According to a large-scale LinkedIn poll from August 2022, 48% of respondents had observed management “outing” a team member. Another 35% of those surveyed had experienced such attitudes themselves.
Here’s how to recognize that you’ve been the target of “survival” at work and what to do about it.
What is Quiet Firing
Nita Schinzer, a professor at the Gordon Lang School of Business and Economics in Canada, says she has often encountered Quiet Firing in companies where she has worked. In these situations, the manager or organization makes conditions so unbearable that the employee has no choice but to leave.
A quick test for signs of Quiet Firing:
1. There hasn’t been a pay raise in one or two years.
2. You receive no or no specific feedback on your performance.
3. Your manager is avoiding you.
4. You’ve been “put on edge”: you’re usually the one who answers difficult/unpleasant questions at team or company meetings.
5. Your ideas are ignored.
6. You are not given new challenging tasks, projects or other opportunities for growth.
7. You are “turned off” from team interaction: chats, meetings, team building sessions.
Gorick Ng, a career counselor at Harvard College, notes that Quiet Firing has two main reasons:
- It’s a political decision (e.g., top managers have a favorite – and push another employee out for him or her).
- It’s an efficiency issue (the manager gave the employee feedback, but didn’t see results or was faced with a refusal to change anything).
HRD of HR platform HiBob Annie Rosenkranz leans toward the second reason. Quiet Firing, she says, is a consequence of managers losing faith in team members’ ability to do their jobs. Instead of giving people feedback and opportunities to develop new skills, the manager hopes they either figure out how to do a better job themselves or leave.
The author of a viral LinkedIn post about “surviving” a job, Zapier workflow automation recruiter Bonnie Dilber (USA), gives several other reasons why Quiet Firing is so common. Sometimes employers want to get rid of team members who are difficult or expensive to manage. Or from people who are not achieving the desired goals. Also, the impetus can be a financial crisis that causes a company to cut back on employees but can’t afford to fire people properly.
Paul Lewis of employment platform Adzuna (USA) calls quiet survival “bullying” and suggests asking yourself: do you really want to work for a toxic company that doesn’t embody your values?
5 signs that you are being “outed” from your job
#1. The manager is always “out of range.”
Quiet Firing is a symptom of weak leadership. U.S.-based organizational psychologist Dr. Ella F. Washington notes that employing such tactics is easier than having difficult conversations with an employee about how to improve performance and start meeting the manager’s expectations.
Bonnie Dilber notes that a manager’s job is to make sure that the people on his team are happy, successful, and growing. If a manager doesn’t take the time to communicate with the team, that’s a problem. And regardless of the reason for this behavior – in such an environment you cannot grow as a professional.
If you still want to stay with this company and get through to your manager, here are some tips:
- Be proactive. Book a time on your manager’s calendar for a meeting and explicitly ask for feedback. Washington advises asking questions such as: “How am I doing on this project?” and “Is there anything I could do better?”
- Speak up about your goals and aspirations. Tell your manager: “I’d really like to get a promotion next year. How can I do that and what gaps in my job should I close?” Show that you are willing to work for the company and grow within it.
What to do for the company
According to Annie Rosenkranz, human resource people also need to prevent Quiet Firing in their organizations.
“We have a practice of having regular meetings with managers – where we talk about what’s going on in their teams. If I observe symptoms of Quiet Firing (when an employee is working the minimum – just so they don’t get fired) or Quiet Survival, I always ask managers what they are doing about the problem. If they are waiting for it to “go away,” I will do my best to get them to take some action, not just let the person disappear.
In addition, “survival” can have negative consequences for an employer’s brand, Rosenkrantz notes.
#2. The best projects go to others
“If a manager promised you an interesting project, but suddenly gives it to someone else, that’s a worrisome symptom,” says Gorik Ng.
Of course, the manager may have changed his mind (for example, the inputs on the project have changed, and now he is really not in your competence). But this can also be a signal of distrust – the manager does not see your potential for the task, and gives the project to someone who, in his opinion, will definitely do everything well.
What the Employee Can Do
- Analyze the situation. Did you really not get this project, because the manager is quietly trying to get you out of it? Or are you overthinking it and seeing everything in gloomy colors?
- Unobtrusively ask your colleagues if they have experienced similar situations. Schedule a meeting with your manager and find out what you should change to start getting promising tasks and projects.
What the company should do
To extend the “life” of people in the organization and maintain engagement, a manager must give perspective-especially to the most ambitious. It’s important for the team to see that they have room to grow, not only in skills, but also in salary and position.
When a manager is approached with a promotion request by an employee whose work has been commented upon, it’s a chance for everyone. Rosenkrantz advises the manager to praise the person’s aspirations and give specific recommendations: what needs to be fixed or what skills need to be pumped up to get a promotion.
#3. You don’t get promoted for a long time, and your manager doesn’t explain the reason
Scientists from the Pew Research Center (USA) decided to understand the reasons for a sharp increase in layoffs at the end of 2021, when there was a record level for the last 20 years. According to the report, published in March 2022, people most often cited two reasons for leaving: low pay and lack of opportunities for growth.
If an employee doesn’t get interesting tasks for a long time, his or her pay doesn’t grow, but management has no explicit remarks about the job, that’s another survival bell.
What the employee should do
Dilber recommends talking directly to the manager about what you need to do to get a raise.
“If the manager doesn’t have clear wishes or objectives, that means you don’t have room for growth at this company,” she notes. – Your manager’s job is to tell you that up front.”
What the company should do: arrange regular reviews of salaries, positions or working conditions. If that’s not an option, have a frank conversation with employees, explain the situation, and tell them how they can affect it.
#4. Your KPIs have suddenly and unreasonably changed
Labor attorney Fisher (USA) notes that he often encounters situations where employees return after a long sick leave or maternity leave. Companies sometimes come to the conclusion that they would like to keep the person who replaced the employee and move on to a “survival” plan.
If new tasks are unattainable, deadlines are unrealistic, and the manager and team are not supportive – it’s likely that the company is pushing you to leave.
What an employee should do
- Document agreements after work meetings and check them with your manager. This practice will help to avoid situations where conditions are changed on the fly and without your knowledge. For example, at the beginning of the month your personal sales plan was increased by 15%, and at the end you receive incomplete salary, because you were expected to raise 60%.
- If the demands are absurd and the deadlines are impossible to meet – raise the issue immediately: explain why the goal is unattainable, suggest changes or request additional resources.
#5. Working conditions or workload changes without your input or salary adjustment
If the workload has increased and no salary revision has been discussed, it means the company is tacitly suggesting that you either accept things as they are or simply leave – says career consultant Jasmine Escalera (USA). She notes that businesses often behave this way when they are sure that a person is “tied” by salary or think they can easily find a replacement for the employee.
A third option is when a manager or an HR manager is simply waiting for a promotion request from an employee. They say, why waste business money if the person is already doing a good job.
What an employee should do
- Schedule a meeting with a supervisor or an accountant and ask for a raise. But saying “I want more money” is not enough. Show how your workload has changed from the original workload and how it has affected the business. If the company has started making more money and you’re credited for it, feel free to talk about the bonus.
- A good option is to ask for a clear KPI, which you will get a bonus if you meet. For example, agree that as soon as you increase sales by 30% – you will receive a raise of $400. This motivates the employee, is beneficial for the business and does not leave the manager a chance to step back when the result is achieved.
- If the manager doesn’t engage in dialogue or meetings go nowhere, and in the meantime your new responsibilities become unbearable and lead to burnout – it’s probably time to consider opportunities outside the company.