If you’ve ever struggled with a condescending boss, difficult colleagues, or work that feels like a soul-destroying slog, you might have fantasized about “rage quitting.” Maybe you even scripted the scene in your head—telling off your manager, cursing out that impossible client, or letting your co-worker know exactly how you feel about them and then storming out of the office for good.
While a dramatic, two-middle-fingers-up tantrum may seem highly appealing in the heat of the moment, you don’t need us to tell you that it can prove disastrous for your career. Even if you’re not flipping conference tables or throwing staplers, gentler forms of rage quitting, like leaving without giving notice, can have serious repercussions.
If you’ve recently been feeling like you want to resign in a way that’ll leave your bosses and colleagues slack-jawed—but know it’s the wrong decision—you may be wondering what you can do instead. Here are some steps you can take that will prevent you from losing your cool and keep you going until you find yourself in a better position (and state of mind).
Step 1: Find Ways to Cope in the Moment
If rage-quitting fantasies are a regular part of your life, chances are you’re frequently in situations that are pushing you to your limit—abusive emails from your boss, ridiculous demands from co-workers or clients, staggeringly awful meetings that sap your will to live.
To keep yourself from snapping and saying or doing something you’ll regret, make a list of things you can do in the moment to cool down and cope. Take a walk, meditate, splash cold water on your face, look at pictures of your puppy, call a friend and vent for 10 minutes—heck, go out into the parking lot and throw a ball against the wall to let out your frustrations. Just taking this pause can help you reset and remember the bigger picture (which we’ll get to in a second).
Step 2: Imagine Yourself in Future Interviews
Rebecca Weiler, a Manhattan-based licensed mental health and career counselor, says clients often come to her after they’ve impulsively quit. “A big question [they have] is usually how they handle telling a prospective employer about their previous job,” she says.
Explaining a resume gap can be challenging even under the best circumstances, such as taking time off to travel. So when you’re feeling tempted to walk out in a huff, imagine yourself interviewing for another role or even trying to network your way to a new job. Won’t it be a heck of a lot easier to make a great impression if your narrative is clean of any unprofessional behavior?
And remember: You’re going to need good references to make it through to a job offer. If you leave your boss and colleagues with a bad taste in their mouths now, they’re probably not going to advocate strongly for you to others in your field.
Melanie Cunningham, an attorney in New York City, says she fantasized about leaving previous jobs in the banking and litigation industries: “Anything from just going to lunch and never returning to quitting in a more glorious fashion.”
What stopped her from actually doing it?
“I believe in the principle of ‘you reap what you sow,’” she says. “Before I left my last place of employment, I was preparing and planning to open my own firm. The last thing I wanted to take with me to my new venture was the residue of burned bridges.”
As Cunningham notes, it’s a small world out there and you never know who you’ll meet or need in the future. Even if you’d rather never see your current manager again after this job, there’s a high likelihood they’ll pop up—or someone who knows them will pop up—in some way later on. So you won’t want to give them any ammo to use against you.
Step 3: Channel Your Rage Into Action
Marketing expert and writer Kenzi Wood used to hate her job and came close to rage quitting in response.
But she’s grateful she never actually acted on those feelings. Instead, she says, “I channeled the urge to rage quit into action. I recognized that I didn’t want to work for someone else. I spent my nights and weekends growing my own business.” After a year of hard work, she was ready to quit her day job and go all in.
Like Wood, you can choose to transform all that pent up frustration into motivation. Focusing on what you can control—like job searching, spending time on projects or with people that you like, pursuing hobbies or activities outside of work that make you happy, or, like Wood, starting your own business or side gig—will not only help you productively channel all your negative emotions, but it’ll also help you improve your situation faster.
If you’re looking for some alternative actions you can take instead of rage quitting, these articles might help:
- Here’s How to Kick-Start Your Job Search in 30 Minutes (and Make Your Life Easier in the Process)
- How to Set Up Your Side Hustle in 24 Hours or Less
- 4 Ways to Find a Hobby You Love (Because It’s Good for Your Life and Your Career)
Yes, rage quitting can be tempting, and possibly warranted when your work situation is truly unbearable. But you’re better than that—you’re going to have a successful career, and you’re not willing to let one awful job or person stop you from achieving it. Take your time to plan an exit worthy of you, and enjoy knowing that you’ll be leaving with your career and reputation intact.
Photo of person frustrated at work courtesy of 10'000 Hours/Getty Images.
When Elizabeth Alterman isn't searching for a full-time job, she's writing about it. You can read more about her adventures in unemployment at ballsofourasses.blogspot.com. The writer, editor, and mom of three also recently completed a memoir chronicling the period she and her husband lost their jobs simultaneously.More from this Author