By Elma Bartholomew
Your boss set you up for failure, created an insufferably toxic workplace setting, demoted you or reassigned your responsibilities, ghosted you to avoid conflict – and hoped that you would simply quit. So, you did.
You are now left to deal with diminished confidence levels, impostor syndrome, cynicism, confusion, powerlessness, and possibly psychological trauma. And although all this comes with a sense of isolation, please know that your feelings are valid – and you are not alone.
When the term “quiet firing” got bandied about in the last quarter of 2022, LinkedIn ran a poll to see if there was any truth to the work trend. From over 20,000 votes, 83% asserted its existence and 35% confirmed having experienced it first-hand in the career.
While the concept of forcing employees out by ostracising them is not new, the world now had a term for it. We all know a friend who has at least once said: “I wish they would just fire me already.” So, how do we help someone or ourselves from being a victim of gaslighting at work?
“Being at the receiving end of quiet firing can be stagnating and demotivating. It can lead to feelings of 'stuckness', isolation, helplessness and shame, all of which adversely affect a person’s mental health. Breaking the silence around it, reaching out and asking for help could be some ways to cope. One could reach out to a mental health professional and trusted colleagues, family and friends. If it’s safe, it would also be worthwhile having an honest and assertive conversation with one’s reporting manager to air grievances and discuss solutions,”
Insiya D’Souza, counselling psychologist.
Companies and management may only be considering the cheaper option, freeing their finances from the highest-paid employee, severance packages and accrued leave pay. What they often forget is that their choice demoralises a person, and in turn affects the wider team, creating a culture of distrust and disengagement which eventually leads to mass resignation.
“We suffered everything from bullying to verbal attacks, to a point where the only thing we could do is leave. And we all did, leaving them with no one to yell at. I am still traumatised,”
Dubai based digital strategist
“I was well on my way to a promotion when I experienced burnout. It was very hard for me to share what I was going through with management, but I felt that it was the responsible thing to do. Their response however was to mock me and constantly reinforce in me, my team and my clients the idea that I was inadequate. Thankfully, I have a great support system that reminds me every day that I am worthy of better. I have no regrets for leaving that company when I did,”
Dubai-based CRM executive shared.
Unlike previous generations, employees now see a job as just that – a job. And not their whole life. Now more than ever, people are working on setting boundaries at work and reminding themselves that what they do for a living does not define who they are. A by-product of this shift is a generation of employees that are more critical of poor management and increased awareness of their rights.
"Quiet firing can make employees feel dejected, disrespected, and unworthy of a direct conversation. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t deserve to be treated like that, and although it may feel like it’s about you, it’s more of a reflection of the other person's level of emotional maturity and communication skills.
Moving on can include confronting what is happening, and having a conversation with HR. Given that these are easier said than done, psychotherapy and coaching are effective methods of tackling the emotional and mental experiences of quiet firing, which is a crucial step to moving on,”
Abeer Al-Qadi, certified life coach and Founder & CEO of Hakkini, a virtual wellbeing platform offering therapy, coaching and healing for individual needs.
Employees are no longer looking for just a pay cheque; they want to feel purpose and ideally be in a space that aligns with their core beliefs. A key takeaway from this for employers is that it has never been more vital to invest in employee engagement and to create a company culture where people can enjoy a sense of belonging. Management must be trained to tackle difficult conversations and be prepared to have open discussions more often. A lot can change when there is good communication.
As a Perth-based recruiter said: “Pizza in the pantry does not help an employee feel valued.”
A tip she consistently shares with her clients is to always document the good. “Keep records of your achievements. When the brain fog of doubt swallows you up, this is a surefire way to remind yourself of what you are capable of. You are important, and the first step to recovery is to know your value.”