Buzzwords indicate change – Mary T. O’Sullivan

by Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, contributing writer

“…using these words makes some people feel cool, smart or like they’re part of a secret society.” – Forbes

While familiar business buzzwords like Quiet Quitting, The Great Resignation, Quiet Firing, Employee Experience, and others have been around for a while, some new “biz buzzwords” are creeping into the lexicon of the world of work. Have you heard of “Anti-Perks” or “Quick Quitting” or “Ghost Jobs”? I’ve been around the HR industry for over 10 years, and the concepts behind these new catchwords caught my attention.

Can you imagine something that the company offers as a benefit that employees don’t really want? These “bennies” may sound good, but they don’t really matter or have any value to people. That’s exactly what defines “anti-perks”. These are “benefits” that don’t actually translate into productivity, reduced workload, or help improve employee well-being. When a company offers free alcohol, nap rooms, video games, and mandatory “fun” events, employees tend to resent these activities and consider them distracting and a disruption of their workflow. In fact, these “anti-perks” can actually be a disincentive for candidates to accept a job offer. People may wonder how meaningful playing video games is to their protentional job success or promotion opportunities. Apparently, companies designed these “anti-perks” to cleverly disguise useless offerings as desirable job advantages.

 “Quick Quitting” is a new, but not surprising, work phenomenon. In the not too recent past, getting a job and keeping it for years was a sign of stability and commitment. Now, with loyalty to a company and companies’ diminishing, loyalties to employees on the rise, people are more comfortable quitting well before a year has gone by. If an employee is unhappy with the boss, feels that they’re not receiving proper training, or sense that the culture is not a fit, they begin to look around quickly. It doesn’t take long for a talented employee to land a job that pays better, has more attractive benefits, and the flexible work schedule they want. In general, it was once thought that at least two years on the job was required to avoid the label “job jumper”, but that characterization no longer applies. Recruiters are accepting explanations such as “it wasn’t a good fit for me” as justification for multiple jobs on a resume. “Quick Quitting” has become normalized by massive layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and plant closings.  This trend has become more common over the last few years and is likely to continue according to a recent article in LinkedIn’s Workforce Insights.

Conversely, while applying for any new job can be frustrating and time consuming, you will find that companies are posting jobs that may not even exist. You send out dozens of resumes and cover letters and hear nothing back. You feel like you are being “ghosted”. In fact, “ghost jobs” are out there, and are particularly demotivating and demoralizing for desperate job seekers. For these jobs, the organization may be building a “candidate pool”, which means you may or may not be selected for the position. The “pool” is ostensibly kept to help reduce time hunting for new candidates when another suitable position is created, but they are basically advertising for a job they don’t ever plan to fill.  These “ghost jobs” often have interviews attached or require presentations from candidates, while the employer has no intention of hiring anyone.

There are some cases where an offer is extended, only to be retracted within days with some flimsy excuse such as a frozen budget or an unforeseen management change. In a Forbes study of over 1000 managers the facts are grim: “50% of companies state they “are always open to new people”.  43% wanted to give the impression their company was growing. 43% wanted an active pool of applicants in case someone quit. One in five managers had no plans to fill the posted job “anytime soon.”

How to avoid the “ghost job” trap? The number one indicator that the job is not real is to check how many days the job has been posted. If the posting is more than 30 days old, most likely that job never existed or has already been filled. You can also cross check on the company’s career site or LinkedIn. If that job doesn’t appear active on their own site, most likely it’s a “ghost job”. “Ghost Jobs” may exist due to high turnover rates and “Quick Quitting”, but it seems unfair to a conscientious job seeker who only needs a paycheck. I’ve noticed that community colleges are one of the worst offenders of posting “ghost jobs”.

So, while the world of work is now constantly changing, the vocabulary describing it also undergoing change too. Buzzwords can be annoying, but business writers and corporate communicators will continue to create shorthand for trends in the world of work to make it more understandable to us and to themselves. The need arises, especially post-pandemic, due to the confusion and constant transformation in everyday life. The upheaval in the business world necessitates a new way of thinking and speaking about work. Considering the introduction of AI and other groundbreaking technology, as well as the impact of post-pandemic work habits, buzzwords may be one thing that remains consistent.

“…a buzzword is not necessarily a bad thing, as many disciplines thrive with the introduction of new terms which can be called buzzwords.” – Wikipedia


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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.

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