Quiet Firing: Is it Ruining your Brand Image? [+ ways to stop]

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Quiet Firing

Quiet firing has been observed in action by 83% employees according to a recent survey, and nearly 35% have experienced it firsthand – which suggests that this new term is not merely a rebuke arising from the quiet quitting debate, but denotes a practice that plagues toxic work cultures. 

Quiet firing is not only unfair to the employee, but it also wreaks enough damage to the organization’s reputation in the long run. Learn about its symptoms, how it harms your culture, and key practices to help you curtail it.

What is Quiet Firing?

Quiet Firing Meaning
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Quiet firing is a practice wherein employers deliberately create adverse or unfair conditions that lead an employee to quit from their role. It includes denying progression opportunities to the employees, not offering raises to select workers for years, isolating them from key discussions that are pertinent to their role, or simply making them feel that they are at a dead end with respect to their career. 

While quiet firing has been recognized widely only recently, it has been a part of many workplaces since long. However, it can be detrimental to the organization and the employee alike, which is why employers should urgently focus on curtailing it.

 See why and how below 👇

How to Spot Quiet Firing at Your Workplace

Because quiet firing is a covert practice, it may evade the attention of top leaders within the organization. 

Yet, as Bonnie Dilber said in her viral post, quiet firing happens all the time. Here are some symptoms that can help you recognize quiet firing in action at the workplace.

Recognise Quiet Firing
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1. Same employees are criticized repeatedly and frequently

While constructive feedback works in favor of both the employee and the organization, repeated criticism aimed at the same employee(s) is a top sign of quiet firing at play.

2. Promotions are postponed or employees are underpaid

Delaying promotions for select employees or underpaying them by holding them responsible for underperformance are quickly perceived by employees as quiet firing.

3. Zero employee appraisal and reduced engagement

While employee engagement may falter due to other reasons, quiet firing can be a top contributor. Moreover, not appraising your employees or recognizing their efforts also counts as quiet firing.

4. Canceled one-on-ones or reducing discussions with teammates

Managers or team leaders canceling one-on-one meetings with an employee, who is also being sidelined from critical team discussions that concern their role is yet another sign of quiet firing.

However, there may be other signs that you should watch out for, too. These include passive-aggressive behavior of leaders or managers towards select team members, employees being sidelined from new initiatives or feeling a lack of support at the workplace.

What’s Wrong with Quiet Firing?

While quiet firing may be an intentional practice that is used by employers to relieve themselves of the responsibilities that come with firing employees (providing severance packages, for example), it does significant damage to the organization in the long run. 

Impacts Of Quiet Firing
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How? In the following five ways.

1. It negatively impacts the employee experience 

Employee experience includes what an employee does, feels, and sees at every stage of the employee life cycle. Quiet firing is not only a symptom of bad and disrespectful offboarding experience, it also causes fatigue for the worker who is being quietly fired. 

2. It creates a toxic work culture

Employees that are being quietly fired are ultimately peers of other workers who are propelling your business every day. Quiet firing leads to tension between them, and legitimizes negative dynamics. 

3. It hurts the brand’s reputation in the long run

When employees take to social media with their negative work experiences, quiet firing will undeniably harm the organization’s reputation in the long run. 

4. It reeks of ineffective leadership

Authentic leaders are transparent and honest with the teams they lead. Such leaders will not only never use quiet firing tactics, but also be vocally critical of it. Quiet firing is therefore a symptom of ineffective leadership in the organization.

5. It leads to a double problem of attrition and retention

Quiet firing tells other workers that they may be next, making attrition a major problem for your organization. In addition, it subtracts from your employee value proposition, while making it difficult to hire and retain top-notch talent.

Here’s How to Curtail Quiet Firing at your Workplace

Mitigate Quiet Firing
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So, how can you prevent quiet firing from tainting your work culture and brand reputation? Here are a few ways. 

1. Take a vocal stance against quiet firing

The first step to weeding out quiet firing is to take a vocal and proactive stance on quiet firing publicly. Let current and future employees know that your organization is against the practice, and encourage them to report instances of quiet firing and reassure them that they will be shielded from the consequences, if any.

2. Make exit interviews a part of the offboarding process

Quiet firing goes unnoticed when employees quit silently. Schedule an interview with them to understand what prompted an employee to quit, and how they felt about working with your organization over time. This can also help you prevent an employee who was quietly fired from taking to social media with their negative experiences.

3. Take anonymous feedbacks on managers regularly

A key step to curtail quiet firing is to build a reliable feedback loop that brings leadership practices to light. Use employee surveys to assess workplace behaviors and practices, and make them anonymous to ensure that targets of quiet firing don’t face the rebuke for their honesty.

4. Bring transparency to performance reviews

By bringing transparency into performance reviews, organizations can eliminate subjectivity and bias from the process, and ensure that employees are not being sidelined from one-on-ones or being subjected to passive-aggressive remarks.

5. Regularly reward and appraise employees

Ensure that the efforts of all employees are recognized by enforcing effective and meaningful employee appraisal measures. This is a key step in helping employees find meaning in the work they do everyday.

6. Talk about quiet firing in leadership sessions

Some leaders may not be aware of how their practices may be perceived or have the effect of quiet firing. Build awareness about quiet firing in leadership development sessions, and help your organization’s leaders adopt honest and empathetic ways of letting workers go.

7. Foster an inclusive and engaging workplace

Finally, an inclusive work environment boosts employee engagement, helps employees feel safe, and win support and empathy to their side in situations where they feel that they are being quietly fired. This helps them make their case if needed. 

Looking ahead

Quiet firing is an ethically inappropriate practice that is now being spoken about openly across channels. When top leaders across the world are focusing on building diverse and inclusive workplaces, eliminating covert practices like quiet firing should be at the top of the agenda, especially for the multitude of ways in which it can damage the organization and its culture. Especially so, because women and people of color are at a greater risk from quiet firing, as they are usually underrepresented at leadership positions. Using the pointers outlined above, and holding discussions at the board level, organizations should work in a top-down fashion to ensure that employees are never subjected to quiet firing at their workplace.

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Sonia Mahajan

Sonia Mahajan is a passionate Sr. People Officer at HROne. She has 11+ years of expertise in building Human Capital with focus on strengthening business, establishing alignment and championing smooth execution. She believes in creating memorable employee experiences and leaving sustainable impact. Her Personal Motto: "In the end success comes only through hard work".

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