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Human Truth Podcast | Ep. 12:...

Human Truth Podcast | Ep. 12: From Quiet Quitting to Rage Applying, HR Phrases Go Viral

2022 was the year of HR buzzwords. From quiet quitting to rage applying, words that describe the world of work go viral.

Welcome to The Human Truth Podcast where, each episode, we take a closer look at a popular workforce statistic ripped from the headlines and ask: Where’d it come from? Is it true? And why should we care? 

In this episode, we examine this stat from Similarweb Keyword Search:

The search for "quiet quitting" increased 3,334% in August 2022 compared to the previous month. 

From “great rehire” to “great regret,” or “quiet quitting” to “rage applying,” 2022 was the year of HR buzzwords with a new viral phrase popping up in the news cycle every few weeks. 

What does this influx of terms mean for the employee-employer relationship, and how should companies react? To discuss this trend, host Ian Cook is joined by Taryn Brymn, the Head of Executive Programs for Future Forum, a consortium backed by Slack.  

On the podcast this episode:

  • Host, Ian Cook is Visier’s VP of People Analytics

  • Guest, Taryn Brymn, Head of Executive Programs for Future Forum. 

At Future Forum, Taryn is responsible for setting the vision, intended outcomes, and milestones for Future Forum’s executive programs. Using Future Forum’s quarterly desk worker research, Taryn turns data into dialogue for how organizations can be more flexible, inclusive, and connected. Taryn produces engaging gatherings and peer-to-peer executive convening opportunities to inspire change and reimagine the future.

Prior to Future Forum, Taryn was Director of Programs at G100 Network (part of the World 50 company), where she shaped membership programs for C-Suite executives and board directors of F1000 companies and helped them reimagine solutions to their current and future business challenges. Earlier in her career, Taryn held roles in nonprofit grant execution and management. Most recently, she worked on the revitalization of cultural institutions in New York City at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

Mentioned in the episode: 

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Episode transcript: 

Producer: New work related buzzwords come and go every day. Career cushioning, rage applying, quiet quitting. But it's the biggest pain points like retention and compensation strategy that remain constant. To get the low down on how people analytics solve your most enduring workforce problems, download or guide, 10 Ways Visier Helps You With Your Most Common Business Challenges at visier.com today.

It's The Human Truth Podcast, where each episode we examine a workforce statistic, read from the headlines and ask where did it come from? Is it accurate and should we care? Thousands of new words were added to the dictionaries of record in 2022. Some like adorkable and yeet may not be familiar to anyone over 35, while familiar words like cringe and trigger got expanded definitions. But this is a show about workforce trends. So today we're talking about all the work related terms that are having a moment. From great rehire to great regret or quiet quitting to rage applying, 2022 was the year of HR buzzwords with a new viral phrase popping up in the news cycle every few weeks.

Google Trends show that searches for quiet quitting went from 1 to 100 on a popularity scale of 1 to 100 in August 2022. To talk more about the language of work, let's get into it with host Ian Cook and our guest, Taryn Brymn, Head of Executive Programs at the Future Forum, a consortium created by Slack that have their finger on the pulse of all the future of work trends.

Ian Cook: Hi, I'm Ian Cook, the host of The Human Truth Podcast, and today we're talking about the rise of workforce related buzzwords. It seems like every week there is a new phrase that pops up on my LinkedIn feed describing some workplace trend. Quiet quitting, anxious applying, productivity paranoia, and countless others. But what do these rising trends tell us about today's workplace?

To discuss this topic, I am joined by Taryn Brymn. Taryn has just a fantastic job. She is the Head of Executive Programs for Future Forum, which is a consortium backed by Slack with founding partners from the Boston Consulting Group, MillerKnoll, and Management Leadership For Tomorrow.

And at Future Forum, Taryn is responsible for setting the vision, intended outcomes and milestones for the Future Forum's executive programs. So using Future Forum's quarterly desk worker research turn turns data into dialogue for how organizations can be more flexible, more inclusive, and more connected, really important issues of our day. And Taryn produces these gatherings so that peer-to-peer executives can talk about opportunities, inspire change, and reimagine the future.

Sounds like you have a wonderful situation in this whole workplace debate, Taryn, and thank you very much for joining us today.

Taryn Brymn: Thank you, Ian. Glad to be here. And hello all the listeners.

Ian Cook: To kick things off, we're talking about the rise of work buzzwords. It's quite the phenomenon. I mean, it started, I think, my personal experience is it started with this notion of great resignation that really caught the global imagination and then became a huge word, and then it all kind of followed. And one of the stats that the team have dug up is that this quiet quitting, which is another one of the recent buzzwords, the increase in the uses of search term was 3334% in August of 2022 compared to previous month.

So there's these waves of words, these waves of ideas about the workplace or phenomenon that are happening in the workplace that are suddenly appearing on the web and going viral. What do you see as behind this constant focus or this constant wave of the viral trends and the words that go with them, Taryn? How do you interpret all of this stuff?

Taryn Brymn: I mean, besides the alliterative, catchy names?

Ian Cook: Well, there's definitely a case of it gets people's attention, but why now? Why the workplace? Why now?

Taryn Brymn: I think we're at a crossroads and we're still figuring out the best way to operate after a few really tough years. These ideas and the names associated with them all help shed light on challenges that need to be addressed, some of which may have been buried for a long time and that many people are experiencing simultaneously. So I think there's strength in numbers and that virality of it shows that people are not alone.

Ian Cook: There's a fascinating piece in what you raised there around organizations are wrestling with what is the workplace of the future. The dynamic has changed, oscillates possibly weekly in certain sectors. Again, depending if you're in tech or if you're in healthcare, you've got very different experiences at the workplace. And what I hear you say is that we are collectively debating what the workplace should be like, which is raising to prominence issues like quiet quitting or something padding. I had, yeah, work padding, like rush applying, like all of these things are coming. Again, behaviors that have been going on for some time. But your sense that they're popularizing now because we are debating what the workplace means in the future. Is that how you would see it?

Taryn Brymn: Exactly. I think people have spent the last few years really reflecting and deciding what is important to them in every facet of their lives, and work, how it gets done, when it gets done and where it gets done is no exception to that rule.

Ian Cook: And the press is kind of highly engaged in that debate and making it catchy with the alliteration. Do you have any particular favorites amongst some of the buzzwords that have been kicking around?

Taryn Brymn: Ooh, my new one is bare minimum Mondays.

Ian Cook: Oh.

Taryn Brymn: Have you heard about this?

Ian Cook: Oh, I have not heard about this. This sounds awesome.

Taryn Brymn: So I think it was popularized by a TikToker, I do forget their name. So sorry to all the content creators out there for not giving you the credit that you deserve. But the concept is it's similar to quiet quitting where it's doing nothing more than it's actually necessary to get your job done. But the way I heard it in the video I saw was really like, I'm going to prioritize my self-care today. I do not want to go into the work week so frazzled and focusing on the hustle and really just doing what it is that need to get my job done.

And in doing that, all I'm hearing is that this person doesn't have the autonomy, this person doesn't have flexibility. There's a lack of role clarity maybe, a lack of support in how frustrated or overworked they may be, or that their team may be. So I think that there's a lot to that term. And as catchy as it is, it at least to me raises some alarm.

Ian Cook: Yeah, no, and I think because I'm interested that you also mentioned this quiet quitting because it's framed and many people would take that framing as a negative like quitting, that's a bad thing, quiet like you have a secret. What's going on? When I first heard quiet quitting described is like that's how I describe a solid performer, somebody who does their job with minimal fuss to the level required. Isn't that meets expectations? But it is framed in the negative. Any sense on why some of these things are coming across as negative or why it's generating so much debate?

Taryn Brymn: Well, like you I like to take the positive of quiet quitting, let's take that for instance. And at its worst quiet quitting really claims that employees just don't want to work anymore. And I think that really detracts from the reality that work has changed for the better in so many ways. So the negativity we're hearing is really not supporting how much better work has gotten for people and for organizations.

And what our Future Forum data shows is that people do want to work. Contrary to what popular belief is now, people do want to work, but they want more choice in how they work. So while some are questioning whether flexible work actually works, actually will work in the long term, our data continues to show that flexibility plays a key role in helping employees feel their most productive and their most connected to their teams and their organizations.

Ian Cook: That's a fascinating piece of research and a fascinating stat. I almost want to hear you say that again because I've deeply aligned to this, your view that in most people actually want to work and do a good job. They experience satisfaction. They experience identity. They experience connection.

Taryn Brymn: Perfect.

Ian Cook: To work.

Taryn Brymn: People want to. Right.

Ian Cook: Yeah. So this notion that people don't want to work is, I mean I flip it and say people don't necessarily want work the way that the job has been shaped. They don't want to sit in a cubicle. They don't want to just do high repeat tasks. They don't want nobody to not notice. I think that's the things that people don't want.

Taryn Brymn: More than 40% of workers in the US have more flexibility at work than they did before the pandemic. So when you compare that to workers with no ability to shift their schedules, folks with full schedule flexibility report 39% higher productivity and 64% greater ability to focus. While workers with location flexibility, which is the ability to work at least one day per week remotely report 8% higher productivity scores than those fully in the office, which if you think about it, makes substantial impact when spread across a team and a 40-hour work week.

Ian Cook: Yeah, no, that is quite massive for sure. And again, it's encouraging to actually start to see the data coming out behind this. Where should we do the work? Less of a debate around days in office, but more of a debate around what work gets done where. And when you share this kind of information with executives, how are they responding?

Taryn Brymn: It's interesting, I think some are, there's this leadership nostalgia in some respects where the way I was brought up in business, the way I've been leading for years and years doesn't work with the way the new business environment is. And I think leaders are struggling in that respect. But then you have a lot who are just very interested in learning and how do we continue to build our teams and support our teams and our companies to be the workforce of the future, to be the places that we want to see succeeding and around for another a hundred years.

Ian Cook: Yeah, I don't know if you meant to there Taryn, but I think you've just coined the next kind of buzz phrase, leadership nostalgia.

Taryn Brymn: It's not mine, but I share it widely whenever I can.

Ian Cook: Yeah. Because again, I think at the heart of these trends is this fundamental ongoing tension between what employees are looking for in terms of their relationship to companies and how companies are either willing or unwilling to adapt. Can you, again, clearly got a lot of great research from that perspective, can you summarize or give a sense of what do you think employees are looking for when it comes to their relationship with a company and their relationship with work right now?

Taryn Brymn: Honestly, I think it's more communication and better understanding. I think that's the disconnect we're seeing is just on this connection is kind of eroding a little bit. Our research continues to tell us that connection is strongly correlated with retention expectations. And in responses to our recent survey, which was conducted in December of last year, 2022, over 46% of those who feel connected to their managers say it is unlikely they'll be looking for a new job at another company in the next 12 months.

On the flip side of that, the likelihood increases significantly to over 75% if they do not feel connected to their manager. And I think that's where you're seeing that disconnect continue to grow and widen.

Ian Cook: Yeah. And it's interesting that we focus on connection because again, in the world of nostalgia, that connection kind of almost automatically happened if you were co-located. Like you couldn't help but bump into each other. You couldn't help but have casual conversations in the elevator in various things. So I'm wondering if this flexible world is us relearning how to be intentional about connection as opposed to just having it happen by accident because we're all in the same space.

Taryn Brymn: I think that's exactly it. And I don't know if you recall this, but when there were multiple days when I was in the office, but I was trying to get work done so my earbuds were in, my head was down, I wasn't really connecting with people. There would be hours in that day where we'd have a full open floor plan, everyone's there, but I'm not really speaking to someone who's even three feet ahead of me in front of me because I'm focused on my work. So I think we lose that or we are not really remembering how intentional we had to even make office connection.

Ian Cook: I actually think you really nailed it. We work in software. I don't go to the office without some noise-canceling headphones. Simply for what you say, that if I need to sit and write, or if I need to do some focused work in an open plan space, my only option is to isolate myself. I can blend a day where I can do a couple of hours of that kind of work, and then I really appreciate when I bump into colleagues and say, "Hey Ian, what do you think about such and such?" That casual, innovative conversation is kind of the soul of our company. And so the connection through shared space is key, it's something that we definitely missed through the COVID era. But the flip side is that a lot of the developers were coming to the office and spending eight hours under headphones.

Taryn Brymn: Right. And I think we can mimic that connection. Well, maybe it's not mimicking it, but it's turning it into the way that we can do it in 2023. And we can do it virtually. We can have these serendipitous conversations using digital tools like Donut, or if you're in a meeting, your team meeting on Mondays, maybe you started with a question to the group, what are you binging this week? What was the best place you've vacationed in the last year? And maybe putting people in small breakout groups in these virtual video platforms and having them spend 10 minutes even, speaking about things that are important to them or sharing a little bit more about them so that we build those connections. And I bet you'll hear something about a colleague that you didn't know that resonates. It can be something as simple as, I rented the same video every day when I was 10 years old to this is what I think about something that's politically charged.

Ian Cook: Yeah. No, that's a great point, again, all of this coming down to that sort of intentional conversation. I'm curious about the leaders that you talk to or they want to learn. What do you think drives their curiosity about reinventing how their workplaces work?

Taryn Brymn: I think again, wanting to continue to do better, wanting to make sure that their teams, their company is running as best as it can, is operating as best as it can. And we spend so much of our time working, it's so much of our lives are working. So being able to feel proud about what we're doing and what we're accomplishing, I think is what is kind of that impetus to how do we get better? How do we be more inclusive? How do we be more connected to each other? And I don't see that stopping. I just see that growing.

Ian Cook: Yeah, no, fantastic. We're going to go to a break. We'll be back to continue discussing this rise of buzzwords and what it means for workplace dynamics in just a second.

Producer: New work related buzzwords come and go every day. Career cushioning, rage applying, quiet quitting. But it's the biggest pain points like retention and compensation strategy that remain constant. To get the low down on how people analytics solve your most enduring workforce problems, download our guide, 10 Ways Visier Helps You With Your Most Common Business Challenges at visier.com today.

Ian Cook: And we are back. I'm Ian Cook, the host of The Human Truth Podcast from Visier, and today I've been joined by Taryn Brymn. Taryn is the Head of Executive Programs for Future Forum and we've been talking about the rise of work buzzwords and what that means about the debate at the heart of the workplace. So again, thanks again for joining us, Taryn.

Just before we went to break, we were talking about the organizations that are positive or curious about how to evolve their work practices. Any examples you've seen or any ideas you would have for companies in responding to these trends around the opportunities for flexibility, the needs for connection? What have you seen or heard where companies are giving what you would say are effective or at least informed responses to these trends?

Taryn Brymn: Well, even before examples, I think we need to understand that this time is a gift. So take this time and acknowledge that these issues are an opportunity to redesign work and the ways in which we work. The old, if it ain't broke, don't fix it doesn't work here. Many of us worked the same way for over 100 years. So I think we can do just with a little bit of an upgrade. And in doing so, don't leave your people out. Over two thirds of executive respondents say that they're designing their company's policies with little to no direct input from employees. And we're seeing that's just not good enough anymore.

And whether you're doing it via ...

Ian Cook: That's really interesting.

Taryn Brymn: Yeah. Whether you're doing it through Pulse surveys weekly, monthly, quarterly, or when it's one-on-ones with your direct manager, seeing exactly what's going on, hearing the experiences of your employees and taking that data, that real-time data and acting against it I think is something that those companies that feel like they're moving a little bit more forward in this aspect are starting to do a little bit more intently.

Ian Cook: I think that's a really fascinating stand, really quite important. Something that we've been tracking is the whole demographic shift, which I think has sort of been slow and quiet and now is kind of fast and clear where the majority of the workforce are actually millennial or Gen Z, and they've grown up with a very different experience of schooling, a very different experience of social connection, a very different experience of work all around. And so as you say, what might have worked in prior eras around this is how we are the employer, this is the rules, you follow the rules, as you say it doesn't really resonate with the population that are in work currently. I'm surprised it's as big as two thirds are kind of just meeting it up in a room and telling the business what they're doing and expecting that to stick.

Taryn Brymn: Well, I think that shows that there's a lack of trust there. And really what employees want is trust and transparency. Trust gives people more autonomy. This leads to or can lead to greater mastery in their roles, in potential skill sets. They're not really showcasing in this current role, and therefore this greater purpose, which I think is where you get that really happy, fulfilled employee.

And it's okay to acknowledge as a leader that you're still experimenting as a company, that you're still experimenting and that you won't have all the answers always. In fact, I'd say that level of transparency is actually the key to success in this environment. And when you treat adults like adults, you're going to get the results.

Ian Cook: Yeah. Again, that seems to be an absolute cornerstone of the transition that's happening where companies have gone from what would be very traditional hierarchical bosses and workers kind of mind frame grown up around the manufacturing era, all of those pieces, to more of a community shared mission, shared purpose, some level of self-determination spread differently across different sectors of course. But there is really that tangible shift.

Any experience of talking with HR groups? My experience in HR groups is often the tradition has been there's one policy, it has to be one policy, it has to be the same for everybody because that was what was perceived to be fair. And now what I hear you saying is actually, well, there may be a certain guidance for one group and a different guidance for another group, and there's an element of flexibility or multiple different ways that work is approached.

How do you convince somebody who's used to this? Well, there's one way and that's the way, and everybody should just follow to actually saying, "Well, that's not really going to match the needs of your employee base"?

Taryn Brymn: Well, there is no one-size-fits-all approach regardless of what you're trying to accomplish. And think about it. Something that's going to work for your teams in New York City won't necessarily work for your teams in Australia, for your teams in South Africa. So it's taking these opportunities to either beta test a new policy in a small, for lack of a better phrase, focus group, a small employee base, and then share that communication throughout. Hey, team A has been trying this. They've been coming in twice a quarter. They've been using a digital tool to better collaborate. They've been working on team norms and deciding amongst each other how best we're going to work, when we're going to work, when are we all online together? How do we share information? How do we access information? And then you share that, whether it's in a company newsletter or you gather all of the managers for each department together and they share their successes and some of the things that they've been struggling with.

And that is where you start getting that change, that domino effect of this is working for us, let's test it over there. This isn't working. Halt what you're doing or are you seeing different results? And I think we've been a little too siloed in sharing the information whether it works or doesn't work. And again, that's where I go back to that transparency. When you're able to do that more effectively, I think we will see some of these challenges recede a little bit.

Ian Cook: No, you hit on a couple of really interesting points there, Taryn. First of all is the availability of technology to test and learn and iterate on different working practices. The tools we have to hand and the ease with which they can be deployed and adopted is sort of unprecedented in the world of work.

And then the other is this agile notion of like, well, let's not make up a policy in a room and then try and get everybody on board overnight. Let's test it in one area. Let's see how it works for that population. Let's be honest if it fails and try something else. Or if it works, let's see how we spread that around other folks. There's a very more agile, more iterative, more change oriented, more involving approach to actually growing organizational performance as opposed to, again, that traditional, well, we know best, we're going to tell you and everybody going to follow kind of approach.

Taryn Brymn: Right. It saves you money, time, effort, and headaches, frankly, as I'm concerned.

Ian Cook: Yes. I know you're going to say, I don't think there's anybody out there right now who wouldn't sign up for all three of those.

So we started off discussing this whole buzzword trend, which it's a fascinating phenomena. And as somebody who's been in this space for a long time like yourself, Taryn, it's definitely capturing some spirit of the moment where A) the amount of time and attention the press are giving to workplace issues is huge. I have never seen it this large. And the way in which that's sort of transpiring in the viral social world is certainly amusing in terms of some of the way the trends have been captured.

But underneath that, I think the really compelling piece of the conversation today is this means that workplaces are changing and there's an opportunity in front of companies to rethink. If you were going to summarize all of your knowledge and all of your learning and provide a couple of words of advice or even a few sentences of advice to executives who are curious, who are standing at the crossroads going, "Do we just carry on how we were or do we reinvent our workplace," what advice would you give to somebody that's at those crossroads about how they go forward?

Taryn Brymn: Yeah, thank you. Listen to your people. Learn from their experiences. And I'm talking all people's experiences. This pulls in that idea of DEIB, of inclusion. It's like everyone in your workplace has a very different experience of their roles, the company, the environment, and engage with that. You gather all that data. It's important for leaders to look at the data and what works best for their people currently and potentially in the future and what's best for the business. And continue just listening to that and be willing to experiment. It's really all about intentionality. Start with the why and then action for that.

Ian Cook: Nice. That's great advice. And I think one piece I always hear, well, when we listen to employees, we have to do what they say. And I think that's the piece that, again, some folks are missing in the debate. Just because you listen to someone, it doesn't mean you have to do what they ask. You're getting input. You're responding to that input. You're seeing how well this works, this doesn't work. You're actually engaging on the conversation, as you highlighted that connection piece going forward.

Taryn Brymn: Right.

Ian Cook: I mean, how do you see that playing out?

Taryn Brymn: It's interesting. I think about my young nieces who will ask me to do anything, or they'll say something that I consider wildly outlandish. But the fact that I am listening to them and I'm acknowledging their experience, I'm acknowledging what they're interested about or curious about, and we move on after that. And I think people do that in their day-to-day lives. Why aren't we doing it as well in a business standpoint?

Ian Cook: Excellent. So again, that sounds like a great example and a great piece of advice to finish on. It is about listening. It's about acknowledging different perspectives. It's about trying to blend that together into a new way of working. Great insights, Taryn. Really good, again, I appreciate the fact you're bringing evidence to the conversation as well 'cause I think a lot of it has been based on opinion, and we are much more about basing things on evidence.

So thanks for listening to today's episode of The Human Truth Podcast. We've been talking about buzzwords like quiet quitting, and we've been exploring what this means in terms of the changing workplace, the changing needs of employees, the changing response of employers. Our guest today was Taryn Brymn, brought a wealth of insight and some great expertise to that conversation. So our thanks Taryn, and I'm your host, Ian Cooke. We'll be back next time discussing another interesting workforce statistic.

Taryn Brymn: Thank you, Ian.

Ian Cook: Thank you, Taryn.

Producer: Thanks for joining this episode on The Human Truth Podcast presented by Visier. More links and information presented on today's show are at visier.com/podcast. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Human Truth Podcast is brought to you by Visier, the global leader in people analytics, whose mission is to reveal the human truth that helps businesses and employees win together. Today's episode was produced by Grace Sheppard with technical production by Gabriel Kava. Sarah Gonzalez is our head of content, and Ian Cook is our host. See you next time. And until then, visit us at visier.com/podcast.

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