Compared with a year ago, the labor market is in much better shape. True, many employers are struggling to fill openings, but the latest Adzuna data shows jobseekers flooding back into the market this September to meet this unprecedented demand. The somewhat unexpected downside of growing job opportunities is that we’re also seeing much higher-than-usual quit rates—and a worrying rise in rage quitting. In the current job market, employees are firmly in the driver’s seat, meaning companies need to work harder to retain their top talent by answering their needs on flexibility, respect, and wellness.
The Rise of Rage Quitting
A total of 3.9 million Americans quit their job in June, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures—just under the record of 4.0 million set in April. There are a number of underlying factors behind this peak. The pandemic has catalyzed a redistribution of opportunities within the jobs market, meaning new and different opportunities are on offer. Also, many more jobseekers are looking to retrain or upskill and switch sectors. It’s a period of transition.
But why are so many workers tossing in the towel? Some are leaving due to burnout after an intense year. Others want to relocate or are seeking a better work/life balance. Some workers are being turned off by back-to-office policies that aren’t fitting well with how they want to manage their time. And there are those who are simply dissatisfied and see the hot labor market as an excuse to make a change.
Rage quitting—when employees leave on the spot without giving any notice, often out of anger—is the most extreme example of this. Though usually uncommon, an employee rage quitting can result in a severe fallout in terms of company culture, meaning companies are wise to get ahead of this with angry employees and limit the damage they may cause.
The Employee Perspective—The Positives and Negatives of Rage Quitting
Rage quitting is a tale as old as time, whether it be walking out without giving 2 weeks’ notice or a dramatic screaming match within the workplace. But why do employees do it at all?
Primarily, it’s to help release pent-up feelings of frustration and potentially show an employer exactly how their actions are harming employees. It’s usually an emotional rather than a logical decision.
But rage quitting can create some negatives for the workers, too. First and foremost, it means burning a bridge, which may mean they can no longer use that experience as a reference for future jobs.
There’s also a financial impact. Rage quitting is typically not planned and is in the heat of the moment, meaning employees will also suffer a loss of income and benefits while searching for a new job, which may not have been considered when bubbling over. It’s potentially negative for both parties.
Holding an Exit Interview with a Rage Quitter
Even if an employee gets to the stage of rage quitting, it’s still worth trying to continue a dialogue with him or her. You might think an exit interview with a rage quitter is a pointless exercise, but it’s important to be able to get to the root cause behind the dramatic exit so you can prevent it from happening again.
To diffuse the situation and hold a constructive conversation, make sure the interviewer is not the root of the employee’s rage. If possible, hold the interview in person, and actively listen to show the employee you’re interested in what went wrong and that you want to improve. Avoid giving opinions during the interview or rationalizing decisions the employee brings up—and keep an open mind!
You should also look for trends compared with other employees who have left the company, as this may surface any underlying issues, and take the initiative to fix them.
Avoiding Rage Quits
It goes without saying that the best strategy around rage quitting is prevention. Promoting a culture of transparency is one way of doing this, as well as creating an environment where employees feel safe to have difficult conversations and be honest with you about their frustrations.
Scheduling regular check-in chats is one way of encouraging nonconfrontational conversations before things escalate. More generally, organizations should also aim to be as upfront as possible about subjects such as return-to-office policies and encourage open dialogue around how employees want to work and how this can fit into wider plans.
Care and compassion also go a long way. The last year has also shown that well-being is more important than ever within the workplace, and it’s vital to listen for signs that an employee may be having a hard time and need a break. This is also important for wider retention: More employees are prioritizing work/life balance, so taking steps to reinforce a healthy workplace culture is important.
Other steps you can take include showing appreciation for employees and colleagues, especially if you’re still operating remotely.
Finally, be willing to be flexible when it comes to career paths. Workers are increasingly looking to upskill or retrain for different positions, but this doesn’t mean they need to leave a company. Perhaps you can help them take a different career path internally. In fact, this may be a great way of hiring for some of those harder-to-fill roles.
Some of the most successful companies are those that go over and above to listen and learn from their staff—and ultimately to hang onto them.
Andrew Hunter is cofounder of global job search engine Adzuna.