The “great resignation,” coined by organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz to describe the wave of employees leaving their jobs post-pandemic, has brought a plethora of new and unique methods for employees to resign.
While quiet quitting has definitely made the headlines, there’s another resignation trend rapidly gaining popularity among Gen Z and Millennials in particular – #quittok, where employees use social media, specifically, TikTok, to live-quit their jobs.
At the time of writing, #quittok has over 50 million views on the social media platform and the similar hashtags #quitmyjob and #iquitmyjob have more than 381 and 91 million views respectively, making QuitToks not only in-demand social media content but also a popular option for younger generations in the workforce to document their resignation or to recount their experience retrospectively.
The social media trend really took off in 2021 at the height of the pandemic after a clip of a UK McDonald’s worker quitting mid-shift went viral.
Since then, thousands of QuitToks have been shared via the platform, varying in format and tone.
Some QuitToks depict employees live-quitting over the phone or via a Zoom call to their managers.
Some hit send on an email with their resignation letter attached, and others are videos recapping the resignation from the perspective of the person who quit.
While many of the videos are lighthearted and at times funny, others capture the emotional and often ambivalent nature of resigning.
This is the experience of Darby, who tearfully quits her job via a Zoom meeting and then shares it to her TikTok account, durbinmalonster.
The video from February 2023 is now one of the most viewed #quittoks, racking up over 13 million views and 2500 comments.
So, what is driving Millennials and Gen Z to live stream their resignations? The answer is complex, say the experts.
Firstly, these generations are digital natives, meaning they grew up with digital technologies and social media.
For many, it is viewed as a platform to express themselves and share their experiences and ideas, and resigning from their jobs is just one part of this.
“It’s how this generation has experienced, it’s how they’ve learned to be in the world,” therapist Tess Brigham said.
“If you grow up used to recording and sharing things, why wouldn’t you share these larger, more significant moments in time?”
But it also has a lot to do with observing their parents and older generations burning out from work – and not wanting that for themselves.
Instead, they are demanding more from workplaces: greater flexibility for remote and hybrid work, greater work-life balance, higher pay, and above all, an employer who cares about their well-being.
For former Australian government worker Christina Zumbo, who shared her resignation email on TikTok in 2021, the decision to do this was about helping others in similar situations.
“I decided to share this journey online because it simply isn’t talked about enough,” she told news.com.au.
“So many people who hate their jobs feel trapped in them, and then pretend like they are loving their jobs to their circle because not enjoying your job (which in many cases is so linked to your identity, as it is what you do with the majority of your time) – can sometimes (make you) feel like a failure or that you are lost without direction – and that’s really scary.”
The TikTok shows a clearly emotional Zumbo resigning and a video description highlighting her struggle with the decision.
“WHY IS THIS SO HARD? It’s okay to leave things that don’t make you happy, in fact – you are probably going to be better off than staying in that comfort bubble that you aren’t growing in. As an anxious people-pleaser, I’ve never been able to see it that way. But today, I chose to put myself first. No more quiet quitting over here … it’s my life and I want to be the main character instead of watching it play out from afar without a say,” the caption reads.
But now, with more than 53,000 likes and 2445 comments, the way in which her QuitTok resonated with others has confirmed that sharing her resignation publicly was the right choice.
“As a content creator, sharing vulnerability is so important to me – showing up as my real, authentic self and sharing what I’m going through – which for this moment in time, was a huge decision weighing on me, that we all may face at some point in our lives,” she said.
However, Zumbo admitted that not everyone was fully on board.
“Some people (like my parents) were worried how future employers might view this, but that wasn’t a concern for me whatsoever,” she added.
But Australian HR Institute chief executive officer Sarah McCann-Bartlett said future employers should be a consideration before posting resignations online.
“We do need to remember that recruiters and employers will often search social media to see the content that candidates have posted,” she said.
“If you have posted negative comments about a previous employer or role, that might negatively affect your job prospects.”
Despite this, Zumbo said she is still happy with her decision.
“Taking action and making a big life decision like leaving a workplace is incredibly scary but very freeing. I’m glad I shared this vulnerability online and will continue to do so,” she said.