Employee Experience

Hiding at work

5 Mins read

In the modern workplace, the phenomenon of employees hiding at work has become an increasingly common issue that managers and HR professionals are grappling with. But what exactly does it mean when employees are discreetly avoiding their work duties or attempting to stay under the radar? This behaviour can be indicative of several underlying problems within an organization.

Employee hiding at work? Here’s what it means

One possible interpretation of employees hiding at work is disengagement. When employees feel disconnected from their tasks, colleagues, or the overall mission of the company, they may resort to concealing their inactivity as a way to avoid confrontation or the potential consequences of their lack of productivity. This can be a signal for management to assess employee engagement levels and seek ways to re-engage their workforce through clear communication, meaningful work, and opportunities for growth.

Additionally, employee hiding can also be a symptom of burnout. In an environment where overwork and stress are prevalent, employees may withdraw to cope with the pressure. They may choose to hide in plain sight, appearing busy but not truly contributing. Recognizing this as a sign of burnout, organizations should take proactive measures to address workloads, provide adequate resources, and support employees in managing their stress to prevent long-term burnout and its detrimental effects on both individuals and the company’s productivity. In essence, employees hiding at work is often a red flag, signaling deeper issues within an organization that require attention and intervention to create a healthier and more productive work environment.

What does it mean for employers?

When employees hide at work, it can harm a company by reducing productivity, stifling communication, and impeding innovation. A culture of secrecy and avoidance can lead to a negative workplace atmosphere, hinder employee retention, and cause missed growth opportunities. To mitigate these effects, fostering open communication, trust, and support within the organization is essential, as it encourages employees to speak up, share ideas, and address concerns, ultimately contributing to a more positive and productive work environment.

A solution to hiding at work

Speak up

According to MIT Sloan, 17.5% of the employees said that they never speak at all.

Encourage yourself to voice your thoughts with respect and confidence. Remember, diverse perspectives hold significant value. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and seek opportunities to collaborate with decision-makers. Building strong relationships starts with active participation in video calls, where subtle cues in body language and facial expressions can offer valuable insights. Equally important is self-awareness; recognize your own communication style and adjust as needed. While it may come more naturally to extroverts, introverts can also flourish through the process of stretching and growth. Embrace the learning journey that comes with expanding your horizons.

Foster open communication

Dedicate time to foster open lines of communication. While it might be tempting to prioritize work tasks over nurturing relationships with colleagues or superiors, maintaining transparent communication is crucial to ensure you’re aligned and informed. Additionally, it’s essential not to become complacent with your current network and knowledge base. Keep expanding your network both within and outside your workplace to stay current, gain fresh insights, and discover new sources of inspiration to enrich your work.

Be confident

Have genuine confidence in your abilities. While you don’t need to boast about it, make sure you’re consistently working towards personal development objectives and actively pursuing opportunities that can incrementally boost your visibility. Don’t hesitate to lend your skills to various projects, and resist the temptation to settle into a comfort zone. Instead, actively seek out new challenges in your workplace to keep growing and evolving.

Ask yourself a few vital questions

Take a moment for introspection and explore these key questions:

  • Self or Others: Are you avoiding something within yourself or avoiding interactions with someone else?
  • Origin of Avoidance: When did this pattern of hiding and avoidance first emerge in your life?
  • Underlying Issue: Identify the core issue. Is it primarily an internal struggle or related to a significant relationship in your life?
  • Personal Contribution: Reflect on how your actions, words, or inactions might be contributing to the problem.
  • Emotional State: Assess your current emotional state. Are you harboring anger, disappointment, fear, or loneliness?
  • Energy Levels: Observe your energy levels. Do you feel like you’ve slowed down or lost vitality?
  • Hope and Change: Gauge your level of hope for turning things around and creating a positive shift.
  • Relationship Awareness: If it involves a relationship, consider how aware your partner is of the issue and your struggles in managing it.

These questions provide a framework for self-exploration and can help you gain clarity and insight into your situation, paving the way for constructive change.

The truth behind the infamous hiding at work meme

In the age of memes and viral internet culture, the “Hiding at Work” meme has become an icon of relatable humor for employees worldwide. This humorous trend typically involves comical images or GIFs of people attempting to look busy or preoccupied while, in reality, doing anything but work. While the meme is undeniably amusing, it also sheds light on the often unspoken realities of the modern workplace. Employees sometimes resort to such tactics not just out of a desire to slack off but often due to burnout, stress, or a disconnect between their skills and their job responsibilities.

hiding at work

Beneath the humour lies a deeper message: the importance of addressing workplace issues, fostering engagement, and recognizing the signs of employee disengagement. As companies and organizations strive for increased productivity and employee satisfaction, understanding the reasons behind such memes can prompt meaningful conversations about workplace culture, employee well-being, and the need for work-life balance. The “hiding at work” meme serves as a humorous reminder that there’s more to employee behaviour than meets the eye, and it underscores the need for workplaces to prioritize employee mental health and job satisfaction in today’s fast-paced world.

Improving employee visibility – a brief primer

There are few ways you can improve employee visibility. Here’s how: 

Recognize and appreciate employee contributions

Demonstrate your appreciation for your employees’ hard work and strengths. You can do this by openly acknowledging their efforts and the value they bring to the organization.

Foster growth opportunities

Encourage your employees’ professional growth by providing personal training and development plans that highlight your belief in their potential. Identify emerging talent and leadership potential while assisting individuals in addressing their weaknesses as part of their growth journey.

Prioritize trust

Trust forms the foundation of a healthy workplace, and its erosion often results from breakdowns in communication. Organizations built on trust exhibit effective leadership, enhanced collaboration, and a shared sense of purpose, all underpinned by a culture of respect. Micro-managing, on the other hand, undermines trust.

Promote stepping outside comfort zones

Recognize that some employees may be hesitant to step beyond their comfort zones, especially when feeling detached. Encourage your workforce to explore well-assessed risks and empower them to research and pursue new opportunities. Show your commitment to fostering innovation and growth within the organization.

Promote work-life balance

Encourage a healthy work-life balance among your workforce. Emphasize the importance of setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, which can help prevent burnout and boost overall well-being.

Invest in technology and training

Provide the necessary technology and training to help employees excel in their roles. This not only enhances their productivity but also demonstrates your commitment to their professional growth and success.

Support your employees

It’s crucial to stay connected with your employees. Especially for those working from home, where physical interactions are limited, scheduling regular online one-on-one meetings serves as a valuable opportunity to offer support and assess their overall well-being, rather than focusing solely on productivity levels.

Adapt to changing work dynamics

Flexibility is key when dealing with employees who are not regularly in the office. Adjust your approach to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging within the organization. Have a strategic plan in place to foster inclusivity and a positive work environment, regardless of the working arrangement.


In the modern workplace, the issue of employees hiding at work signals deeper problems like disengagement and burnout. Employers should prioritize open communication and trust to counter this trend’s impact on productivity and workplace culture. Individuals can boost their visibility by confidently seeking growth opportunities and self-awareness. The infamous “Hiding at Work” meme humorously highlights the need for work-life balance and employee well-being. Ultimately, prioritizing transparency, appreciation, and support leads to a more positive and productive workplace.

Further Reading

The McNamara Fallacy in Business: a Complete Guide
Understanding Trompenaars Cultural Dimensions – A Complete Guide
Understanding The CAGE Framework – Tips, Tricks & Best Practices

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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