If employees are constantly given unnecessary tasks or are ignored, there can be many reasons. For example, quiet firing. But sometimes the leader is simply incompetent.

At first it’s just a weird feeling. But at some point the questions begin to pile up: Why didn’t I get an invitation to the meeting? Why am I not getting involved in the new project? And why is my supervisor not responding to my emails or constantly canceling meetings?

“If you have the impression that you’re being excluded, that you can’t do anything right, or that you’re not getting any positive feedback at all, then these are warning signs that you should take seriously,” says Hamburg careers adviser Ragnhild Struss.

Each of these characteristics alone does not have to mean anything. News can sometimes go under, executives’ diaries are usually more than busy. “But all these behaviors together reveal a system that should make people suspicious,” says the industrial psychologist. Maybe the boss wants to get rid of you in this way. Keyword: Quiet Firing – the gradual dismissal.

This refers to the behavior of employers, who do not officially dismiss employees, but rather send them to the professional sidelines. The goal: to frustrate them so much that they will eventually leave the company of their own accord.

There can be various reasons for this: There may be no legitimate reasons for termination, but the employer would like to save on the severance payment. Perhaps employees have simply become uncomfortable from the point of view of the company or no longer fit into the team.

“There is a real danger that executives will make it easy for themselves and part with employees in this way,” says Struss. However, she does not see a trend.

According to the business psychologist Andreas Hemsing, companies that really want to get rid of an employee are more likely to look for an active route. “Otherwise I would rather leave it to chance whether the person really develops enough suffering to resign himself.”

Hemsing believes that employees are actually treated accordingly. “But it’s not a conscious tactic, but rather an explanation for weak leadership.” For example, when bosses are unable to control and organize people, distribute tasks properly or think ahead and develop ideas.

Ragnhild Struss also sees the reasons for quiet firing in an “inability to resolve conflicts and a lack of communication skills on the part of management”: Instead of forcing employees to resign, they should learn to address problems and solve them constructively together.

According to the organizational psychologist, quiet firing is not only “a catastrophe” on a human level. It’s also not economical: “Not only are personnel costs unnecessarily wasted by employing employees who no longer take on any real tasks, in addition, existing potential is not being used.” The “silently fired” employees could, for example, take on meaningful activities elsewhere in the company and provide valuable services.

But what is left for employees when they – for whatever reason – feel sidelined? The first thing you should do is talk to your manager. It is important to describe your own perception in order to compare it with that of the other person. “In the best-case scenario, misunderstandings can be cleared up in this way and it turns out that one’s own concern was unfounded,” says Struss.

At the same time, employees should honestly ask themselves whether they themselves are fully responsible for their tasks. Hemsing advises actively considering what you could do to improve your own work and presenting the ideas to the manager in a discussion.

Struss recommends offering concrete solutions as to what another form of collaboration could look like, such as emails or joint meetings. Or express your willingness to switch to another team.

However, if the supervisor does not respond to repeated requests for a clarifying discussion, the only option is to involve the next higher management level. Andreas Hemsing advises announcing this step and explaining why the problem must now be passed on.

Anyone who, after all the interviews, still has the feeling that there is no longer a trusting basis for working in the company should consider changing jobs. “If my manager behaves in a non-appreciative, cooperative and constructive manner towards me, I would always ask: Do I still want to work here at all? Are there still positive development opportunities for me?” says Struss.

However, there will also be people who, despite all the problems, would rather stay in their old job and only want to work to rule there. “It is a very personal and clear life decision of people who say that my work only serves to secure my income. Otherwise, my life has other priorities,” says Hemsing. A phenomenon that is already widespread in the working world and for which there is also an English term: Quiet Quitting.

(This article was first published on Sunday, January 01, 2023.)