Strong Leaders Don’t Quiet Fire People

Jake Wilder
4 min readSep 22, 2022

It’s a Practice for Cowards

Photo: iStock

“I think I’m being quiet fired,” my friend Erin told me.

I had no idea what she was talking about. Quiet fired? Like what happened to Milton in Office Space? Is that actually happening to people?

It turns out that yes, yes it is.

Erin said she’s been passed over for a promotion, she’s not being assigned to new projects, and her boss won’t give her any feedback. She feels as though the company’s icing her out.

The only thing left is for them to move her desk into Storage Room B.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone. Quiet firing is management’s latest response to the quiet quitting trend. Instead of addressing performance issues with conversations, they treat people like dirt until eventually they quit on their own. Tactics include denying people raises, excluding them from key projects, or refusing to provide the resources they need to succeed.

It’s despicable. It reminds me of how a petulant child, or some conservative politicians, would respond to difficulties. It’s the weakest form of leadership.

But Jake, you might be thinking, managers are just responding in kind. After all, if employees are quiet quitting, don’t managers have the right to quiet fire them?

I’m glad you asked. Because the answer is no. It’s not the same. It’s not even close.

For one, quiet quitting isn’t new. Of the many articles and podcasts on the subject, most of them spawned from a Gallup study alleging that quiet quitters make up “at least 50% of the U.S. workforce.” Gallup found, in their annual study on workplace engagement, that 32% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. They also found that 18% were actively disengaged. The other 50%, they conclude, are quiet quitting.

But Gallup’s done this every year since 2000 and 32% is one of the higher measures. Between 2000 and 2013, workplace engagement never exceeded 30%. It slowly increased to 36% in 2020, before falling 4% over the past two years. That’s the big emergency. That 4% is what has everyone spun up about quiet quitting.

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.