Quiet Quitting is Having a Moment — But is Quiet Firing the Real Concern?

With 80% of workers witnessing quiet firing first hand, are you sure it's not happening at your workplace?
Isobel O'Sullivan

If you've spent any time on the internet lately, you've probably heard of quiet quitting — a term coined on social media that challenges the norm of overachieving at work. But while quiet quitting refers to somewhat passively reinstating healthier work-life boundaries, its counterpart, quiet firing, appears to have more sinister consequences.

Quiet firing describes the practice of gradually freezing an employee out until they are left with no choice but to resign. This could be by excluding workers from projects, withdrawing opportunities to progress, or even stagnating their salary.

With a recent poll by LinkedIn revealing that 80% of employees have borne witness to quiet firing, the trend appears to be more prevalent than expected. Whether you're an employer looking to sidestep the practice or you fear it's being used on you, we break down what quiet firing really means, how to spot it, and the best ways to tackle it.

Move Over, Quiet Quitting —What's Quiet Firing?

Thanks to social media, the advent of new buzzwords has shed new light on issues that have been plaguing workplaces for decades. But if you're not a digital native, or aren't up to date with the latest TikTok trends, here's a basic overview of quiet firing.

While no official definition exists, quiet firing is a phenomenon where employers single out underperforming workers by intentionally hindering their experience in the workplace. In lieu of firing the employee outright, LinkedIn explains that the practice may involve withdrawing development and leadership opportunities, taking away responsibilities, or failing to hand out promotions or raises over a long period of time.

When staffers fall victim to the passive-aggressive management technique, they risk feeling left out, undervalued or neglected. Ultimately, workers who have been quietly fired may decide to leave the job to relieve themself from the situation.

The act is understood to be a direct response to quiet quitting — a workplace trend popular among Gen Z which sees employees work their defined hours without wishing to go above and beyond.

With the terms rising to prominence through apps like Instagram and TikTok, it may be easy to dismiss them as passing social media trends. But with employee unhappiness appearing to be at an all-time high, here's why it's time to take them seriously.

Is Quiet Firing a Legitimate Concern?

Unfortunately, yes. While its label may be new, quiet firing refers to a very real workplace phenomenon and employers need to take note.

According to a recent LinkedIn News survey of 20,000+ workers, 80% believe quiet firing to be real, with only 13% denying its existence. Out of those that believed it to be true, 48% have seen it happen in their workforce, and 35% claimed to have been subject to it themselves.

And the impact of quiet firing can have very tangible consequences too. Recent research from Pew reveals that low pay and no opportunities for growth were the main motivators behind the great resignation of 2021 — the period when resignation levels in the US hit a 20-year high.

Feeling overlooked at work can also drastically impact someone's physical and mental health, with studies linking to poor managerial investment with higher levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, and poor sleep quality.

But whether quiet firing is causing workers to mentally check out or to quit jobs altogether, spotting its signs is the first step to stamping it out. If you're unsure what form the practice may take in your workplace, here are some things to look out for.

How to Spot Signs of Quiet Firing In the Workplace

According to the Huffington Post, here are the main questions you should be asking yourself if you suspect you're becoming the victim of quiet firing:

  • Is your boss MIA for important conversations?
  • Has your boss assigned opportunities you wanted to other team members?
  • Does your boss struggle to clarify why you're not receiving the same raises and promotions as your co-workers?
  • Are you being placed on an unreasonable improvement plan?
  • Has your workload and job expectations changed unfairly?

If you suspect one or more of these may be true, there's a chance your employer may be using underhand tactics to get you to leave. Tech expert Janel Loi also believes that canceled 1:1s, a lack of coaching, and a lack of leadership transparency are also tell-tale signs of quiet quitting.

When it comes to resolving the problem from an employer's perspective, Loi recommends building trust with your workforce, leading with transparency, embracing open communication, and highlighting the strengths of your workers.

By following these steps, you can give your employees the best possible chance of succeeding in the workplace. Not only does this lead to improved job satisfaction for workers, but it also may help to tackle the epidemic of quiet quitting at the same time.

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Isobel is a writer at Tech.co with a wealth of experience covering business and technology news. Since specializing in Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also spent time working as a freelance tech researcher. As a writer, Isobel takes a particular interest in issues regarding data security, social media, and emerging business technology.

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