Dec 13, 2023 - Economy

Employers are doing stealth layoffs now

Illustration of a paper chain of people with scissors about to cut the chain.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Forget quiet quitting, employers are doing quiet layoffs now amid a slowing job market for white-collar workers.

What's happening: Workers get advance notice that they're being laid off — so they're working for additional weeks or even months for an employer who's told them the end is nigh, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: It's an under-the-radar way to do layoffs that can protect an employer from a run of bad press.

  • Employers also hope that these gentler firings will engender more goodwill from departing workers.
  • Meanwhile, affected employees can look for work while they still have a job — putting them in a stronger position to search.

How it works: In some cases, management gives an end date that's months ahead — one technical writer was told in April that his last day would be in December, the WSJ reported.

  • Other employers tell workers that they will be laid off, without a clear timeline. Stressful. "Every day, you go in, and you're like is it going to be today?" one employee operating in this situation told the Journal.

Zoom in: Workers generally appreciate the ability to job hunt while they still have a job — especially since it's taking white-collar workers longer to find one these days.

  • Employers are taking it slow when it comes to hiring, putting up more obstacles, like more interviews and complicated tests, in job applicants' paths.

Yes, but: Some employers won't do stealth layoffs because they're wary of the employee sharing confidential information with other companies.

  • Instead of keeping a worker on the payroll with a ticking time bomb over her head, employers also could give generous severance to soften the blow.
  • Spotify last week said it was giving terminated employees about five months — longer than typical for most industries.
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