As a recession looms, many employers may be considering cutting down their workforce. While some are pursuing a more traditional route, others are opting for a subtler approach—Quiet Firing.
By now you’ve probably heard the term “Quiet Quitting”, where employees do only the bare minimum to avoid being fired. While quiet quitting is characterised by employee behaviour, quiet firing is the opposite. How employers treat their workforce is key to this new trend.
In this article we ask the questions:
- What is quiet firing?
- How much of an issue is quiet firing?
- What are the legal and HR implications of quiet firing?
What is quiet firing?
This is when an employer makes a workplace, or job role, unappealing, in the hope the employee quits. It’s a passive-aggressive method that means employers don’t have to actively dismiss the employee.
Of course, there are issues with this approach. Namely, if you take it too far, you risk creating a hostile work environment for the employee. If this happens, the individual may resign and try to claim constructive dismissal. Whether or not this happens depends on your behaviour as an employer…
Signs of quiet firing
There are many indicators of this method, including:
- Reassigning job responsibilities
- Passing over an employee for promotions or progression
- Not providing the relevant training for their role
- Giving an employee unreasonable or undesirable responsibilities
- Making pay cuts
- Preventing an employee from taking overtime when they want it
- Changing work hours or shift patterns
- Taking away perks or benefits
- Repeatedly cancelling or rescheduling meetings
- Providing overly-critical feedback or glossing over good work
- Providing no feedback on work
- Failing to provide critical information relating to the role
- Exclusion from team events or gatherings
How much of an issue is quiet firing?
It’s hard to quantify quiet firing as an issue, as it’s not a practice many employers own up to. Unlike quiet quitting which surged in popularity via social media. In August 2022, based on Google searches alone, it was a huge issue—there were more than 1.2 million searches of the term.
This indicates that while quiet firing may not have caught people’s attention the same way as quiet quitting, it’s still an issue that affects employees. In fact, it’s a practice that has been going on for a very long time. The factor that could’ve seen a rise in cases of quiet firing is the move to hybrid working.
As staff work from home, it becomes easier to “ghost” employees. If a manager does not fully buy in to the hybrid working model, they might fail to check in with an employee, beginning the process of quiet firing.
To avoid this scenario, make sure you have a full plan in place to manage hybrid staff. That way, no-one gets left behind…
What are the legal and HR implications of quiet firing?
Quiet firing is an HR nightmare. In some cases, it may not be illegal, it could quite easily stray into dangerous territory. Even if you don’t do anything wrong, an employee may feel they can raise a claim against you. And yes, you will be liable if a manager is quiet firing employees without your knowledge.
For an employee to claim harassment, they’ll have to demonstrate unwanted conduct. The outcome of this conduct creates an environment that:
- Humiliates them
- Offends them
- Intimidates them
- Is hostile
- Is degrading
Finally, if this behaviour is aimed at the employee due to a protected characteristic, or is sexual in nature, then it will be classed as harassment.
Another risk is that making contract changes without employee consent would constitute a breach of contract. This could result in a claim of constructive dismissal.
How do I stamp out quiet firing in my organisation?
As an employer, it’s important that you regularly check in with managers. An employment tribunal will not accept ignorance as an excuse for discrimination or breach of contract. These regular check ins will allow you to discuss any issues with your managers, including performance and conduct. If a manager doesn’t like an employee, or feels they’re a bad fit, talk through the options with them.
Under no circumstances should you cut off contact with an employee. Instead, regular meetings often combat the tensions felt between managers and their staff.
Employee surveys also help get a sample of the feeling of the workforce during a given period. Keep an eye out for red flags. Any dips in staff morale could be an indication that workers are being forced out.
Finally, make sure managers are properly trained to deal with difficult conversation and provide honest feedback. This will give them the confidence to manage issues instead of taking the easy way out via quiet firing.
Expert support with culture and performance
Quiet firing is a symptom of poor management, communication, and inadequate training. Luckily, it’s something you can address.
If you’re unsure where to start, speak to one of our expert HR advisors today on 01455 858 132.
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