Don’t Rage Quit your Programming Job

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Photo Credit: Peter Alfred Hess

I’m borrowing a term from video games here:

Rage QuitWhen one player leaves the game out of frustration, usually without saying goodbye or good game. All the opponent sees is ‘Player XXX has left the Game’, usually meaning the opponent automatically wins.

It’s hilarious when you see this behavior online. It means you frustrated your opponent so badly that they logged off, and possibly even unplugged their computer. You can’t win a game any more soundly than that.

But unfortunately, I see this behavior in real life as well.

A person gets frustrated with their work and one day they resign. Usually the ‘rage quitter’ doesn’t have another job lined up. They just couldn’t take it anymore, and so they walk away.

Don’t get me wrong, there are always exceptions, and everybody is different, but in general I think this is a bad idea.

I know it’s 2018, and everyone only stays in jobs for 2 years or less, but short stints on your résumé still matter.

Every company where I’ve worked talks about someone’s job history when making hiring decisions. Hiring managers spend a lot of time and effort finding good candidates. They might have to interview 3 or 4 people for a single role, and they want to know the candidate isn’t going to quit after 6 months when it took 3 to find them.

There are other costs as well: I wrote about some of them here.

There are a lot of advantages to sticking it out, especially if you’re new. So if you’re thinking about rage quitting, below are some things to keep in mind.


Adjusting Takes Time

Many of the ‘rage quitters’ I’ve known don’t give their new job time. Usually they quit within the first 6 months or at most within the first year. They write the company off, and then they’re gone.

Personally, I try to give any new job 18 months. I think it takes that long to adjust to your new responsibilities and the culture of your new workplace.

New things are stressful because they’re unfamiliar. Over time, they’ll become more familiar, you’ll become more competent, and everything will get easier.

Adjusting takes longer than you think. 6 or 12 months is not long enough to feel out a new position.

But after 18 months on numerous jobs, I’ve had the experience where the work starts to feel a lot easier. I’m no longer stressed about the things I was worried about a few months before, and compared to the first 6 months, it’s a night and day difference.

Teams change quickly in organizations

I’ve worked at 2 large companies during my career, and numerous smaller ones. In my first big company, I had 3 bosses in 3 years, and I worked on 3 different products. In my second (current) big company, again I’ve had 3 bosses in 4 years. I’ve served on 2 different teams, and I’ve had 2 different roles. First, I was an individual contributor, and now I’m a manager.

At numerous points in both jobs, I experienced the typical angst and frustration that comes with any job, and quitting crossed my mind. In both companies, I held on, and my environment changed within a short period of time. In both cases, I went from hating some aspect of the job to not having to deal with it anymore.

Furthermore, if I’d left, I would have missed promotions and pay raises, and I would have had to start over somewhere else.

Maybe I’m unique, and most jobs don’t change so rapidly, but I don’t think so. Tech companies usually have shifting priorities, which means the team needs change constantly. Opportunities are always opening and closing.

Have you tried Switching Teams?

There are many reasons for someone being unhappy with their job. Just a few:

  • Not getting along with a boss.
  • Dysfunctional processes on the team.
  • Work is too boring or too stressful or both.
  • Person is unsuited for the role.

Most or all of these could be solved by switching teams within the organization.

People make the mistake of thinking that all parts of a company are exactly the same, when nothing could be further from the truth. Your experience of the organization is probably 70% dependent on your team and your direct boss. You could be in a terrible company, but if you like your boss and your team and the work, the job might be just fine.

So that being said, I’m baffled when people decide to quit without first trying other teams.

Maybe switching is not an option for you because there are no openings or you’re being blocked by your boss. In those cases, that’s fine, you can quit. At least you tried. Most of the people I know who ‘rage quit’ don’t even try.

Maybe It’s You

Some of the quitters I’ve known follow a predictable pattern: they do short stints at company after company, usually complaining loudly about each before resigning.

During the first episode, I try to be supportive. But as time passes, I realize the quitting and the complaining are a pattern. This person isn’t happy anywhere. They might complain about different things at each company, but the underlying message is the same: they are unhappy, and they’re being treated unfairly.

When I realize the pattern, I stop the behavior by refusing to indulge in the person’s negativity. Sometimes they’ll stop spending time with me when they realize I won’t engage them like that anymore.

I’m not saying you’re a perpetual victim like the people I’ve known, but these extreme cases should make you think about how your own attitudes and behavior might be causing your unhappiness, especially if you’ve quit multiple jobs for similar reasons.

Personally, in almost every work situation where I’ve been unhappy, when enough time has passed, and I have the benefit of hindsight, I’ve been able to look back and understand my role in what happened.

Unfortunately, introspection is difficult when your emotions are running hot, and you’re feeling frustrated.

But just being aware of the possibility of being stuck in a pattern might be enough to bring you back to rationality before you do something rash.