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QuitTok: Why workers quitting on TikTok may expose toxic employers

QuitTok Businesswoman unhappy or sadness cause being fired from company. Business Concept Background.
The QuitTok trend sees young people publicly quitting their jobs on social media app TikTok. Photo: Getty (Suriyapong Thongsawang via Getty Images)

Most of us have wanted to give our bosses the middle finger and leave the door swinging behind us at some point in our careers. Normally, though, a resignation involves a courteous email and the serving out of a notice period. But now, there’s a new trend doing the rounds on TikTok: videos of young people publicly quitting their jobs.

These #QuitTok clips, which capture the real-time moment when workers quit, have racked up millions of views. The content of the videos varies from simple announcements to the secret recordings of toxic bosses. But why are younger generations resigning on social media – and could it force employers to make our workplaces healthier?

Read more: Seven self-help books to boost your career and your confidence

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Social media has changed the way we communicate and our lives are now played out online for everyone to see, including how we live and work. In particular, unlike older generations, Generation Z has grown up with social media and are used to sharing everything online. TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat aren’t just for socialising and interacting with others, but also for sourcing free advice and more.

Many of us live our lives on social media and don’t think twice about announcing our important updates online, says career coach Ayesha Murray.

“For many of us, it's more than just a communication tool, it's where we find community and connection,” she explains. “So it might seem like an obvious place to announce you're quitting your job.”

Calling out toxic workplaces

Having a public platform has allowed young people to feel empowered to speak up about their problems. A decade ago, issues linked to work, wellbeing and mental health were kept behind closed, corporate doors – and often swept under the carpet by employers.

Now, social media has allowed people to have honest, open conversations about toxic workplaces and poor managers in public. Consequently, businesses – especially those which have been publicly called out for bad practices – have been forced to consider and address these issues.

The rise of QuitTok has also coincided with the Great Resignation, which has seen record numbers of people quit their jobs. Living through COVID-19 has brought into question whether we should live to work or work to live, leading many to re-evaluate what they want from work.

QuitTok Tyumen, Russia - January 21, 2020: TikTok and Facebook application  on screen Apple iPhone XR
The QuitTok trend comes after Great Resignation phenomenon. Photo: Getty (Anatoliy Sizov via Getty Images)

This, along with an increased awareness of how work and mental health are connected, has encouraged people to rethink their careers to pursue what makes them happy.

So when people began to leave their jobs en masse in 2021, it made sense that younger workers turned to social media to talk about their experiences. Unfortunately, many of these experiences are negative – highlighting toxic workplaces and bullying bosses.

Pressure on employers to create positive workplaces

Andrew Jackson and David Tinker, co-founders of the workplace wellbeing platform Rethinkly, say that with businesses under public scrutiny, it’s more important than ever for employers to create positive, healthy workplaces.

“In light of the recent rise of young people quitting their jobs and talking negatively about them on social media, it has never been more important for organisations to create the best working environment possible to prevent this from happening,” says Jackson.

“Ultimately, this behaviour is most likely the result of a negative company culture in which mutual respect and communication have completely broken down,” he adds.

Read more: How to spot the subtle signs of bullying at work

“Companies must consider all of the tools and processes they have in place to ensure employees have safe spaces to air concerns in a healthy way before reaching this point. Of course, there may be instances whereby complaints are unjustified.”

And although calling out a bad employer on TikTok may feel cathartic, it can backfire too. “If you haven't resigned officially yet, announcing any decision publicly isn't the best course of action,” says Murray.

“Consider how your announcement will appear to your current employer as well as any future ones. You'll want to leave without burning bridges and you also need to protect your personal brand. What you say online could follow you around.”

If you’ve already left your job, though, social media can be a good place to advertise yourself. “Once you've resigned in the right way, use the opportunity to showcase the skills you've acquired in your last role, your achievements and what you might be looking for next - plus anything else that contributes positively to how you'll be perceived,” Murray adds.

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