If you have ever felt like your boss is giving you no choice but to quit your job to advance your career, you may be getting “quiet fired.”
A LinkedIn poll in August defined quiet firing as management going years without giving a person a raise or promotion, shifting their responsibilities to tasks requiring relatively less experience, or deliberately withdrawing development and leadership opportunities.
Of the more than 200,000 respondents on the platform, a whopping 48% said they had witnessed a colleague being quiet fired.
To be clear, quiet firing is different from the popular “quiet quitting” trend you may have heard about on social media. While employees who quiet quit are choosing to do the bare minimum in their role while they search for their next career move, employers are in control of quiet firing. People are managed out rather than up.
In some cases, quiet firing can cause quiet quitting. The disengagement felt by quiet quitters can stem from environments that don’t support their career growth, according to Bonnie Dilber, a recruiter with app-automation company Zapier.
“It often starts not with the employee, but with the employer — the employer not really engaging with an employee or investing in them or developing them or putting time into supporting them,” she said. “The outcome of that is that the employee does start to be disengaged.”
A boss may send both subtle and obvious signals that an employee has no real future at a company and that their best option would be to look elsewhere.
”Quiet firing absolutely happens. Sometimes, the decision is political, such as when the higher-ups have a favorite and it isn’t you — and [they’re] pushing you out,” said Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard College and a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches the unspoken rules of career navigation.
“Other times, the decision is a matter of performance, where maybe your manager tried to give you feedback, didn’t see the behavior change they wanted within the timeline they had expected, [and] so is giving up.”
Here are some common signs that you are being pushed out of your job:
1. Your boss is MIA for much-needed conversations.
A potential indication of quiet firing is when you get the sense that your boss is avoiding conversations with you, according to Ng.
“They might have been busy, sure, but they could also be thinking, ‘I know this will get very awkward, very quickly, so let me just hide my face,’” he said.
In a popular LinkedIn post, Dilber said that reshuffling or canceling an employee’s meetings is common in quiet firing.
“You manager’s No. 1 job is to ensure that the people on their teams are happy, successful and thriving, and to remove obstacles and blockers from their way. If your manager is not taking the time to understand your work ... then there’s a problem,” she told HuffPost.
“Whether it’s because your manager doesn’t believe in you or whether it’s because it’s a place that doesn’t support managers and leaders to be able to take care of their people ... this is not an environment where you can grow and thrive,” she added.
2. Your boss assigns opportunities you wanted to other team members.
Another sign of quiet firing is when your boss entrusts preferred projects to other team members instead of you, Ng said.
“Diversion is when your manager, who had previously promised to give you a certain assignment, all of a sudden redirects the work to someone else,” he said. “They might have changed their mind, sure, but they could also be thinking: ‘I don’t trust you. Let me give this high-profile project to someone I know will do this job and do it well.’”
Ng suggests asking a co-worker if they’ve experienced a similar behavior change from your manager. Then, you can set up a meeting to talk with your boss about how you can get those choice assignments.
“The first step to solving the situation is to diagnose the situation. Is your manager’s behavior change really due to them quietly firing you?” he said. “Or might you be reading too much into the situation and interpreting their every action with doom and gloom in mind?”
3. Your boss can’t provide clarity on why your co-workers are getting raises and promotions while you aren’t.
Even if your manager is physically present for career conversations, they may be quiet firing you if the discussions leave you confused about what you need to be more successful.
You may only get small raises while others receive much more, or you might be consistently passed over for promotions even though you’re working as hard as your peers, Dilber said.
She recommends having a direct conversation with your manager about what they need to see from you to get that bigger raise or title.
“If they’re not able to tell you, then to me that’s not a place where you have a trajectory or are going to have opportunities for growth,” Dilber said. “It’s your employer’s job to tell you that proactively.”
4. You are placed on an unreasonable performance improvement plan.
Sometimes, performance improvement plans are genuine opportunities for employees to grow. However, if you are competent and the PIP is only based on subjective feedback, it’s actually just code for “we want you to quit.”
Being placed on a PIP is perhaps the least quiet sign that you’re being managed out, but even when explaining your goals for improvement, an employer may not be honest about its true intent.
As Nadia De Ala, the founder of group coaching program Real You Leadership, previously told HuffPost, “if the action items are literally unachievable and highly improbable to deliver in the expected time frame, or if your boss and stakeholders aren’t offering any support for you to succeed in hitting all your to-do’s,” then the PIP might actually aim to just push you out the door.
5. Your job expectations or workload changes without any input from you.
Another clue that you’re being quiet fired is when your employer’s expectations change without input from you and without any adjustment in title or pay, said career coach Jasmine Escalera.
“Organizations count on the fact that we are shackled to the money and to the salary, so they believe they can do this.”
Escalera said she saw this happen to a colleague who got her workload reduced and her job moved to another state.
“They told her if she wanted to keep her job, she would have to move all the way across the country to California from New York, and that’s the only way she would be able to keep her position,” Escalera said. “They weren’t offering any additional relocation or any additional pay. It was for the same job, downgraded, in a completely different state.”
When there is no renegotiation of terms with employees after a big change, the message being sent is “accept the way it is or just leave,” she said.
“Organizations count on the fact that we are shackled to the money and to the salary, so they believe they can do this. And they also feel like they have the upper hand in that if you leave, they will find someone else.”