Quiet quitting often is a consequence of managers’ failure to display inspirational leadership and allowing them to have negative experiences at work as a means of ejecting them from the organization. If employees don't receive direction on their job priorities, ongoing growth, and long-term career progression, they are likely to resign. This can tarnish an employer's reputation as a good place to work, create a trust deficit, and even hurt customers’ sentiments when key employees exit.
What Exactly is Quiet Firing?
Quiet firing is when, instead of going through the typical termination process, a manager gradually pulls an employee’s duties. This describes how managers fail to constructively coach, support and provide development opportunities to employees, pushing them out of an organization. In worst-case scenarios, some managers push employees to leave quietly so as to not draw attention to their failure to handle challenging individuals or situations.
HR must be sharp to decipher the subtle signs of any employee being slowly excluded. These signs include but are not limited to the following.
- Extremely critical feedback from managers.
- Keeping an individual team member disengaged.
- An employee being singled out frequently to answer tough questions at meetings.
- An employee not given challenging or additional opportunities and projects.
- An employee frequently left out of important meetings or events.
- A subtle attempt to malign the image of an employee.
- One-upmanship by a manager and not giving due credit to an individual.
- An employee not getting incentives/ increments in proportion to the contribution made.
- Hyper surveillance of an employee.
Why is Quiet Firing Inappropriate?
Quiet firing can be highly confusing and disheartening, as employees may be left wondering what they did wrong. Quietly firing an employee without any chance to improve is seen as unfair as it can put a damper on their mental health. It can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and resentment towards the employer.
Another con of quiet firing is that it can lead to gossip and speculation among colleagues and other employees. This can create a toxic work environment, as employees may be left questioning why their colleague was mistreated. It can also result in a lack of trust between employers and employees, affecting workers’ mental health and well-being.
Does Quiet Firing Violate Employment Law?
In most cases, quiet firing does not violate employment law. However, employers must ensure they are not discriminating against any protected class, such as gender, age, race, or religion. Employers must also ensure they are not violating labor laws like the Equal Remuneration Act.
If the employer is found to be discriminating against any protected class or violating labor laws, they may be liable for legal action. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the regional laws and consult an attorney when necessary.
What Alternatives to Quiet Firing Exists?
What alternatives exist if quiet firing is not the right solution?
One alternative is to use progressive discipline. This is a process where the employer documents performance issues and addresses them with the employee. This can be done through verbal warnings, written warnings, suspensions, or other forms of corrective action.
Another option is to use a performance improvement plan (PIP). PIP outlines the steps the employee must take to improve their performance. It can also include goals and timelines for success.
Finally, employers can use mediation or arbitration, where a third-party mediator works with the employer and the employee to resolve any issues.
However, if termination is unavoidable, it is essential to have an honest conversation with the employee to explain the reasons for the dismissal to the employee. This will ensure they are aware of the situation and not left in the dark.
What are the Ways to Combat Quiet Firing?
Quiet firing frequently results from a lack of potential in supervisors/managers to handle conflict or internal strife. This type of workplace bullying can severely damage employees' mental well-being and is an indication of weak and poor leadership, even if it may save severance costs or an embarrassing conversation.
In the battle against quiet firing - coaching, investing in leaders, and raising performance accountability through open communication are essential strategies. It is critical to promote empowerment and collaboration rather than a command-and-control philosophy.
The responsibility rests hugely on HR to facilitate agile work practices. Managers must be coached to combat mistrust, cultivate a compassionate leadership style, foster an inclusive workplace, and create a psychological safety net for workers.
It is sometimes tricky for HR to figure out micro-exclusionary behaviors. As a result, employees logging a complaint may be characterized as sensitive, compelling them to question their experiences. This might take a toll on employees’ mental well-being. Quiet firing is a sign of ineffective management. Senior leadership must reskill managers to ace the remote work environment and have heart-to-heart conversations to help team members reduce burnout.