I returned to the office after being on vacation, and I noticed that my manager was acting really strange toward me. I’d been reporting to him for about six of the ten years I’d worked for the company, and we’d actually had a really good working relationship. But this week after vacation, he never once said hello, he wasn’t acknowledging anything I was doing, and then he openly ignored me as I stood inside of his office for about 15 minutes while he spoke to one of my direct reports.
This form of behavior continued on between he and I for about eight months, but it also was uncovered that this behavior of his had happened for 15 years among over a dozen other employees. This behavior is a form of bullying, but what’s come to my attention is it is also a way of quiet firing. This particular manager was using bullying-type tactics in order to quietly fire employees that he was not aligned with.
But there are two buckets that I want to bring to your attention about how managers who care deeply are potentially quiet firing – because I know that you showing up here right now are the type of leader, the type of manager who cares about your employees. But you may actually be engaging in quiet firing without knowing it. So let’s talk about the two biggest danger zones, if you will, of where you might be quiet firing your employees.
Number one is by avoiding crucial conversations. You might have an employee, or multiple employees, who aren’t meeting their performance standards. Maybe there’s been a conflict in the workplace, there’s been a major error, and you as a leader are really uncomfortable and don’t know how to have a crucial conversation, so you avoid it. You avoid it, hoping they’re going to course correct, or if they don’t, they’ll eventually get pushed out of the organization.
That type of behavior is really close to the same bullying type of behavior. Avoidng crucial conversations is one way that you might be at risk of quiet firing. The second area is through withholding coaching. Again, I don’t think that you’re necessarily intentionally withholding coaching. You yourself might be so busy that you can’t even think about how to go and coach your employees.
But look, as a formal people leader, formal people manager, you’re responsible for the development of your employees. So by not actively coaching them, by not finding out what their needs are for development, you are quiet firing; you’re engaging in that behavior. So today, even if you haven’t been intentionally quiet firing, you do need to be intentionally learning – going through training on how to have crucial conversations and how to be a better coach as a leader.
You’ve got to meet your employees where they’re at. You need to develop your skills in order to develop theirs, whether that’s through getting them above and beyond the performance standards, or just developing them in general. Don’t be that manager who is engaged with quiet firing – even if it’s unintentional. I know you care about your employees, let’s be aware and be intentional to not engage in this behavior. Go out and learn the skillset that you need to be the most successful leader that I know you can be!
Hey Colleen, this speaks to me. I have an employee who doesn’t personally like my management style, and also feels like she’s been left out of the loop with team building. Our work relationship is not strong, and she feels like I micromanage, as well as get too personal when I try to lighten the conversation with questions outside of work.
What would you suggest I do to build a relationship with her so it doesn’t feel like quiet firing?
I have a feeling she doesn’t feel welcomed because I dont know how to approach her.
Hi Megan. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.
The first step is to schedule a recurring one-on-one meeting, and we suggest that it be weekly. During this time you ask your direct reports to share a few things, including a win since you last met, any roadblocks, and where support is needed. Then quarterly, meet to discuss their professional development – goals and how can the organization help achieve those.
I hope this helps, but if you’re interested in connecting further about coaching and/or training, I’d love to chat (click here for my calendar).