If you’ve noticed that your boss doesn’t recognize your hard work and contributions like he used to, he may be quietly firing you.
According to Team Building, a team development company, silent firing is a “passive-aggressive approach to performance management.” This concept can appear in different ways, both deliberately and inadvertently. Instead of outright firing employees, these managers will make the workplace as unpleasant as possible, encouraging employees to quit or neglecting them for lack of feedback or resources.
Annie Rosencrans, director of people and culture at HiBob, says despite the new terminology, silent shooting is a concept that’s been around for a while. A recent LinkedIn News poll of more than 20,000 respondents found that 48% of employees have witnessed silent layoffs in the workplace and 35% have faced them in their careers.
“I think this idea of silent dismissal is done unintentionally or unknowingly by managers who are afraid or reluctant to give direct feedback when things aren’t going well with an employee,” Rosencrans told CNBC Make It. “Managers who know someone isn’t training and know they want them gone… [may] just ignore them, hoping they will go away on their own. It’s something very unhealthy.”
Here are three things you should know about silent shots that could help you in the workplace.
What to pay attention to
While it can be difficult to decipher whether or not you’re fired, experts say there are several clues to watch out for. According to Rosencrans and Paul Lewis, Chief Customer Officer at Adzuna, employees should watch 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 talking to you.
- You have been chosen to answer difficult questions during team or company meetings.
- Your ideas are ignored.
- You are not challenged or given additional opportunities and projects.
- You are excluded from meetings, events and/or social gatherings.
How to avoid it
There are several things an employee can do to try to avoid a silent dismissal, the most important being communication, according to Lewis.
“If you’re fired quietly, you’re more likely to quit quietly. It’s really tough, but you have departments like HR that you can go to,” Lewis says. “You can make sure your complaints are logged and they are aware of how you feel. And a good company will take those complaints seriously.”
Lewis also recommends that employees speak directly to their managers to try to resolve the issue.
“Talk to your manager, challenge them, ask for progress, keep pushing and try to show them how ambitious, committed and mission ready you are.”
The silent shot is the management’s problem, not yours
Being mistreated or ignored at work can harm an employee’s mental health, which will force them to make the difficult decision to persist or leave their job. However, Lewis reassures workers that quiet firings, which he calls “workplace bullying,” are more indicative of your manager’s work ethic than yours.
“Ultimately, if [the quiet firing] says 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 you probably have yourself?”
Rosencrans adds that managers need to make sure they create opportunities for “development, growth and learning,” especially for millennials 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 grow. It’s a really effective retention and engagement tool,” says Rosencrans. “And if it’s an underperforming employee, that request from them to their manager can open the door for their manager to say, ‘Hey, I appreciate you wanting to grow and develop in these new areas. But first, I really need you to focus on your core responsibilities. And those are the gaps that I see.'”
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