Gen Z and young Millennials are famous for sharing their lives on social media, and professional grievances are not off limits. Who needs Dilbert when you have TikTok, where work-related videos have generated over 1 billion views to date? From Quiet Quitting to Acting Your Wage, these generations are shouting their workplace discontent — which is a huge help for HR leaders.
Hear us out. Of course, employee dissatisfaction isn’t a good thing. It drives costly turnover and presenteeism, and nobody wants to work with a team that would rather be anywhere else doing anything else.
But this public branding of employee discontent makes it visible. That empowers People Ops teams to better understand and adapt to the changing needs of today’s workforce.
Here’s what today’s top workplace TikTok trends tell us about employee needs in 2023, and how HR leaders can use that knowledge to engage and retain employees.
- Quiet Quitting, Quiet Hiring & Quiet Firing
Doesn't it seem like everything in the workplace is "quiet" these days? Well, there's nothing actually "quiet" about these pandemic workplace trends — according to a Hewett Recruitment study, #quietquitting alone has 693.1 million views on TikTok as of April 2023.
Quiet quitting is when an employee puts in the absolute minimum amount of work or effort their job requires and nothing more. An employee doesn’t actually leave their role, but they refuse to go above and beyond. They may decline to work overtime, not take initiative on new projects, or refuse to participate in optional team-building events.
Meanwhile, quiet hiring and quiet firing is about how employers treat their employees. Quiet hiring is when employers ask current employees to do tasks outside of their job duties, often to delay or prevent hiring for a new role. Quiet firing, on the other hand, is when employers push employees out of an organization by refusing or failing to provide development opportunities, promotions, and performance feedback. Some managers go so far as to create a toxic workplace in hopes that an employee eventually quits.
What HR Can Do
If you are experiencing "quiet" throughout your workplace, it could mean you have a lack of employee engagement or a toxic work environment. There are plenty of ways you can right the ship, setting employees up for success in their roles and increasing employee engagement. Consider providing candid and consistent feedback, and promoting healthy habits — like taking short walks, scheduling a mental health break in between meetings, or taking a few minutes to restock the break room with healthy snacks.
Having meaningful responsibilities can also increase engagement, but you have to be careful you don’t assign too many extra responsibilities in your quest to boost an employee’s engagement levels.(You may find yourself being the cameo in a quiet hiring TikTok.) One simple way to ensure your employees feel their work is meaningful is to help them see the impact they are having on the company, clients or community. Share a few positive customer experiences or gather a few data points about how a recent project affected your company’s bottom line.
- Bare Minimum Mondays
Similar to quiet quitting, "Bare Minimum Mondays" are when employees do the least possible amount of work on Mondays to start the week off slowly. The idea came as a response to the "Sunday Scaries," where employees experience anxiety or dread before the start of a new workweek, and is thought to help avoid burnout.
Workers adopting Bare Minimum Mondays often prioritize self-care over work on Monday mornings by setting aside a few hours to workout, journal, or meditate. Alternatively, they may simply prioritize the week's important tasks before jumping into meetings, emails, and phone calls. While taking time to organize important tasks seems like the recipe for effective prioritization, the Bare Minimum Mondays trend has become controversial because it challenges the traditional views of workplace productivity and hustle culture with its long hours and little regard for self-care.
What HR Can Do
Employees with a bare minimum Mondays mindset may be suffering from employee burnout. Burnout wreaks havoc on an employee's mental and physical wellbeing.
You can help your employees create balanced workloads by setting realistic deadlines and making sure they aren’t taking on too much work. Encouraging regular breaks throughout the day also aids in prioritizing work-life wellness to prevent burnout. A robust wellness program — meaning one that supports fitness programs, financial counseling and support, health education classes, and more — can go a long way toward reducing burnout levels at your organization.
- Acting Your Wage
The "acting your wage" trend is common among blue-collar workers where employees put boundaries on overworking without appropriate compensation. Like Quiet Quitting, employees only do what they are paid to do — nothing more. The “act your wage” movement is largely thought to be a response to inflation and slow wage growth.
What's the difference between quiet quitting and acting your wage? Despite the many similarities between the two trends, participants of the act your wage trend actually don't want to quit their jobs because they hate them. Many TikTokers participating in this trend realize they need to work and want to work, but they argue there is no need to overextend themselves without being compensated for doing so.
What HR Can Do
Even your most loyal employees care about compensation. Make sure your compensation strategy is fair, competitive and aligned with industry standards. You can perform a compensation analysis and gather relevant market data for similar roles from tools like Indeed or SalaryExpert to compare against your compensation strategies.
Also consider offering perks and other employee benefits to help boost engagement and retention. As a bonus, some employee perks, like wellbeing programs, can ultimately be cost-savings programs for our organization.
The newest TikTok trend, #lazygirljob, is a direct response to employee burnout. It pushes back on the mindset that working harder and longer is the only way to succeed in your career. The hashtag plays on the common thought that Gen-Z workers are lazy, subverting the term into a brag — #lazygirljobs are meant to offer a way for employees to prioritize mental and physical health through healthy boundaries between work and life. The goal is to find a role that is well-paying and low-stress, offering flexibility and a life outside of work.
This trend highlights the need for employers to address the underlying reasons for burnout. Employees cannot be solely responsible for their own work-life balance — their employer is half of the equation. And the desire for better work boundaries is widespread in today’s workforce. One in four U.S. employees feels their work doesn't allow them to take time for wellbeing, as Gympass detailed in its State of Work-Life Wellness Report, and only a quarter of the American workforce says their employer demonstrates care for their wellbeing.
What HR Can Do
If your employees are experiencing signs of employee burnout, you should address it right away. You can give your employees unique employee benefits and tools that support mental, emotional and physical wellness both inside and outside of work to help combat and prevent employee burnout.
- Rage Applying
Rage applying is when employees apply to new jobs out of frustration or anger. It often occurs after an employee feels underappreciated and overlooked. Perhaps they failed to receive a promotion or a raise, or they received negative performance feedback with which they do not agree. The idea is to apply to any job that will get them out of their current role (which sometimes means applying to hundreds of jobs at a time with the help of AI).
Rage applying can be an obvious red flag for employers who don't want to see their employees leave. It can also be problematic for organizations with open job postings that want to maintain a high quality of hire.
What HR Can Do
If you notice one candidate has applied for multiple open roles within your company across multiple teams and skill levels, that candidate may be rage applying. Other signs of rage applying include submitting generic resumes and showing a lack of interest or preparedness during interviews. Optimizing your talent acquisition strategies can help you find and hire the best talent for your organization. Tap into your network to build awareness about open positions or consider investing in automation tools–like applicant tracking systems–to help find the right candidates quickly.
- Boomerang Employee
A boomerang employee is an employee who leaves a company and is later rehired by that same company. The trend is currently viewed as part of “The Great Regret,” or the wave of employees who view quitting during The Great Resignation as a mistake. The number is substantial — four out of five people who left their jobs during The Great Resignation now regret leaving, according to a recent Paychex study.
Many times, an employee will come back to a former employer if their new job didn't quite measure up to their expectations in terms of salary, culture, responsibilities, or development opportunities. Boomerang employees sharing their experiences on TikTok discuss the pros and cons of going back to their former employers and seek advice from others on the platform.
What HR Can Do
Deciding whether or not you rehire former employees is likely best decided within the context of your overarching talent acquisition strategies.
Some pros of rehiring include reduced talent acquisition and onboarding costs. Returning employees can get up to speed faster because they know the ropes, which can translate into a shorter time-to-productivity window. And, despite the common wisdom that an employee who left once is likely to leave again, figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicate boomerang employees actually have lower turnover rates than industry averages.
On the other hand, Companies should consider the effects rehiring former employees has on company culture, especially if the employee left on not-so-good terms with coworkers and managers. Depending on how long ago the employee left, culture and processes may have changed, and the rehired employee will have to learn and adapt to the new changes. This could slow progress towards organizational change and cause tension among coworkers if the former employee can’t let go of the past.
Leverage Viral Social Trends to Improve Employee Engagement
The frustrations driving these viral TikTok trends may not seem new. From Office Space to Abbot Elementary, people have long turned to popular culture to air their workplace grievances.
But today you no longer need a studio camera to be heard. Workers are saying en masse that they are burnt out and feel underappreciated. They are expressing a crisis of wellbeing that employers can address — and benefit from resolving, as business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit than those that are miserable.
A wellbeing program is a proven way to improve workforce wellness. Providing resources that enable employees to take care of their wellbeing — from gym reimbursements to meditation and nutrition app subscriptions — makes it clear your organization cares. This is a win-win that also boosts business outcomes: Nine out of 10 companies that track their wellbeing spending see a positive ROI.
Speak with a wellbeing specialist today for help improving your employee experience with a wellness program!
- Gallup (2022, June 13). State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. Gallup.com.
- Gympass. (2023, May 18). Return on Wellbeing Report 2023. https://gympass.com/en-us/resources/research/return-on-wellbeing-study-2023
- Gympass (2022, November 8). The State of Work-Life Wellness 2022. Gympass.com. https://www.gympass.com/en-us/resources/report
- Justen, D. (2022, August 26). Boomerang employees: Why rehires are invaluable to your organization and how to retain them. Ceridian. https://www.ceridian.com/ca/blog/boomerang-employees-why-rehires-are-invaluable-to-your-organization-and-how-to-retain-them
- Paychex. (2023, January 16). Employee Regret After the Great Resignation. https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/exploring-the-great-regret
- Quiet Quitting: How to understand, identify and resolve it. Hewett Recruitment. (2023, June). https://www.hewett-recruitment.co.uk/blog/2023/05/quiet-quitting-how-to-understand-identify-and-resolve-it
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.