Quiet firing: what is it and why is it bad?

Are poor management skills demotivating and demoralising valuable employees causing them to quit? Quiet firing could be damaging your business.

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The professional relationships between employees and their managers can make or break a workplace. According to recent research, the United Kingdom has incredibly low workplace engagement. Instead of feeling a satisfying sense of belonging, 90% of U.K. employees feel disengaged from their team members. That high figure could relate to the rise in quiet firing, which has harmful consequences for employers and employees.

What is quiet firing?

Quiet firing is when workplace leaders purposefully or neglectfully manage their employees poorly – for example, not being clear about KPIs or providing training – ultimately deteriorating their job performance and firing them for issues that wouldn’t exist under more skilled supervisors. It’s a concerning effect when only a quarter of U.K. managers have training regarding employee management. 

Imagine someone starting their first job as a receptionist. They answer phone calls and pass along messages to the people in their office, but they don’t collect all the necessary information people need. Instead of teaching the new employee how to do so correctly, their manager puts off the conversation due to lack of experience or anxiety.

The receptionist’s job performance remains subpar, and team members grow frustrated. The employee loses their job over something easy to fix with proper training. It’s very different than someone being a genuinely bad fit for the team or not having the right experience for complex job responsibilities.

How does it relate to wellness washing?

Wellness washing — or well-being washing — is when businesses discuss their concern for employee mental health through social media posts, in-office posters and potential group discussions. However, the companies actively wellness washing don’t provide resources for employees to improve their mental health.

More than 38% of U.K. employees feel their employers are wellness-washing. It stems from the same managerial neglect as quiet firing because neither habit prioritises employee well-being through actionable steps.

How can quiet firing hurt employees and employers?

Quiet firing is more concerning than managerial teams might suspect. These are the primary ways it harms employers and employees, holding businesses and communities back from their full potential.

1. Turnover rates remain high

No one enjoys feeling forgotten. Managers are supposed to invest their time and energy into their teams to help their employees become the best versions of themselves. Research shows 50% of neglected employees find new employment within 12 months of starting a job, compared to 21% of employees with effective managers.

If team members stay in their roles for 12 months or less, costly turnover rates remain high for small and large companies. Hiring and training new employees allows businesses to focus on growth goals and reinvest in their existing teams.

2. Employees don’t experience forward financial momentum

People can’t grow without recognising their mistakes and learning how to fix them. It’s a manager’s job to create those opportunities, especially if they’re working with people just starting their careers.

When someone’s job performance doesn’t improve, they don’t get raises or promotions. It holds their annual pay at a low rate. Considering how every two in five U.K. workers live payday-to-payday, remaining at one income level for months or years is discouraging. They need financial momentum to improve their quality of life, but they won’t get it if their managers are quiet firing them via neglect.

3. Community progress becomes stagnant

Helping employees become effective team members makes workplaces better and improves local communities. Instead of quiet firing people, management teams teach their team members through learning opportunities.

According to Watermark Insights, learning opportunities improve teams and communities by empowering people to dream bigger. Employees gain more self-confidence once they see themselves learning new things and excelling in those topics. Their confidence eventually becomes beneficial for their community because they develop a desire to give back after learning more about the world or develop entrepreneurial solutions to longstanding challenges.

4. Workplace bullying may increase

The Equality Act of 2010 may have made workplace harassment illegal, but bullying still happens. Employees and managers may spread rumours and mock or otherwise avoid team members who are bad at their jobs. Those team members don’t feel welcomed or comfortable at work. This toxic work culture negatively affects their mental health and makes them more likely to seek employment elsewhere.

5. Employers get bad reputations

Companies can release positive ads and open job positions with glowing descriptions all day, but people talk. They know when their loved ones have bad experiences working for specific brands. People also post employee reviews of their employers online to warn others of mistreatment or ineffective management.

Quiet firing creates bad reputations for the companies allowing it to continue. It’s much better to be the business that helps its employees grow professionally through trained management teams who care.

Improve the workplace for everyone

Employers, employees and the surrounding community benefit when teams recognise and stop quiet firing practices. Everyone deserves to feel welcomed at work and supported in their professional growth. The first step is spotting the signs of quiet firing and motivating management teams to become more effective by stopping harmful leadership habits.

Mia Barnes - Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine

Mia Barnes is a freelance writer and researcher with over 3 years of experience in the field. With a specialization in workplace wellness, financial well-being, human factors, and ergonomics, her articles aim to educate and empower readers, providing them with practical tips and insights to enhance their overall well-being in various aspects of their lives. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online publication, Body+Mind magazine.

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