What is 'loud quitting'? Healthcare labor action may be 1 example

Hospital and health system workers have long participated in strikes and other labor actions across the U.S., citing concerns about staffing, patient care, working conditions and employee retention. In recent years, they have increasingly held actions to raise awareness about their concerns.

In 2021, a flurry of labor actions was deemed "Striketober" online and on social media as union workers in healthcare and other industries walked off the job or threatened to do so. Additionally, a Gallup poll conducted in August 2022 showed the highest support for labor unions in almost six decades. So far this year, Becker's has reported on 13 strikes. 

"I've done interviews with workers who have been on strike over the last couple of years that talked about how they experienced more patient deaths in the first year and a half of the pandemic than they had seen during their entire careers," Johnnie Kallas, a PhD candidate and the director of the Ithaca, N.Y.-based Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations labor action tracker, told Becker's in June.

"And I think the frustration and the stress caused by the pandemic led to both a lot of burnout and, in cases where workers had already formed unions, more collective action in the form of strikes."

Strikes aren't the only labor actions on the rise. Unionization has also gained traction among physicians, and some physicians have held rallies amid contract negotiations to call for more competitive pay. 

These and similar actions could represent an example of "loud quitting" in healthcare, according to Jeremy Sadlier, executive director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration. 

Gallup defines loud quitting as those who are actively disengaged. Actively disengaged employees "tend to have most of their workplace needs unmet and spread their dissatisfaction — they have been the most vocal in TikTok posts that have generated millions of views and comments," according to Gallup.

Loud quitting is among the latest fad terms to surface to describe workplace trends. Others that have been introduced include  "quiet quitting," "bare minimum Mondays," "career cushioning," "lazy girl job" and "grumpy staying." 

"Labor action, including strikes, may be a perfect representation of loud quitting because those employees feel they have a legitimate concern or, if nothing else, are interested in having a professional conversation about why they're frustrated. It's important to understand that quitting isn't the motivation for many. They're looking for change," said Mr. Sadlier.

"Social media and in particular the TikTok era has given names to actions that have always existed," Mr. Sadlier said. "...For as long as people have worked, there have been different ways with which they leave their organization."

But he said the TikTok era also has helped such terms manifest differently.

"Loud quitting, if we're going to use the term, historically had been about creating noticeable energy related to working conditions, the organization, leadership, a unit or department, and the care being delivered," Mr. Sadlier said. 

He said he believes today's TikTok era is unique in that more people across industries are airing their grievances while at work and in the social media space. 

The healthcare industry isn't exempt, given the size and variety of roles within healthcare institutions, according to Mr. Sadlier. 

"We need to remember that our institutions are a reflection of our communities and we will likely see the same actions taken by our employees as the fast food restaurant, manufacturing facility, or other businesses in our area," he said.

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