'Quiet cutting' | A new trend sees employers reassigning staff to new jobs - are you guilty of it?

A new trend sees employers reassigning staff to new jobs - are you guilty of it?

You’ve probably heard of 'quiet quitting', where workers fulfil their job requirements but have mentally ‘checked out’, and you might have even heard of 'quiet firing', when managers purposefully fail to provide coaching and career development in hopes an employee will leave. But there is a new trend emerging in the workplace.

'Quiet cutting' is characterised by employers reassigning workers to a new role – employees might receive an email saying their current role has been axed, but they have not been fired.

This new trend, which is gaining momentum particularly in the US, allows companies to cut jobs and reduce their expenditure without laying off staff. Research from Alphasense found that this type of restructuring more than tripled in the past year.

While fewer companies are letting go of staff altogether, companies such as Adobe, Adidas, IBM and Salesforce are all amongst those ‘quiet cutting’ in a bid to restructure their workforce.

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Firms are also using this technique to bypass severance or unemployment pay, which can often be costly for employers, as workers choose to leave of their own accord.

In the first article to report on the trend, Wall Street Journal outlines the appeal of 'quiet cutting' for employers. The article explains: “For companies that spent several years—and significant money—to hire top talent, reassigning workers to new roles can be a way to fill jobs vital to future plans while trimming costs associated with old strategies.

“It can also be a waiting game. Employees to whom it would be costly to pay severance or months of unemployment benefits might decide to leave on their own if they feel stuck in a job they don’t want.”

Employee insecurity and anxiety

Despite the obvious cost-cutting benefits of 'quiet cutting' for employers, this trend is leaving many workers uncertain about the future, unhappy with their new role, and disengaged from their work.

Many employees also report feeling the way they were treated wasn’t fair. The Wall Street Journal article shines a light on the experience of Conrad, an IBM worker who was ‘quietly cut’ and went through two reassignments in his time at the company.

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Conrad explains how his managerial role was cut, and he was instead given a job selling software for the company, a role he had no experience in which took a toll on his mental health. Conrad explains that he didn’t want to quit because he was good at his previous job, he told WSJ: “I wouldn’t give in because I was a top performer and it just wasn’t fair.”

Clearly, 'quiet cutting' can have some significant effects on the wellbeing of workers. Despite this phenomenon keeping workers employed, it has the potential of stripping them of the passion and engagement surrounding their work and assumes that staff are willing to do any job as long as it’s with your company, which evidently isn’t true. HR practitioners should recognise that despite the potential benefits this trend could have within your firm in streamlining costs, it can have a detrimental effect on your culture, employee wellbeing, and productivity. 

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