The newest corporate jargon: Quiet Cutting – Mary T. O’Sullivan

The Newest Corporate Jargon: Quiet Cutting

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

“It happens when employers cut back on an employee’s workload, responsibilities, role, or compensation…”

Do you remember a time when people gave the requisite two weeks’ notice, and then left their jobs? Can you think back to an age when the boss just let someone go, and by noon the office was completely cleaned out? Or maybe you were there once upon a time when a job posting was published, many applicants applied, and someone was picked from either inside or outside of the company? You may remember a time when you came to work, you did the job you were assigned, and stayed within your department where your skill set could flourish, maybe for your entire career.

It seemed back in those days, HR was not as cloak and dagger about what the company’s ideas were for hiring, firing, and quitting. Everybody seemed to know the rules and play by them. In eras gone by, getting a job, and keeping it were clearly defined. Aside from the obvious discriminatory practices of the earlier times, work showed little doubt about where you stood in the organization. But now, after years of mulling over the corporate consequences of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the subsequent amendments in 1972 and 1991, companies became more cautious about treatment of workers, because now unfair treatment could easily lead to costly lawsuits, often with settlements and fines in the tens of million dollars.

These Federal Acts and Amendments, along with State regulations, expended the rights of workers to include jury trials, increase time to file discrimination suits, rights for pregnant and nursing mothers, and other rules governing working hours, lunch breaks, health care benefits, unemployment benefits, etc. While advances were made for workers, companies realized these changes were not to their advantage.

So, in recent years, we’ve seen the rise of  a new corporate jargon work. We already know about “Quiet Quitting”, “Quiet Firing”, “Quiet Hiring”, and now, the newest term on the business scene, “Quiet Cutting”. While seemingly unfair to employees, these practices are all perfectly legal. In an at will state, there is no law that says employees are entitled to two weeks’ notice, that workers need to only do one job, or that your employer owes you any number of hours per week. “According to a new Monster survey conducted in January 2023, 80% of workers polled have been “quietly hired”, (assigned a new or additional role) and half of them say their new role wasn’t aligned with their skill set.” This is the definition of “Quiet Hiring”; someone’s hours are cut, or they’re let go, and another person, already working full time is assigned to pick up their duties. So, if you are trained as a cashier, you could be asked (or told) to work a certain number of hours in electronic sales, about which you know nothing. Meanwhile, someone else in your department is seen less and less doing that job. What happened to his or her responsibilities? Do they still have a desk or a computer, or even a phone? We’ve all heard the stories about someone’s name being removed from their parking space, or the more common, badge no longer working on the entrance door keypad.

“Quiet Cutting” is the latest insidious tactic managers use to hint that the job you are doing may no longer exist. It’s a subtle form or demotion: no more direct reports, a move to a less desirable office, parking space in Siberia. There does not seem to be a clear termination coming, just a downgrade in job rank and responsibilities. According to Forbes “The quiet cutting strategy is a restructuring tactic that is gaining momentum since it relieves the employer of severance costs and unemployment claims.” This tactic is used to avoid mass layoffs and  all that is required by law to go with it: retraining, outplacement centers, and unemployment claims.

In addition, “Quiet Cutting” may entail your 40 hour a week job, with overtime, health care, benefits, and a pension can now be cut into two 20 a week jobs, with neither employee receiving any benefits or rights that cover full time employees.

They will tell you you’re lucky to have work at all.

In a recent article in Fast Company, “Simply put, quiet cutting is a form of forced attrition.”

The authors urge workers not to give up on themselves, to keep your network alive and your resume polished. The damage to your morale can hinder you from moving forward and taking positive action. Remember, whether it’s a “Quiet Cut” or mass layoff, it’s not your fault. Keep looking, and you’re sure to land on your feet.

“Ultimately, remember that quiet cutting as a minor detour in the long path of your career. This perspective is especially helpful because it can make it easier to steer your career in the direction that works best for you in the long run.” – Fast Company


Connect with Mary:

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.

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