Ultimate list of workplace trends 2023

2023 has been the year of the buzzword, with an inordinate amount of new workplace phrases suddenly appearing in our inboxes. But what do they actually mean?

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

If you need to take a temperature check on the current, dismal state of employee engagement in the UK, it might be a good idea to jump on TikTok. The platform has become a breeding ground for viral workplace trends and mystifying office slang.

New lingo such as ‘quiet quitting’ has dominated headlines as businesses struggle to decode the latest phrases taking the workforce by storm. Most originated in the past year. Few are positive for employers.

The sheer volume of disgruntled staff who are airing their grievances online has led HR experts to dub the app ‘QuitTok’. To managers, this new lexicon might seem easy to ignore. But, it can actually be a great way to understand the concerns plaguing today’s workforce.

Below, we’ll explain what each trend means, and what’s triggered its popularisation. That way, if you hear it in your own company’s hallways, you’ll be able to recognise the signs and can respond in a productive, empathetic way.

1. Managing up

Definition: adapting your working style to complement your manager's preferred way of working

Millennials may roll their eyes at this term. After all, managing up is hardly new. But Gen Zers new to the trend have taken to it by storm this year.

Essentially, managing up means encouraging the employee to monitor their behaviour based on their manager's needs and goals. It began trending in mid-August, with supporters claiming it makes for a stronger relationship with managers by promoting understanding, respect, and collaboration.

However, there are those who are less keen on the concept. Some critics have taken to the app to deride the idea of ‘sucking up' to please your boss and company, saying it is a way to encourage staff to tolerate toxic management.

2. Bare minimum Mondays

Definition: doing the least amount of work you can get away with at the start of a workweek

We’re not sure who the inventor of ‘bare minimum Mondays’ is, but if they turn out to be a fat ginger cat who loves lasagna, we wouldn’t be surprised. Simply put: practitioners show up to work at the beginning of the week and do the least amount of work possible to avoid stress or burnout in the remaining workdays.

Bosses might feel like ‘bare minimum’ is too close to ‘slacking off’ for comfort. But, in truth, the phenomenon is a good example of why many firms are adopting a four-day week. After all, if staff can condense their workload into a shorter week, why not take advantage?

3. Boomerang employee

Definition: an employee who leaves a company, and then is later rehired in the same or a different position.

It’s no secret that resignations have skyrocketed over the past few years. Across the UK, employees are packing up and switching careers, leaving their employers to fret over a widening skills gap and labour shortage.

According to a recent survey, nearly 20% of workers who resigned during the pandemic have since returned to their old job. Collectively, they are known as ‘boomerang employees’.

The boomerang employee is a strange phenomena. While it inevitably adds to an already sky-high turnover rate, there are significant advantages to hiring an employee who is already familiar with the company and how it operates.

4. Career cushioning

Definition: staying on the lookout for a Plan B job in case a better opportunity turns up

Today’s turbulent jobs market has seen many talented workers lose faith in their employers. As redundancy rates shoot up, 37% of UK workers report regularly searching online for other roles that might be available as a safety net.

Interestingly, the movement has positives for the employer. Research also shows that a quarter of professionals ultimately appreciated their employer more, having seen what other competitors were offering.

5. Quiet quitting

Definition: employees do the work they are paid for – no more, no less

Probably the best-known example of workplace jargon, quiet quitting is when a worker mentally checks out of a role, but not physically. They put in the minimum amount of effort to maintain a salary, but don't care about progression or going the extra mile.

Even the creator of this trend admits quiet quitting is an unsustainable approach to working. He recently quit loudly, encouraging people to find meaningful work in a career they enjoy. Odds on how long until ‘quitting loudly’ becomes a thing?

6. Quiet firing

Definition: when managers fail to support an employee, which results in them feeling subtly pushed out of an organisation

There is a conspiratorial beat to the notion of ‘quiet firing’. It describes a situation where an employer does not put time or effort into training a person, until the person is eventually forced to leave in order to move up the ladder elsewhere.

Research shows that 86% of employees would remain with their current employer for longer if they offered frequent learning and development (L&D) opportunities.

Adopting a coaching leadership style, where the employee feels that the manager cares about their career progression, will demonstrate that the company is invested in its employees. This is also an easy way to boost motivation and overall staff morale.

7. Quiet hiring

Definition: when an organisation upskills its employees to fill a knowledge gap without recruiting new full-time staff

Well, we didn’t say the names were imaginative. Bringing up the rear of the ‘quiet working’ trend is the idea of quiet hiring, a concept that has mixed connotations among employees. In this scenario (unlike quiet firing) the staff member gets to gain new skills and develop their experience – without the organisation having to up its staffing costs, as there’s no additional headcount needed to fill the skills gap.

Quiet hiring is not necessarily a bad thing – but managers should be aware of any pitfalls. Asking too much from employees who may already feel overworked and burning out could see you unintentionally tip a worker towards quiet quitting.

8. Lazy-girl jobs

Definition: menial, technical office jobs that can be done remotely and without much effort required

Essentially, lazy-girl jobs are roles which are undemanding and stress-free – an enticing prospect given the poor state of employee mental health and wellbeing in many of today’s workplaces.

Some argue they are an example of staff members feeling empowered to strive for greater work-life balance. A less-forgiving interpretation is that lazy-girl roles are an extension of quiet quitting, allowing the employee to take as many rest breaks as they want.

Whatever the context, hearing an employee speak about enjoying their ‘lazy-girl job’ should set alarm bells ringing for managers, who should start to think about ways they might re-engage and motivate the workforce.

9. Rage applying

Definition: an employee sends out a flurry of job applications in response to feeling undervalued by their current employer

Eventually, the employee dissatisfaction gets too much. Perhaps they feel they’ve experienced quiet firing for a while, or are frustrated under the weight of too many career cushions.

At this point, the employee might snap, and begin ‘rage applying’ – firing off job applications to rivals in an effort to leave their role as swiftly as possible.

New employers should be on the lookout for applicants who apply to a job role in moments of passion, as it could lead to hiring regret. Their enthusiasm for the new position could fizzle out quickly.

10. Resenteeism

Definition: the feeling of staying in a job you don’t enjoy, because you cannot afford to quit

If a team member starts just ‘showing up’ to work, but seems disengaged and unmotivated, it might be more than just holiday blues. It could be a case of ‘resenteeism’; a new term to describe the specific state of hating a job but being too reliant on the salary to quit.

That resenteeism has blossomed in the current, competitive jobs market might surprise some managers. But the fall in real wages has left many unsure about how good their job prospects would be elsewhere if they were to jump ship.

Those practising resenteeism in the workplace are hard to spot. They won’t reduce output, like quiet quitters. They’re also unlikely to share their predicament with their line manager, choosing instead to speak to colleagues and peers. This makes resenteeism a big threat to staff morale and workplace culture.

11. Shift shock

Definition: starting a new job and realising during the first shift that you don’t want to work there

Let’s say a new starter turns up at an office and learns that, rather than a 9-5 flexible working model, they’ll be working 8-6 in the office full-time. They might experience shift shock: the blow from thinking a job would be one thing, and then finding out reality is very different.

Research shows that around 72% of workers have experienced this phenomenon. Some might have just been experiencing first day jitters. Others will have been out the door before you can spell p-r-o-b-a-t-i-o-n. Luckily, it’s an easy situation to avoid.

In job adverts, be honest and descriptive about the company and its office environment. Make sure you understand exactly what they expect from the role. Keeping both parties on the same page about the position is crucial to finding the right fit.

How to ride the anti-work wave

None of the above trends will be new concepts to managers. Quiet quitting, for example, is simply an updated version of the idea of ‘phoning it in’.

What’s new is the level of fearlessness employees show when engaging with the trend. They show no qualms about publicly sharing their discontent online. Emboldened by the shift in power, they are spreading the anti-work news through UK workplaces like wildfire.

All of the above TikTok trends boil down to one major problem: employees are feeling undervalued. In a cost of living crisis, they’ve been hit hard, and the economic downturn shows no sign of improving. So, how should bosses react?

They may not be able to make today’s anti-work movement any less popular. But companies can do everything in their power to guarantee their organisation is a great place to work.

Whether it’s rewarding those in the office on a Monday, or recalculating pay packages to make sure you’re offering a competitive rate, all of these steps can ensure workers feel less like cogs in a corporate machine, and more like the valuable assets they are.

Find over 50 ways to motivate employees without raising wages in our guide to the top employee benefits and perks.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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