Young woman holding a green hashtag in front of her face. The background behind her is bright pink.
Image: © khosrork/Stock.adobe.com

No more #GirlBoss? Workers say career-related hashtags are damaging

8 Dec 2023

A survey of 2,000 Irish workers found that most believe hashtags such as #QuietQuitting and #LazyGirlJobs perpetuate negative stereotypes.

What’s in a hashtag you might ask? These pithy little catchphrases are everywhere on social media and are used to link posts about a specific topic. Political events generate them, sports events generate them – and, yes, work trends generate them, too. What’s the harm?

Well, according to a lot of Irish workers, work-related hashtags perpetuate negative stereotypes. Recruitment firm Walters People surveyed 2,000 white-collar workers aged between 18 and 60 in Ireland in October of this year.

More than half (59pc) of those surveyed said that the likes of #GirlBoss, #LazyGirlJobs, #CorporateQueen, #QuietQuitting and #BareMinimumMondays are playing into workplace stereotypes – particularly around women and younger workers.

More than a third (39pc) feel that these hashtags are actively damaging and limiting. James Brown, senior manager of Walters People Dublin, pointed out that while workplace trends are nothing new, the emergence of social media and its “heightened use amongst young people” influences how these trends spread.

Social media trivialises work issues

According to Brown, “Certain notions around having a job are being trivialised … On TikTok we see videos of people trying to get away with ‘not working’ when based remotely, or scenes that mock certain characters or scenes within a workplace.”

“What is most worrying – given all the work that is being done about addressing diversity and inclusion in the workplace – is how certain hashtags are either playing into or creating new stereotypes, particularly for young professionals or females,” Brown added.

Indeed many of the people who responded to Walters People’s survey felt that these scenarios and their associated hashtags contribute to gender-based workplace inequality. Only a minority (13pc) feel that such hashtags empower women and have had a positive impact on encouraging more open conversations about work.

But despite the perception that frivolous social media trends are having a negative impact on women and young people, most of the people surveyed pointed to young women as the creators of the majority of the content.

Young people don’t have the same hashtag hang-ups

“Career trends and hashtags seem to be a new way of Gen Z airing grievances with jobs they’ve had and quit,” said Brown. “Take for example #QuietQutting [which] promotes the idea of doing the ‘bare minimum’ in a job when your needs aren’t being met, rather than the age-old notion of ‘going above and beyond’ to get what you asked for.”

Others have made similar points. Recently, we spoke to careers coach Ciara Spillane about social media’s role in enabling Gen Z workers to openly discuss burnout. While social media can perpetuate stereotypes and dumb down debate – it can also be a way for people to raise topics like burnout or unfair treatment at work. Spillane told SiliconRepublic.com that young workers need to be listened to more when they talk about issues that affect them.

According to the Walters People survey, taking to social media to vent about work is more popular amongst young workers. Professionals over 30 years of age are highly unlikely to use social media to vent their work-related frustrations. More than three-fifths said they would speak with friends and family about work problems, while 16pc said they would turn to their colleagues. Only 1pc said they would share their problems on social media, and 18pc said they would simply keep work issues to themselves.

When Gen Z respondents were asked if they would vent online, 40pc said they would share their experiences on social media. Just under a third (32pc) said they’d go to friends and family, while 20pc said they’d talk to their colleagues and 8pc said they’d keep it to themselves.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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