Quiet Firing: How To Spot It

Portrait of young beautiful woman employee getting fired from work.
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By now we’ve all heard about “quiet quitting” — the controversial act of doing the bare minimum of what is expected of you as an employee. But there’s a new workplace buzzword in town. Quiet firing. 

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“According to a LinkedIn News poll from September 2022 with 20,000 responses, quiet firing is happening in the workplace,” said Sarah Doody, founder of the Career Strategy Lab™.  “The poll found that 48% of employees have seen it in the workplace and 35% indicated it’s happened to them.”

Doody went on to explain that quiet firing isn’t anything new. “It’s just that now we have a name for when managers identify someone who likely isn’t a fit for the long term and as a result, give them less time and attention in hopes they’ll leave instead of the manager needing to let them go,” Doody said. 

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Are you being “quiet fired”? Here are the 13 signs to look for. 

You’re Being Left Out of Important Initiatives

“It might seem like your team is making plans to operate without you, and that’s because [they are],” said Jess Sweet, a career coach and licensed therapist.  “If you find you’re not on a particular project that you feel you most definitely should be part of, you should wonder why.” 

People ‘Forget’ To Add You to Meetings

“A client of mine consistently found out about important parts of her job after they were set in motion,” Sweet said. “This was because she wasn’t being invited to meetings she should have been at to do her best in her role.” 

Lack of Transparency and Psychological Safety

“A telltale sign is when managers and colleagues start behaving in ways that make you feel you’ll be judged or reprimanded,” said Jenn Lim, a global workplace expert and the CEO of Delivering Happiness. “Another [red] flag is if you’re feeling like you’re ‘out of the know’ on things like meetings, side conversations, emails and projects.” 

Being Set Up for Failure 

“When you’re suddenly assigned an inordinate amount of tasks, projects, and goals, it might be towards the hope that you’ll get frustrated, burn out quicker and quit,” Lim said. 

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You Are Passed Over for Everything

“In this economic environment, getting a ‘no’ to a raise request isn’t a red flag by itself, yet consistent no’s to requests for raises, promotions, asking to be put on projects and more could be a sign,” Sweet said.  

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“Abrupt, inexplicable changes in behavior like people and managers avoiding you can be a toxic warning sign,” Lim said. “Be careful not to assume one-off behaviors automatically mean you’re being quietly fired; it’s important to observe the pattern of behaviors and the possible reasons behind them (that might not involve you).”

Excessive Attention

“On the flip side, when you’re suddenly getting a lot more emails, questions and (written/verbal) communication it may also be a flag that the company’s in the process of documenting your departure,” Lim said. “Same thing above applies here. Be careful not to assume this to be the case. People at all levels are going through mental and emotional shifts they might not have experienced before.”

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Denial of Essential Privileges  

Another sign you could be getting quiet fired, according to Paychex HR Coach, Lisa Reyes, PHR, SHRM-CP, is when an employer starts denying you basic employee perks or benefits. “These can include pay raises, promotions, career development, and benefits/PTO,” Reyes said.   

Your Role Is Shrinking

“Instead of taking on new responsibilities, your list of projects continues to shrink,” said Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. “You’re getting passed over for assignments, even after expressing your interest in taking on more work. If your boss seems to be actively reducing your responsibilities without a reasonable explanation, then they may be ‘quiet firing’ you.”

You’ve Been Demoted

“Instead of slowly chipping away at your responsibilities, your boss may choose to be more direct and flat-out demote you,” Augustine said. “This not-so-subtle action rarely leads to a long-term, happy work arrangement. If you’ve recently been demoted, it’s time to jump-start your job search and find an employer who appreciates the value you bring to the table.”

Your Boss Is Giving You the Cold Shoulder 

“You asked your manager for a one-on-one meeting, but they keep postponing it and dodging your calls,” Augustine said. “You requested a salary review, but were immediately turned down without explanation. You requested feedback on your work and aren’t receiving any. If you’re getting the cold shoulder and can’t figure out why it may be time to update your resume.” 

You’ve Lost Access

“If you’re no longer being included in discussions in which you previously participated, consider it a red flag,” Augustine said. “Not being invited to one meeting isn’t cause for concern; however, if you’re repeatedly left off email threads or meeting invites, you have cause for alarm. The same is true if your boss is no longer allowing you to participate in career-development initiatives or other programs designed to help you learn and grow in your role.”

You’re Not Being Challenged or Motivated by Your Boss 

“A main driver of disengagement (and therefore unhappiness) happens when people don’t feel progress or like they’re being challenged in healthy ways,” Lim said. “When managers stop trying to find ways to motivate you, don’t share ideas for new projects that you’d enjoy, or stop providing positive feedback or enticing career paths forward, it might be time you take control of your precious time and loudly quit instead.”

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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