Updated: February 12, 2024

Grumpy Staying: Meaning, Signs & Ways to Address it at Work

You found our guide to grumpy staying.

Grumpy staying is the act of remaining in a working environment while displaying a persistent and irritable attitude or disposition. This method of expressing displeasure at work is a trend that grew out of the Great Resignation and changing workplace norms. It is important for managers to address instances of this behavior to preserve workplace harmony and combat employee dissatisfaction.

This practice is related to quiet quitting, loud quitting, coffee badging, social loafing, and bare minimum Mondays.


This article includes:

  • Grumpy staying definition
  • Signs of grumpy staying
  • Causes of grumpy staying
  • Effects of grumpy staying
  • Ways to deal with grumpy staying

Here is what you need to know.

Grumpy staying definition

Grumpy staying in the workplace refers to the behavior of an individual who chooses to remain in their job or position while exhibiting a consistently irritable and discontented attitude. The practice involves an employee persisting in their role despite feeling frustrated, dissatisfied, or disengaged, often displaying negativity and irritability towards their tasks, colleagues, or the overall work environment. Grumpy staying can manifest as frequent complaining, a lack of motivation, or a generally sour demeanor. Unlike quitting or seeking immediate change, individuals practicing grumpy staying opt to stay put, albeit with an unpleasant air that can impact their own well-being and potentially influence the morale and atmosphere of the workplace.

Signs of grumpy staying

Here is a list of warning signs that may indicate grumpy staying in the workplace. Recognizing these signs can help employers and colleagues identify individuals begrudgingly staying in the workplace.

1. Chronic complaining

Grumpy stayers tend to repeatedly complain about various aspects of their job, such as tasks, colleagues, or the work environment. These teammates often express their dissatisfaction without actively seeking solutions or making efforts to improve the situation.

2. Negative attitude

Employees exhibiting grumpy staying display a consistently negative attitude towards their work. These individuals may demonstrate cynicism, skepticism, or a lack of enthusiasm, which can be contagious and impact the team’s overall morale.

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3. Lack of engagement

Grumpy stayers often show minimal engagement or investment in their work. Such employees may become disinterested, disengaged, and detached from their responsibilities, resulting in reduced productivity and contribution to the team.

Read more about the importance of employee engagement.

4. Resistance to change

Employees practicing grumpy staying tend to resist or reject changes in the workplace. These team members may express reluctance or outright refusal to adapt to new processes, technologies, or initiatives, further contributing to a stagnant and negative work environment.

Check out this list of books on change management.

5. Frequent conflicts

Grumpy stayers may find themselves involved in frequent conflicts or disagreements with colleagues or superiors. Irritable disposition and negative outlook can lead to strained relationships, decreased collaboration, and an unhealthy work atmosphere.

Here is a list of conflict resolution activities.

6. Absenteeism and presenteeism

Grumpy staying employees may exhibit higher rates of absenteeism or presenteeism. They may frequently take unscheduled leave or show up to work physically but mentally disengaged, adding to the negative environment.

7. Lack of personal growth or development

Employees practicing grumpy staying show little interest in personal growth or professional development opportunities. These team members may be resistant to acquiring new skills, attending training programs, or taking on challenging assignments, further contributing to their stagnant and discontented state.

Read more on the importance of professional development.

Causes of grumpy staying

Understanding the causes of grumpy staying can help organizations identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to enhance job satisfaction, employee engagement, and overall well-being in the workplace. Addressing the underlying issues and finding ways to improve engagement and job satisfaction can be crucial for both the well-being of the individual and the overall productivity and harmony of the team.

1. Job dissatisfaction

Feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled in one’s job can be a significant cause of grumpy staying. Factors such as lack of autonomy, limited growth opportunities, uninteresting tasks, or a mismatch between skills and job requirements can lead to a persistent state of discontent.

Here is a list of ways to improve employee satisfaction.

2. Toxic work environment

A toxic work environment characterized by bullying, harassment, or a lack of support can contribute to grumpy staying. Constant exposure to negativity, conflicts, or a culture of blame can wear down employees and lead to a temperamental and disengaged mindset.

Read about workplace toxicity.

3. Lack of work-life balance

When work demands encroach on personal time, employees may become resentful and disenchanted. Long working hours, excessive workload, or limited flexibility can lead to grumpy staying as individuals struggle to balance work and personal life.

Check out this list of work-life balance tips.

4. Poor management and leadership

Ineffective management practices, such as lack of communication, micromanagement, favoritism, or inconsistent decision-making, can contribute to grumpy staying. Employees may feel frustrated or unsupported, leading to a negative outlook and decreased job satisfaction.

Here are some signs of bad managers.

5. Limited opportunities for growth and development

A lack of growth prospects or stagnant career paths can contribute to the phenomenon. When employees feel that their skills are under-utilized or their career progression is uncertain, they may become resentful and display a grumpy attitude towards their work.

6. Personal circumstances

External factors such as personal problems, financial stress, or health issues can impact an individual’s mood and attitude at work. These personal challenges can lead to employees who struggle to manage their emotions and maintain a positive mindset.

7. Cultural or organizational mismatch

Misalignment between an individual’s values, beliefs, and organizational culture can lead to grumpy staying. If employees perceive a significant gap between their personal values and the values promoted by the organization, it can create a sense of frustration and discontentment.

Check out this list of blogs on company culture.

8. Uncertain job market

When employees are unsure of being able to quickly secure other or better employment, they may settle for remaining in an unsatisfying job. Some employees bide their time grumpy staying while job searching elsewhere, while others begrudgingly keep going through the motions while waiting for the market to improve. News of mass layoffs, hiring slowdowns, or limited options within small or competitive industries are a few conditions that can contribute to this outcome.

Effects of grumpy staying

Recognizing the potential effects of grumpy staying is crucial for employers and organizations to address underlying issues and create a more positive and supportive work environment. Organizations can mitigate the negative consequences associated with grumpy staying and promote employee well-being and productivity by fostering a culture of positivity, open communication, and addressing employee concerns.

1. Decreased productivity

Grumpy staying can significantly impact an individual’s productivity. The negative mindset and lack of motivation can result in decreased focus, lower quality work, and reduced efficiency, ultimately affecting productivity.

Here are ways to boost employee productivity.

2. Negative work environment

Grumpy staying can contribute to a negative work environment. The persistent grumpiness and negative attitude displayed by individuals can spread to their colleagues, creating a toxic atmosphere, damaging team dynamics, and hindering collaboration and morale.

Read about how to create a positive workplace.

3. Poor team morale

The presence of grumpy stayers can bring down team morale and dampen the overall spirit and enthusiasm within a team. Negative attitudes can be contagious, leading to a demotivated workforce, decreased camaraderie, and diminished team cohesion.

Here are ways to boost team morale.

4. Increased conflict and tension

Grumpy stayers may contribute to an increase in conflicts and tensions within the workplace. Their irritable disposition and negative outlook can lead to strained relationships, frequent disagreements, and a general atmosphere of hostility and dissatisfaction.

Here is a list of conflict resolution books.

5. Impact on customer/client relationships

The effects of grumpy staying can extend beyond internal dynamics and impact external relationships. If employees with prickly attitudes interact directly with customers or clients, it can result in poor customer service, diminished satisfaction, and potential harm to the organization’s reputation.

Browse this list of customer experience books.

6. Reduced employee engagement and retention

This phenomenon can contribute to lower employee engagement and increased turnover rates. The negative work environment and lack of job satisfaction can lead to disengagement and a higher likelihood of employees seeking opportunities elsewhere, resulting in the loss of valuable talent.

Here are reasons for employee turnover.

7. Stifled creativity and innovation

Grumpy stayers may hinder creativity and innovation within the workplace. Their negative mindset can discourage the sharing of ideas, limit open communication, and create an environment where innovative thinking and problem-solving are stifled.

Check out this list of ways to build innovative teams.

Ways to deal with grumpy staying

Here is a list of ways to handle grumpy staying as a manager in the workplace. By implementing these strategies, managers can effectively address the behavior, create a more positive work environment, and support the well-being and engagement of their employees.

1. Open communication

It is best to encourage open and honest communication with grumpy stayers. You can create a safe space for them to express their concerns and frustrations. Also, actively listen to grievances, validate feelings, and seek to understand the underlying issues contributing to grumpy attitudes.

Check out this list of internal communication tips.

2. Provide support and resources

The first step to fixing the issue is to assess whether grumpy stayers have the necessary resources, tools, and support to effectively perform their jobs. Be sure to identify areas where improvements can be made, such as additional training, workload adjustments, or addressing specific concerns to help alleviate their grumpy mindset.

3. Foster a positive work environment

Cultivating a positive work environment that promotes a healthy and supportive culture is essential. For example, recognize and celebrate achievements, encourage teamwork and collaboration, and actively address any negative behaviors or conflicts contributing to grumpy staying.

4. Offer professional development opportunities

To avoid feelings of stagnation, provide grumpy stayers with opportunities for professional growth and development. This response can include training programs, mentoring, or special projects that align with their interests and career aspirations. Engaging stuck employees in meaningful work can help rekindle their enthusiasm and motivation.

5. Set clear expectations and goals

Leaders should clearly define expectations and goals for grumpy stayers and ensure employees clearly understanding their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. It is best to regularly communicate feedback and provide constructive guidance to help team members regain focus and direction.

Here is a list of goal-setting activities.

6. Encourage work-life balance

It is a good idea to support a healthy work-life balance for grumpy stayers. Encourage them to take breaks, use vacation time, and engage in activities that promote well-being outside work. You can help struggling team members establish boundaries and find ways to manage stress effectively.

7. Offer flexibility

If feasible, consider providing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible schedules. This step can help grumpy stayers manage their personal responsibilities and find a better balance between work and life, potentially improving their attitude.

8. Address underlying issues

Be sure to investigate and address any underlying issues contributing to grumpy staying. This process may involve examining organizational culture, leadership practices, or systemic problems that need addressing. Take appropriate actions to rectify these issues and foster a more positive and inclusive workplace.

9. Provide recognition and rewards

Recognizing and acknowledging the efforts and contributions of grumpy stayers can bring about positive change. Be sure to celebrate their successes, provide positive feedback, and offer rewards or incentives for their improved performance and attitude. Recognizing teammates’ value and contributions can help shift mindsets and boost morale.

Here is a list of employee recognition ideas.

10. Incentivize leaving if unhappy

While unconventional, giving employees the impetus to leave can weed out grumpy stayers. These folks often stay at the job because they cannot afford to leave, or do not want to face the hassle of job searching. Zappos famously offered workers a “pay to quit bonus.” This approach can give unsatisfied employees the extra push to leave. Ultimately, grumpy stayers will cost a company more than a few hundred or thousand dollars, meaning this measure may be a good investment.


Grumpy staying is a phenomenon that can have significant implications for individuals and organizations alike. It is crucial for employers and managers to recognize the signs, causes, and effects of grumpy staying in the workplace.

Organizations can mitigate the negative consequences by addressing underlying issues, fostering open communication, and creating a positive work environment. It is important to approach grumpy stayers with empathy, patience, and a genuine desire to help them overcome their challenges. Supporting employees in finding fulfillment, providing resources for growth and development, and promoting work-life balance are essential to cultivate a motivated and engaged workforce.

Ultimately, by addressing grumpy staying proactively, organizations can enhance productivity, improve employee well-being, and foster a workplace culture of positivity and collaboration.

Next, learn about workplace complacency.

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FAQ: Grumpy staying

Here are answers to common questions about grumpy staying.

What is grumpy staying?

Grumpy staying refers to a situation in the workplace where an employee remains in their job but exhibits a consistently negative and discontented attitude through chronic complaining, a lack of engagement, and a negative outlook on their work.

What should you do if you suspect an employee is grumpy staying?

If you suspect an employee is grumpy staying, it is important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Engage in open and honest communication with the employee to understand their concerns, provide support, and explore potential solutions. Offering opportunities for growth, addressing work-related issues, and promoting a positive work environment can help alleviate their grumpy mindset and improve overall job satisfaction.

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Marketing Coordinator at teambuilding.com.
Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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