From lazy girl jobs to loud quitting: 10 HR buzzwords of 2023

As the year ends, People Management looks back at some of the viral words and phrases that have graced the profession in the last 12 months

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Across social media and among people professionals, new terms are invented all the time to define workplace and recruitment trends. 

As words like ‘rizz’ and ‘situationship’ were named the words of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary, what terms came to symbolise 2023 in HR? From rust-out to loud quitting, People Management’s round up of this year’s buzzwords reflects growing demands from employees and potential candidates for more considerate workplaces.

Lazy girl jobs

A term coined on social media amid the so-called ‘anti-work’ movement, a ‘lazy girl job’ is one that is well paid, usually fully remote and undemanding. However, rather than necessarily placing value on being ‘lazy’, the phrase calls for a rejection of toxic workplaces and burnout. Partly a response to the reassessment of priorities following the pandemic and the growth of opportunities for flexible working, lazy girl jobs reflect a growing demand, particularly among Generation Z, for employers to value the mental wellbeing of workers.

Rust out 

While it is common knowledge that dedicating an excessive amount of time to work can cause burnout and poor mental health, it is increasingly being acknowledged that being disengaged with work can also have a damaging effect on employees. 

‘Rust out’ is when an employee is left uninspired by their role, feeling bored and lacking intrinsic motivation to work. Audrey Tang, chartered psychologist, mental health broadcaster and author of The Leader’s Guide to Wellbeing, tells People Management that workers with rust out may not feel stretched by their work, not helped to grow, or feel that their strengths are not appreciated. “While burnout may be self inflicted – we can choose to burn the candle at both ends – rust out brings a stronger indictment of the employer leaving you out to rust,” she says.

Unretiring

The term ‘unretiring’ has become increasingly prevalent in the aftermath of the pandemic, which had triggered early retirement for many. Now, the cost of living crisis has driven some people to return to the workplace, says Mike Middleton, author of The R word: Time to Retire Retirement.

He points out that businesses are keen to encourage over 50s to return to the workplace to cope with skills shortages: “[Employers] recognise that huge amounts of experience and talent could be exiting with little or no obvious replacements for them within the business, which forced many to rethink employment options, job shares and a host of other means to make work more appealing.”

Proximity bias

Stemming from the shift to remote and flexible working, ‘proximity bias’ refers to the tendency of managers to favour workers they see every day in the office. This can then lead to these employees gaining more recognition at work compared to those working from home. 

Proximity bias has become a growing issue this year as many companies have transitioned back to being office based, at least for a few days a week. Those workers who are unable to travel to the workplace more often may be beginning to feel the impacts in cases where employers fail to maintain proper virtual contact.

Quiet managing

However, in other cases the opposite may be true – rather than feeling neglected, some remote workers feel like they are being micromanaged. With the rise of remote working, many managers are making an effort to schedule regular check-ins and meetings with their employees. This has led employees to coin the term ‘quiet managing’, referring to a more distanced approach from managers, allowing employees to get on with their work without bosses interrupting for too many update meetings.

Loud quitting

Rather than quietly disengaging from their work like ‘quiet quitters’ – a term that went viral in 2022 – ‘loud quitters’ will actively and vocally undermine their organisation. As many as one in five (18 per cent) employees globally are loud quitting, or ‘actively disengaged’, according to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report.

These employees will draw attention to their resignation, maybe even publicly posting on social media, to make people aware of their reasons for leaving and call for an improvement to treatment of workers within their organisation.

Conscious quitting

Similarly to loud quitting, ‘conscious quitting’ refers to employees leaving because of a conflict with their employer’s social or environmental ethics. The trend has led businesses to adapt to the demands of a workforce that is becoming increasingly conscious of their values. 

Chris Preston, founder and director of The Culture Builders, says conscious quitting is happening because “Gen Z’ers are joining companies that have a culture either built on fabrications, or completely at odds with their own moral compass.

“To stop it, organisations have to be both more honest about why they exist or how they work and take a long hard look at the work environment they are dropping our latest generation of talent into.”

Career cushioning

Lack of job security, the cost of living crisis and feelings of dissatisfaction at work have all contributed to ‘career cushioning’ becoming another defining phrase this year. People who are career cushioning are searching for a new role or taking steps towards doing so, often because they doubt the permanency of their current position.

A survey by Robert Walters released earlier this year found that two in five (42 per cent) employees were career cushioning, or looking for a ‘career plan B’. These workers were monitoring the job market, working on their CV, increasing their networking efforts and upskilling.  

Salary springboarding

Another symptom of the cost of living crisis, ‘salary springboarding’ refers to employees rapidly moving between jobs, simply using each position as a springboard to reach a higher salary. Like career cushioning, salary springboarding indicates an increasing need for businesses to place value on retention and offer employees incentives and motivation to stay in their positions long term.

Ghost jobs

Amid the endless job listings that can be found on sites such as Indeed or LinkedIn, more than a third in the UK are in fact ‘ghost jobs’, StandOut CV found earlier this year. These listings are fake opportunities that will remain online for an indefinite amount of time, but candidates who apply will never be offered a chance to progress with their application.

They may be posted by employers that intend to hire internally or who have already found a candidate. Alternatively, the company may just not be actively recruiting, but instead keeping their options open for when they are ready.