Is Quiet Firing Really a Problem?

Most managers have probably heard of ‘quiet quitting’, a term that went viral on TikTok in 2022. But there’s a new trend on the rise: quiet firing — and it could be happening in your organisation. In this article, we’ll discuss what HR teams need to know about quiet firing, including how to spot it in your workplace and what managers can do about it. 

Key Facts: 

  • Quiet firing is when managers neglect or mistreat employees, eventually causing them to quit their jobs. 

  • Employees who are victims of quiet firing might find themselves passed over for promotions or pay rises, or left out of important meetings and discussions. 

  • Managers should take steps to avoid quiet firing at all costs — even when that means having difficult conversations with employees.

What Is Quiet Firing? 

Quiet firing is when a manager fails to provide adequate support, coaching or resources for an employee to do their job effectively. Eventually, this can lead to the employee quitting their job and looking for work elsewhere.

Quiet firing is different to quiet quitting, which is when an employee is no longer psychologically engaged at work and stops doing anything beyond the minimum requirements of their role. 

However, the concepts of quiet quitting and quiet firing are intrinsically linked, because the former can often arise as the result of poor leadership — in other words, quiet firing. 

Why Does Quiet Firing Happen? 

Quiet firing can be a deliberate act on the part of a manager, who begins neglecting their reports in the hope of getting them to quit. For some managers, this may be a way of avoiding difficult conversations with employees about their performance. 

During times of economic uncertainty, quiet firing can also be a way for companies to avoid the bad publicity of mass redundancies by convincing the employees to quit voluntarily instead. 

Either way, quiet firing is an absolutely unethical way of getting rid of an employee without having to go through the administration and hassle of firing them or making them redundant — or potentially facing a lawsuit for unfair dismissal. 

But quiet firing can also be an unintentional side effect of bad or negligent management. When managers fail to give their employees the support and resources they need to work effectively, it’s no surprise that those employees often start looking for work elsewhere. 

It’s also possible that quiet firing is a byproduct of the recent rise in remote work. Some managers are simply not very good at communicating in a mostly digital environment, which can lead to them unintentionally neglecting their employees. 

What Are the Effects of Quiet Firing? 

Quiet firing can have many negative consequences. The most obvious one is that the employees in question might quit their jobs, which could send attrition rates sky high. 

Another more subtle impact of quiet firing is that it can erode employees’ trust in their managers. If other employees see managers engaging in quiet firing, this shows them that they can’t rely on their managers’ support. This can lead to a drop in morale across the organisation. 

Lastly, just like quiet quitting can lead to quiet firing, the opposite is also true. When employees feel that they are being passed over for opportunities and left out of important decisions, they are unlikely to continue giving work their full energy and potential. 

What are the Most Common Signs of Quiet Firing? 

Think quiet firing might be happening in your organisation? Here are a few common signs to look out for:  

Employees are being passed over for raises and promotions

When a certain employee hasn’t received a pay rise in a long time, this could be a sign that quiet firing is happening. Employees staying in the same position for a long time despite strong performance could also be a red flag. 

Managers are heavily critical of their employees

Managers engaging in quiet firing are often highly critical of their employees. You might notice managers publicly criticising certain employees, even for small mistakes. 

Managers aren’t making time for one-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings with managers are an opportunity for employees to discuss their performance and address any problems they’re having. If they’re not happening, this could be a sign that quiet firing is going on. 

Employees are being given assignments below their ability

When employees are frequently given assignments that could be done by a lower-level employee, this can be demoralising and even insulting. And it’s a major red flag for quiet firing. 

Employees are being left out of meetings or discussions

If you’ve ever been in a meeting and wondered why a certain colleague isn’t there, it could be a sign that their manager is trying to quietly fire them. Employees might be left out of email invites or simply not told that a meeting is taking place. 

Employees are being picked on in meetings

When employees are invited to meetings, you might notice that their manager is particularly critical of them and their ideas. This can make employees feel undermined and insecure — and could be a sign of quiet firing. 

Managers aren’t having discussions with employees about their future

Managers should have regular conversations with their employees about how they see their future at the company. If this isn’t happening, it could be that they don’t see that employee having a future in the organisation. 

Employees aren’t being given the resources or information they need

Employees not receiving the appropriate resources or information is also a sign of quiet firing. When this happens, it’s impossible for them to do their jobs effectively. It can also lead to managers criticising their employees for their poor performance — even though it’s not their fault. 

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What Can Managers Do To Avoid Quiet Firing? 

If you’re a manager who thinks you might have engaged in quiet firing — or spotted it in some of your colleagues — there are things you can do to remedy the situation. 

Here are some four strategies managers can employ to avoid quiet firing… 

1. Give praise as well as criticism 

There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, and managers need to feel able to tell their employees when something isn’t going well. 

However, even when employees’ performance isn’t up to standard, it’s still important to praise them for the things they are doing well. 

If employees only ever hear criticism from their managers, they’re likely to become dispirited — and even begin quiet quitting. 

2. Communicate openly and often

Effective communication is one of the key antidotes to quiet firing. And managers who don’t communicate frequently with their employees might be engaging in quiet firing without even realising it. 

Good workplace communication includes formal processes like performance reviews. But it should also include more casual conversations, which can help to foster a more trusting relationship between employees and their managers. 

3. Think about the why 

Even if employees aren’t performing as well as you expect, quiet firing is not the answer. Instead, managers should ask themselves why this is the case. 

It could be that the employee hasn’t been given the resources, coaching or support they need to perform to the best of their ability — which is a form of quiet firing in itself. 

Figuring out the reason behind any problems the employee is having is an important step towards resolving them. 

4. Have the hard conversations

Quiet firing is often a way of avoiding difficult conversations with employees. For example, if the employee isn’t performing well enough and their future at the company is in question, managers might engage in quiet firing rather than discussing this with the employee directly. 

But problems like these can often be resolved through proper communication and support. Instead of quiet firing, managers should not be afraid to have difficult or awkward conversations. 

In fact, they should try to see these discussions as the first step towards resolving a problem.

From Quiet Firing to Quiet Hiring

We’ve heard about quiet quitting and quiet firing… but what about quiet hiring? This is yet another buzzword that we’ve been seeing a lot recently. And it’s an important enough trend that Gartner included it in its list of nine HR predictions for 2023

Essentially, quiet hiring is when an organisation acquires new skills and capabilities without increasing its headcount. They do this by finding ways to get more out of their current workforce through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, which allows them to redeploy employees to higher-priority projects.

Frequently Asked Questions on Quiet Firing

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about quiet firing… 

What Does Quiet Firing Mean? 

Quiet firing is when managers don’t give employees the resources and support they need to do their jobs. This effectively forces employees to quit their jobs, saving the company the bad publicity that comes from firing them or making layoffs. But no matter the situation, quiet firing is always a bad idea — and it can lead to some major negative consequences across the organisation. 

How Can Quiet Firing Be Avoided? 

Managers can avoid quiet firing by ensuring open and regular communication with their employees, remembering to give praise and holding back unnecessary criticism. The idea is to work with employees to resolve any problems, rather than resorting to unethical tactics like quiet firing. 

Start Optimising for Employee Experience Today

Quiet firing is never the answer. Identifying it in your organisation may require greater focus on employee experience, engagement and productivity. Luckily, Personio can help. We offer an HR software that can help your teams collect information and generate reports. 

Not only that, but the time added back for HR teams can help them focus on putting an end to quiet quitting, quiet firing or quiet ‘whatever comes next.’ Want to learn more? Start by speaking with one of our HR experts today.

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