Career Advice

What Is Quiet Firing and How To Stop It

Quiet firing is a form of managerial neglect that slowly pushes employees out of their jobs. Here’s how to spot potential issues and prevent them from negatively impacting your organization.


  • Quiet firing is when behaviors within a company push workers out the door without directly firing them.
  • Common signs include sudden exclusion from meetings, lack of recognition, unreasonable targets, and lack of advancement opportunities.
  • Employees should document incidents, know company policies, and have frank conversations with their managers if they suspect quiet firing.
  • Managers can avoid quiet firing by having regular 1:1 meetings, providing feedback and recognition, and investing in employee development.

What Is Quiet Firing?

Quiet firing describes when managers fail to adequately provide an employee with coaching, support, and career development, pushing that employee out of an organization. Also known as silent firing, it can involve management deliberately making the work environment unpleasant for underperforming or, in some cases, disliked employees to encourage them to resign. 

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More often, it’s an unintentional consequence of misguided or inadequate leadership. Without meaning to, managers may inadvertently quiet fire their team members by not helping them perform, develop, and feel appreciated for their contributions.

These managers are not necessarily toxic or directly hurtful. They may even care deeply about their workers.

 Unfortunately, they are generally more absent than present. They might be distracted by organizational politics or inconsistent with their expectations or messaging. Whatever the reason, when employees don’t get direction on their work priorities, ongoing development, and long-term career progression, they are more likely to look for another job. 

What Does Quiet Firing Look Like?

Common quiet firing examples include delaying promotions or excluding employees from key activities and discussions. This can occur for several reasons, including: 

Digital Communication Barriers

Online interactions with managers and co-workers don’t foster the same connection as direct in-person experiences. In these circumstances, important conversations can slip through the cracks more easily.

Terminating an employee can be costly due to severance, vacation day payouts, or legal challenges that could lead to litigation costs. Termination can affect workplace morale, potentially leading to further turnover and additional hiring costs if other employees leave.

Some companies hope to avoid the expense by encouraging the employee to quit on their own.

Avoiding Bad Publicity After Layoffs

Quiet firing is a low-key alternative to the office lockouts and Zoom firings that have made many headlines. Tactics like these are bad optics. So, some organizations have encouraged “self-selection,” setting strict guidelines on productivity goals and in-office work to make the work environment inhospitable to certain employees.

Is Quiet Firing Illegal?

Quiet firing could be illegal if it includes harassment, discriminatory practices, or breaches of employment laws. For example, if the employee targeted is over 40, this could be age discrimination. Ultimately, the legality of such actions would be determined by a court. Therefore, it is wise to avoid practices interpreted as quiet firing from the outset.

Is Quiet Firing Harassment?

Quiet firing could be considered harassment if the employer or manager deliberately makes the work environment unpleasant. It could also be considered retaliation, especially if the mistreatment starts immediately after an employee engages in a protected activity, such as complaining about working conditions or asking for workers’ compensation benefits. Again, since the ultimate judgment would likely occur in a courtroom or during arbitration, it’s important to look for and address potential issues.

Signs of Quiet Firing

How can you tell when quiet firing is happening to an employee? Quiet firing signs include several red flags:

  • Employer appears to underutilize a worker’s talents or skills.
  • Manager shifts an employee’s key tasks to others without a reasonable explanation.
  • Supervisor seems to have purposely blocked an employee’s growth opportunities
  • Employer sets unreasonable performance goals.
  • Manager denies the employee a well-deserved promotion.
  • Company assigns unwanted responsibilities that do not align with the worker’s role.
  • Supervisor no longer recognizes an employee’s contributions or constantly undervalue them
  • Employer inexplicably reduces an employee’s workload
  • Manager no longer offers the employee new work challenges
  • Supervisor no longer discusses a worker’s career trajectory with them
  • Company wrongfully demoted a worker without warning or reason.

What Employees Can Do to Avoid Quiet Firing

Since poor communication is one of the most common causes of quiet firing, employees should regularly check in with their supervisors and proactively ask about their performance. They should also seek to discuss their team’s struggles and how they can help achieve their department’s overall goals.

Workers can reduce the risk of quiet firing by asking for measurable ways to reveal when goals are met so managers can objectively know when this occurs. They can also ask for concrete feedback so they can take action and improve areas that may need attention.

Employees should directly address their managers to ask questions about raises, career trajectory, work challenges, or anything else that may have changed or gone unaddressed.

How Managers Can Prevent Quiet Firing

The main solution to quiet firing from a manager’s point of view is communication with an employee. That doesn’t necessarily mean constant status updates and performance reviews; sometimes, it can mean career coaching or casual conversation. Whatever the case, maintaining an open line of communication is important to foster a trusting relationship and promote engagement, accountability, and allyship in the workplace

To ensure that communication is as productive and constructive as possible, managers should lead on tools like stay interviews and DISC assessments to better understand each employee’s specific communication style and what works best for each.

Managers should also focus on developing emotional intelligence, building relationships with employees, and monitoring their productivity. Even if an employee is struggling to meet the demands of the job, having an emotionally intelligent conversation can often prevent the need for a manager to fire that employee—quietly or otherwise.

Wize Words

Whether it’s quiet quitting, quiet hiring, or quiet firing, issues can fly under the radar in busy work environments. Through open communication, individualized recognition, and an investment in employee development, managers can prevent the negative impacts of quiet firing and create a culture of accountability and growth.

Proactive efforts are key. After all, why wait until the exit interview to learn what you could have done better?


  • Ryan Lawrence

    Ryan Lawrence is a highly experienced HR writer who’s spent two decades covering diverse workplace topics for small- and mid-size businesses. With a keen eye for detail, he delves into the complexities of human resources, focusing on the trends impacting the workplace and giving HR professionals actionable solutions.

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The article was reviewed by Marisa Ramirez

Ryan Lawrence

Ryan Lawrence is a highly experienced HR writer who’s spent two decades covering diverse workplace topics for small- and mid-size businesses. With a keen eye for detail, he delves into the complexities of human resources, focusing on the trends impacting the workplace and giving HR professionals actionable solutions.

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