Is Rage Quitting all the rage now? And, if so, what can HR professionals do to curb it?
You might feel like it’s out of control. But it’s not exactly a new phenomenon – more like an HR issue on steroids these days.
Unfortunately, there’s an underlying reason at the root of most resignations. More than 65% of employees who quit say they were working in a negative company culture, according to a FlexJobs survey
A toxic workplace leads to more Rage Quits. And you’ve probably seen your fair share of dramatic quits – perhaps a tantrum at a perceived slight or a hissy fit followed by a purposeful walk out the door.
While any one of those could have happened 10 or 15 years ago, they happen more often and publicly now: Disgruntled employees feel they have plenty of options, and they use social media to blow up their Rage Quit.
“Toxic company culture drives people to leave their jobs more than any other single factor,” says Sara Sutton, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “It’s critical that leaders emphasize building healthy cultures that are inclusive of all their workers’ needs.”
About 15% of quitters are raging angry, but all employees who resign are dissatisfied at work. And that’s not how HR wants any employee to feel. So here are expert tips to improve culture and avoid or respond to Rage Quitting:
Make resilience a priority
Employee resilience is important to curbing turnover. But Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan Business School researchers are adamant: Stop telling your employees to be resilient.
Instead, create systems, training and discussions that prepare employees to handle change, withstand hardships and adapt to new realities.
Bottom line: Telling employees to grin and bear it will likely lead to resentment and Rage Quitting.
“Uncertainty and challenging situations are often beyond our control. But how leaders respond – that is, whether they make work a place where employees feel supported, or push them until they burn out and give up – is not,” say Liz Fosslien and Millie West Duffy, authors of Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay.
Four of their tips to build (not demand) resilience:
- Make well-being the expectation. Try this for the subject at group meetings: How can we better incorporate balance as part of our days? Then make an agreed-upon idea a ritual – same event, time, place and day – which is a proven way to create balance.
- Build team accomplishment lists. Instead of just dolling out “to dos,” regularly review what’s been accomplished.
- Put status updates and check-ins in their place. Managers can do those in communication apps. Spend time in one-on-ones asking, “What one thing can I do to better support you this week? What kind of flexibility do you need right now?”
- Create shared language. Many employees aren’t comfortable sharing emotions – and sometimes, they hit an internal boiling point and they let loose the rage. So give employees a tool to let others know how they’re feeling without having to bleed their hearts out. One way: Use cards in meetings. Red means “I’m struggling.” Yellow means, “I’m stressed.” Green means “I’m OK.”
Be proactive with retention
As an HR pro, you likely encourage or spearhead a proactive approach to employee retention. But often the buck stops at front-line managers. If they don’t implement the strategy, it won’t work to avoid unnecessary quits.
Train managers how to:
- host regular one-on-ones. Give them questions to ask, follow-up responses to common issues and guidance on where to get help for concerns they aren’t equipped to deal with, and
- identify pre-quit (or pre-Rage Quit) behaviors. A few of the most common, according to Harvard Business School experts:
- productivity drops more than normal
- withdrawal from team dynamics
- less interest in pleasing the manager and colleagues
- change in attitude from positive to negative, and
- loss of enthusiasm for their work, goals and company mission.
Add more fun
Burnout leads to turnover – and it comes in many forms. Employees might be overworked, bored, overwhelmed, underappreciated, micro-managed or under-managed. And any one of those make work less fun. Possibly miserable.
“A lot of the fatigue and burnout that many are feeling as of late is due in part to the repetitiveness that sometimes comes with working remotely,” says Allyson Tom, VP of People & Culture at Blueboard. “There’s also been a loss of some of the spontaneity and variety that came from running into people in the office.”
For those remote employees, bring back variety to work with space for small talk and random conversation for 10 minutes at the start of a meeting.
Intentional play helps, too.
“We encourage one another to bring some play and creativity into our work, from disrupting the workspace with moments of play, like a mid-meeting dance break, to dedicating spaces, meetings or team gatherings to simply play,” says Tom. “We encourage people to take the time they need to indulge in their passions – and to do that without feeling guilty. Investing in your personal time and relationships … helps people become fuller, better versions of themselves.”
Respond to Rage Quitters
Despite your best efforts, you – and your front-line managers – will still likely get a Rage Quitter from time to time. Assuming it’s someone you want to keep on staff, you might be able to talk him or her out of the rash decision.
If you can calm the quitter enough to have a conversation, explore these questions together to see if there’s a better solution:
- Is this an unusual situation or trend? If it’s a years-long struggle, yes it might be time to go. But if it’s a new or unique issue, it leaves room for review.
- What role do you play in the situation? Sometimes employees need perspective on how they’ve influenced what’s happened – and how they might change things in their favor.
- Will this matter in the long term? Expand the time view by a week, month or year to get perspective on whether it’s a big, quit-worthy event or a smaller, short-term frustrating glitch.
- What are the emotions at hand? Explore who is angry, potentially overreacting or influenced by other life events – and how those issues might pass.
- How else can you influence the situation? Quitting might not be the only way to change what’s going on.
Put the Boomerang in perspective
Rage Quitters have the potential for a second chance, especially in today’s tight labor market. More than 50% of employees who’ve left jobs in the past year would consider going back to it, according to a Lever survey. Even Rage Quitters have regrets.
But when it comes to rehiring Rage Quitters, make sure you cover these critical elements when re-interviewing potential boomerang employees:
- Reasons for leaving. You likely have documentation on what happened and why. But now that emotions have settled and circumstances are new, you’ll want to discuss why they left and why they want to come back.
- Reasons for leaving – Part II. You’ll also want to understand why they want to leave the other employer who seemed so hot not so long ago. This might reveal if they’re ready to be long-haulers or double boomerangs.
- What’s changed (and what hasn’t). Explain new processes and changes that have occurred since they left. Perhaps more importantly, talk about what’s remained the same because you already know they weren’t fond of some things in the past.