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What’s ‘Quiet Firing’: Understand when your boss forces you to leave without asking you to

There’s finally a term for a situation when your ‘toxic’ boss forces you to quit without firing you, literally.

What’s ‘Quiet Firing’: Understand when your boss forces you to leave without asking you to
Signs of quiet firing: Here's all you need to know

For 30-year-old Anushka Rathore, leaving her hometown and becoming a journalist was a dream and when she got a job at India’s biggest media organisation, it was like her dream coming true. Having an experience of six years in the industry, Rathore was aware of how the system works. She always saw herself as one of the biggest anchors in the country, however, that was probably too much to ask for and she was made to quit her job at this popular English news channel. No, she wasn’t asked to leave. She resigned. Wondering how that makes a story? Well, she was silently forced to quit by her insecure boss.

When he saw Rathore revamping the website and getting traffic for the portal, when he couldn’t, he became insecure.

Until his supervisor, her hopes were ruined. Her boss started setting unrealistic targets for her, asked her to stay back late at work, and took away major opportunities that came her way. “He would openly tell me that I was good for nothing. When his superiors praised my work, he used to take the credit,” Rathore told financialexpress.com. “He made me wait till late in the office, only to cancel the meeting at around 1 am. My usual working hours were 10 am-7 pm,” she added.

Rathore’s situation is a classic case of “quiet firing.” While there’s no universally accepted definition of what quiet firing is but it can be broadly classified as how an employer creates toxic and often downright torturous conditions for the employee that they are forced to quit on their own.

Managers might be quiet firing for various reasons – they usually don’t have the spine or the language to have constructive discussions with their teammates, are insecure of the younger lot, are trying to avoid the high costs of litigation that firing someone might invite, or are just attention seekers.

LinkedIn poll:

Quiet firing is not a new phenomenon and has existed forever. However, now we have finally given it a term. As per a LinkedIn News poll conducted with 20,000 respondents – 35 per cent admitted that quiet firing is “real” and they have faced it, while 48 per cent said that they have “seen it at work before.”

The poll also highlighted the circumstances that lead to quiet firing, since there’s no clear definition. The respondents, while giving examples, said that their boss didn’t give them a raise or promotion for years, shifted their responsibilities towards tasks that required less experience or were less challenging, and took away their opportunities. Quiet firing can also appear in other forms – demoralising, leaving the colleague out of important meetings and discussions, avoiding communication with them, and disfavouring them.

Reasons behind quiet firing:

Clinical psychologist Divya Andrew told financialexpress.com that quiet firing can be harmful to an employee putting in their hard work. It impacts the mental health of the concerned person. She said, “The boss may refuse leaves, increase workloads without increasing wages, provide bad reviews, say no to breaks during working hours, ask to wait outside working hours.”
She added, “That’s not all, there are times when bosses stalk employees over their personal social media and then question them about how they spend their personal lives.”

All these reasons also forced Ram Saran to quit his job as a data analyst at a multinational company.

“My reporting manager would get angry at me for getting good reviews from senior management. He would ask me to take the job easy and not seriously,” he said. Saran was made to work for almost 11 hours every day, even when there was less work pressure. “My leaves were cancelled and I was asked to come back urgently. On my return, I found that my boss had made a blunder and wanted to slyly put the blame on me.”

Preetha Mukherji, a 32-year-old journalist elaborated on such an environment and said, “When I joined this organization, I had a reporting manager, who was toxic but eventually left the company. As soon as he left, another head from a different section started to interfere as he was insecure and wanted to show the management that he works hard. He would slyly take away important stories from my section and when questioned, would ask me to relax and enjoy the job.” Mukherji feels that the insecurity was so strong that he would find ways to show authority. “Many people in the team often pointed out his attitude but the management didn’t pay attention.”

Labour laws:

Wondering if there are any labour laws to help employees suffering from quiet firing? In India, currently, there are no specific laws dealing with quiet firing but it can be taken up by the employee under various laws prohibiting unfair labour practices by the employer.

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First published on: 20-12-2022 at 11:30 IST