Exploring the Quiet Firing Phenomenon in Remote Work

Exploring the Quiet Firing Phenomenon in Remote Work
Image Credit: Insider

Many people may have heard of “quiet quitting,” or refusing to do anything above and beyond what is specified in the job description. Quiet quitting comes with mixed reviews; some say that employees shouldn’t be expected to go above and beyond, while others maintain the action promotes a culture of doing as little as possible while not caring about the success or reputation of the organization.

But for every action there is a reaction, and every phenomenon has its opposite.

Enter quiet firing.

Quiet Firing

Quiet firing addresses the way that staffers are treated by their employers. Quiet firing isn’t quite the new concept it’s made out to be; in its previous iteration, it was known as constructive dismissal, and it describes a scenario where an employer deliberately maltreats or ignores a member of staff so they feel forced to resign, thus saving the employer from having to fire them or undertake redundancy or disciplinary proceedings.

The stealth of quiet quitting and quiet firing makes it incredibly hard for the party that is not in control — the employer in the case of quiet quitting, and the employee in the case of quiet firing — to recognize what is happening and do anything about it before it is too late.

Regardless of what we call it, quiet firing is a significant problem. Most people are at least acquainted with it— according to one LinkedIn poll, 83% of almost 20,000 respondents have seen it or experienced it firsthand. But before you head for the tech job boards to find alternative career opportunities, it can help to know a bit more about quiet firing, what it looks like, and what you can do if you experience it.

Identifying Quiet Firing

Like many forms of maltreatment, quiet firing can be hard to identify at first, as the employee may think they are being paranoid or over-sensitive. By the time quiet firing is identified, it is often too late, as the relationship with the employer is compromised to such an extent that the damage is irreparable.

Signs Of Quiet Firing

Lack of recognition: The employee isn’t given feedback or praise. They may be passed over for promotions. They often find themselves taking on more and more work beyond their job description in a desperate attempt to get the praise they deserve.

Subtle shifts in job description: New parameters may be put in place that make the employee’s job harder. For example, the employee may be given more work at a higher level that they are not paid or recognized for doing. They may be asked to work longer hours or work in the office more, even if they live far away or need to work flexibly to accommodate family commitments. If the employee reasonably pushes back on these demands, it is not unusual for a quiet firer to push back and question their commitment to the job.

Micromanagement: Few things are more demoralizing than being micromanaged, particularly if the line manager swings between a complete lack of support to stifling initiative or over-managing day-to-day elements of the employee’s work. For remote workers, this could include heavy-handed monitoring or even installing “bossware” on home computers to monitor activity.

Quiet firing for remote and hybrid workers may also include the setting of unreasonable targets and making unreasonable demands for the worker to come into the office. It may also include the opposite: arranging team meetings, conferences, or client events without informing the employee.

Any of the above scenarios can lead to added pressure and feeling out of the loop. They can also make an employee question their motivation and consider alternative options.

Why Is Quiet Firing Becoming More Common?

While quiet firing is a relatively new nomenclature, the act itself has been around since HR started keeping records. There are, sadly, occasions when people in positions of power make it increasingly difficult and uncomfortable for specific employees to continue doing their job properly, to the point that the employee leaves.

There are several reasons for quiet firing, constructive dismissal, constructive discharge, or constructive termination. None of them are particularly pleasant, no matter how hard the employer may try to justify their actions.

Identifying A Threat

“They are jealous of you.” Parents have been saying this to bullied children for centuries, but it is also true of quiet firers. If someone is belittling you, criticizing you, taking credit for your work, or trying to control you, then chances are that they feel threatened by you. You may not be after their job, but they may well think that you are; at the very least, they are aware that you could do their job as well or better than them.

This may not be a comfort in the moment, but if you recognize you are the threat, it can help you cope with the humiliation of the situation and provide insight into how you can deal with it. Just as when you encounter a scared predator in real life, you have two options: curl up in a ball so that they no longer see you as a threat, or make yourself bigger, louder, and better at your job than ever, so they know they can’t intimidate you.

Whatever you do, don’t quit if you can help it.

If You Experience Quiet Firing

If you experience quiet firing, it is better to take action sooner rather than later.

Ask for feedback: Tackle the uncertainty of whether you are being oversensitive or approaching a potential issue by asking for feedback. This could be part of your normal appraisal process; you can also reach out to your line manager with your concerns. If they can’t provide you with appropriate feedback and guidance, you have a right to escalate the situation.

Examine company culture: The funny thing with organizational cultures is you may think that issues are another person’s problem until you experience them for yourself — then you realize they are cultural issues.

Former employees frequently share their experiences on social media platforms, making it possible to search for their stories using hashtags. If you come across multiple negative accounts and notice a recurring pattern, take it as a warning sign.

The concerning aspect of quiet firing is that regardless of one’s talent or efforts, if the company has a history of engaging in such practices, there is always a chance of becoming the next victim. It is essential to remain vigilant; a toxic company culture can impact even the most dedicated individuals.

Work on your skills: You might not need to jump ship, but it may be comforting to know that you have options in place should you need them. Try connecting with a tech recruiter to see what is going on with the market and what opportunities are or may become available.

Protect Yourself Against Quiet Firing

In the realm of remote work — where communication and oversight can be challenging — the phenomenon of quiet firing poses a significant threat to employees. This article has shed light on the insidious nature of quiet firing, its signs, and the reasons behind its prevalence. By recognizing the warning signs and taking action early on, employees can protect themselves from the detrimental effects of quiet firing.

Whether it involves seeking feedback, evaluating company culture, or exploring alternative opportunities, it is crucial to prioritize one’s well-being and professional growth. With knowledge and proactive measures, individuals can navigate the remote work landscape with resilience and ensure their success and satisfaction in the long run.


This article is part of Buildremote’s contributor series. Occassionally, we’ll share other people’s ideas about running a remote company. If you have a topic you’d like to pitch for Buildremote, send us an idea here.

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