Quiet Firing or Courageous Conversations?

Quiet firing is an ageless approach to managing people out of an organization. 

It happens when a people leader intentionally creates an uncomfortable work environment that provokes an employee to tender a voluntary resignation.

Rather than addressing any misalignments between the employee and the position through performance management, the leader engages in indirect behaviors. These behaviors signal the employee is no longer a welcomed team member. In essence, the employee’s better option is to quit the job.

In a LinkedIn News poll, over 80% of the respondents indicated they have either experienced quiet firing or observed the behaviors.

What Not to Do

Quiet firing behaviors could include, but are not limited to, the following intentional actions –

❌ Excluding the employee from important business meetings or projects

❌ Not sharing job-related information critical to the employee’s success

❌ Talking about the employee to others instead of speaking with the employee about the concerns

❌ Giving the employee an assignment that is doomed to failure

❌ Repeatedly canceling or re-scheduling one-to-one meetings with the employee, creating a social contact and information void

❌ Incrementally offloading the employee’s essential duties to a colleague

❌ Disproportionately loading the employee down with extra work in comparison to peers

❌ Never catching the employee doing something right, yet faithfully dwelling on any misstep, even minor ones

These leadership behaviors are seemingly less confrontational and could achieve the end goal of the employee voluntarily exiting the company. However, the organization could have significant unwanted reputational and financial impacts.

What to Do

One of the most crucial accountabilities of a leader is talent management.  

The leader identifies, hires, develops, and retains the right talent. As a result, they help team members achieve their optimal influence and impact while keeping organizational objectives in mind.  

Influential leaders engage the employee in courageous conversations when there is a misalignment between the employee’s capabilities (knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, or attitude), job performance expectations, and actual outcomes. 

Tips for the Courageous Conversation

✅ Realize that it is likely not a one-and-done conversation.

✅ Be clear about the position expectations – the desired outcomes and the knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and attitude that will enable the employee to meet and exceed expectations.

✅ Ensure you have communicated the expectations to the employee, verbally and in writing, providing the support to enable the employee to achieve targeted results.

✅ Assess the employee’s misalignment to the stated expectations, citing specific examples.

✅ Be honest and transparent in communicating your perspective while preserving the employee’s dignity and respect.

✅ Create a forum for interactive dialogue.

✅ Be willing to make the difficult decision to release the employee from the role.

✅ And, yes, take the time to document throughout the process.

Impacts

Ideally, leaders will always have a perfect alignment of talent to positions. However, when that is not the case, choose to address the misalignment directly through active conversations. 

Doing so could save the company from encountering unnecessary reputational and financial risks

And personally, the leader could avoid creating a brand that diminishes influence, effectiveness, and positive impact – all factors considered in advancing one’s career.  

Are you at a crossroads in a situation? Then, contact me for a complimentary consultation.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.