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The Quiet Trend Continues with Quiet Cutting

September 29, 2023

Over the past year we’ve had quiet quittingloud quittingquiet hiringquiet firing, and quiet constraint. Now we have quiet cutting which is the practice of reassigning employees to roles that do not align with their career aspirations, ultimately achieving workforce reduction through voluntary attrition. This allows companies to circumvent the expenses associated with severance packages or unemployment benefits.

Companies are increasingly turning to role reassignments as a strategic alternative to costly layoffs. However, this approach is viewed by many as shortsighted and potentially more detrimental than beneficial to a company.

It often includes denying career advancement opportunities, refusing compensation adjustments, assigning unpleasant tasks, creating unnecessary obstacles, and even isolating employees.

Several factors have contributed to the rise of quiet cutting within organizations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies went on a hiring spree due to the acceleration of digitization projects caused by remote work and employees reevaluating their career paths. However, a significant correction occurred in the latter half of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023, with many tech companies reducing their workforces as economic concerns grew.

Despite unemployment levels remaining below 4%, employees are now in a position to demand better pay and greater work flexibility due to talent shortages in vital skill areas.

Optics surrounding quiet cutting and its impact on employee morale pose significant problems, outweighing the perceived cost savings. Reassigning employees to roles that do not align with their career goals or skills can demoralize remaining workers and lead to disengagement.

Quiet cutting is indicative of the need for corporate America to rethink how talent is managed within organizations. When executed improperly, internal reorganization can make employees feel as though they are being downsized or pushed out.

Thankfully, the concept of quiet cutting is likely not widespread. The idea of companies cynically transferring employees into new roles to save on severance and outplacement costs is nonsensical, as the long-term costs of such a practice are substantial and damaging to an employer’s brand.

Organizations should focus on creating internal talent markets by transferring employees from mature business units to growing ones. This approach demonstrates an organization’s commitment to its employees’ career paths rather than sacrificing them for financial reasons.

To execute successful employee reassignments or reorganizations while avoiding the pitfalls of quiet cutting, employee skill assessment, employee input, and training opportunities should be assessed. Defining performance metrics and offering support to employees in meeting them can contribute to their success in new roles. A well-structured communication plan should address concerns, establish a balanced timeline, and incorporate feedback loops to foster continuous improvement.

For employees who have been reassigned, it is essential to familiarize themselves with their new responsibilities and engage in open and constructive conversations with their managers to address questions, concerns, or adjustments needed for a smooth transition. Staying positive and considering the potential benefits of the change is also crucial in making it work to one’s advantage.

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE.


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