Should Remote Workers Be Worried About Quiet Firing?

Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years. This has resulted in some interesting new phenomena in the new-normal workplace.

Worried About Quiet Firing

Quiet firing is one of them. In this article, we’ll examine whether remote workers need to worry about quiet firing and what they can do to protect themselves.

We’ll also provide some tips for employees on what they can do to prepare and defend themselves should they find themselves being quietly fired.

What Is Quiet Firing?

According to ZDNet, this is when a manager deliberately keeps an employee at a distance from any opportunity to further their career progression. This might be, for example, by stopping them from working on high-profile projects or it might be the act of preventing a raise or a promotion. 

This is different from the idea of “constructive dismissal” or “constructive discharge”. With constructive dismissal, the manager adopts a sort of passive-aggressive stance to the employee in order to bully the person out of the business. 

The behavior of constructive dismissal is usually designed to lead an employee to resign quickly so that the company doesn’t have to fire them or make them redundant and thus, in turn, doesn’t have to compensate them for leaving. 

Constructive dismissal is, in most parts of the world, illegal (though the law can be complicated) and is a form of wrongful termination. No such protection exists, yet, for “quiet firing”.

Check out this article on quiet quitting on ZDNET. It’s worth the read.

Is Quiet Firing Real?

Yes. Take a look at this TikTok which emulates a quiet firing in real life. It shows a pattern of managerial behavior that most of us have seen at some points in our lives.

A manager who assigns excessively menial tasks, who has ridiculous expectations of an employee despite their salary, experience, contract and qualifications, and who consistently refuses time off is guilty of “quiet firing”.

Why Do Managers Behave Like This?

It should come as no real surprise, but managers that behave like this do so because they’re not very good managers. 

A good manager sits an employee down and has an uncomfortable conversation when things are going off track and then they offer guidance and support to get the ball rolling properly.

A bad manager, on the other hand, wants to avoid this kind of conversation, often because they have little confidence in themselves to handle that or because they feel they are too overworked to have the bandwidth or emotional space to deal with it. 

Why Does This Matter To Remote Workers?

The kind of behavior involved in “quiet firing” is difficult to deal with in an office. It means either confronting your boss or reaching out to HR to have a hard talk about what is, essentially, workplace bullying from your boss. 

But remote workers are especially vulnerable to this kind of treatment. In an office, you might turn to colleagues for advice and support in this kind of situation. At home or in a cafe, you’re much less likely to feel you can turn to “virtual colleagues”. 

In a recent McKinsey report, remote workers made it clear that their biggest problem in the virtual workplace is communication. They said that this was true both between managers and staff and between team members. 

On the flip side of the coin, if you have a remote job which is not a “high contact” position between you and your boss, you may start to believe you are being “quietly fired” when, in fact, you’re just trusted to get on with things. 

And this is likely to add to the level of anxiety associated with remote work (nearly 47% of remote workers already suffer from some kind of anxiety related to their working out of the office) which could, eventually, lead to burnout

How To Handle Quiet Firing As A Remote Worker?

If you feel that you are being quietly fired then it’s something that you will need to either accept or tackle.

Acceptance doesn’t mean enjoying the process, it means finding another job and quitting on your terms, rather than handing in your notice in a fit of rage, which only benefits your bad manager. 

We’d quit on our terms if we were generally unhappy in the role or felt we’d come to a point where progression was essential for further personal development. 

Tackling it means seeking support and raising the issue with your manager or with HR. 

It’s best to raise any issues directly with your manager if you feel they are avoiding you because they feel too busy to cope.

We’d go to HR if you think your boss lacks the leadership skills to hold the hard conversations. And yes, we appreciate this is going to be hard to gauge if you’ve only ever worked with a manager remotely. 

If your company has a grievance-style procedure, we’d hold off on using it until you’ve had an informal chat with HR. Often poor management issues can be easily resolved with a nudge from above and you risk sparking a war with your manager if you take things formal too early.