From the drama-infused Basecamp mass resignation to the quiet moments where someone decides to move onto a new job adventure, people are quitting a lot lately. Business Insider even gave it a term: rage quitting. As the founder of workplace design consultancy Bloom, I wondered why this might be. So I reached out to my network of recruiting experts and career coaches to get a sense of what’s going on. Here are some of the quotes that stood out.
“It’s about money”
Big companies are expanding everywhere — perhaps no more than Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo — and they are gobbling up talent as quickly as they can. And what’s worse is they have deep pockets. When an employee gets an offer for $50,000-$60,000 more per year to do the same work as their current job, just at a well-known brand, it’s hard to turn down.
The painful part here is it’s often not the fault of Canadian startups. Large global players like Netflix or Microsoft pay inflated salaries so they can do a talent land-grab. It’s just that when it happens all at once (with multiple companies coming in and hiring dozens of engineers), salary pressure goes way up.
“It’s about being let down”
Without being too melodramatic, tech leadership has been letting people down for years. Whether in small ways or big ways, managers make promises about specific things, talk about what’s “coming down the pipeline,” or make big pronouncements after social crises happen, then never follow through. And frankly, people are sick of it. People would rather quit their jobs and find someone else to work for than continue to work for a manager they no longer trust.
While the letdowns may have been happening for years, people quitting is due to optionality. First, there are the big companies coming in. But then there’s the rise of remote work: for some, being forced back into the office is the final letdown that triggers quitting. However, remote work also opens new opportunities to work for global companies. So if you’re being let down locally, you can always get a remote job with a company on a different continent.
“It’s about feeling in control”
Largely due to the pandemic, people are really burnt out. Even as vaccinations increase, no one knows quite what’s going to happen with variants, long-term immunity from vaccination, or if there will be another pandemic. With that, people are taking control in any way they can… and unfortunately one of the only things people have control over is if they continue working for their current employer.
With the booming freelance economy and remote work, there’s more opportunity than ever to make money, so people are feeling less tethered to their employers.
“It’s a rebuke of early-2000s office hustle culture”
For years, tech companies traded on being like a family or tribe. This notion brought people together, but it also hid a nasty underbelly of backchannel recruiting, shady corporate culture techniques, and horrible employee burnout revealed by the pandemic. Now people are realizing that hustle culture is an unhealthy and unsustainable way to live your life and build a career. And as life becomes even more unaffordable for millennials, more employees are looking to their employer as a transaction: (good) labour for (fair pay levels of) cash.
Once “being an office family” became code for having to put up with low pay and low-grade abuse just because there’s catered lunch, people lost their appetites.
Let’s build the working world we want
Tech is… interesting. It at once has solved so many problems in our lives and created great wealth while also upholding discriminatory structures, supporting wealth hoarding, and created almost as many problems as it solved. With a record like that, it can be tempting to give up. Instead, I say let’s do it differently: let’s build work that works for us.
It is possible to build inclusive systems. I know this because I help amazing companies like Voiceflow and Spotify do it every day. And it’s possible to pay people well and profit. We’ve seen this from experiments like Gravity Payments’ $70,000 minimum wage, and I know it from my own experience building a profitable company while paying my staff as much as I possibly can.
So much of the way we work is a choice. It sounds sad when you consider our current reality, but it’s actually a blessing: it means we can choose to be better.