Has This Ever Happened to You? Quiet Firing Explained.

What Is Quiet Firing?

One of the newest buzzwords you may hear trending on social media is 'quiet firing'. Although this term seems unique, the concept has been around for years. Quiet firing is an actual process with legal ramifications for both the employer and the employee. If you have ever experienced or knew someone who has been bullied and felt like a target in the workplace, this blog will explain what happens with quiet firings.

The term quiet firing is formally defined as constructive dismissal. Quiet firing is a practice of making working conditions so toxic that an employee chooses to resign. Managers or bosses who want to avoid officially terminating an employee may use this passive-aggressive approach.


What Does Quiet Firing Look Like?

The workplace has been evolving over the past few years, and the Covid pandemic has transformed how traditional workplace relationships are defined. There has also been an alteration in the way people think about work. The dental office is no exception. We have seen the labor shortage among dental personnel, the demand for higher pay, and the insistence on guaranteed safe working conditions. Dental offices have been desperate to hire, so the first warm body that applies will often be offered the job. This can lead to dissatisfaction with the new employee by an office manager or employer unable to terminate them without significant reasons. Sometimes the manager or boss dislikes the employee and focuses on making their work environment miserable. This dissatisfaction or personality conflict with the new employee can lead to quiet firing. This harmful workplace practice could involve:1

  • Diminishing an employee's role by withholding raises or promotions
  • Significantly reducing employees' hours of work
  • Withholding development or leadership opportunities
  • Assigning the employee the worst tasks
  • Reprimanding an employee in front of others for minor mistakes and treating it as a major incident
  • Threats of dismissal
  • Unfair suspensions
  • Being left out of an important meeting
  • Talking about the employee in front of others
  • Influencing the rest of the staff that the employee is a "problem" affects them to withdraw and alienate their coworker


Why Would a Business Choose Quiet Firing?

Some businesses make the employees' work life so miserable and uncomfortable that the employee chooses to quit. Today where everyone is looking for a way to sue another, bosses or managers must be careful before firing an employee. The firing could cause the targeted person to claim they have been discriminated against and take legal action. By creating this hostile environment leading to the employee quitting voluntarily, the company avoids paying unemployment compensation or severance payment.2


What Can an Employee Do If They Think They Are Being Quiet Fired?

  1. Speak to your manager or boss and stand up for yourself. Express your concerns and suspicions. Have your concerns put into your record. Open communication is essential to a healthy work environment
  2. If you think you are performing well but your supervisor still seems dissatisfied, make it clear that you want to succeed and cooperate.
  3. Have someone champion for you. Maybe speak to an outside consultant to advise or support your concerns and guide you on moving forward.
  4. Do your homework. Make sure you know the protocols for promotions and raises.
  5. Understand the components of your hiring contract and job description.
  6. Keep a record of your accomplishments and the value they may have added to your work environment.2

Why Would a Business Choose Quiet Fring?

Some businesses make the employees' work life so miserable and uncomfortable that the employee chooses to quit. Today where everyone is looking for a way to sue another, bosses or managers must be careful before firing an employee. The firing could cause the targeted person to claim they have been discriminated against and take legal action. By creating this hostile environment leading to the employee quitting voluntarily, the company avoids paying unemployment compensation or severance payment.2


What Does the Law Say About Quiet Firing?

In employment law, quiet firing is called constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal can lead to long-term damage to everyone involved. The intolerable working conditions can lead an employee to resign. A resignation of this type is an example of quiet firing or formally a constructive dismissal. It is a constructive dismissal if a reasonable employee would have no suitable alternative but to quit. Since resignation is not truly voluntary, it is, in effect, a termination. The consequences of this may differ between countries.

There is no single federal or state law against constructive dismissal in the United States. From a legal standpoint, it occurs when an employee is forced to resign because of intolerable working conditions which violate employment legislation—for example, the Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. allows for termination-at-will. At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or no reason without incurring legal liability. In constructive dismissal cases, the burden of proof in the United States lies with the employee's ability to supply evidence that they have resigned due to hostile work situations.3,4

Constructive dismissal is prohibited under Canadian Labour Laws. Quiet firing or constructive dismissal cannot occur In Canada; unless there is a legal justification for the employee's termination, an employee cannot be terminated. An employer constructively dismisses an employee if it changes a fundamental term of the employment relationship without the employee's consent or any of the above harmful workplace practices. Because there is no termination-at-will in Canada, constructive dismissal can be tantamount to actually firing an employee, thereby triggering the obligation to provide a costly severance settlement. 3,4


What Can the Employer Do to Avoid Quiet Firings?

  • Develop a company culture that is built on respect and fairness. In a nontoxic environment where everyone is honest and able to express opinions, quiet firing/constructive dismissal is less likely to develop.
  • Invest in management training. Management should be trained to handle diverse team members and make employees trust and confide in them more.
  • Make sure everyone is aware of new company policies and conditions.
  • Encourage employees to share work problems and communicate concerns and opinions without repercussion.5


Final Thoughts

Communication at the start of employment, during the best of times or worst of times of employment, will clearly define expectations. Making sure that employers and employees are on the same page can circumvent a toxic work environment potentially leading to passive-aggressive behaviour such as quiet firing or quitting.



  1. Jones, Jada. "Move over, quiet quitting: 'Quiet firing' is the new workplace trend everyone's worried about" https://www.zdnet.com/education/professional-development/move-over-quiet-quitting-quiet-firing-is-the-new-trending-topic-in-the-workplace/ accessed 12 September 2022.
  2. Burga, Solcyre. "What to Do if You Think Your Boss Is Trying to 'Quietly Fire' You." TIME,https://time.com/6212167/quiet-firing-what-to-do/. Accessed 12 September 2022.
  3. Constructive Dismissal. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipediaorg/wiki/Constructive dismissal. Accessed 10 September 2022.
  4. Tétrault, McCarthy. "Five Key Differences Between Canadian and U.S. Employment Law." Lexology, https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=86fb3400-e048-496d-809d-add4f14f3827. Accessed 10 September 2022.
  5. Libitoria, Coann. "How Employers can Avoid Constructive Dismissals." HRDAmerica, https://www.hcamag.com/us/specialization/recruitment/how-employers-can-avoid-constructive-dismissals/319913. Accessed 10 September 2022.

Maryanne Ferree RDH, BS, PHDHP

Maryanne holds a Bachelor of Science with a focus in dental hygiene education from the College of General Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and maintains a license as a Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner. She has over 35 years of clinical experience. Maryanne is currently clinical faculty in the Department of Periodontics and Preventive Dentistry focusing her clinical teaching on Advanced Periodontal Instrumentation and is finishing her Public Health Master’s thesis on Infection Control in Dental Practices.