Quiet firing is more than a slogan

Quiet firing is not just a PR slogan, but it’s also nothing new. It needs to be understood and interrogated because it’s no good for either employer or employee.

Upset women on the phone


A poll last week from law firm Irwin Mitchell talked about ‘quiet firing’. It seemed like they were jumping on the bandwagon. There has been a lot around about ‘quiet quitting’ – which basically seems to be a slogan used to describe demotivation, which, of course, is nothing new. PR companies are constantly looking for new ways to package stuff so it seems like a new trend and gets coverage. I can’t recall anyone talking about quiet firing so it seemed unsurprising that 90% of people polled didn’t know what it was. It’s a made-up PR thing. Yet there was an important message to get across in the poll.

It turns out quiet firing is all the subtle and not so subtle ways that people are made to feel marginalised, pushed aside, forced to resign without being told to. It’s something that happens all the time and women who have children can be particularly affected. We hear from many who are made to feel marginalised, a problem, excluded from decision-making and so forth. Few take legal action because it can be hard to prove if you don’t track it daily and show the cumulative effect.

Legal action is not an easy path – and this has been made so much worse by all the backlogs in the justice system. It can take years to get justice, if you do get it. By then you may have left the employer and all the damaging impact in terms of undermining your confidence and so forth will have been done. That can affect you for a very long time afterwards. You are made to feel that you are at fault, that your work has suffered due to maternity leave or having children or whatever, rather than that your employer has failed to support you through a very difficult transition.

It is surely better to raise awareness about the problem and mobilise to achieve a change in work culture, to communicate how damaging the whole process is for both employer and employee, and get people to lobby for change. For anyone who has been through the process with all the anxiety and additional pressure it causes, it can feel that it may be better to leave than spend time in an organisation that doesn’t support you, better to give your time and dedication to something that is worth it.

But legal action creates precedents that help others and drives change. Both the carrot and stick are important for culture change. Until employers realise that backing managers who bully and act appallingly does more harm than good to their bottom line – until they see the pattern in people leaving – then nothing will change. Commitment is a two-way thing. Quiet firing and quiet quitting are two sides of the same coin.

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