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What is “quiet cutting”? How companies are reducing their workforce by forcing employees to quit

A new study shows that workers are becoming more aware of the dodgy business practices used to force them out of a job.

The strike action throughout 2023 has been an inspiration for workers fighting back against companies and bosses.

While the US economy seems to have avoided a recession, that does not mean the economy is in a healthy shape. Debt taken on by companies over a prolonged period of low interest rates is becoming more and more expensive by actions taken by the Federal Reserve. If ever there was an opportunity to force workers out, it is now.

Giving staff the sack is expensive. While severance packages vary significantly, they are usually between one week and one month’s pay per year worked. Of course, companies would aim to avoid this as much as possible.

This is where “quiet cutting” comes in. This unofficial process is for companies to get workers out without firing them. Workers are intentionally made to feel uncomfortable and guided towards the door without being explicitly told to leave.

Ethically dubious, the practice has become well known in 2023 due to the large layoffs in the tech sector which has seen estimates of nearly 185,000 workers let go this year. Just because ‘quiet’ is the name doesn’t mean workers are not aware of the practice. Indeed, a new study from Zetwerk, a manufacturing services firm, reveals that plenty of workers know they are being subject to these tactics.

The study, featuring more than 1,000 business owners and employees, revealed one in three employees have experienced “quiet cutting,” with nearly half knowing an affected colleague. The practice is so untolerable that nearly four in ten leave their job with another three in ten seriously considering leaving. As ever, workers are made to bear the brunt of business mismanagement and are forced to foot the bill.

Companies are not even attempting to hide their tactics to reduce staff levels.

“Remarkably, our study found that nearly 1 in 4 business owners openly admit to practicing ‘quiet cutting’, shedding light on a controversial trend in modern workforce management,” said Madeline Weirman, Creative Strategist for Zetwerk. “This eye-opening statistic underscores the need for businesses to grapple with the ethical implications and consider alternative approaches.”

Identifying quiet cutting in your workplace

Restructuring of workforces, simply eliminating your position and moving people around sectors, often for lower pay, are examples of quiet cutting. Other examples would be long-term pay freezes or extra hours without pay. The study shows that workers would rather their employers be honest about their jobs.

Unsurprisingly, workers are unhappy at being treated this way.

“Our study also reveals that 56% of employees would rather be terminated outright than subjected to ‘quiet cutting’, and half feel betrayed by its presence, emphasizing the significance of open communication and transparency in the workplace,” Weirman continued.

It may already be too late for your position if you feel like you are under this pressure, but there are ways in which workers have been pushing back. The study also showed three in ten of the workers who were forced out left bad reviews for their companies. When looking for a new post, these reviews could prove crucial in avoiding businesses that will treat you poorly.