4 Reasons ‘Quiet Firing’ is Bad for Business

Merilee Kern
5 min readMay 22, 2024

While the phenomenon of “quiet quitting” — representing an employee doing the least required for their job to just “get by” until they opt to leave or are let go — having gained its fair share of attention in recent years, another clandestine workplace practice us underway: quiet firing. This subtle, equally insidious practice is typified by employees being “nudged out” amid a workplace culture and conditions cultivating voluntary resignations rather than the staffer being formally terminated.

There are a litany of ways companies can passively undertake quiet firing, with many associated with unwelcome changes. For example, according to Harvard Business Review (HBR), such changes typifying quiet firing often include that related to workplace job responsibilities, compensation, working conditions and supervisor communication. The report included specific examples like reassigning important job responsibilities to other employees; pay cuts or not providing expected yearly bonuses or raises; changing work hours or regular shifts; forcing relocation; evaluating an employee unfairly by providing excessively harsh feedback or constant criticism of work; and not giving an employee credit for their work, or even worse, giving the credit to others. Pew Research findings uphold these revelations, citing that “low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs” during the study period.

“Quiet firing, a paradigm that has emerged in recent discussions about workplace dynamics, refers to the subtle and often indirect ways in which organizations push employees out of their roles,” notes relational leadership and management authority Cheryl L. Mason, J.D., an acclaimed TEDx speaker, author and Chief Catalyst at Catalyst Leadership Management — a firm helping leaders function with authenticity and empathy for an impactful morale-boosting, people-centric management approach. “Unlike traditional firing, which is direct and straightforward, quiet firing employs passive-aggressive tactics such as giving employees unmanageable workloads, excluding them from key projects, or micromanaging them to the point of frustration. While this approach might seem like an easy way to avoid confrontation, it can have detrimental effects on both the organization and its leaders.”

According to Mason, a staff relations authority whose widely hailed book “Dare to Relate: Leading with a Fierce Heart centers on cultivating strong workforce relationships, “quiet firing hurts organizations by adversely impacting outcomes, deflating employee morale, damaging reputations and costing money … just to name a few of the counterproductive effects.”

Below, Mason further details these four particular ways that quiet firing can hurt an organization.

Adversely Impacting Outcomes
When organizations quietly fire employees, they risk losing valuable talent. These employees often possess unique skills, knowledge, and experience that are crucial to the success of the organization. By pushing them out, organizations not only lose these assets but also disrupt workflows and project timelines. The remaining employees may struggle to fill the gaps, leading to decreased productivity and suboptimal outcomes.

Deflating Employee Morale
Quiet firing creates a toxic work environment where employees feel undervalued and unsupported. This can lead to a significant drop in morale, as employees become disengaged and demotivated. When workers see their colleagues being quietly pushed out, it fosters an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. This can lead to increased stress, reduced job satisfaction, and higher turnover rates, all of which are detrimental to organizational health.

Hindering Reputation
Organizations that engage in quiet firing risk damaging their reputation. Word spreads quickly in professional networks, and employees who feel mistreated are likely to share their experiences. This can lead to negative reviews on platforms like Glassdoor, making it difficult for the organization to attract top talent. A tarnished reputation can also affect relationships with clients, partners, and other stakeholders, further harming the organization’s prospects.

Increased Expenses
Quiet firing is not a cost-effective strategy. The process of hiring and training new employees is expensive and time-consuming. When experienced employees are pushed out, organizations must invest in recruiting and onboarding replacements. Additionally, the loss of institutional knowledge can lead to costly mistakes and inefficiencies. In the long run, quiet firing can result in higher operational costs and reduced profitability.

“Quiet firing might seem like an easy way to manage difficult employees, but it is a short-sighted approach that can have far-reaching negative consequences,” says Mason.

Apparently, this can include legal ramification. According to the HBR report, if one suspects they are being quiet fired they can seek legal help. “Sometimes consulting with an attorney or union representative can help you assess the severity of a situation and determine the best way to handle it,” the report outlines. “In addition, sometimes just the knowledge that you have consulted with an attorney or union representative is enough to deter a supervisor from continuing down the path of quiet firing.”

Mason urges a more empathetic, EQ-driven human resources approach. “Instead of taking the quiet firing approach, leaders should focus on understanding employee needs, strategically allocating resources, building strong relationships and supporting and developing their teams. By doing so, they can create a positive work environment that fosters engagement, productivity, and long-term success.”

By developing a workplace culture in this way, leaders can avoid creating a toxic workplace environment exemplified by poor communication, ineffective leadership, low morale and high turnover. Indeed, a supportive and nurturing atmosphere founded on open dialogue with approachable managers can greatly enhance staff satisfaction and retention. This kind of respectful, sensitive and employee-forward approach can also notably improve individual and team performance, reduce absenteeism, bolster reputation and thwart other costly budget busters that undermine the success and sustainability of the organization at large. Don’t quiet fire, but rather enthusiastically inspire!

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Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand strategist and analyst who reports on noteworthy industry change makers, movers, shakers and innovators across all B2B and B2C categories. This includes field experts and thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations and events. Merilee is Founder, Executive Editor a nd Producer of “The Luxe List” as well as Host of the “Savvy Ventures” business TV show that airs nationally on FOX Business TV and Bloomberg TV and the “Savvy Living” lifestyle TV show that airs in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta and other major markets on CBS, FOX and other top networks. As a prolific business and consumer trends, lifestyle and leisure industry voice of authority and tastemaker, she keeps her finger on the pulse of the marketplace in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from the affordable to the extreme — also delving into the minds behind the brands. Her work reaches multi-millions worldwide via broadcast TV (her own shows and copious others on which she appears) as well as a myriad of print and online publications. Connect with her at www.TheLuxeList.com and www.SavvyLiving.tv / Instagram www.Instagram.com/MerileeKern / Twitter www.Twitter.com/MerileeKern / Facebook www.Facebook.com/MerileeKernOfficial / LinkedIN www.LinkedIn.com/in/MerileeKern.

Sources:

https://hbr.org/2022/11/are-you-being-quiet-fired

https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/03/09/majority-of-workers-who-quit-a-job-in-2021-cite-low-pay-no-opportunities-for-advancement-feeling-disrespected/

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