Although it may seem like a new “thing”, quiet firing has been around for a long time, we just didn’t have a name for it.
Basically, it occurs when superiors make the workplace disagreeable for a talent so that the talent eventually gives up and leaves the company. They aren’t fired, but the work conditions become so unappealing and unfulfilling that they see no other solution than to quit.
If you think this might be happening to you or to someone you know, continue reading to learn just how to recognize it taking place.
The First Thing on Your Mind Is:
“Do they want to get rid of me?”
It’s difficult to reconcile with the fact that that's what's going on, and you naturally start wondering, “why me”? And while it’s to be expected to ask yourself such a question, beating yourself up won’t help.
It happens for a number of reasons: company might be cutting costs, somebody from the top has a beef with you, you might not be fitting into the company culture, or you are simply not making any progress despite the feedback you received. Or they just haven’t plucked up the courage to tell you that you are not meeting their expectations.
But for starters, let’s first be sure that’s what’s going on.
You might be just going through a tough period or you may be overthinking things.
But what if you are not: what are the signs you ought to look for to determine whether it’s indeed happening to you?
You Keep Getting Less Important Tasks
For some, this might sound dreamy: your colleagues are sweating over complex tasks while you are doing the same old things. But while they are gathering experience, skills, and knowledge, they are actually advancing while you are stagnating.
Being given mundane, meaningless, or unappealing tasks might also be a sign that your superiors don’t trust you. In short, if the company aims to fire someone quietly, they might be giving the most undesirable tasks to that person to “motivate” them to leave the company on their own.
Your Workload Has Changed Drastically
Since recently, you started working way less or way more. A sea of tasks that seems never-ending or an awkward feeling of having nothing on your plate for a while — both might be a signal that a change is underway.
If there is no logical reason for the fluctuation in the workload, that’s definitely a red flag. Of course, it’s imperative you thoroughly check whether there are genuine reasons for this change: you might have more work due to a new client the company wants to impress, or less because it’s the end of the year.
There Are No New Projects in Sight
The company is moving forward, acquiring new projects and clients, but your work day always looks the same. If the company doesn’t want to continue collaborating with a talent, they naturally don’t want to invest their time or any other resources into them.
Any person that is even mildly ambitious will notice that all challenges and/or educational opportunities are passing them by. It’s resource management 101: the company doesn’t want to onboard someone on a project who will not stay there for long.
Your Promotion Is Nowhere in Sight
In most companies, at least those properly set up, there are guidelines on what a talent needs to be able to do to earn a promotion. For you, that path is covered with a veil of uncertainty, and every time you ask about it, you get an undefined response such as “we’ll see” or “maybe next time”.
Your growth is blocked for a reason. Just think about it, if they wanted to continue working with someone, most companies would give a raise or place more responsibility on that person. So, they are naturally counting on you, an ambitious person who doesn’t want to stagnate, to quickly pick up on the fact that you are not moving up the hierarchy and quietly remove yourself.
You Feel Alienated From Your Team
If you feel your colleagues might be avoiding you or that you are excluded from social gatherings, that could be your managers’ doing. It may manifest as obvious alienation, such as not being assigned to group projects or being relocated to sit somewhere away from others — under a suitable excuse, of course.
Who you work with is important, and the working relationships must be nurtured. OK, you don’t have to be best buddies outside of work, but you need to get along for the working environment to be harmonious. If you are physically alienated from others, or they are giving you the cold shoulder, your leaving the company is to be an expected turn of the event.
And that is exactly what the company is counting on.
Since we’ve gone through these uncomfortable telltale signs and diagnosed that quiet firing is happening to you, let’s try to speed through the “why me” phase and try to figure out what to do. You can, of course, leave straight away, try to persist in the hope things will change, or decide to be direct.
The last option entails mustering up the courage and asking to speak with your superior, HR, or directly to the management to describe the situation together with your doubts. You have nothing to lose — they will either be straightforward; they might deny it because you caught them off guard but admit it as soon as they’ve prepared better, or they might take your directness as a good sign and decide to give that working relationship another chance.
No matter the choice, the situation will soon resolve one way or the other, but what’s important is that you recognize the signals, and whichever path you choose, it is you that has chosen it.