Quiet quitting became a buzzphrase recently after several videos regarding the topic went viral on social media. The term refers to the situation in which employees silently rebel against employers by doing the bare minimum at work.

Several factors sparked the quiet quitting trend, not the least of which are work-related stressors such as low pay, burnout, lack of opportunities for advancement, and poor working conditions. Rather than speaking their opinions, the trend shows employees silently rebel by no longer going the extra mile and only doing what their job description required – just enough to avoid getting fired.

Employers have reacted with another silent form of retaliation towards this behavior: Quiet firing.

What’s quiet firing?

Quiet firing is described as an employer deliberately treating an employee badly so that they will quit, thus avoiding awkward conversations, as well as severance. The employer wants the employee to go but does not want to do the firing — so the employer provokes the employee into leaving. 

As stated by Time Magazine, “Social media influencer DeAndre Brown was one of the first people to mention the term in a viral TikTok video on Aug. 24, where he describes ‘quiet firing’ as a workplace that fails to reward an employee for their contributions to an organization, forcing them to leave their jobs.” 

Examples of quiet firing could be an employer not giving a clearly-deserving employee a raise, giving them poor performance reviews despite satisfactory performance, or increasing their workload to an exorbitant degree without additional pay. Some have also experienced quiet quitting in the form of insufficient or minimal paid time off or sick time.  

According to a recent Forbes article, other signs of quiet firing include:  

  • Delegating an employee’s favorite projects to other employees 
  • Reducing their work hours with no reasonable explanation. 
  • Excluding the employee from important emails, meetings, or discussions. 
  • Assigning them undesirable tasks no one wants to do 
  • Changing an employee’s job description or title without their input 
  • Asking them to start documenting everything pertaining to their work. 
  • Sabotaging their career growth 
  • Discouraging them with continuous negative feedback 

Does it work?

The question of the hour is, does the method of quiet firing work? A popular LinkedIn [ost stated that “It [quiet firing] works great for companies…eventually, you’ll feel so incompetent, isolated, or unappreciated that you’ll go find a new job, and they never have to deal with a development plan or offer severance.” 

In short, it typically accomplishes the goal employers set out with but is it ethical? Experts caution against it as the practice can backfire for several reasons. One of these reasons is that employers overworking employees without reasonable compensation can violate overtime laws, and the employers may open themselves up to constructive dismissal lawsuits.  

Other ways quiet firing may backfire are: 

  • Employers cannot legally withhold an employee’s pay for time worked. 
  • Not providing enough sick time may violate applicable paid sick leave laws. 
  • It can create a toxic workplace culture which can increase overall turnover. 

What can employees do? 

Speak up. The habit of attempting manipulation via quiet quitting or quiet firing isn’t advised in the workplace. If you feel you are being quiet fired, be transparent with your managers about the issue. If the problem is not resolved or addressed, employees can escalate the issue or bring it to HR. Cultivating a workplace where communication is suppressed can lead to violations and open companies to the risk of lawsuits. If you don’t know how to navigate and resolve these types of issues within your organization, we recommend you reach out to an HR Expert.

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