3 signs your boss is 'quiet firing' you — and the 2 steps you should take immediately

 The "quiet firing" trend describes neglectful management by your boss. It can be hard to manage people and uncomfortable to tell someone they aren't performing up to standards, so many bosses end up leaving their employees without feedback and shuffling them to the back burner.

As an employee, it may be tempting to let this neglect go on because no one is bothering you and you're getting your work done in peace. But in the current economy, when your organization may be looking for that 10% to shave off the bottom, you don't want to be surprised if you're on that list. Here are three signs you're being quite fired:

  1. Your boss, who used to ask you to do work over again or tell you how you could do things better, isn't asking anymore.
  2. The parts of the annual cycle at your organization that create the frenzy of work are still happening, but you aren't in the mix.
  3. When you raise a problem to your boss, they say, "I don't have a way to fix that, and I wouldn't blame you if you left."

If you recognize yourself here, I recommend a two-pronged approach.

Ask for feedback

After some organizations took a hiatus during the pandemic, many are bringing performance reviews back into the mix. If you aren't being offered a formal review right now, such as as part of your annual evaluation cycle, ask for an informal review. As awful as it may sound, receiving specific, constructive, negative feedback is a priceless gift.

Go to your boss, either in person or in writing, and say something like, "I feel like I'm being underutilized, and I really want to make a difference here. Could we please schedule a review so I can hear your feedback and ask for your recommendations?" Give them a heads up — don't just charge in and ask. They may need time to think about what to say to you. When you go into this conversation, be open, brave, and willing to listen.

Start by making it easy for your boss to tell you what's up. Think ahead of time about a few things you've accomplished to get the conversation going. Anticipate what's coming up on your boss' schedule and ask if you can take on a specific task. Then ask, "What are some things I can do better?" Invite their input in a way that lets them know you really do want to hear it.

If your manager responds negatively, check your body language. Uncross your arms and refrain from fidgeting with your hands. Even if you vehemently disagree with what you're hearing, you don't want to look defensive — you want to look like you're paying attention.

Consider whether this feedback is unique or part of a pattern you've heard before 

I once went to a boss who was a couple levels above me to ask why she hadn't chosen me for a promotion. I prepared myself with three stories about how I'd added value and why I deserved the job. Then I sat back in disbelief when she said she hadn't been aware of any of my contributions.

She said I needed to do a better job of advertising what I was doing if I wanted to be recognized for my work. My belief that my work would speak for itself, or my boss would do that for me, was sorely mistaken. That lesson was more valuable over the long term than the job I didn't get.

If the input is news to you, the problem your boss has with your work may or may not be in their perception. Maybe the problem is just this one boss. However, if you've heard comments in this area before, even if not as part of a formal review, this may be something you want to address.

If your boss has factual inaccuracies, rather than differences of opinion, stand up for yourself and correct the facts, but do your best not to argue with them. Quarreling will discourage any future well-intentioned attempts to help you develop.

If your boss is really trying to move you out the door, they may put you on a performance improvement plan, or PIP

When you're put on a PIP, it might be tempting to quit, but think about what you want most, not what you want right now. If your goal is to be employed, then do what you need to do to keep the job — and begin your search for a new job. It's a lot easier to find a new job when you have a job.

I once had a colleague who was so angry about being on a PIP that he simply refused to do the work that was required. He was highly capable, but he ended up leaving the organization — without having found a new job — rather than complete the PIP. Be sure you understand exactly what you need to do and when. If you don't have the skills to accomplish something in your PIP, ask for training.

You may end up in a better place in your current job for having gone through this challenge. Maybe your boss actually wanted to help improve your performance. If you still want to leave even after successfully completing your PIP, be sure not to bad-mouth your boss or your organization during your job search. Focus on your accomplishments in this job and your desire for a new challenge.

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