How to Deal With “Quiet Firing” as a Remote Worker

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In collaboration with ResumeGenius.

Recently, the internet has been buzzing with the term “quiet quitting,” alluding to employees doing exactly the work they’re contractually obligated to do – and nothing more. 

Some have criticized these workers for not wanting to participate in a hustle culture mentality by going above and beyond for their company. In response, many workers have fired back that another phenomenon has gone largely unacknowledged outside of Reddit subforums and disheartening workplace memes: “quiet firing.”

What is “quiet firing”?

“Quiet firing,” also known as “constructive dismissal,” is when employers provide only the bare legal minimum to employees. It’s an employer’s way of letting an employee know that their services are no longer wanted by creating a toxic work environment with the objective of pushing them to quit. 

By making employees voluntarily turn in their resignations, companies save money on redundancy and severance packages.

Unlike being fired for reasons related to incompetence or regular underperformance, employees who are being quietly fired are offered little to no support to complete their duties, ultimately driving them to quit. And just like in-office employees, remote workers aren’t spared from experiencing this.

What are the signs of “quiet firing”

There are a number of signs to look out for if you believe you’re being quietly fired. Here are four of them:

1. Lack of recognition

For example, you may never receive feedback or praise, or you may be passed over repeatedly for raises regardless of how well you perform. You may find yourself taking on significantly more work than your job entails with little recognition for your efforts. 

2. No career development opportunities 

You may be the last to hear about critical developments related to your work, and your manager may never discuss your career trajectory with you. Additionally, your one-on-one meetings may be rescheduled – indefinitely.

A recent McKinsey & Co. research report found that a lack of opportunity for career development and advancement as well as uncaring and uninspiring leaders are the top reasons driving people to quit. 

And while a comfortable salary may have kept many people in their jobs before the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s no longer the case with the redefinition of employees’ expectations. Workers now actively seek out jobs with better work-life balance, whether that’s defined by additional PTO, flextime, or the ability to work from home to accommodate caregiving needs.

3. Redefining your job description 

For instance, you may suddenly be assigned additional responsibilities outside of your original contract while your manager or another colleague takes the credit. Or, if you’ve been working from home full time, you may be asked to work in the office even if it’s far from your home and you’ve proven yourself productive. 

Raising the issue may even initiate questions on your commitment to your job or if you’re qualified to get a promotion, making it difficult to establish healthy boundaries at work.

4. Micromanagement

When you need to ask permission for every task or are discouraged from taking initiative and demonstrating creativity, your job performance can be negatively impacted.

As a remote worker, you may also find yourself having to use what’s commonly called “bossware,” or software that measures employee activity and productivity. 

Some of these remote team management software programs can improve employee engagement and help keep everyone on track. However, studies show more intrusive tools like screen activity monitoring, keystroke logging, or timed webcam snapshots lead to decreased job satisfaction, additional stress, and increased turnover.

Additionally, you may find your company’s performance metrics unsuitable for measuring remote employees’ actual productivity and successes. Regardless of high performance or successfully meeting KPIs, you may be told you’re unproductive and get unfairly penalized.

What to do if you’re being “quietly fired”

When you’re working in an environment where you’re marginalized and where your work goes unappreciated, it’s understandable that your motivation can take a hit. Employees affected by quiet firing are more likely to experience work burnout, a drop in performance, and a genuine desire to change jobs.

So what can you do if you think you’re being quietly fired?

Ask for direct feedback and guidance

Specify the need for direction and clarity around your work to facilitate your path to promotion. If your one-on-ones with your manager have already been rescheduled or canceled, be direct about your observations. Explain that you’re committed to your job and want to be able to do your best, but that you need your manager’s guidance. 

Alternatively, you can ask colleagues you trust for advice on how to proceed or get professional support from a coach or counselor.

The ideal remote worker and teammate is someone who can draw personal boundaries and get leadership's attention on issues within the company that need resolving. If you feel like your efforts have been ignored, it’s time to look at your options on how to handle the situation before it escalates.

Determine if the issue is with your manager or the company

Reach out to coworkers you trust to see if they have had similar experiences. If you find out your colleagues don’t share the same experience and your manager is the problem, not the company, consider looking for transfer opportunities to another team where you’ll be a better fit.

On the other hand, if your coworkers have similar concerns, it’s a sign that your company could be the issue. If you’ve contacted HR and the company has proven unsupportive, it might be time to start looking for a new job. 

However, avoid quitting on the spot. Remaining employed throughout your job search allows you to be more selective about your next job opportunities. 

If you believe your situation warrants it, seek legal advice from an employment attorney who can better assist you as a remote worker, especially if you’re working in a different state than your company or abroad.

Update your job application materials

Seeking new employment can be a job on its own, so it’s vital to be strategic. Don’t quit your job without a plan. Instead, update your application materials to prepare for your next career move.

First, get up to speed on how to write a cover letter that’s both properly formatted and consistent with hiring managers’ preferences for your target industry. Knowing what to include and exclude from your cover letter could be the difference between a rejection and an invitation to an interview.

Then, polish your resume. After all, you’ve probably acquired new resume skills and experiences since the last time you used it. Make sure you use the best resume format for your background and experience level. If you’re looking to change industries, leverage your transferable skills to access roles in a different field.

Separate your value as an individual from your job

Finally, it’s important to not let your current experience lead to self-doubt regarding your skills and abilities. While you may be wrongfully deemed unqualified in one position, you’ll be valued in another. 

Quiet firing tactics tend to be found in companies with poor or underdeveloped work culture where there’s a disconnect between management and employees. Some managers may simply be inadequately trained or unaware that coaching and supporting their team is an essential part of their job. 

And if your job has taken a heavy toll on your mental health, think about joining a community of like-minded individuals. Having a group of remote-working peers to discuss your situation with can help you stay positive as you determine how to deal with being “quietly fired.” They can provide you with invaluable tips and advice in regard to your unique situation.

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