For two years, workers have embraced the concept of “quiet quitting,” as they reject hustle-culture and prioritize work-life balance.
But for a long time, you’ve probably known co-workers who are the “noisier cousins” of quiet quitters — they’re sometimes called “loud laborers,” a term coined by André Spicer, an organizational behavior professor and dean of Bayes Business School.
These are employees who place more emphasis on making their work known, rather than “focusing on the work itself,” said Nicole Price, a leadership coach and workplace expert.
“They use various methods of self-promotion, talking more about what they are doing or plan to do rather than getting on with their tasks.”
According to Price, there are two easy ways to tell who’s a loud laborer: You don’t see much work getting done, and they talk “an awful lot” about the work they are “doing.”
“Loud laborers are often quite politically savvy and are very active on professional social networks, where they publicize their tasks and achievements,” she added.
Vicki Salemi, a career expert at jobs portal Monster.com, makes the distinction between someone who confidently asserts themselves at work and a loud laborer: “The former picks and chooses when to speak up to shine a spotlight on their work.”
“Whereas the latter may crave attention and love to hear themselves talk even when it was nothing extraordinary, they were simply doing their jobs,” she added.
Why some focus on ‘visibility’
Why do loud laborers exist?
“Believe it or not, some people talk too much about their accomplishments — or lack thereof — because they lack self-esteem or are insecure, therefore they overcompensate,” explained Price.
“Also, some people are motivated by external rewards and recognition rather than the inherent satisfaction of the work itself. This can lead to a focus on visibility and self-promotion in order to attract these rewards.”
Salemi pointed out that these workers may feel the need to self-promote constantly because they are not getting the recognition or attention from bosses or colleagues.
“Or it could be the other extreme: they’re overly confident about their work and brag about it, but here’s the thing — there are stellar performers, but boasting about every project every day is usually not exemplary,” she added.
Impact on team dynamics
Unfortunately, if you are a loud worker — experts CNBC Make It spoke to said that such behavior will not bode well with everyone.
“It can be ingratiating on others and put people off, especially your peers, to always toot your own horn,” said Salemi.
Furthermore, a 2021 study found that having a self-promotion climate within work groups can “diminish work group cohesion.”
Loud laborers may create a work environment where visibility and self-promotion are valued more than actual results, which could demotivate employees who are quieter or prefer to let their work speak for itself, said Price.
“The constant self-promotion may create an atmosphere of competition rather than collaboration,” she added.
“It may lead to an imbalance in perceived effort and recognition, which could impact team morale negatively.”
While loud laborers in the workplace may be irksome, it is important to set boundaries as best you can, said Salemi.
“If you’re leading a team call or participating on one and your colleague won’t be quiet about something irrelevant … you can say, ‘I want to be aware of everyone’s time — we only have 10 minutes left, so we need to be direct about the work itself only.'”
For Price, loud working is persistent in a workplace because such behavior has been rewarded or validated by leadership.
“A leader can ensure that all team members are evaluated on their actual performance and not just their ability to promote themselves,” she explained.
“This encourages everyone to focus on their work and helps to ensure that quieter team members are recognized for their contributions.”
Here’s what she suggests companies and leaders can do to tackle loud workers in the workplace:
1. Recognize effort, not just showmanship
Often the quiet and unflashy work is what keeps an organization running.
Leaders should look beyond the noise and recognize the contributions of those who may not be as vocal about their work. This encourages a culture where actual productivity and results are valued, not just visibility.
2. Understand different work styles
Some are more vocal about their efforts, while others are quieter and more focused on the tasks at hand.
A good leader should value and acknowledge both approaches, recognizing that different styles can contribute to a diverse and effective team.
3. Communicate and Provide Feedback
If you notice a team member who consistently emphasizes their work more than the actual results, have a conversation with them about it, Price advised.
Provide constructive feedback that encourages a balance between self-promotion and productive work. This not only helps the individual but benefits the whole team.