RSS Feed


More Articles: Latest Popular Archives

Engineered attrition is the latest tactic to get rid of employees

Amrit Sandhar, Founder - The Engagement Coach

According to JP Morgan, the global economy is projected to expand at a slower pace of around 1.6% in 2023, with some areas such as the financial sector, already seeing a substantial impact, with a 46% increase in redundancies over the last quarter of 2022.

Whilst organisations are preparing for a bumpy road ahead, could some – especially the tech sector – be preparing to apply practices that they know will cause employees to resign, rather than facing into making redundancies?

This might involve forcing them back to the office five days per week or taking away perks and benefits such as a free lunch, pushing a culture of overwork or long hours. I call this tactic engineered attrition, whereby a company implements hostile workplace practices to ‘push’ employees out to increase the bottom line.

This is different from quiet firing, in the sense that the company isn’t targeting one individual but encouraging large numbers of people to leave, usually before they announce redundancies (or so they can avoid announcing redundancies).

The problem? It will backfire. And the consequences could have long-term negative impacts on the organisations that adopt this tactic. Here’s how.

Your best employees will leave first
As employer branding becomes more important to people, company reputation and culture matters. Whilst organisations might want to encourage employees to leave, they should note that it’s often the most talented and experienced employees who are the first to leave organisations when people feel less valued, or they sense a toxic culture is forming.

Talented people are the ones who deliver, they are the caring and compassionate leaders who bring out the best in people and nurture a positive company culture, they are the ones who believe in the company and can deliver the strategy. Losing these people will be extremely damaging to your company, and in turn, the bottom line.

It will be more difficult to attract talent
As bad company practices are now widely documented in the media (from mass, impersonal Zoom firings, to forcing employees back to the office) employees will remember your company for all the wrong reasons when you’re looking to hire talent in the future.

For jobseekers, finding a job is no longer about finding a role with the desired salary and some good perks, it’s about finding an environment where they feel supported, they’re adequately compensated, and a place where they can do their best work.

When people see that a company forced its staff back to the office for 4 or 5 days a week or that it wants people to work long hours or leave – whether it was a month or two years ago – jobseekers can see that company is one that doesn’t care about its staff or how they work best. So, no matter how good your company name might look on their CV, they’d rather work somewhere that listens to and respects its employees.

You’ll create low workplace morale
The steps that some organisations may undertake to actively encourage attrition, will likely be indiscriminate, impacting on highly skilled and engaged employees, as well as those who are already disengaged from the organisation.

These practices will do nothing but create a worsening employee experience for all. There is a risk too that for those managers who choose not to manage their teams, this becomes the perfect environment to not have to face into workplace challenges. Ineffective managers can leave demanding and hard-working employees frustrated at the lack of support and guidance, causing them to resign, leaving those happy to do the bare minimum, to remain.

There is a risk that these practices could have a long-lasting detrimental impact on changing the company culture. In allowing those behaviours that contradict the values, mission, and purpose of the organisation, to continue, this could damage productivity, engagement, and attraction of future talent.

In summary, 2023 is set to be a year full of uncertainties. Many companies have recently carried out redundancies and others have halted recruitment for now. Whilst engineering attrition may sound like an easy option, every organisation looking to pursue this approach will end up paying a heavy price in attracting and retaining any future talent, as well as having a long-term detrimental impact on its company culture.

    Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)