Quiet Firing: The Trend Holding Professionals Back in Their Careers

In a recent article, Refresh Leadership examined a trend among employees, citing an increase in professionals quiet quitting, mentally checking out, and being actively disengaged at work. While this phenomenon has lasting effects on productivity and engagement, it also seems to have created a sub-trend in the workforce: quiet firing. According to a recent LinkedIn poll, 48% of individuals have seen it at their office and 35% have said they have directly faced it at their job. Moreover, a report found that quiet quitting has led to 1 in 3 employers quiet firing employees.

While quiet quitting is defined as when an employee either mentally checks out and coasts through the daily grind or simply does the bare minimum to remain employed while actively searching for a new opportunity elsewhere, quiet firing is a little more vague. It can be experienced when a professional is passed up for promotions, has responsibilities redirected, or has paths to leadership and development restricted. It’s important to know the tell-tale signs of quiet firing to know if you are doing it subconsciously to your employees or if it is being done to you—and what to do to fix it.

Quiet Firing Characteristics

With more than 80% of professionals either observing or experiencing quiet firing, it’s important to understand what the characteristics and signs are of it happening in your office.

  • Being overlooked for meaningful tasks
  • Workplace preferences are being denied
  • Lack of wage increases
  • Decrease in communication/facetime with superiors
  • Given mundane, busywork projects
  • Workload at unmanageable levels
  • Not being invited to meetings/left out of the loop
  • Not being offered growth opportunities based on seniority/quality of work
  • Making work-life balance more difficult to manage
  • Overall poor work environment

Remember, regardless of whether one of these has happened or all 10, the intentionality behind each is what determines if quiet firing is occurring.

Effects of Quiet Firing

Whether you see the effects of quiet firing on your career or acknowledge you may have employees who are experiencing this trend, there are long-lasting consequences that can cause issues within your organization. For employees who feel they are being wrongfully held back in their careers, disengagement and resentment can set in. These negative outcomes could wreak havoc on your company’s culture, creating a toxic environment affecting your star employees and possibly causing unneeded turnover.

In “Exodus: Are Your Star Employees Quiet Quitting,” we examined the issues that quiet quitting causes. However, another direct effect of quiet firing is a rise in employees staying on the payroll yet mentally checking out. If an employee has gone five years or more without a significant promotion, they may become despondent and feel as though their loyalty isn’t being rewarded. If going above and beyond hasn’t led to career advancement, they may feel as though there isn’t a point to increasing productivity or engagement, thus leading to quiet quitting.

Another effect of quiet firing that was seen during the Great Resignation is the increase in job-hopping, as well as talent poaching. If an employee doesn’t feel appreciated or feels underemployed, they are more likely to take offers from recruiters and leaders from other organizations who are trying to pluck talent from competitors.

How to Combat the Effects of Quiet Firing

As with quiet quitting, it’s important to open the lines of communication with workers and to be clear about career advancement, as well as any of the issues on the quiet firing checklist that have occurred. If an employee is being intentionally pushed out of their role or subconsciously encouraged to quit, understand that this type of passive-aggressive leadership is toxic and can backfire. It’s important to have check-ins with your employees to fully know the health of your culture.

While it may be easier to push a poor performer to quit instead of having to terminate their employment, having difficult conversations is crucial for workplace morale and leadership integrity. As with anything, clear communication is the antidote to many of these workplace issues.

Have you experienced quiet firing in your office? What do you do to ensure your workforce opens lines of communication to avoid quiet firing or quitting? Let us know in the comments section below!

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