Workplace buzzwords to take seriously — and those to ignore
© Kenneth Anderson
There was a time when no one mentioned quiet quitting, Sunday scaries, bare minimum Mondays and all the other buzzwords that have come to infest the way people talk about work.
I remember this time well because it was only three years ago. These new catchphrases describe a shift in how we view our jobs that was allegedly unleashed by Covid.
Researchers reported last year that 65 per cent of global employees said the pandemic had made them rethink the place that work should have in their life. Employers were advised to recognise their staff wanted “purpose-driven work” and a sense of being valued, not just a pay cheque.
There is clearly truth to this, even after the recent bout of mass lay-offs and economic gloom. But do bosses really need to take every new bit of workplace jargon seriously? Can’t most of these terms be safely dismissed as alliteratively alluring blather from social media savvy twenty-somethings on TikTok?
I have always thought so. But last week I spoke to Anthony Klotz, the American academic who coined the biggest buzzword of all — the Great Resignation. He persuaded me the data shows a more nuanced picture.
The Great Resignation itself was of course quite real. Resignation rates had been gradually climbing before Covid but in 2022, more than 50mn US workers quit their jobs, the highest annual number in more than 20 years, and other countries saw similar jumps.
Klotz, who himself resigned and moved from the US to University College London’s school of management last year, predicted the trend before official figures confirmed it.
The number of quitters has subsided. As Klotz says, the vast majority of them never left the workforce outright but switched to similar jobs and have now stayed put. Also, employers started offering better paid work with more flexibility and better benefits, and the economy has soured so job-hopping is less appealing.
But what about the related idea of quiet quitting, a term that grew from a TikTok post last year about doing your job but nothing more and generally putting life ahead of work. Is it remotely real?
Experts widely dismissed the phrase as just another term for employee disengagement. But Klotz says a disengaged employee is somebody who starts doing poor work or withdrawing from all their tasks, which was not what quiet quitters meant. “They’re talking about disengaging from the extra, not going above and beyond their job description, which is different,” he says.
This has implications for employers and the employed. Klotz’s research has shown that, while it can be rewarding to go beyond the call of duty, it can also be draining.
“Rage applying” is another phrase that grew out of a TikTok post but should not be entirely dismissed by employers. It means mass-applying for jobs after getting fed up at work.
This “spray-and-pray” job hunting strategy is not new and describes a type of retaliatory employee behaviour that has been studied for years.
But the proliferation of online job platforms makes it much easier to do, and some workers may be more sensitive to office slights and frustrations, having avoided them while working remotely.
So Klotz advises employers to maintain a fair workplace — and make sure their organisation is listed on all the platforms that rage appliers from rival outfits might be using.
So what are the terms that bosses can more easily ignore?
First up: “resenteeism”, the supposedly evil twin of quiet quitting. It means staying in a job you hate because you have no choice, and beginning to actively resent it, which, as Klotz says, is “classic disengagement”.
He says there is also no empirical evidence showing a rise in the so-called Sunday scaries, or dread about the working week ahead, nor “bare minimum Mondays”, another TikTok hit, coined by a young woman describing how to deal with said scaries.
“This isn’t something that’s happening, it’s something that’s being recommended,” says Klotz. He doesn’t think employers need to dwell on it, except to ask if there is any evidence their staff are turning up on Mondays looking drained and far from recharged.
The bottom line? It makes sense to keep an eye on all these developments. Some are supported by evidence. But never forget that trending online does not mean trending in life.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023
© 2023 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Please do not copy and paste FT articles and redistribute by email or post to the web.