Camille, a freelance writer, saw her dream boss deteriorate into a toxic one after an open disagreement that she believes is the trigger to the "quiet firing" that she endured until she quit. Officially.
Since that office spat, Camille said her boss tagged her uncooperative and unpleasant to work with, without firing her outright. That's "quiet firing," where managers make working conditions unbearable to the point that it encourages resignation, according to HR experts.
That's the flipside of "quiet quitting" or Gen Z and young millennials setting healthy work boundaries and defying hustle culture by working within their job descriptions instead of going above and beyond.
"My boss was especially good at making it seem like it was the individual employee's fault for not being resilient enough or hardworking enough. Lakas maka-gaslight," said Camille, who's among the dozen or so workers who quit in her office this year.
What is quiet firing?
In quiet firing, it's the managers who intentionally or unintentionally make their employees feel they are not supported enough and let their performance slip until the only option is to quit voluntarily, said recruitment manager Bonnie Dilber, who went viral on LinkedIn for describing the new office phenomenon.
It's also called constructive dismissal, or the "new phrase for an old and awful practice" of managers who avoid officially firing their workers by making working conditions too miserable for them to function, said Johnathan Nightingale, co-founder of business management consultancy Raw Signal.
"When you're in an environment that feels like a dead end, it's hard to want to give more," said Dilber.
Quiet firing happens when a manager does these:
- Withhold feedback or praises
- Hold back on salary raises
- Fail to hold regular one-on-one meetings with employees
- Won't discuss or offer work opportunities
- Won't talk about an employee's career trajectory
- Reduce or remove a worker's contractual duties
- Exclude an employee from important decision-making processes they would previously have been involved with
- Reduce work hours
In the Philippines where constructive dismissal is illegal, an employee can only be terminated due to just causes—serious misconduct, neglect of duties, fraud, insubordination, loss of confidence, among others—or authorized causes due to redundancy, retrenchment, closure of operations, according to the Labor Code.
By quiet firing employees, companies won't have to deal with employees' development plans or offer severance pay that's given to those who were dismissed from service because they resigned on their own, Dilber said.
Staying at a job where an employee feels underappreciated can lead to lower self-esteem and trauma, and impact health and personal relationships, Dilber said. It makes employees less engaged, so companies should look into "poor managers" who don't support, train, or coach their subordinates properly.
What to do if your boss is quiet firing you
Here are some tips on what you can do if you feel that you're a victim of quiet firing:
Ask for direct feedback
Asking your manager for feedback regarding your work allows room for alignment between you and your boss. Through this, you can discuss what's next for you in your current career path, Dilber said.
Look for work allies
Build relationships with your colleagues and other managers and possible mentors, who can help you understand whether or not you are getting the right support at work, said Dilber.
Leave a paper trail
Save emails or other written and recorded conversations, concerns, or movements to your role which made an impact on your work so you can show it to your lawyer should you seek legal advice, said Nightingale.
Look for a new job
If you think you're in the right company, just not the right team, you can look to transfer jobs internally, she said. If the issue is with the company, you may start looking for a different job where your abilities can be better appreciated.
"Don't let your experience lead to doubts about your abilities—you might be an average employee in one context and a rock star in the next... don't give a job that much power over you," said Dilber.
Camille's tip for employees: if your boss makes you feel worthless, it's time to go.
"Ang daming jobs sa mundo. You don't have to force yourself to stay with a manager that makes you feel like shi**" she said.
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