Gen Xer who will not return to office says he was ‘quietly fired’

Stephen Taylor
Stephen Taylor

  • A general moved to Orlando, Florida, after his California lab became remote in 2020.
  • He says his managers gave him less work because he had adopted a mixed work environment.
  • He had resigned without having a set job, but a remote contract job gave him some peace of mind.

Stephen Taylor, 51, said he remembers sitting on the train in 2020 on his way to work for the last time before his company became so far away, wondering what that would mean for his career.

After a few weeks of isolation and feeling mentally drained, the mechanical and computer engineer got approval to move from California, where he worked in a lab, to Orlando, Florida, to be closer to his family. He gave up his desk at the California lab to a local employee in order to work from home.

For the first few years, remote work went smoothly. But as Taylor neared the five-year mark at the company, he said he got a new supervisor who told him the company would bring employees back for mixed work. Although Taylor said he could do all of his work remotely, his boss wanted him to visit the Bay Area offices at least once a month.

He said his company would not help with the transfer, and no one followed up on his visitation schedule. That seems like a sure sign that the company is investing in personal workers, Taylor said. He also built a new home in Orlando and couldn’t leave his daughter, a full-time student, by moving back to the Bay Area.

“My co-workers who were all there in California knew I wasn’t coming back, so I started not being invited to meetings, I was assigned less and less work, and it became hostile to me,” Taylor told Insider. “It was good that I left, but at the same time being unemployed, having kids and bills and everything, which isn’t the greatest thing either.”

He decided to quit without getting another job, although he did find temporary work after a few weeks.

After bringing remote workers back into the office, some companies “softly fire” employees who either moved away from the office or were initially assigned to a remote job. While some companies deliberately make jobs less attractive so that employees can leave of their own volition, sometimes companies fire employees without even knowing it. At the same time, there appears to be a growing disconnect between remote employees and their employers.

“We’ve found that ‘quiet dismissals’ are often unintentional and a result of managers’ negligence,” Ben Wiegert, director of research and strategy for workplace management at Gallup, told Insider. “Most often, it occurs when managers fail to provide adequate training, support, and career development for an employee, which results in the employee being pushed out of the organization.”

Some companies see quiet firing as a better alternative to layoffs

Typically, quiet firing occurs when managers don’t routinely discuss progress in achieving goals, don’t provide feedback on performance or recognition to individuals, and don’t present workers with a compelling career path, Wegert says. Because of performance issues, team cohesion issues, or changing business needs, companies sometimes try to fire employees so that they quit voluntarily. This could save them unemployment fees, Wegert said, or it might allow managers to get away with mistakes.

Other companies practice what some call a “quiet cut,” which means that the employee’s position is demoted, but rather than terminated, he or she is moved to a different position — often a lower-paying or unrelated one.

“Perhaps the most well-known use of the ‘quiet cut’ in the back-to-office era is rumors about employers ending remote work options in the hopes that employees quit before the company is forced to lay off workers,” Wiegert said.

“We usually find that how an employee is managed is three to four times more important than where they work,” Wiegert said. “In other words, staying informed of ongoing conversations about expectations, progress and the support needed to achieve success would have most likely translated into a more productive and trusting relationship between both parties.”

Adapting to the new situation

Taylor was making low six figures when he decided to leave his company. Although he didn’t have a job immediately afterwards, he said the decision to stay in Orlando gave him peace of mind.

Eventually, he landed a job on a six-month remote contract at an electronics company based in North Carolina. Although the pay is comparable, he said he doesn’t enjoy the same health benefits he did at the California lab, and he doesn’t know what will happen after the contract ends.

“After the six months, I’ll probably move again, looking for another job,” Taylor said, adding that many companies in his industry are moving toward co-working arrangements.

However, he is fairly confident that he will get a position that suits his needs. Remote working has given him the opportunity to create a comfortable home office where he can focus, cut transportation costs, and have the freedom to log in whenever he wants as long as he meets his 40-hour requirement.

“Sometimes you have to be your own boss and stay productive, and a lot of times you can feel vulnerable when you don’t have anyone on your shoulder,” Taylor said. “But some days when you don’t feel like it, you don’t have the pressure of having to perform in front of everyone. I don’t see a lot of downsides to working remotely.”

Did you quit because of return-to-office policies, or did you push for employees to come back? Contact this reporter at

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