You’ve heard of quietly quitting smoking. Here’s how to tell if you’re being quietly fired


Cost of life4:44Forget silent surrender. How do I know if I am discreetly dismissed?

Looking back, says MaryAnn Kerr, it was a call home from work on a day off that heralded the beginning of the end of a job.

About five years ago, Kerr, a seasoned nonprofit executive, landed a nice job as vice president of a charity she loved. About three or four months later, his boss would call him at home, angry about something seemingly harmless Kerr had said in a previous phone meeting.

“It was about something that didn’t make sense… They thought I was exaggerating, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to say it.”

It started what she describes as “a campaign to undermine her” by a CEO who seemed to believe Kerr was after their work.

“I was shut out of meetings I had to attend to do my job effectively. I wasn’t told I needed to do my job,” Kerr told CBC Radio. Cost of life.

About five years ago, MaryAnn Kerr found herself faced with “a campaign to undermine her” by a boss. (Submitted by MaryAnn Kerr)

Much attention has been given recently to the idea of ​​”quiet stop“, when employees remain in their jobs but stick to the minimum job requirements in order to avoid burnout.

A phenomenon called “silent firing” can have the opposite effect – when employers subtly force staff members out of their jobs to avoid the complicated task of firing them.

“I have heard the term silent dismissal used in different countries or in different contexts, where…employers make the workplace such a difficult environment that the employee feels they have no choice but to leave,” said Nita Chhinzer, associate professor of humanities. resources at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph.

“So the employee may be overlooked for a promotion, or their hours may be reduced, or they may suddenly be unscheduled.”

“A combination of being isolated and assaulted”

In Kerr’s case, the boss was telling her that her co-workers didn’t like her and managing how she treated her own direct reports. The boss was telling him to hold weekly meetings with his team, Kerr said, but also to flip his authority with them.

A woman with a slight smile, dressed in a burgundy blouse, poses for a portrait.
Nita Chhinzer, associate professor of human resource management and business consulting at the University of Guelph, said the phenomenon of “silent firing” can take many forms. (Nina Chinzer)

“And [the team] literally ignored my emails. They didn’t want to meet me. So it’s a combination of being isolated and being assaulted, to some extent.”

Other times, the CEO would be combative with her in front of others in meetings, Kerr said, “almost like a sparring match to kind of push me.”

“I even had an episode at a public event where they pushed me aside to go to a photo shoot.”

Kerr’s experience follows other similar cases, Chhinzer said. It’s quite common in cases like this for the boss to make the employee in question an “outgroup member.”

“So they’re not invited to meetings, they’re not invited to lunches,” Chhinzer said. “When there are development opportunities, they are overlooked for these.”

Workers may be even more vulnerable to silent layoffs outside of office jobs.

Group of workers in protective masks working in a factory warehouse.  One pushes a metal cart containing boxes.
In workplaces like warehouses and restaurants, where hours are variable, silent dismissal can take the form of not having enough shifts to get by. (Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock)

“In some of the high-turnover industries, like restaurants, grocery stores and retail, there’s a very high likelihood that people are just scheduled to go out or have their hours reduced,” he said. Chinzer.

More vulnerable workers are less likely to sue

When workers don’t have guaranteed hours, it makes them much more vulnerable to silent layoffs, she said.

“Without a guaranteed number of hours, these people are often only put on minimal shifts, so they are forced to find some form of secondary employment to support themselves.”

These types of cases may fall under what Canadian employment law calls constructive dismissal, which gives workers grounds to seek financial compensation for being fired from their jobs. But people who work in grocery stores, for example, likely don’t have the financial resources to take legal action against their employer, Chhinzer said.

Determining whether your quiet dismissal case would qualify as constructive dismissal under the law comes down to a few key distinctions, said employment lawyer Hermie Abraham, who runs a Toronto firm called Advocation Employment Law.

“A silent dismissal can kind of fall into two buckets. There could be a silent dismissal where the employer is just disengaged with an employee,” said Abraham, who became a lawyer after a previous career in human resources.

This kind of low-key dismissal may not result in a legal action as a dismissal, she said, “but the employee is sort of put on pasture. [The employer is] don’t invest in them.”

A smiling woman wearing a pearl necklace around her neck and a suit jacket smiles for a portrait photo.
Employment lawyer Hermie Abraham says that when there is a marked change in the circumstances of a job, such as a demotion or change in pay, employees can have legal recourse. (Submitted by Hermie Abraham)

The other type is when employers deliberately do things to expel someone – like changing compensation or demoting them from manager to individual contributor. “At law, this is considered constructive dismissal, and there are remedies available to the employee,” Abraham said.

Take the example of someone who works in a restaurant.

“Let’s say someone was working a shift that was a really good shift and they were getting a lot of tips,” Abraham said. “All of a sudden now they’re moved to a time where maybe they’re getting the same hours, but they’re not getting the same tips – that could [fall into the] category of constructive dismissal, because there is a fundamental change to a key element of their employment, which is their compensation.

Acquire help

MaryAnn Kerr was eventually released and cannot discuss the terms of her departure. But she has advice for those who find themselves in a similar situation.

Abraham advises employees who expect not to have a legal case to take action by writing to their bosses. ‘Explain to the employer some of the changes that [you] finding does not help [you] succeed and provide solutions. (Getty Pictures)

“I think it’s important to talk to HR because it’s about protecting yourself,” she said. Same with note-keeping — Kerr said detailed journals came in handy in her case.

“And then it’s important to talk to a trusted advisor outside of the organization. Tell them what’s going on and ask them what they think.”

If workers think they have a legal case, Abraham says they should seek the advice of an employment lawyer. If it’s a more subtle case, where they’re being overlooked for an opportunity, she suggests writing to the boss.

An employee can describe the factors that interfered with their job success and suggest solutions, Abraham says.

“Just sort of languishing and being miserable at work is not a thing to do,” she said. “Life is way too short to do that.”

WATCH | Why the hustle culture is losing its luster:

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As many continue to struggle with burnout, the trend to “quit quietly” is gaining momentum. While it may conjure up images of lazy people, some say employees are just setting boundaries and employers are in trouble if they don’t adapt.


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