Let’s Get Real About the Trend of Rage Applying

Young worker angry on the job and preparing for rage applying.

There is a growing rage out there in the workplace. And we are not talking about road rage. We mean “rage applying” — the practice of applying for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of jobs online. This action is spurred on by an employee feeling unhappy, unrecognized, and/or under-appreciated at work. Rage applying is often presented in articles and on social media as being a good thing — an effective way to “get back” at a mean boss or a loathed job. But, rage and anger have a bad reputation in most areas of life and work. These are emotions we are taught not to have; to push down, or to hide. Yet, if approached with a high level of emotional intelligence, we can channel these powerful emotions to move toward personal growth and beneficial change. So, let’s get real about the current trend of rage applying.

Rage Applying: A Replacement for Quiet Quitting

A poll conducted by Robert Half in the fall of 2022 showed that fifty percent of Canadian workers may search for a new role in 2023. In many cases, rage applying seems to have replaced “quiet quitting.” Since the pandemic, many employees have felt overworked, underpaid, and undervalued. Post-pandemic, they want the flexibility they had before, with higher pay and strictly remote work being offered as an option.

At the same time, employers are experiencing vast labour shortages. They are training staff only to have them leave in droves. This scenario has been a trending cycle; employers need help, and employees are getting fed up and applying to any posting possible. They find each other in what appears as synchronicity, but without due diligence, it may not be a fruitful relationship.

We have been seeing this with clients and friends alike. Some have been feeling job burnout or exhaustion. They reach a breaking point, have a disagreement with their coworkers, are passed over for a promotion, or are unhappy with the growing, uncompensated demands on their time and energy. As a result, they apply to multiple online postings in an attempt to leave their current job.

This growing trend has its downsides, though.

Where’s the Strategy in Rage Applying?

Is rage applying really the best strategy to combat job dissatisfaction or just a band-aid solution to a long-standing problem? Is it simply emotional, impulsive decision-making? From a frustrated employee’s perspective, what better way to get back at an employer experiencing staffing shortages than to leave?

Rage applying can have harsh consequences, often creating significant opportunity costs for both the employee and employer. For employees, it can potentially foster a vicious cycle of job-hopping. For employers, it can create a scramble to haphazardly implement “better” retention strategies and a culture change.

The Triggers of Rage Applying

Your clients may be engaging in rage applying for any of the following reasons:

  1. Their work is not being valued. Therefore, they may believe it is easier to walk away and find a “better” role than to constantly put in more effort for little reward.
  2. They are experiencing a lack of growth. Lack of upskilling opportunities may be another reason for rage applying. Stagnation can cause workers to seek lucrative prospects in other organizations.
  3. They may be underpaid. Salary continues to remain a strong driving motivator and a retention factor.
  4. The work culture may be disengaging or toxic. A toxic work environment is often cited as a reason employees leave.
  5. The economy can play a role in rage applying. High inflation, financial debts, and increasing expenses are all driving factors in the decision to engage in rage applying.
  6. The employee may be a sole earner. If your client is the sole earner in a household, the choice to constantly apply to new, higher-paying roles may be compelling.
  7. They are required to return to the physical workplace. Many employees who worked remotely during the peak of the pandemic are now rebelling against demands to show up in person. Working from home offered freedom from a long commute. For some, it  alleviated concerns about after-school child care. Now, inflexibility on the employer’s part can be aggravating to employees.

The Impacts of Rage Applying

It is not uncommon for employees to start rage applying after experiencing one or two bad days; even those still in their probationary period engage in the practice. Other companies that, at first glance, appear to offer more engaging cultures, higher salaries, better benefits, and flexible policies entice employees to leave. The willingness to “jump ship” and move on to a new job provides a quick fix, boosting confidence and validating the worker’s sense of self-worth. This practice is especially prevalent amongst Gen Z and Millennials, who tend to leave companies quicker than other cohorts.

Workers might feel like they are doing something productive to ease their situation when they’re rage applying. However, they may be applying to jobs that are unsuitable for them. Without due diligence, they could quickly learn that the new position, team, salary, benefits, and/or environment is no better than the situation they just left.

Rage applying may actually be a time-waster that does nothing to address the real issue(s). A thorough self-reflection and evaluation of the employee’s strengths, values, skills, and experiences and a strategic meeting with the current employer could potentially remedy the situation.

The Biggest Caveat for Clients: Loss of Brand

Rage applying comes with an important caveat. Employees who apply to many jobs in a state of anger often send out generic, non-targeted résumés. Such résumés do not showcase their brand effectively. Worse, these résumés can dilute or even erode a previously strong brand.

Applying to positions in anger can blind jobseekers to their true potential. It can prevent them from taking the time to evaluate how they align with specific roles. Strategic-thinking jobseekers usually apply with their qualifications and added value — their value proposition — firmly planted front-of-mind. They don’t undermine their abilities. Having said this, in some cases, rage applying may just lead an individual to secure a big pay raise or a prestigious title without ever having considered the critical elements of a job search. But, in the long run, is a diminished brand and reputation worth the trade off?

To reap maximum results that align with someone’s goals and values, applying for a job must be handled with positivity, empowering intention, focus, and strategy, rather than rage. As career professionals, we can coach our clients to exercise resiliency and protect their brand by leveraging a carefully crafted, targeted job search portfolio.

How Career Professionals Can Help Clients

According to The Muse, rage applying can compound negative emotions and lead to burnout. As career pros, we can advise our clients to pause and take the time to explore and identify the root of their frustration, anger, or anxiety. Often, employees simply seek relief rather than a new job and their actions may be impetuous and misguided.

We must encourage clients to avoid letting negative emotions propel their search for a better job. Anger and frustration should not dictate the direction of their careers. By failing to think through their actions, they may be making lacklustre decisions and burning bridges that could cost them their long-term career success and employability.

Consider the root of rage applying. Undesirable jobs and/or tasks? Poor leadership? Lack of flexibility or creativity in the role? Toxic environment? Micromanagement? The key for career professionals is to support the client to focus and reflect. Encourage the individual to calmly discuss grievances with colleagues, mentors, and bosses, and thoughtfully determine what they want and need for their future career success. If the client does not identify the root cause of their dissatisfaction, they might transfer that rage to their next gig.

The fact is that we need to help clients exercise emotional intelligence. They need to harness their EI to assess and consider their options regarding the short-term and long-term ramifications of making a poorly considered job move.

We can also remind and educate our clients about the challenges of starting a new role. And since rage applying resulted in them receiving one compelling job offer, ask them to think ahead. Can they envision what they’ll do should another attractive opportunity arise after they’ve accepted the first offer? How many people will they disappoint and annoy by reversing their decision on an already-accepted job offer? Do they risk asking their new employer for time off to attend interviews? Do they start working at their new, “ideal” job only to quickly resign and jump to a “better” job?

Taking on a series of unfulfilling jobs may lead to burnout, lost confidence, and a derailed focus on their long-term career goals. Therefore, as career professionals, we can guide clients to weigh their options before impulsively reacting to negative emotions.

Helping our clients to search with intention is key.

For more information on supporting your clients to make smart career-related decisions, enrol in CPC’s certification programs or courses.

Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone.

Ksenia Lazoukova is a Certified Career Development Practitioner (CCDP), Certified Résumé Strategist, Certified Career Strategist, Certified Employment Strategist, Certified Interview Strategist, and Certified Work-Life Strategist. She is a proud member and volunteer with Career Professionals of Canada. Ksenia is a dynamic career development professional, case manager, program coordinator, adult educator, and learning developer working at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia where she helps newcomers to Nova Scotia achieve their employment and career goals. 

Conny Lee is a Certified Holistic Narrative Career Practitioner, Online Business Manager for coaches, Certified Career (CCS), Employment (CES), and Résumé Strategist (CRS), Trauma of Money Facilitator, and Sacred Money Archetypes® Coach. She focuses on supporting people to create the career, business, and life they truly desire. To learn more, visit Conny’s website at connylee.com. When she isn’t working, Conny enjoys reading, listening, learning anything related to personal development, spending time with her family, and working out.

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