January 25, 2023

Trend Report: Rage Applying 

Dana Bernardino

rage applying

And How Mass Firings Contribute to this Latest Trend

2022 is barely behind us, but a new trend has already emerged: Rage Applying. Otherwise known as applying to other positions in response to untenable workplace conditions. 

Just like many of last year’s greatest hits– quiet-quitting, acting your wage, and quiet hiring–  it comes to us from TikTok, where adherents portray it as a coping mechanism for their work life woes.

Heralded as the new quiet-quitting, outlets have been quick to counsel workers  to “carefully consider decisions made based on ‘short-term emotions,’”  and hiring managers to be wary of applicants “who reach out in moments of passion.”

But few videos tout the rage-application as an actual way to land a dream job, and those that do unfold like mini morality tales, in which an overlooked, overworked employee establishes their value by leaving to perform that role at a different company– for more money, of course. 

In most of the videos, workers in dead end jobs, subjected to poorly run meetings, struggling under the thumbs of micro-managing bosses, let off steam by sending out rapid fire applications indiscriminately and en masse

Aspirational, not actual–  and ultimately, driven more by feelings of futility than rage.

But to really understand this dynamic, first, a brief history lesson:

First: The Quitters who Quit. 

We emerged from a once in a lifetime pandemic into a phenomenon that came to be dubbed the Great Resignation, where workers, empowered by a strong labor market and record low unemployment, left their jobs to pursue opportunities with more flexibility, higher wages, and more benefits.

Then there was the Great Reshuffle as we all got used to our new roles, and a subsequent Great Resistance when employers tried to end work-from-home.

But the other side of the Great Resignation was a kind of “Great Rethink,” in which workers who chose not to resign began to reconsider the role of work in their lives. 

Enter: The Quitters who Stayed. Our quiet-quitters.

Some of them are burnt out over-wachievers whose response, as one outlet described, to decades spent leaning-in was to finally lean back. 

And for those who were never “in” in the first place? Remote work became an opportunity for them to dial back, too.

As numerous studies have found, 90% of all managers admit to a tendency to treat some workers as  members of an in-group, while they consign others to membership of an out-group.

Members of the in-group are considered trusted collaborators and receive more “autonomy, feedback, and expressions of confidence from their bosses,” while members of the out-group are, well, out. 

These outsiders, regarded more as hired hands, managed in more formal, less personal ways, had always been, according to the Harvard Business Review, subjected to a more rigid emphasis “on rules, policies, and authority” than their “in” colleagues. 

For this subset of workers the hot labor market ensuring their job security meant that the transactional management style that they had to deal with, day in and day out, could finally benefit them: finally, those for whom leaning-in had never paid-off had the freedom to do just do the job they were hired to do – no more, no less– so they could make room for things that rewarded emotional investment, like their family, their community, and their hobbies.

But, you see, of these two groups of quitters, the ones who stayed were not the ones who were getting paid, and in the midst of a nationwide hiring frenzy, employees began to realize that those who switched jobs were making 7% more on average.

In fact, the disparity that emerged between new hires and old hands in tech and finance, ran as high as 20%.

When they figured out what their loyalty had cost them, they responded by taking matters into their own hands: by applying for jobs they had no intention of taking, interviewing with competitors, and using the outside offer with the pay bump they wanted to pressure their bosses into giving them the raise they deserved. 

That trend never made headlines though, probably because of its untrendy name: The Great Raise-ignition

So is that all rage-applying is? A trendier name for a trend that started back in November?

We don’t think so. 

A critical element of the dynamic we see now is one we witnessed the other day at a company we partner with, in which a c-suite executive was flown-in – not to get to know their workers, rally the troops, or to make sure everyone was aligned with Q1 goals, but to drive home the message that their jobs were not secure. 

All workers were required to be present for this walk through and all were encouraged to appear busy. Over the course of the day, the executive, who spoke to no one, very clearly meant to give the impression that none had gone unobserved. 

That’s a dynamic we’ve started calling executive intimidation. And it is trending. 

Layoff announcements have become ubiquitous, especially in tech, where, according to one estimate, 130,000 people have been dismissed from their positions over the past 12 months.  

These layoffs have been so extensive, and so well publicized, that some have even wondered whether laying off 10 percent of one’s workforce has morphed into a kind of social contagion amongst chief executives. 

As we theorized back in December, “deprived of choice, workers will exercise the only freedom they have left– the freedom to say no.” 

Executive intimidation, a tightening labor market, and a recession have neutered that power. 

The result is that while rage-applying shares the same behaviors that were involved in the Great Raise-ignition, it reaps none of the benefits. 

Last August, reflecting on the Great Resignation, we wondered whether one aspect of it was some kind of “fantasy of escape;” an “ideal of withdrawal.”

We asked, “Will the workers who reshuffled resign again? How many times can you leave before leaving loses its power? And when does exiting undercut the skills a person needs to be able to stay?”

I reckon that we’ll have concrete answers to some of those questions by March, but at present, rage- applying has illuminated a few possibilities. 

Here’s what we predict:

  1. Companies that decide to lean-out, get ready for The Great Resignation 2.0. The futility of this trend makes any employment situation where it’s left to thrive untenable, and executives should keep that in mind. 
  1. For companies that lean-in? 1Huddle predicts a return to a time of Raving Referrals, in which Gen-Z’s current trend of discouraging job applicants through negative referrals reversed, and companies can once again rely on word of mouth to build their brand up.

It’s either in, or out. Where will your organization stand?

Two portrayals of this latest workplace trend, courtesy of TikTok creators @chelseastokes_ and @scottseiss.

About 1Huddle

1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.

With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool. 

Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit 1huddle.co.

Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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