Millennial and Gen Z workers are fueling the Great Resignation by rage quitting, and they have no regrets
S. was only a few months into a new job when she quit via email following an upsetting meeting with her manager. The 28-year-old, New York City–based journalist, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation from her former employer, had enough of the toxic workplace. The final straw came when her boss force-muted her during a Zoom editorial meeting when they were having a contentious conversation about a story she was writing.
“I told him I disagreed with him, and he didn’t like that,” she tells Fortune. “So he, I suppose, decided he’d heard enough from me, and he force-muted me while I was talking. It was like slamming a door in my face.”
S. had never been force-muted before and was stunned. She immediately typed up and submitted her resignation letter.
“I almost didn’t send it because I wasn’t even four months into this job and was just starting off in a new city,” she says. “I thought, Wow, this is not going to look good on my résumé. But I had to stand up for myself.”
Record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs, and it’s not always a preplanned exit, a recent survey by online invoicing platform Skynova found.
The results were surprising—and it wasn’t all bad news. Of the 1,000 survey respondents, “60% of people who rage-quit received a higher salary in their new job—an average of a $7,200 salary increase,” Joe Mercurio, a manager for the project, tells Fortune.
Some people immediately regret their decision: 41% of rage-quitters tried to get their job back after the fact, and 78% were successful. When they return to their old job, they’re often able to leverage their rage-quit to get a higher salary, he adds.
“With the tight labor market, if a really helpful employee quits, it’s easier for a manager to make it work than to find someone new,” Mercurio says.
Over the past year, workers were more likely to rage-quit owing to a culture of overwork, excessive stress, and employers having little regard for employees’ mental health: 56% of Skynova’s survey respondents reported improved mental health after they left their job, and 43% said their stress levels improved.
“It’s a clear indication that workers are overworked and underpaid, and job dissatisfaction builds up over time,” Mercurio notes. “The people who rage-quit don’t plan on doing it—it’s spur of the moment.”
The No. 1 reason employees quit was poor management, followed by a toxic boss, excessive work stress, and toxic coworkers.
Jordan James, 34, rage-quit his job working for a private label credit card company after an executive pulled him aside and asked him to be “less cheerful.”
James, who is gay, thinks she really meant: Be less flamboyant. Insulted, he put in his three months’ notice on the spot (standard practice for senior employees in the U.K.).
“She was kind of stunned,” James tells Fortune. “I went back to my desk, and throughout the day [some] executives said really lovely things like, ‘We need you, don’t leave.’ But other people said things like, ‘If you leave now, you’ll never work again.’”
By 4 p.m., overwhelmed, James packed up his desk and left. A week later, he received a letter from his former employer threatening to sue him for a number of offenses, including breach of contract. James replied, saying he was happy to go to court and tell the story of why he left. After that, he says, he never heard back.
“I couldn’t physically have been there for another minute—I regret not leaving the minute she said it,” he says. “I worked on the executive floor, and, out of 300 people, I was the only gay person, and there was not one person of color in the entire headquarters. It was a really strange, sexist, homophobic business.”
James was worried that his sudden exit would damage his career prospects, but he has no regrets. After leaving, he dabbled in journalism before opening Unlockd Marketing, which he’s been heading for seven years. By year two, he says, he was making significantly more than the £175,000 salary he earned at the credit card company.
And “I’m more cheerful not being there,” he says.
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