Welcome to a fast-changing labour market, where researchers introduce new terms quickly to cover and understand new trends. It can be hard to keep up. First, we saw ‘The Great Resignation,’ followed swiftly by ‘Quiet Quitting‘. Now, a new trend has emerged: ‘Grumpy Staying‘. What exactly is grumpy staying, where does it come from, and how does it impact businesses?

Quiet quitting saw dissatisfied employees put in less work or sometimes described as ‘bare minimum,’ dissociating themselves from active engagement. Grumpy stayers are more actively dissatisfied with their role. However, a job market that is barren of opportunities means we do not see another wave of resignations. People feel trapped in their roles, dissatisfied, but unable to find a position elsewhere. Other than quiet quitters, however, they will more actively make their complaints heard. Rather than keeping their head down and getting on with it, they are louder.

Now, this is tricky territory. Capitalism’s productivity-driven culture wants to make us all believe this is unfavourable. Because people should be devoted to their work and put in more than expected. However, a surge of more earnest conversations about mental health and burn-outs, help dismantle some of the toxicity of that productivity-driven mindset. As a business owner, that plunges you in the middle of a larger debate. Of course, you want to ensure a certain amount of productivity and revenue. But can we really expect employees to bend over backwards with engagement beyond what they are paid to do? To examine this force-field of tensions closer, let us have a look at the causes and effects of grumpy staying.

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What are the reasons and impacts of grumpy staying?

Grumpy staying is closely linked to employees’ levels of satisfaction and engagement in the workplace. It covers essentially the same causes as the great resignation and quiet quitting. If employees feel neither heard nor valued at their company, their satisfaction and engagement plummets. This leaves them doing the tasks expected of them but with little dedication or extra effort. Only the ways in which it shows differ slightly.

The team of the great resignation saw potential for change in leaving their jobs and finding new positions. Some found more happiness in new roles, while others ended up disillusioned, realising the grass is not always greener on the other side. They bounced back to their old roles, which we describe as ‘boomerang employees’. Quiet quitters, however, were limited by a job market that did not offer much alternatives, and they resorted to staying in their roles, but growing more and more passive. Now, some articles will describe grumpy stayers somewhat misleadingly described as ‘loud quitters’. Because they will make their unhappiness more heard, however they do not actually quit.

Tackling the causes at their roots

This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can interpret their reason for staying as a mere result of a market that does not offer other opportunities. Or, you can see it as part of a wider cultural shift, in which we can believe that making our voices heard will actually bring about positive change. In this case, we should not easily mistake grumpy staying as a bad thing. It can be very fruitful to voice issues. Only then can we address them and take them into account to nurture change.

The reasons for employees to start feeling disengaged and dissatisfied in their workplace are multifold. However, there are a few common threads:

  • not feeling heard or valued at work
  • not receiving recognition for putting in work
  • no healthy work environment or work-life-balance
  • communication issues or culture at work
  • values of the company do not reflect values of employees
  • team structure does not provide framework for collaboration and team work
  • disconnect between leadership suite and employees
  • etc.

Therefore, one should not be susceptible to easy claims like employees are getting more lazy or spoiled. Rather, we should welcome the fact that contributing to a healthy work environment also consists in understanding how we need to shift our focus from pure productivity to listening to the voice of employee. This will have positive impacts both for employees and therefore for the company as a whole. But, if there are so many potential causes, how do we address with grumpy staying?

How to deal with grumpy stayers

As suggested, dealing with grumpy stayers should not mean leaning back and saying people just have to ‘toughen up’ or put in more work, otherwise they’re made to quit. Such ultimatums would feed a toxic work culture. Rather, the key lies in actively listening to employees and getting to the root of the causes that make them feel unsatisfied and disengaged. This will also build the first bridge to make employees like their opinions and valued and taken seriously. Business Insider highlights that a poll at Salesforce found that only 50% felt there was a climate of trust at their workplace. Asking for feedback goes a long way in establishing trust, as long as you take the data you gain to nurture active change.

Using a dedicated employee software, such as Netigate EX, will allow you to dive deeper into your employees’ opinions. Such a platform will allow you to conduct surveys that can help uncover some of the causes of grumpy staying. There are several metrics that help build a healthy feedback culture, but the most common and useful tools would be annual employee satisfaction surveys, as well as employee engagement software. These will help identify strengths and weaknesses in your business, and provide you with valuable insights. Like mentioned above, however, these are only fruitful if you follow up on them with tasks and action plans. To see whether your changes are successful, you can also use smaller pulse surveys to check in with your employees.

If you would like to find out more about different employee survey metrics and how to use them, check out our guide on how to conduct an employee survey.

Overall, what this means for companies can be surprisingly simple. Rather than expecting employees to go above and beyond what they’re paid for as a default, we should take their concerns and opinions as the basis for cultivating a healthy work culture. Keeping employees satisfied and engaged is, not shockingly, a much less toxic way for better performance as a team and company, rather than forcing productivity and targets down employees’ throats.

Curious to get started with employee surveys to establish a healthy work culture and keep employees satisfied and engaged rather than turning them to grumpy stayers? Book a demo or start a free 30-day Netigate trial and we’ll be happy to assist you get started on your feedback journey. Or, why not visit Netigate EX – our dedicated employee platform to discover more?