Quiet quitting. RTO. Coffee badging. What this new vocabulary says about your workplace

Samantha Masunaga and Sean Greene, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Abygail Liera sympathized when she first read about people who were “quiet quitting,” refusing to go above and beyond at their jobs.

But it wasn’t until a few months later that she understood.

The resident of Los Angeles' Winnetka neighborhood got a new boss and was expected to train him, but when she asked for a raise, she said she was told, “We’ll see.” Her boss discouraged open and honest feedback, making her work environment feel toxic and disrespectful.

“I remember reading it, and I’m like, ‘Damn, this sucks that people have to go through this,’ ” said Liera, 32, of the news article on quiet quitting. “At the same time, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what that feels like.’ But now I do.”

Since the pandemic, work-related phrases such as “quiet quitting” or “Great Resignation” have taken over the internet — and are now part of our everyday vocabulary. Social media is filled with work-related memes and videos that describe “rage applying” or “lazy girl jobs.” People share tips on Reddit about how to effectively — and surreptitiously — “polywork,” or hold multiple jobs at the same time.

This proliferation of workplace lingo is more than a fad: It’s a viral language showing how workers are trying to hold onto the power they suddenly gained during the pandemic, workplace experts say.


After March 2020, workers were able to leverage the tight labor market to get what they want. But recent layoffs across a number of industries have shown that the balance of power between employee and employer today is, at best, a constantly tilting seesaw.

The job cuts and mandatory return-to-office policies imply that companies are gaining the upper hand on their employees, yet the persistence of hybrid work policies may show that workers have made a permanent mark on how work gets done in the future.

Employment data suggest that a growing number of people are prioritizing work-life balance in a more meaningful way or, increasingly cynical about traditional work arrangements, are tailoring those structures to work for them.

“As cynicism grows with the status-quo aspects of work, it feels like this push-and-pull between management and workers,” said Eric Anicich, associate professor of management and organization at USC’s Marshall School of Business.


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