Study finds California employees find chaotic work trends

As 2023 draws to a close, employees nationwide have navigated a tumultuous landscape. The ‘hot labor summer’ has been a reality for many, while some have reluctantly transitioned back to the office, facing new challenges that remote work didn’t present, including ‘loud laborers,’ those more focused on discussing work than doing it.

This year has introduced a lexicon of terms defining unique work trends, such as ‘rage applying’, ‘chaotic working’, and ‘bare minimum Mondays’. ran a survey of 1,000 employees to determine which of these emergent phrases best encapsulates 2023 for the California workforce.

No. 1 — Chaotic working
“Chaotic working” emerged as the most apt phrase for 2023 among California employees – it is like a never-ending game of corporate whack-a-mole; as soon as you complete one task, three more pop up. Meetings spill into your lunch, ‘urgent’ tasks develop overnight and the printer jams only when you’re already late for a presentation. You dream of inbox zero, but the reality is more akin to playing Tetris with your schedule — and the blocks are falling way too fast. While not a new term per se, this phrase has evolved in 2023, whereby a negative or chaotic work environment leads to employees using their position to help customers or clients at the employer’s expense. It may entail breaking rules but is done without fear of repercussions. 

No. 2 — Shift shock
In second place came “shift shock”. One day you’re buzzing with the thrill of a new badge and an untouched notepad, and the next, you’re realizing that ‘other duties as assigned’ actually means you’re the unofficial office barista. Shaun Connell of describes it as “the dream job that seemed like a perfect match in the interview, but now feels like a blind date gone wrong, where the job’s charming profile picture doesn’t quite match its in-person reality”. 

No. 3 — Bare minimum Mondays
Rounding up the top three in the Golden State was the phrase “bare minimum mondays” – it’s one of the newest trends sweeping the workplace, a cheeky nod to the all-too-familiar case of the Mondays. Imagine a day where the collective agreement is to do just enough to keep the gears turning, but not a cog more. Emails? They’ll get the succinct reply of “Noted.” Reports? Bullet points become the new paragraphs. As for meetings? The art of nodding thoughtfully while sipping coffee is perfected, providing just the right amount of participation to be considered “engaged.” It’s the day when the office buzzes with the low-energy hum of computers and the occasional yawn, as everyone mutually agrees to coast through the day on autopilot.

No. 4 — Career cushioning
“Career cushioning,” is essentially the strategic hoarding of skills, contacts and side gigs, just in case your job becomes vulnerable, or you want to consider other opportunities. Connell said, “On ‘career cushioning’ days, LinkedIn profiles are polished, and networking is no longer just schmoozing — it’s at another level”. Here, coffee breaks are spent stealthily scrolling through online courses, and lunch hours become clandestine meetings with mentors. “It’s all about layering your career comfort to survive the potential freefall from corporate grace” he adds.

No. 5 — Boomerang employee
The “boomerang employee,” voted in fifth place by Californians, is a term that conjures up images of workers zipping back to their old jobs with the grace of a well-thrown Australian tool. These are the prodigal professionals who venture out into the wild job market, only to return to their former employers with new tricks and tales of the ‘other side.’ It’s the workplace reunion tour – and everyone loves a comeback story. Boomerang employees embody the hope that sometimes, you can go home again — especially if there’s a raise involved.

No. 6 — Quiet cutting
“Quiet cutting” emerged as the sixth most apt phrase for California workers this year. Connell explains it as follows: “It’s the corporate version of musical chairs, except when the music stops, you don’t lose your seat — you just get a new one, whether you like it or not. The result? Your old job is gone, but you have been given a new one.” As the momentum from the great resignation starts to wane, employees are finding that their bargaining power isn’t what it used to be. About a year ago, job opportunities and rising wages were abundant, but now, those trends are reversing, with fewer openings and slower wage growth.

Summarizing the survey, Connell said that “After a year of unprecedented trends in the workforce, it’s clear that 2023 has been a defining moment for American employees. Each new workplace term uniquely reflects the evolving attitudes and strategies of workers navigating this era.”

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