7 silent fire signs to look for in the workplace

If you find that your boss doesn’t appreciate your hard work and contributions like they used to, they can quietly fire you.

According to Team Building, a team building company, silent fire is a “passive-aggressive approach to performance management.” This concept can manifest itself in different ways – both intentionally and accidentally. Instead of firing employees outright, these managers will make the workplace as unpleasant as possible by encouraging employees to quit or due to a lack of feedback or resources.

Despite the new terminology, silent fire is a concept that’s been around for a while, says Annie Rosencrans, HiBob’s director of people and culture. A recent LinkedIn News survey of more than 20,000 respondents found that 48% of employees have experienced silent fire at work, and 35% have experienced it during their careers.

“I think this idea of ​​silent firing is done unintentionally or subconsciously by managers who are afraid or hesitant to give direct feedback when things aren’t going well with an employee,” Rosencrans tells CNBC Make It. “Managers who know someone isn’t working and want them gone… [may] just ignore them in the hope that they will go away on their own. This is very unhealthy.”

Here are three things you should know about silent fire that can help you in the workplace.

What to pay attention to

While it can be difficult to decipher whether or not you’ve been quietly fired, experts say there are a few clues to look out for. According to Rosencrans and Adzuna’s chief client officer Paul Lewis, employees should look out for these red flags:

  1. You haven’t seen a raise in a year or two.
  2. You don’t get any meaningful feedback from your manager.
  3. Your manager is reluctant to contact you.
  4. You are selected to answer difficult questions in team or company meetings.
  5. Your opinions are not considered.
  6. You are not challenged or given additional opportunities and projects.
  7. You are excluded from meetings, events and/or social gatherings.

How to prevent it

According to Lewis, there are several things an employee can do to avoid silent fire, the biggest of which is communication.

“If you’re being quietly fired, you’re more likely to be quietly fired. It’s a really tough job, but there are departments like HR that you can go to,” Lewis explains. “You can make sure you’re recording your complaints and that they know how you feel. A good company will take those complaints seriously.”

Lewis also advises employees to speak directly to their manager to resolve the issue.

“Talk to your manager, challenge them, ask for growth, keep pushing and try to show them how ambitious you are, how engaged you are and how committed you are to the mission.”

Quiet fire is a management issue, not yours

Mistreatment or neglect in the workplace can affect an employee’s mental health, requiring them to make the tough decision to persist or leave the role. However, Lewis assures employees that the silent fire, which he calls “workplace bullying,” says more about your manager’s work ethic than yours.

“Finally, if [the quiet firing] continues, then I would question the person in that role,” Lewis explains. “Do you really want to work for a toxic company? Do you really want to work at a job that doesn’t respect you? Doesn’t that represent your own values?”

If managers want to retain employees, Rosencrans adds, they need to ensure they create opportunities for “development, growth and learning,” especially for millennial and Generation Z employees.

“Managers need to open up opportunities for employees who are ambitious and want to continue to grow. It’s a really effective retention and engagement tool,” says Rosencrans. “If it’s an underperforming employee, asking them to their manager can open the door for their manager to say, ‘Hey, I appreciate that you want to grow and develop in these new areas.’ But first, I really need you. focus on your core responsibilities. And these are the gaps I see.'”


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