If you’ve noticed that your boss doesn’t recognize your hard work and contributions like they used to, they may quietly fire you.
According to Team Building, a team development company, silent firing is a “passive-aggressive approach to performance management.” This concept can appear in various ways – both intentionally and unintentionally. Instead of directly firing employees, these managers will make the workplace as unpleasant as possible by encouraging employees to quit or by neglecting them due to lack of feedback or resources.
Annie Rosencrans, director of people and culture at HiBob, says that despite the new terminology, silent firing is a concept that has been around for a while. A recent LinkedIn News survey of over 20,000 respondents found that 48% of employees have seen silent firing in the workplace, and 35% have experienced it during their careers.
“I think this idea of silent firing is done unintentionally or unconsciously by managers who are afraid or hesitant to give direct feedback when an employee is not doing well,” Rosencrans tells CNBC Make It. “Managers who know someone isn’t training and know they want them to leave… [may] just ignore them, hoping they will go away on their own. It is a very unhealthy thing’.
Here are three things you should know about silent firing that can help you in the workplace.
What to watch out for
While it can be hard to tell whether or not you’re being quietly fired, experts say there are several tips to watch out for. According to Rosencrans and Paul Lewis, chief customer officer at Adzuna, employees should look out for these red flags:
- You haven’t seen a pay rise after one to two years.
- You receive no meaningful feedback from your manager.
- Your manager avoids engaging with you.
- You have been selected to answer difficult questions at team or company meetings.
- Your ideas will be ignored.
- You are not challenged or given additional opportunities and projects.
- You are left out of meetings, events and/or social gatherings.
Here’s how to avoid it
There are several things an employee can do to try to avoid silent firings, the biggest of which is to communicate, according to Lewis.
“If you’re quietly fired, you’re more likely to quit. It’s really tough, but you have departments like HR that you can go to,” explains Lewis. “You can make sure you’ve logged your complaints and that they’re aware of how you feel. And a good company will take those complaints seriously.”
Lewis also recommends that employees talk to their managers directly to try to resolve the issue.
“Talk to your manager, challenge them, ask for growth, keep pushing, and try to show them how ambitious, how committed, and how ready you are for the mission.”
Silent firing is management’s problem, not yours
Being mistreated or ignored at work can put a damper on an employee’s mental health, requiring them to make the difficult decision to remain persistent or leave the role. However, Lewis assures workers that silent firings, which he refers to as “workplace bullying,” are more telling of your manager’s work ethic than yours.
“In the end, if [the quiet firing] continues, I would question the individual in that role,” explains Lewis. “Do you really want to work for a toxic company? Do you really want to work for a company that doesn’t respect you? Doesn’t that embody the values that you probably have yourself?”
Rosencrans adds that managers should ensure they create opportunities for “development, growth and learning,” especially for millennial and Gen Z employees, if they want to retain workers.
“Managers should open up opportunities for employees who are ambitious and want to continue to develop. It’s a really effective retention and engagement tool,” says Rosencrans. “And if it’s an underperforming employee, that inquiry from them to their manager can open the door for their manager to say, ‘Hey, I appreciate that you want to grow and develop into these new areas. But first have I really need you to focus on your core responsibilities. And those are the gaps I see.”
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