overworked and burned out, and many of them simply don’t feel valued in what they do and feel disconnected from the fruits of their labor.

Of course, discussions of quiet quitting by the great and the good have been met with backlash - from employers who feel workers are feckless and lazy, and from companies who feel quiet quitting is a generational issue IE. something only Gen Z’ers do.

But we want to draw attention to the evil sibling of quiet quitting - quiet firing, why to avoid it, and what to do if you find yourself running a company that shows signs of managers “quiet firing” staff.

What is quiet firing?

Quiet firing is when an employer, or managers within a company, create such a toxic, unsupportive, and alienating working environment for an employee, that the employee’s only course of action is to quit.

Hence, “quiet” firing - in all but name the actions of the managers are like they are firing their staff, without going through the overt process of actually doing it.

Quiet firing can manifest in myriad ways - from subtle exclusionary actions like refusing to include certain staff members in meetings or work updates, to more aggressive forms of abuse and bullying and outright company exclusion from anything social or professional.

Is quiet firing common?

Yes, scarily so, and more so than quiet quitting - “83% of workers have seen or experienced quiet firing”, which means undoubtedly if you’re reading this either as a manager or a staff member you have seen it too

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Why do employers accept a culture of quiet firing?

It’s less an acceptance of quiet firing and more of turning a blind eye toward it. We want to provide you with the tools to avoid this - here’s how to look out for it!

Notice the psychology behind it.

  • Like any workplace interaction that drifts into the abusive territory, the reasons for quiet firing are often highly personal, based on biases or perceived slights (which are often not real), enacted by people who have low self-esteem and low professional self-confidence, directed at members of staff who cannot fight back.

  • So the first thing to remember is that quiet firing isn’t necessarily a structural, cultural decision made by every leader in your enterprise. It is, however, one that can rot and take over teams if not addressed.

  • It only starts with one person’s perceived slight, offense, or feeling of empowerment, and the lack of action by other managers to address it, for it to grow.
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It’s not the same as constructive dismissal.

  • Quiet firing is in theory similar to “constructive dismissal”, which stands as a parallel workplace issue. But there are crucial differences between the two.

  • Constructive dismissal is the innocuous way of describing “when you're forced to leave your job against your will because of your employer's conduct”, and when leaving the company is the right thing to do because of a serious breach of contract.

  • Quiet firing is more insidious, and less blatant, and often brushes up against actions that could be deemed a breach of contract without being as direct.

  • In our minds where constructive dismissal ends, and quiet firing begins, is where the worst breaches of employer/employee trust occur.

So what do you do if you’re witness to quiet firing or notice quiet firing happening to your staff or staff members in other teams?

Address all events directly
Recognizing all signs and situations directly is fundamental to diagnosing quiet firing. Especially from a management or leadership position, there’s no excuse for neglecting employees, failing to engage in critical feedback, or not addressing situations directly and timely.

Having in place concrete and measurable ways to determine good work is a good start for spotting toxic behavior and bias. All managers should be prepared to identify the red flags, but once they spot them, HR leadership should step in.
Embrace transparent communication & build rapport with employees 

Opening communication channels is crucial for team morale, employee engagement, and collective happiness. More often than not, quiet firers won’t leave environments where honest and transparent communication is modeled in the regular, where they feel recognized and appreciated, participate in frequent group and 1-on-1 discussions, and are trained in communication and conflict resolution strategies.

With LutherOne’s enterprise social network, we help companies create an environment of shared stories where everyone is informed and aligned.

An organization that values and fosters honest communication will rarely experience quiet firing.

Train leaders & provide them with access to data

Lack of data & inefficient management tactics might lead bosses to classify people as under-performers when in reality, maybe all they need is a different approach. Providing proper leadership training & tools that uncover continuous insight into engagement & performance can help your leaders better listen and manage, removing bias from management practices. 

Continuously survey your people & make use of exit interviews

The easiest way to learn whether your managers are trying to “motivate” employees out the doors by treating them poorly is to ask your people how they're feelings. Continuous listening through regular engagement surveys will not only help you identify the signs of quiet firing early on, but the high levels of transparency will prevent managers from this rebellious practices in the first place. 

Exist interviews can serve as a safety net, stopping quiet firing from taking root in your company. 

The bottom line

Every employee deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, and empathy at work. There are, sadly, some awful employers nad managers in the world - but quiet firing and the myriad ways it manifests can be addressed with clarity and bravery by staff and other managers who step up and make it known they won’t accept it.

Ready to step-up your employee retention game too? Reach out today for a free demo.

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