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Not going quietly: How “loud quitting” is changing professional etiquette

At a glance

  • Professionals who are unhappy with their boss or employer might engage in “quiet quitting” up to a certain point of frustration. Then, they resort to what’s known as loud quitting.
  • Quiet quitting is a passive-aggressive reduction in activity, participation and emotional engagement at work when employees decide they want to leave.
  • Loud quitting is the opposite. Rooted in social media, it’s the act of publicly airing your grievances and reasons for leaving a job. It can feel good in the moment, but there are professional ramifications to consider.
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The changing rules around quitting a job

Gone are the days of discreetly turning in your two-week notice. Today, some employees are going loud and proud about their decision to leave a job, broadcasting their exits through social media trends like “#quittok.”

But what kind of an impact is this trend making?

Should you do it?

More importantly, will your employees do it?

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The era of quiet quitting

Perhaps you’ve heard of quiet quitting. Not so long ago, this trend was all over social media as a way of sticking it to their employers. The gist of this is that employees reduce their engagement, effort or conversations, doing the minimum necessary to keep their jobs when they’ve decided they want to leave.

Additionally, quiet quitters typically detach themselves emotionally from their work. This can look like not volunteering for extra tasks or projects, avoiding participation in events or dodging attention from their manager.

Ultimately, the goal is to invest minimal effort for what is perceived as a minimal reward: employment.

Professionals engage in this for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s the workplace. If an employee operates in an emotionally toxic environment or can’t stand their boss, they may choose to save their energy for a job search or side gig.

Or maybe it’s the workload. When employees feel the pressure of increasing responsibility minus an increasing paycheck, they might choose to disengage, consciously or not, as a way of pushing back.

What is loud quitting? (And who is doing it?)

Loud quitting, on the other hand, represents an open revolt against an employer’s culture and leadership, usually made public on social media platforms.

This trend throws traditional professional etiquette out the window. Instead of focusing on setting boundaries with regard to a culture of overwork, loud quitting represents a public display of job dissatisfaction.

While this can feel good in the moment, it is also worth remembering that anything you share over social media can generally be found by your next would-be employer. For employees whose video doesn’t go viral but is out there in the cyber realm, or for those who do go viral but for all the wrong reasons (e.g., public censure rather than applause), making this grand gesture may work against them in the job search.

And this applies to everyone, not just Gen Z. Research shows that employees at all organizational levels are publicly airing their grievances, often, they say, because they feel like they haven’t been heard previously.

Workers increasingly value more flexibility, which relies on solid communication. Employers, however, haven’t always caught up to the demands of their employees when it comes to transparent and open communication. According to a recent Forbes article, Gen Z has spearheaded the demand for workplaces that foster the ability to speak up while also making employees feel engaged and valued.

Unfortunately, that’s proved to be a tall order for some companies. The ensuing friction — between what’s expected, desired and productive — has led to frustration, rage and resentment among some employees. And that’s where loud quitting comes in: Whether out of anger, disappointment or a genuine wish to warn other employees, some workers take to social media to air a laundry list of complaints.

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The role of #quittok

Quittok is a hashtag born from so-called loud quitting, which, at least in the beginning, seemed to happen a lot on TikTok.

One variation of quittok is quitting a job while livestreaming on social media. Another is for the individual to share his or her quitting story after resigning. According to WorkLife.news, the quittok trend is most popular among Gen Zers as they seek jobs that balance productivity with well-being.

Quittok behaviors and conversations usually vary per platform, from callout videos and quitting recap vlogs to viral threads on X (formerly Twitter). What we have seen time and time again is that the drive for these viral posts is the intention to call out the bad behavior of the organization, which can, at times, come at the cost of the employee’s future desirability as a new hire.

The aftermath of loud quitting

While fighting an employer with a viral video may be tempting, there are considerations to acknowledge before clicking “post.” 

  • What are the repercussions when a quitting post goes viral? Not everyone becomes a hero. And it is possible to be blacklisted in your industry after damaging the reputation of an employer.
  • Will your post initiate policy changes among employers? Or will you just look unhinged?
  • Is your post likely to hold the organization accountable in a meaningful way that helps other employees in the future? Or is it just an opportunity to vent your frustration and damage your company’s reputation (and maybe your own in the process)?

No one can know the answers to these questions before posting — but you may have a pretty decent prediction. And one thing is for sure: Loud quitting gets heard in more ways than one. You may be calling out a boss or company, but you’re speaking volumes about yourself in the process.

What’s next?

Based on 2022 Gallup data, U.S. employee engagement is losing steam: About half of all workers are “quietly quitting,” and the conservative estimate puts employee engagement at its lowest point in a decade.

If true, that means quitting — loudly, quietly or regularly — is likely to continue.

In my consulting and career coaching experience, I’m seeing a trend where having a full-time job is not the end all, be all. The gig economy means more people can diversify their income streams with side jobs or entrepreneurship. One byproduct of this trend is the push to value professionals for their results and skills, not necessarily how much time they spend at their desks.

In short, the future of work is turning out to be more flexible, skill-focused and entrepreneurial than ever before. Companies need to get on board or risk getting called out. And employees should be careful in doing the calling out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kara Dennison is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), an executive career and leadership coach, and a Forbes contributor. She’s the CEO of Optimized Career Solutions. Her dream job is helping high achievers and leaders live authentic lives, starting with their careers. When she’s not writing for University of Phoenix or coaching high achievers and leaders, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two black cats or swinging in the hammock out back in her small, remote town in Tennessee.

 

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