What to know about silent abandonment and silent dismissal


Add “silent firing” and “silent management” to the list of modern terms that describe familiar work practices.

The two emerged following the popularization of the term “silent shutdown” on social media app TikTok in August.

Although definitions vary, silent quitting basically describes employees who set boundaries to avoid burnout and stick to them by starting work at the scheduled time, completing the work assigned to them, and leaving on time. ‘hour.

Career coach Adam Broda described silent management in a LinkedIn post on Aug. 29. He said it involves managers taking a step back and giving employees more agency by not checking shift start and end times, allowing people to work where they want, eliminating unnecessary meetings and encouraging guilt-free leave.

“Discreet managers operate with a high level of trust in their employees and do not micromanage,” Broda wrote. “That way the job becomes more of a supporting role.”

Another article by LinkedIn News editor Matt Lockie on August 25 defined silent firing, a more insidious practice in the workplace, as diminishing an employee’s role by refusing raises or promotions, shifting responsibilities to tasks that require less experience or deliberately denying opportunities for development and leadership, in the hope that this person will resign.

For Patrick Stepanian, who leads a team at HR consultancy Peninsula Canada, “silent” labels may be new, but the concepts they refer to have been around for a long time.

And the fact that they have resurfaced in the public consciousness suggests people are eager to move away from the neoliberal attitudes toward work that have dominated since the 1980s, as unionization sees a resurgence in tech industries. , e-commerce and services.

“It’s a re-examination of the relationships that were (previously) defined between employers and employees,” Stepanian told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview Wednesday.

“We have a certain way of thinking about the deals we make and what people do to make money, and that’s been dominant for 40 years. Now we have another shift.

Melissa Nightingale, co-founder of business management consultancy Raw Signal, believes the pandemic has been a big driver of the current shifts in the way people think about work.

“Overnight, many of our deeply held assumptions about work — from where it happens to when and how — were turned upside down,” she told CTVNews.ca in an email. Wednesday. “It’s no surprise that as many employers seek to bring workers back to the office, their employees want to examine assumptions about what this new phase of work will look like.”

Here’s how Stepanian, Nightingale, and her husband, Johnathan Nightingale, co-founder of Raw Signal, break down silent abandonment, silent firing, and silent management.


Stepanian views silent quitting as workers who push away environments where it is assumed they will take on additional duties not stipulated in their contracts, or work outside of their scheduled shifts, without recognition or compensation from employers.

Rather than condemn employees who refuse to do extra work for free, he said employers should adopt a positive mindset.

“You reward people for going above and beyond, but you don’t punish them for not doing it,” he said.

When employees can’t set healthy boundaries with their employers, Melissa Nightingale said, it’s easy for a 40-hour workweek to slip into a 50-plus-hour workweek.

“As managers, it’s our job to manage workloads and resources,” she said. “What if…you assumed your employees would ignore the clock and continue to go way beyond their own indicators of burnout, it’s your workforce that says it will go that far, but no more. far.”

In a situation where an employee is staying late to complete tasks they should reasonably be able to complete on schedule, Stepanian said support managers should help determine if their workflow can be improved for better results.

“If the employer or manager is able to raise a reasonable point of improvement from a positive place, and there’s a real coaching element involved in that, that, to me, speaks with hope of who the manager is,” he said.


An informal online poll published by LinkedIn News on August 25 found that 83% of more than 20,000 respondents had experienced or witnessed silent shootings at work.

For Johnathan Nightingale, silent dismissal essentially describes a long-standing, persistent practice sometimes referred to as “constructive dismissal,” in which a manager who wants to avoid firing or formally firing a worker makes their working conditions so toxic that the employee quits.

It’s “a new expression for an old and horrible practice,” Nightingale told CTVNews.ca in an email Wednesday.

Managers guilty of this practice could reduce or eliminate an employee’s contractual functions, resulting in a lowering of the employee’s status within the company; excluding an employee from decision-making processes in which he or she would have previously participated; and significantly reducing an employee’s hours of work, according to a Government of Canada definition of constructive dismissal.

Nightingale said a manager may justify a constructive dismissal in terms of saving on severance pay or avoiding lengthy bureaucratic processes, “but the truth is that he is making a truly detrimental and unwarranted choice.”

Constructive dismissal is prohibited under Canadian labor laws. Nightingale said anyone who may be the victim of a silent or constructive dismissal should start taking detailed notes of any changes to their role, whether anyone else was impacted and how to cope. conversations with management took place.

“What was the management response when you raised your concerns? Save emails. You’ll probably want your own legal opinion, and when you do, they’ll immediately ask you for a paper trail,” Nightingale said.

Human Resources can sometimes help here too… But some people in HR allow this bad behavior, so it’s important to get outside legal advice if you can afford it. And if you’re in a unionized store, talk to your shop steward about your concerns early.


Stepanian said he takes a hands-off, supportive approach that could be described as “silent management” in managing his team at Peninsula Canada. It doesn’t look over employees’ shoulders, manage their shift start and end times, or dictate all the tasks they work on throughout the day. Stepanian described his team as efficient and highly skilled in problem solving, and said that when established early and supported by clear communication, the quiet management style can be effective.

“It requires some sort of reinforcement of ‘I’m here. I’m in charge of this team, but I trust each of you to do what you do at some high level, and that I don’t have to mother you. I trust you,” he said.

However, this style of management carries risks that employers should be aware of, warns Melissa Nightingale.

While a more trust-based style of management can provide benefits for both managers and employees, Nightingale said it’s important for managers to ensure that each employee’s preferences are catered for. without negative impact on other employees.

“The challenge for leadership is figuring out how to set policies and expectations within your team, while understanding and meeting the needs of individuals,” she said. “That’s often what makes the job difficult to do well.”

Regardless of the label used to describe it, Stepanian and Nightingale said that any successful management style relies on regular, positive communication. In fact, Stepanian said communication — or lack thereof — is the common thread that connects silent management, silent firing, and silent abandonment.

“It all comes down to clearly communicating expectations as early as possible, and sometimes frequently, so everyone is on the same page,” he said. “It’s about setting expectations in advance.”


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