Inner resignation

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Internal dismissal in human resources is the attitude of an employee to work , not giving up the employment relationship by giving notice , but reducing work performance by refusing initiative and work to the extent that the employee was no longer employed by their employer .


The internal termination is an object of knowledge in particular in industrial psychology , industrial sociology or organizational psychology . They all deal with the causes and effects of internal termination on the affected employee and their work environment . Internal dismissal is also understood as a form of covert industrial conflict that has similarities with the protest form of service according to regulations .

Through the employment contract , the employee is obliged to perform his full work (100%) within the scope of the work obligation . In return , he receives full pay (100%) from the employer . However, the employer bears the risk that the employee may not perform his or her full work for physical, mental or psychological reasons, even though he has no grounds for exemption (such as illness ) from the obligation to work. The employee tacitly refuses to work . In that case, the employer still has to pay full wages, even though he receives less work than the employee owed. The employee lowers his work performance until he reaches the limit of refusal to work .

History of origin

Reinhard Höhn , the founder of the Harzburg model , dealt with the internal resignation for the first time in January 1982, which he initially described in a newspaper article as "self-retirement". He saw the internal dismissal as the conscious renunciation of the willingness to work in the profession , which is to be found above all among civil servants in public administration . As synonyms which led literature to work to rule or refuse service to. In 1992, Martin Hilb expanded this phenomenon from conscious decision to unconscious renunciation of commitment. Inner resignation is the "silent, mental refusal". The first formally comprehensive definition was provided by Wolfgang Elsik in 1994: “In contrast to open dismissal, internal dismissal does not terminate the employment relationship, but terminates the provision of services by employees that go beyond the prescribed minimum that is legally enforceable through sanctions ”.


Martin Hilb combines the internal resignation with a variety of personality changes such as “ stress tolerance ”, “ disinterest ”, “ minimalism ”, “ creativity poverty ”, “ passivity ”, “ conformism ”, “ disrespect ” and “ psychosomatic illnesses ”. Poor job satisfaction , lack of work motivation or performance motivation are also among the causes.

This conscious and unconscious process can be triggered by:

  • Professional expectations are not fulfilled (being passed over for promotions , lack of recognition , lack of opportunities for advancement , poor pay );
  • the activity is experienced as not fulfilling and meaningless (freezing into routines );
  • authoritarian and hierarchical leadership style ;
  • Discrepancy between the demands of the manager on the employees and the behavior of the manager in the role model function;
  • Disputes with superiors in which the person concerned experiences himself as a loser;
  • Arguments with colleagues ;
  • Bullying ;
  • arbitrary and unauthorized interference in the area of competence or micromanagement ;
  • the internal dismissal model for other employees ("if they don't do that, I won't either");
  • Change processes in organizations or in the work system that cannot be accepted or are experienced as a threat to previous professional life ;
  • excessive and arbitrary controls , so-called employee spying;
  • Dissatisfaction of the employee, which can also have its roots in a misjudgment of oneself and performance;
  • conscious distancing from professional activity and focusing on family and leisure life (work as a necessary evil to earn money);
  • characteristic phenomenon in the phase of transition to retirement .

These phenomena are often interpreted as a breach of the psychological contract .

A real termination of the job is not considered for the reason that no comparable or better position is in prospect, but rather losses or even unemployment would have to be accepted.

Characteristic features

Those affected by internal termination can have the following characteristics:

  • frequent absence from work due to illness , especially due to minor illnesses ( absenteeism );
  • sarcastic comments on the professional situation and perspective, complaints and whining;
  • lack of initiative , withdrawal, no introduction of new ideas;
  • Reduction of the official commitment to an essential minimum (service according to regulations);
  • Passivity , dreaming away, "sitting down" during working hours ;
  • Disinterest in further professional development , no planning of further professional development;
  • Asserting everyday work with private interests.

Not all of these characteristics necessarily indicate internal termination; Depending on the individual case, burnout syndrome , boreout syndrome , a depressive illness or mood , personal problems, reaction to wrong treatment, chronic actual under-demand or excessive demand of an employee by wrong ones are possible causal backgrounds for the characteristics in question Use or an unused, for example undetected or undesired special performance in question.

Fix options

Internal dismissal by employees entails high consequential costs for the company or organization concerned. Ultimately, labor productivity drops to such an extent that the employee is no longer generating what he costs. Opportunities for intervention by the line manager are:

A combination of several measures is possible, but the focus should be on treating the causes identified in the employee.


The internal termination is a relatively stable behavior pattern over time , which is characterized by minimal effort and clear distance from one's own work . The work to rule differs from the inner termination by the work performance, and that labor intensity of all applicable by rigorous application laws , operating procedures and service requirements decrease. In the case of internal termination, on the other hand, there is a lack of generally existing work motivation and job satisfaction, which reduce work performance during working hours and have completely or partially disappeared in the internal termination. Suffering from work that is compensated for by wages is gaining in importance, and enjoyment of work decreases accordingly. It is more difficult to distinguish between burnout and burnout . In the event of burnout, the employee would like to maintain his previous level of performance, but he can no longer meet his original demands on himself and his work, which prevents him from maintaining his previous level of performance.

In the meantime, internal dismissal in the sense of distancing or even refusal is also being transferred to the behavior of students , life partners or citizens who, for example, no longer take part in elections (“they do whatever they want up there anyway”).


  • R. Brinkmann, K. Stapf: Internal termination. When the job becomes a facade . CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52815-5 .
  • Gero Lauck: Burnout or internal resignation? Theoretical conceptualization and empirical testing using the example of the teaching profession. Hampp, 2003, ISBN 3-87988-786-1 .
  • Wolfgang Pippke: Inner resignation. In: Peter Heinrich, Jochen Schulz to Wiesch (Hrsg.): Dictionary of micropolitics . Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1998, pp. 114-115.
  • E. Schmitz, P. Jehle, B. Gayler: Internal dismissal in the teaching profession. In: A. Hillert, E. Schmitz (Hrsg.): Psychosomatic illnesses in teachers . Schattauer, Stuttgart 2004.
  • M. Stahlmann, W. Wendt-Kleinberg: Between engagement and internal resignation. Progressive downsizing and operational cultures of interaction. Westphalian steam boat, Münster 2008.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Reinhard Höhn, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of January 18, 1982, view through the economy: The inner termination - a bad topic
  2. Reinhard Höhn, The internal termination in public administration: Causes - Consequences - Countermeasures , 1989, p. 21
  3. ^ Fritz Raidt, internal termination , in: Hans Strutz, (Ed.), Handbuch Personalmarketing 1989, p. 68
  4. Martin Hilb, Inner Termination: Causes and Solutions , 1992, p. 5
  5. Peter Gross, An enterprise is not an aquarium , in: Martin Hilb (Ed.): Innere Kündung: Causes and Solutions, 1992, p. 87
  6. Wolfgang Elsik, Inner Termination , in: Erwin Dichtl / ​​Ottmar Issing (ed.), Vahlens Großes Wirtschaftslexikon, Volume 2, 1994, p. 993
  7. Martin Hilb, Inner Termination: Causes and Solutions , 1992, p. 18
  8. Maren Wenck, From the achievement motivation to inner termination , 2013, p. 44