Beware of 'rage quitting': It may follow you 'for the rest of your career,' warns chief people officer

"We like to see someone leaving because they're taking that next step, not because they quit impulsively."


If you've ever been unhappy at your job, you may have had that fantasy. You know the one where you march into your boss's office and finally say all of the things you've been wanting to say? Your boss is stunned and before he can spit anything out, you shout, "Well guess what? I quit!" Then Doreen from HR and Doug from accounts payable carry you out on their shoulders while the rest of your co-workers stand and applaud.

In what's being called the Great Resignation, Americans are leaving their jobs droves. In fact, 3.9 million people left their jobs in June, down just slightly from a record 4 million who called it quits in April. At least some of those folks made that conversation that you usually imagine a reality — a phenomenon known as "rage quitting."

"Rage is just one of the emotions that may lead someone to impulsively quit their job," says Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs. "It could be frustration at not finding growth opportunities, feelings of anxiety or worry over the state of your job, or a clear feeling that you're not fitting in with the company culture."

Whatever your reasons, you may be seeking the sweet, cathartic moment when you up and leave. You may even be willing to deal with the financial ramifications of a hasty departure. But experts warn that quitting impulsively can do damage to your future job prospects. "You may think you're making a short-term decision, but it's something you'll have to talk about for the rest of your career," says Renata Dionello, chief people officer at ZipRecruiter.

Picture yourself in future job interviews

No one is saying you don't have a good reason to leave your current gig. In fact, now may be a better time than ever to bounce. The number of U.S. job openings jumped to 10.1 million in June, according to the Department of Labor — the highest number on record. In other words, if you take the leap now, there are plenty of places for you to potentially land.

But quitting abruptly can make it harder for you to land gracefully, says Dionello. "Recruiters are trained when looking at a resume to ask about every career transition and dig into what happened, because it gives you information about the kind of person you're dealing with," she says. "We like to see someone leaving because they're taking that next step, not because they quit impulsively."

So even though it might be tempting to quit in spectacular fashion today, you need to think about your future when you make that decision, she adds. "It's really important to slow down and think, 'How am I going to describe this in an interview two years from now?'"

Don't 'place blame' when explaining your departure

Some working situations are untenable. And while experts advocate for strategies other than rage quitting (more on those in a moment), you may find yourself having to leave your job without another one lined up. When you begin interviewing for the next gig following your departure, getting your explanation right is essential, says Reynolds.

"You're going to want to practice in front of the mirror and get any emotional responses out of your system," she says. "The key is to come up with an answer that doesn't place blame on anyone. Rather than bad-mouthing your manager, talk about the kind of manager you thrive under."

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How you tailor your answer to your specific situation can depend on how long you were at your job, says Dionello. If you were a long-term employee, she says, you have a little more leeway. "You might say, 'I decided to take a little bit of time between my previous role and my next role to devote myself to the search process and to be thoughtful about my next opportunity.'"

Short-term employees have a tougher situation to explain: "If you were there less than six months, leaving isn't going to make as much sense," she says. "I think it's plausible to say, 'I realized within the first few months that it wasn't what I was looking for and something didn't align with my expectations going in. Because the job market is good right now, and because I was receiving offers from other firms, I decided to cut my losses.'"

Quitting without rage and 'sticking the dismount'

If you are feeling a powerful emotional impulse to leave your post, the first thing to do is examine where these feelings are coming from, says Reynolds. "Is it just this job? Or have you had these strong feelings in a lot of your previous jobs as well?" she says. "If this is a pattern for you, you may want to jump deeper into this. It's going to continue coming up if you don't deal with it."

Maybe the problem really is just this job, this manager, or this situation. In that case, try to at least get yourself to a place where you're thinking clearly and aren't going to do anything rash, says Dionello. "Instead of making it about emotions you feel toward the employer or the manager you don't like, make it about what you want to do with your career," she says. "If you're leaving on good terms, you're doing the most important thing, which is sticking the dismount."

Even if your relationship with your manager is beyond saving, giving yourself some runway before your departure ensures that you can maintain good relationships with your colleagues, says Reynolds. "By rage quitting, you disconnect yourself from the people you enjoy working with, too," she says. "They may not be given a chance to understand your motivations and your reasoning."

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Take time to tie things up with your co-workers, experts suggest. Bring people in on any projects you may be working on to ease the transition when you leave, and arrange talks with anyone who you'd like to hang on to as a professional connection. And when you say your goodbyes, focus on your plans for the future of your career rather than venting about the reasons you're leaving, says Dionello.

"It should be, 'I'm leaving because I'm looking for X in my next role,'" she says. "When you tell people your passions and what you're excited about they'll want to help you. It's tempting to want to think that these people need to know what you think. But you're better off cementing the relationships you've built. They'll be assets to you over the long term."

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