If you’ve been excluded from meetings or asked to draft up documents detailing your duties, you could be getting quietly fired, writes, MADISON HOFF
There are different ways companies push out employees without conducting layoffs.
One way, per Ben Wigert of Gallup, is taking away benefits and perks. Another way, per Vicki Salemi of job site Monster, could be overlooking someone for a career advancement opportunity.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, white-collar workers are having to say goodbye to their roles not just because of job cuts. Chip Cutter of The Wall Street Journal wrote that company “moves,” such as remote work limitations, “though not labeled as layoffs, can at times have a similar effect in thinning a company’s ranks.”
The kinds of moves Cutter is describing are examples of a growing workplace trend of “quiet firing.” Instead of being overtly fired or laid off, some workers are seeing more subtle moves from their bosses that are, intentionally or not, making the job less appealing and encouraging them to leave.
“Quiet firing happens when managers fail to adequately provide clear expectations, feedback, support, career development, and recognition for an employee in a way that makes them feel ignored and pushes them out of an organization,” Ben Wigert, director of research and strategy for workplace management at Gallup, told Insider.
Wigert added that “quiet firing happens unintentionally more often than intentionally.”
Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster, also told Insider that quiet firing happens when a company isn’t “necessarily terminating you” but instead “they’re often pushing you to the point where it could be a toxic work environment” which ultimately leads to the worker leaving.
Two reasons a company might be quiet firing, Salemi said, could be because “their budgets are stagnant or there are performance issues and rather than addressing them, they’re kind of quietly pushing the employee out the door.”
“Economic conditions can certainly spur more quiet firing,” Wigert said. He later noted that “if they have fears about difficult financial times ahead, they may be being tougher on performance or tougher on employees who may not fit or may not be progressing because they would rather encourage the people who aren’t working out to leave rather than laying off the people they want to keep.”
Below are six ways companies might be quietly firing their employees.
Restrictions on where and how people get work done
Some people may quit if they are required to work in person. Cutter’s Wall Street Journal story noted that there are places that have put limits on remote work or companies needing people to relocate.
“That would be one way to put pressure on employees to see if they really want to stay with the organization,” Wigert told Insider about companies requiring people to work in person more than they would prefer. Another way could be having to work “more structured hours.”
However, Wigert advises these restrictions might not be ideal.
“Rigid policies that simply require people to come to the office to check a box and be compliant aren’t effective and miss the point,” Wigert told Insider. “Similarly, using office requirement policies to intentionally reduce head count and avoid lay-offs will likely back fire because they’re punitive rather than a constructive strategy for improving how people work together.”
Saying goodbye to work benefits and perks
A company may also push out a worker through quiet firing by getting rid of their job benefits or perks, according to Wigert who noted this as an example of “systematically quiet firing employees.”
“If organizations are offering fewer incentives or taking away benefits packages, whether that’s something related to wellness, flexibility, access to gym memberships, or contributions to their retirement funds, or other things that matter to them that would be another way to push people out,” Wigert said.
But Wigert cautions against limiting benefits, compensation, or perks.
“We don’t recommend this approach because it erodes your employee value proposition and dissatisfies your people who stay,” Wigert said. “Instead, I would try offering reduced hours and flexible arrangements for roles facing budgetary constraints.”
An increased emphasis on performance
Another thing that shows some indication of quiet firing could be performance reviews or performance plans that could intimidate workers and persuade those judged as “low-performing” to quit. Cutter wrote that there are employers who are “stepping up scrutiny in performance reviews.”
This can be seen in some recent reviews at Meta, where roughly 10% of workers got a “meets most” rating, which a Wall Street Journal article reported is the second-lowest rating of five ratings. Cutter said that “people familiar with the matter” think this will mean more exits.
One action that kind of relates to quiet firing according to Wigert is when managers “require certain improvements” from an employee or put them on a performance improvement plan to see if they can improve.
“It’s kind of quiet firing in the way they’re not saying that we’re asking you to leave or we’re firing you, but they’re raising the bar on performance in a way that shows them they either need to quickly improve or find a different position,” Wigert said. “So that’s pretty common with low performers, but it may be more common now when employers are feeling the pressure to rightsize their workplace.”
No salary increases or career advancement
Salemi said that someone who is being quietly fired may be overlooked for a “promotion or job advancement despite producing excellent work and being a leader and a collaborator.” This could be happening while colleagues are seeing career advancement.
It could also be the case that your pay suffers along with this in quiet firing.
“It usually happens where you feel like you’re being singled out where it’s not necessarily where, you get a message from your boss or communication from your boss saying, ‘Hey everyone, I tried and no one is getting a raise this year,'” Salemi said. “Typically with quiet firing, you are the person who’s being impacted. It’s not really a large number of people at once. It’s simply you.”
Being neglected at work
While some quiet firing tactics may be unintentional, Wigert said the “most common” way managers intentionally quiet fire someone is through “simply neglecting them or excluding them from important work that’s happening or advancement opportunities.”
“This would most typically be done in a passive aggressive way where they’re showing the person either that they don’t fit or they’re not going to progress in the company and lead them instead to decide whether they want to continue on that path,” Wigert said.
Another sign related to this could be not being invited to go to or lead a meeting or a company event, according to Salemi.
“You’re still working, you’re still available, but you’re not being invited to join,” Salemi said. “You’re basically being shut out at a seat at the table.”
Salemi said you may also be given a lot more work without support.
“Maybe your boss is not available and you’re not being given any support and it’s basically you’re reaching the point of burnout,” Salemi said.
Being asked to write down what you do
Salemi also said some of your work duties may be going to a colleague, making you question your job security. Additionally, you may be asked to write a job description about your work or a “standard operating procedures manual almost as if you’re being replaced.”
“You’re still working there, but you’re basically being asked to provide a training manual for your job,” Salemi said.
Salemi said the job description would entail things like who you work with and about your duties. In other words, it’s “an overview of your current job and how you do it,” Salemi said.
MADISON HOFF writes for BUSINESS INSIDER and can be reached at email@example.com.