‘Quiet firing’ layoffs risk fomenting a toxic environment – Computerworld

So far this year, companies have laid off just under 100,000 employees, according to layoffs.fyi, which emphasizes losses at tech companies. Job cuts totaled more than 260,000 in 2023, so, while the trend appears to be down a little for 2024, layoffs continue. (For another up-to-date list of tech-specific layoffs, see TechCrunch.)

What’s changed since February, when I wrote about the economics of job cuts, is that some companies are using new tactics to avoid negative publicity, lawsuits, and paying out potentially costly layoff benefits:

  • Silent layoffs occur when a company offers severance on condition that the employee keep quiet about the details of his or her exit.
  • Quiet firing is when bosses intentionally or unintentionally make a role less appealing, thereby provoking workers to quit instead of forcing them out via layoffs that might entail severance packages.
  • Return to office mandates (RTO); many believe stringent RTO mandates are a form of quiet firing. They also duck the cost of severance benefits.

Silent layoffs

Silent layoffs (a.k.a. quiet layoffs) have been in the news lately. PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) is widely reported to have launched a round of silent layoffs in the UK last month. According to the Financial Times, “the affected staff [members were] told they must not inform colleagues why they are leaving and they should follow a ‘suggested wording’ if they want to send goodbye messages.” The move backfired on the Big Four accountancy firm. Any semblance of silence was lost to the negative publicity, which is worse than it would have been had PwC simply announced the layoffs publicly and taken its lumps.

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