You’ve probably heard the term “quiet quitting,” which began on TikTok and then went viral online. In short, quiet quitting refers to employees silently rebelling against their employer by doing the bare minimum at work.
This rebellion is being triggered by work-related stressors, such as low pay, burnout, lack of advancement opportunities or poor working conditions. These employees no longer go the extra mile; they simply do what their job description requires — just enough to avoid getting fired.
Now, employers are fighting back in the form of quiet firing.
What is quiet firing?
Quiet firing is when an employer deliberately treats an employee badly so that he or she will quit the job. The employer wants the employee to go but doesn’t want to do the firing — so the employer provokes the employee into leaving.
Time magazine explains, “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.”
For example, the employer refuses to give a pay raise to an employee who clearly deserves it.
Other signs of quiet firing, according to an article on Forbes.com, are:
- Delegating employees’ favorite projects to other people.
- Assigning them undesirable tasks that no one wants to do.
- Reducing their work hours without a reasonable explanation.
- Increasing their workload to an exorbitant degree without additional pay.
- Excluding them from important meetings, emails or discussions.
- Changing their job description or title without their input.
- Asking them to start documenting everything pertaining to their work.
- Sabotaging their career growth.
- Discouraging them with constant negative feedback.
- Giving them poor performance reviews even though they performed well.
Social media users say quiet firing may also take the form of minimal paid time off or minimal sick time.
Does quiet firing work for employers?
Time magazine cites the following quote from a LinkedIn post that went viral:
“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.”
However, experts caution employers against quiet firing, as it can backfire for these reasons:
- Employers cannot legally withhold an employee’s pay for time worked.
- Not providing enough sick time may violate applicable paid sick leave laws.
- Requiring employees to put in extra time without extra pay could run afoul of overtime laws.
- The employer may open itself up to constructive dismissal lawsuits.
- A toxic workplace culture may take root, which increases turnover.
What employees can do
Career experts advise employees to speak up if they think they are being quiet fired. They should be transparent with their managers about the issue. But if their managers refuse to address the problem, employees should take the matter to HR or the manager’s boss.
Similar to quiet quitting, quiet firing is not a recommended practice.