Quiet Firing: When You’re Pushed Out Of The Workplace

21 Oct ‘22
5 min
Stress and anxiety
Work performance
Annemarie Andre
Reviewed by psychologist Judith Klenter
Frau verlässt leise ihren Arbeitsplatz.

Just finished another pointless task? Or submitted another project that’s definitely going to vanish into thin air? Then it may well be that you’re being “quietly fired”. The latest trend in the world of work since quiet quitting, behind this practice lurk two old foes: bullying and isolation. In this article, you’ll learn how to recognize quiet firing in the workplace and what you can do in response to this passive-aggressive bullying strategy, according to psychologist Judith Klenter.


According to a LinkedIn survey, 48% of people have already witnessed quiet firing in the workplace. 35% of the over 20,000 respondents stated that they have experienced quiet firing themselves.


What actually is Quiet Firing?


Quiet firing was a term used by TikTok Influencer DeAndre Brown. In his video, which he created shortly after the polarizing discussion around quiet quitting, he spoke about employees who are fulfilling all of their tasks, but never rewarded with a raise or promotion. Managers aren’t directly firing their employees, but indirectly leaving them with no other choice but to walk out the door.


However, many HR experts believe that quiet firing goes one step further than that. According to Forbes, you’re being quietly fired” if you stop getting the more attractive assignments, all of your work is criticized, information is consciously withheld from you, and you’re not invited to relevant meetings. This spares managers the uncomfortable and often complicated process of firing you, because you’re leaving of your own freewill – it’s also a form of bullying.

Signs of quiet firing
  • You’re always passed over for raises and promotions, but you’re never given any feedback as to why this is the case.
  • Important information that you need to do your job properly is withheld from you.
  • You’re deliberately excluded from meetings.
  • Your tasks are unappealing – other employees at your level are given more appealing tasks and projects.
  • You’re given (almost) no responsibility.
  • Goals are not communicated to you.
  • Glances and derogatory gestures are used to discourage you from communicating.
  • You’re never praised for your work or given the opportunity to speak to superiors.
  • Your efforts aren’t acknowledged and/or you never receive constructive feedback.

📖 Looking for further reading? This article Boreout: When Your Work Asks Too Little of You” might be of interest.



Bullying happens everywhere


Many people believe that bullying stops being an issue as soon as you leave school. But the reality is that bullying occurs in almost every area of life – and, yep, even adults bully people. A poll of 2000 people carried out on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found that 31% of Americans have been bullied as an adult.


Victims reported significant negative impacts on their health, including stress, anxiety, loss of confidence, inability to sleep, mental breakdowns, and an inability to function on a daily basis. These incidents of adult bullying often occur in the workplace, home, and educational settings.


Companies with competitive work environments and strict hierarchies tend to be most affected by bullying. Superiors are directly involved in half of all cases of workplace bullying. These figures show that quiet firing is more than just a trend, but what should you do if you’re being personally affected by this issue? 


What to do if you’re experiencing quiet firing?


1. Act fast

Don’t wait for things to get bad enough”, instead act fast. The problem isn’t going to go away on its own. It’s quite challenging to break a viscous cycle once certain systems of behavior have been established.


2. Keep a bullying journal

Jot down any incidents of bullying, whether big or small, in a journal – it’s best to be really specific about the time, place and people involved. Not only will this help you to process and reflect on what happened, but you might also be able to use it later during legal proceedings.


3. Turn to a third party

Especially when it’s superiors doing the bullying, it’s often difficult to have an upfront conversation. You need to turn to colleagues who aren’t involved or the HR department for support. You can also formulate specific requests, for example that the HR department holds a meeting with your manager or that your colleagues stand up for you in certain situations.


4. Try to have an upfront conversation

Especially at the start, an upfront open conversation can work wonders. “During this meeting, you can present your bullying journal and offer your own perspective in the first-person,” advises psychologist Judith Klenter, continuing: “You can also ask any colleagues that are on your side to chip in during the meeting.”


📖 Would you like to learn more about your relationships with other people? Then read our article Why Therapy Is Always a Good Idea, Even When You’re Happy.


How OpenUp can support you


Bullying in the workplace is a huge mental health challenge. You may be asking yourself if it’s your fault or if there’s something you could have done differently. A consultation with psychologists can help you to rebuild your self-esteem and find the right tools to deal with the situation. 


Psychologist Judith Klenter advises: “Remember that bullying always reveals more about the person who is doing the bullying than the person who is being bullied.”


When you have a bad experience like this, it’s important to call a spade a spade and not try to sugarcoat it. “Give yourself time and have compassion for yourself,” says Klenter. “If you keep doubting yourself, you can ask your friends, family and partner what makes you worthy of love. If your self-esteem has been seriously damaged, then you’d be best looking for a new job.”


Certain exercises can also be really good for restoring self-esteem. “Think back over your achievements and write down at least one,” advises Klenter, “ask yourself what you contributed and what that says about you.” A practical exercise like this helps you to debunk any negative thoughts you’re having about yourself.


However, there are also other prevention methods you can use to reinforce your mental health. Mindfulness helps you to stay rooted in the here and now, reduces stress and improves your resilience.


Would you rather speak to other people who are going through similar experiences? In group sessions you can discuss your challenges with other people who are going through the same thing and get the right support.