You’ve heard of employeesquiet quitting.” Now get ready for the trending term’s flip side: “quiet firing.” As we’ve previously pointed out, quiet quitting was quickly blown out of proportion. It’s not “quitting;” it’s doing the amount of work that you agreed to be compensated for. And so, among the the growing backlash to that viral term, many have pointed out that our collective energies would be better spent recognizing where employers are culpable: quiet firing. Take Twitter user @randy_userwho describes quiet firing as “when you don’t give someone a raise in 5 years even though they keep doing everything you ask them to.”
Whereas quiet quitting is a misnomer, the term “quiet firing” more accurately describes what it is. And while neither phrase is describing a totally new phenomenon, quiet firing has very real consequences on your career. Here’s what to know about what the term means and how you should react if you suspect you’re being “quiet fired.”
What is “quiet firing”?
Quiet firing describes the act of nudging an employee out of the workplace, as opposed to outright dismissing them. It’s similar to the concept of “constructive discharge,” which is essentially being forced to resign and can be grounds to sue your employer. The buzz around the term quiet firing, however, points to our need to label a more insidious, harder-to-define practice.
While many employers may inadvertently treat their workers in ways that qualify as quiet firing, for others, it’s a completely intentional practice. Quietly firing someone is a way to save on severance or avoid a lengthy performance improvement process.
Quiet firing can take many forms, from providing workers with bare-minimum resources to more blatant acts of discrimination. More likely, however, employers use more subtle tactics, like providing no opportunities for growth until the worker feels neglected enough to leave. The goal is to treat a worker poorly until they reach their breaking point and quit, supposedly “of their own volition.” Whatever it looks like, the message of quiet firing is clear: If you don’t like it here, then leave.
How to recognize quiet firing
Like we mentioned above, quiet firing is not always obvious or easy to prove. Here are some examples of what it might look like to be quietly fired—especially if your employer is doing a combination of several of these things:
- You’re not being invited to (or being clearly excluded from) networking opportunities and social events.
- You receive poor performance reviews with no reasonable justifications or explanations.
- Your boss is impossible to pin down, whether you’re seeking check-ins, feedback, or any support at all.
- Your boss “makes an example of you” in front of other employees.
- You’ve been denied a raise on multiple occasions.
- You’ve been skipped over for a promotion or less-deserving employees continue to grow ahead of you.
- You’re not offered (or are even denied) the same career opportunities as your coworkers.
- Your responsibilities have been downgraded, or you’re exclusively made to focus on busy work over more meaningful tasks.
- You’ve brought up any of the above points to your boss, and they refuse to provide any clarity.
It’s important to note that women and people of color tend to get less support from managers in the first place and are at a greater risk of quiet firing.
What to do if you’re being quietly fired
When you’re in a work environment that feels like it’s nudging you out, it’s difficult to want to give more. Quiet firing may naturally result in what employers call quiet quitting before achieving its ultimate goal of you loud quitting.
If you feel you’re being quietly fired, start keeping a log to document what’s going on. You can use this to express concerns to your HR department, or to use it against them if you choose to take action down the road.
If you think your quiet firing is unintentional, consider pushing for a one-on-one to communicate your concerns. There’s a chance you’re a victim of arbitrary mismanagement, rather than a malicious forced exit.
At the end of the day, it may simply be time to consider moving on from this job. Even if it feels like you’re letting the company win, no one should have to suffer the underhanded, belittling tactics involved in quiet firing.