The last few years have been tumultuous, to say the least. Between Covid-19, war, an impending recession, and the threat of environmental collapse, the ensuing existential dread has had a major effect on society.
We have seen the effects of this chaos and uncertainty to a large degree at work. “The Great Resignation,” also known as the “great reshuffle,” is an ongoing trend in which employees — after long-lasting wage freezes and job dissatisfaction — quit their jobs in the face of all this uncertainty.
For those who have remained in their positions, many workers have engaged in the practice of “quiet quitting,” which entails disengaging and doing only what their job requires, strictly within the hours they are committed to. (Although characterizing this behavior as “quitting” may say more about our obsession with hustle culture than it does about individuals who follow their role mandate.)
Other workers in management positions have also engaged in something called “quiet firing,” which entails creating non-ideal work conditions to coerce an underperforming employee quit. This style of “quiet leadership”, which can also be thought of as laissez-faire leadership, is when a manager is essentially avoidant and neglectful. They dodge intervening in the face of problems, don’t bother to give feedback, and also don’t bother to provide encouragement or recognition for a job well done. They’re just kind of impotent, and their employees’ career trajectories suffer from the lack of support and attention.
While there’s no simple solution to these complex workplace challenges, an alternative to this style, “loud leadership,” could provide the workplace culture salve we all desperately need.
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What is ‘loud leadership’?
Loud leadership, which could also be likened to the transformational leadership style, is one in which a manager is highly engaged with their employees, works to understand the obstacles to their team’s well-being and workflows, proactively solves problems and makes the career development of their team members a priority.
In their exploration of the “quiet dynamics” phenomenon featured in Psychology Today, Grant H. Brenner and Santor Nishizaki believe that the recent quiet workplace behavior trends are in part driven by personal attachment styles. “Underlying attachment anxiety … leads people to both over-worry and withdraw into ghostland,” they write. Insecure attachment styles have three main types: anxious/preoccupied, avoidant/dismissive and disorganized – all fairly accurate attributes of a horrible manager.
…one’s attachment style can impact the way we carry ourselves at work.
While many probably think they do a good job of “code-switching” at work, which is the practice of alternating between one’s authentic self and one’s professional persona, we are probably not very good at upholding this boundary. According to The Attachment Project, one’s attachment style can impact the way we carry ourselves at work because these environments are often heavily characterized by interpersonal relationships and social dynamics.
Although the relationships between attachment styles and leadership styles requires further study, transformational or loud leaders often exhibit behaviors that align with the secure attachment styles.
Secure and insecure attachment styles are not necessarily dichotomously good vs. bad. While insecure attachment types can cause difficulties in the workplace, each type also comes with its own set of superpowers. For example, employees with an anxious attachment style tend to be high performing and hypervigilant. However, the negative qualities that can be exhibited in those with an avoidant attachment style, such as those paralleled in quiet leadership, can be very problematic in the workplace, especially for team members who report to them.
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How can managers practice loud leadership at work?
Secure and insecure leaders and followers have a massive impact on the culture and success of a company. So what are some things managers can do to embody loud leadership?
First of all, identifying and understanding our own attachment style can give us a better understanding of ourselves and how we relate with employees. Taking an extra second to examine our emotions and think before we act can go a long way.
…if the difference between a quiet leader and a loud leader is simply trying, perhaps it is worth the effort to transform culture.
Another pivotal step one can take towards loud leadership is working to gain a stronger emotional IQ. “Millennials and Gen Zers want leaders who care about their well-being and are invested in their long-term growth,” writes Brenner and Nishizaki. Identifying our stressors, managing our emotions to avoid becoming overwhelmed, being mindful of our vocabulary with others and practicing empathy are all practices that can improve our emotional IQ.
Lastly, although we typically identify with one style, humans are complex and most of our attributes fall on a spectrum. We are also constantly growing, changing and adapting — and we can change our attachment styles over the course of our lives.
Research on changes in attachment orientation has revealed some trends in people’s attachment styles over their lifespan. Some research shows that anxious attachment tends to be most prominent during teenage years and young adulthood, avoidant attachment tends to decline throughout life, and increases in secure attachment styles are associated with being in healthy romantic relationships. Working to change our circumstances to foster a secure attachment style can shift our behavior over time.
Is this asking for a lot in the current existential crisis climate? Maybe. But if the difference between a quiet leader and a loud leader is simply trying, perhaps it is worth the effort to transform culture.