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What happens when you 'rage quit' your job?

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·5-min read
One of the key problems with rage quitting is that we tend to make bad decisions when we are at the height of extreme emotion. Photo: Getty
One of the key problems with rage quitting is that we tend to make bad decisions when we are at the height of extreme emotion. Photo: Getty

Your boss has been treating you badly for years, undermining you, pitting you against your colleagues and making every day difficult. Finally, you reach the end of your tether and lose it with your manager. And after letting rip, you quit, gather your belongings and leave, with the door swinging behind you.

It’s a scenario we’ve all thought about after a bad day at work, but ultimately, it’s a scene more common in films than real life. Not only do we need to pay rent and bills, applying for new jobs often requires getting references from your employer – so burning bridges with them isn’t a viable option.

So why do people “rage quit” their jobs, and what should you do if your anger and frustration boils over at work?

“It tends to happen when emotions take over from practical reality and in the heated moment you are not thinking about the consequences,” says Calli Louis, co-founder of Working Wonder, a training and coaching consultancy.

“In the real world of work it’s actually quite hard to quit your job on the spot. Firstly, many have notice periods,” she explains. “And secondly, when it comes to quitting your job, often it isn’t just one incident that leads you to that point. It’s behaviour over time, or experiences that you have had over and over again that you can no longer tolerate.”

When job security is low and many people are facing a very real risk of redundancy, it’s difficult to imagine anyone just upping and quitting their job on the spot. However, the COVID-19 crisis has pushed a lot of people to the brink.

READ MORE: How to resign without burning bridges with your employer

“Living in lockdown has impacted people in far reaching ways,” says Claire Brown, a qualified life and career change coach who specialises in supporting professionals who are navigating career change.

“Those experiencing overwhelm, stress and reaching the point of burnout might feel left with no other option but to leave their roles in order to sustain their mental health,” she says. “Many of the clients I work with cite a real conflict of values as the reason for a swift exit. The organisation’s ethos and culture clashes with your innate beliefs – being asked to operate in unethical or unfair ways.”

Working in a toxic environment can also force people out of the door, where unhealthy and unsupportive professional relationships make work seem unbearable. Sometimes, it only takes a rude or thoughtless comment to push people over the edge.

“Whilst ‘rage quitting’ a role may be necessary to prioritise your health and wellbeing, more now than ever, we are prone to making knee-jerk decisions when we’re under stress,” Brown explains. “This doesn’t allow for opportunities to pause and reflect on the longer-term implications of taking action. Often, there are a range of options available to you worth exploring before reaching this point which may help to more effectively manage or mitigate the challenges you are experiencing.”

One of the key problems with rage quitting is that we tend to make bad decisions when we are at the height of extreme emotion. It’s not always possible to retract a resignation and if you do continue in your role, the outburst may have soured your relationship with your employer even more.

“At that point you are thinking with rage and your blazing heart and not with your head,” Louis says. “It leads to saying things you might not mean – or if you mean them, you might regret later saying them – and impulsive decision making. As much as you want to shout and scream and say your piece, it’s just not worth letting rage make decisions for you.”

READ MORE: What to consider when you quit your job to retrain

If you have reached the end of your tether at work, it’s important to look at other employment options and examine your finances. If you can afford to job hunt while unemployed, it gives you more freedom to leave your job.

Leaving your job as well as possible is important because you may need to request a reference or recommendation for prospective roles or find yourself within similar networking spaces. Handing in your resignation without a fight will help to safeguard your reputation.

“Own any responsibility for mistakes made or contributing factors that led to the need for a quick exit,” Brown advises. “Speak openly about the challenges and difficulties during your time so that you can share the learning and inform future practice for the benefit of those to follow. You can also apply lessons learned to inform your next steps for finding a position better suited to you.”

And if you do quit in fury, keep your head high and learn from the experience as best you can. It might not be a disaster for your future career and if you’ve had a bad experience at a company, it’s possible that other people will have done too.

“It saddens me that any job at any company can get to that stage,” Louis says. “That the manager didn’t intervene, that the employee didn’t feel they could speak up, or that they simply weren’t listened to.

“We need to do more to look out for each other, to understand each other’s goals and challenges and work together to find solutions rather than brush them under the carpet. No one should ever have to experience getting to that point.”

WATCH: How to resign without burning bridges