Canadian workers are (rightfully) fed up. From wages that haven’t kept up with inflation to toxic workplaces and mounting stress, employees are becoming disillusioned with hustle culture. And now, they’re doing something about it.
Eighteen per cent of employees around the world are “loud quitting” at work, according to analytics and consulting firm Gallup’s annual State of the Global Workplace report. Unlike quiet quitters—who do the bare minimum at work—loud quitters are actively disengaged and not afraid to show it. This might mean ignoring orders from their bosses, verbalizing their dissatisfaction with their jobs or getting into arguments with colleagues. If these loud quitters do end up leaving their jobs, they might also share their indignant resignations online as a way to garner attention.
Why loud quitting is trending
The term “loud quitting” gained traction earlier this summer on TikTok with users like @saraisthreads posting skits depicting what loud quitting looks like. In one video, the TikToker acts out a scene of a barista telling her manager that she will not be cutting her break short—in fact she’s using the time to apply for other roles. Other viral videos document real workers quitting over an intercom or doing “storytime” videos about why they left their retail gigs.
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In Canada, the resentment has bubbled up to a fever pitch: Almost 65 per cent of Canadian workers dream about quitting their jobs with an aggressive resignation letter. It’s certainly audacious, and goes against every old-fashioned work etiquette rule in the book, but the loud quitting trend is reflective of a larger sense of workplace cynicism and job dissatisfaction that’s driving workers to push back against underpaying jobs and poor conditions.
According to David Zweig, a professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Toronto, cynicism rates were high even before the pandemic. Zweig, who studies workplace cynicism and fairness at work, says that a backlash against hustle culture was already fermenting and Covid “basically threw a Molotov cocktail in the window of all our offices and changed the way we see work.”
With companies now pushing for staff to return to the office and give up some of the flexibility afforded to them through remote work, employees are realizing that the autonomy of WFH is hard to give up. It’s making them seek opportunities elsewhere, or rebel against their workplaces. (Gallup’s report, which surveyed over 125,000 employees worldwide, also found that a majority of employees, about six in ten, are also still quiet quitting.)
Sima Sajjadiani, a professor at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, also notes that economists have been predicting this worker-led backlash since before the pandemic. According to her, the pandemic demonstrated to workers that employers won’t share the record-high profits many companies raked in during the pandemic. Even as many workers were called “essential,” like grocery store staff, they weren’t treated fairly. Grocery store employees, for example, had their hazard pay cancelled after the initial waves of Covid subsided, despite still working during subsequent waves and lockdowns. More recently, workplace instabilities like mass layoffs (especially in tech, with giants like Shopify laying off 20 per cent of its staff in May) and the looming presence of artificial intelligence has chipped away at employees’ trust and “motivated workers to say ‘enough is enough,’” says Sajjadiani.
“Hot strike summer” and “lazy girl jobs” are on the rise
Sajjadiani also says that support for unions and the labour movement are at an all-time high. With what’s been dubbed the “hot strike summer,” (a term for the slew of recent highly publicized labour efforts like the Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes, the B.C. port workers’ strike and the Canadian federal workers’ strike) Sadjjadiani says that there’s a “snowball effect where other workers see what can happen when you raise your voice.”
Loud quitting and increased labour action isn’t the only trend indicating that the tide is turning. The #lazygirljob hashtag currently has nearly 19 million views on TikTok. This trend is all about choosing well-paying, flexible jobs that allow for maximum leisure time. Like quiet quitting, lazy girl jobs are about decentering the 9-to-5 and maximizing work-life balance (with an emphasis on life). The so-called “lazy girls” are seeking roles (like digital assistants, communications assistants and data entry assistants—though it should be noted that many of these jobs aren’t easy) that allow for flexibility and control over their day-to-day lives. The term, however, isn’t about actually being lazy, says Sajjadiani. Instead, it’s about workers seeking humane work conditions. “Striving for work-life balance shouldn’t equate to being lazy.”
How workplaces can win back employees
Workers have, of course, been advocating for better conditions and flexibility long before loud quitting, lazy girl jobs and quiet quitting. Some companies are providing employees with extra mental health support, increased flexibility and conducting “stay interviews”—perks that do retain talent. However, not all workplaces are attuned to workers’ needs, and many of them are still failing to provide staff with what they want. Even workplaces that are implementing new benefits in an attempt to retain employees might not find success, especially if these benefits are in lieu of raises. Afterall, flexibility doesn’t pay the bills. “People are thinking now, ‘I’m not getting what I want from this job and organization, what else can I do that gives me what I need?’” says Zweig. “That’s why we’re seeing these trends.”
Sajjadiani says that the best way to avoid work stoppages and promote employee engagement is for companies to put their money where their mouth is, and listen to what workers are saying when they complain. For example, earlier in July, the union that represents more than 300,000 UPS part- and full-time employees threatened to strike if their demands around wages, workplace safety and pay overtime weren’t met. They were able to secure a tentative deal that saw the corporation put in US$30 billion of “new money” towards increased salaries and health and safety protections. Making enough noise about their inequitable and unsafe workplace led to a positive change for employees throughout the company—and avoided a huge strike that would’ve cost UPS billions of dollars within weeks. Sajjadiani says that she hopes other workers are inspired by strikers and collective bargaining wins in order to demand better from their own workplaces.
She also hopes that companies learn from UPS and be open to “sharing a piece of the pie.” “We’re living in Canada, one of the world’s most prosperous countries,” says Sajjadiani. “If someone is working full time, they deserve a living wage.”