During the pandemic, a workplace trend known as “— clocking in and doing the bare minimum at work — took hold as many employees struggled with burnout and frustration with their jobs. But there’s another side to the story, with some managers engaging in “silent shooting.” said Gallup.
Silent layoffs describe “the managerial side of silent layoffs,” where bosses fail to provide support and career advancement to their employees, said Ben Wigert, research and strategy director of workplace management at Gallup. “They’re slowly pushing those people out the door,” he noted.
This phenomenon isn’t new, of course, but the pandemic and the continuation of remote work have made it harder for many managers to provide effective leadership, Wigert said. And with the economy weakening and more employers making layoffs, some companies could start leaning on silent layoffs to convince workers to leave of their own accord, saving them the cost of paying severance payments and unemployment insurance, he said. researchers at Michigan State University.
However, in the most benign cases, silent firing is unintentional, even though it can be just as damaging. The pandemic has made it harder for some managers to stay on top of the need to provide employees with feedback, development opportunities and recognition, Wigert said.
“Earlier this year, managers were even more burned out than their peers and leaders,” he told CBS MoneyWatch. “What happens to their own engagement is that their work becomes more difficult and they lose focus on cultivating team and individual confidence.”
Only about 1 in 3 managers describe themselves as emotionally or psychologically connected to their work, with this group experiencing one of the largest declines in engagement among all employees, a Gallup survey found earlier this year.
Meanwhile, managers may think they are providing enough support, while their direct reports disagree. For example, nearly two-thirds of managers believe they are doing a good job by recognizing the contributions of their subordinates, but only one-third of employees strongly agree that their good work is recognized.
“The reason this happens is that managers feel like they’re giving recognition because they’re constantly saying, ‘Well done,’ thank you in notes, but it’s not always translating to employees,” Wigert said. “Employees feel it needs to be specific, timely and relevant – and what our research shows is that most of the time that doesn’t happen.”
At its worst, silent firings involve managers creating toxic or miserable experiences for employees in order to squeeze them out.
Employees may not realize what is happening, according to a survey of 1,000 employees who have quit their jobs, the Michigan State researchers said. There are several signs that a manager is deliberately trying to demoralize you, including a shift in work responsibilities and changes related to working conditions, they noted.
These can range from managers setting unreasonable performance goals to taking away “perks” such as an office or parking space. And of course, there are more obvious signs of silent layoffs, such as a pay cut or not receiving an expected bonus.
About a quarter of people in their survey said they were looking for a new job, indicating that silent layoffs may, at least from a business perspective, be an ethically questionable — but effective — way to reduce the workforce, the researchers noted on .
At the same time, the labor market remains tight, making it important for employers to keep their employees happy, Wigert noted. Bosses who want to make sure they don’t inadvertently push their employees out the door can use strategies such as “shared responsibility” to boost morale, which involves setting goals and making commitments together.
“Now is the time to sit down and honor and appreciate all that everyone has done — acknowledging that we’ve been through things and that we have the opportunity to come together,” said Wigert. “The real magic is learning to do this together.”