Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Why Rage-Quitting is a Bad Idea

NOTE: This text thread below has been making the rounds on the internet.   Like everything else on the internet you have to wonder whether it's true or not. But even assuming it is, there are legal issues with quitting this way.  Here is a portion of it:

Rage-quitting is not always a very good idea.  And in fact, it could get you into legal trouble.

This supposed thread is making the rounds of the Internet as it encompasses everyone's rage-quit fantasy - you tell your boss to piss-off and they come crawling back begging your forgiveness and asking how much money you want to come back to work.  Nice fantasy - in reality it doesn't work out that well.

One of the married couples I learned from (as in how not to) fell into this trap.  Less than a year away from vesting his pension, the husband quit his job during a recession when the boss asked everyone to take an across-the-board 10% pay cut.  Yea, that sucks, but stick it out for that year and get vested.  Maybe then they'll give your raise back, or you can start looking for a job elsewhere.

Instead, he quit in a huff (a four-door Huff, with vinyl roof and whitewall tires) and said, "They'll call me back in a day or two - they can't run the place without me!"  Well, apparently they could.  Or more precisely, when you have an "essential employee" who tries to blackmail you this way, you are better off taking your lumps, figuring things out and moving on, than to cave in to their demands.  It's cheaper in the long run.

If the company had called him back, it would have been just long enough to get whatever project was done and to have him train his replacement and then fire him.  No respectable manager would keep someone like that around - someone with a gun pointed at your head.

In the thread above, the employee, who is some sort of computer guy preparing reports for clients to submit to regulatory agencies (sounds financial, given the fines mentioned) quits on the day after Christmas, because the company denied his previously approved Christmas vacation and told him that since he didn't "use" his vacation that year, it was "use it or lose it" and he had to come to work and lose his vacation.  Pretty shitty deal if true.  I've never heard of a company with a "use it or lose it" paid vacation policy, and I wonder whether that is even legal (It isn't in some instances in some States).  I know folks who retired from GM, Carrier, and the USPTO who had months and months of unused vacation that they took in one lump paycheck, at their highest salary.  Some folks had nearly a year of vacation saved up!  So I am skeptical of the story from the get-go.  Who would be that cruel to make someone work over Christmas and also rob them of their vacation pay?  Even Ebeneezer Scrooge gave Bob Cratchit the day off!

What is weird is that the employee saw this all going down, weeks in advance and instead of notifying his employer, waits until the last minute, and then resigns by e-mail which he sends on the day after Christmas, "so not to spoil my boss' holiday" or some such.  Pandemonium ensues as they realize that all those reports won't get done and they will face tens of thousands of dollars in fines and no one else knows how to do the reports.  The employee claims (in comments accompanying this thread online) that he previously offered to train others to do these reports but was turned down by management because "he wasn't going anywhere."  Again, I challenge the veracity of this whole thread - it sounds awfully convenient.

The problem is, I suspect this employee might be in some legal trouble, in that he is likely to get sued by his former employer.  The two big mistakes he makes are asking for ludicrous amounts of money to come back to work and agreeing to work for a client (again, this is in his comments accompanying the thread above) for a double his salary.  This starts to look like tortious interference with business practices.  Once could make the argument that the employee intentionally set out to damage his employer financially and knew such damage would occur.  Worse yet, his actions make it look like he is blackmailing his employer.  Icing on the cake is the apparent poaching of a client.

Now, the raging true-believers might argue, "He did nothing wrong!  His bosses were jerks!" and maybe they are right about that.  But the bosses will want to save face and throw the former employee under the bus and blame him for the fiasco - claiming that he knew this would happen all along (which he did) and he was merely blackmailing the company and trying to steal their clients to start his own competing business (which may be a violation of a non-compete clause).   Yes, all these things could be untrue, but you have to go to court to prove it, and the company can afford to hire lawyers and he can't.  And yea, maybe that is an injustice.  Here's news:  The world is full of injustices.

In fact, the company might be forced to sue.  If they try to file some sort of claim on their business insurance, the insurance company may insist they go after the employee first (hope he has an umbrella liability policy!).  A friend of mine went on an around-the-world cruise and her neighbor agreed to look after the house and drain the rainwater off the pool cover.  She put the pump on and left it - and the pool floated out of the ground, tearing out all the pipes and cracking the concrete.  It cost $50,000 to remove, and her insurance company wouldn't pay out until she agreed to sue the neighbor, or more precisely the neighbor's insurance company.

Whatever the motivation, the company has every incentive to sue the employee and frankly, they have a pretty good case, particularly given the paper trail the employee left behind - documented asking for staggering amounts of money as a condition of fixing the train wreck.  Maybe he would win - after spending tens of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees.  Maybe he would lose - a "jury of his peers" (retirees and unemployed people) might just think he was being greedy ("he was making how much?  I never made that much in my life!").

The client poaching thing is a real problem.  Non-compete agreements are pretty odious to be sure, and some employers try to use them to keep employees from quitting.  For example, they will say you cannot work in the same industry or a related industry within 500 miles of the office or whatever.  Such agreements are routinely seen as over-reaching by judges.  There has to be some nexus between the non-compete agreement and the scope of employment.  You can't just use them to keep people as slaves.

On the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable to have a non-compete agreement to keep an employee from going to work for you, learning all there is to learn about your business, and then quitting and opening up shop across the street and stealing away all your clients.  No Judge would find any problem with a non-compete agreement that prevented you from doing that.  And whether or not the employee in this case did so, it looks awfully bad that he talks about taking a position with the client for double-pay.

Was there a better way of doing this?  Perhaps.  He saw this train wreck coming weeks in advance - actually years, according to his comments.  He missed Christmas with his kids (he claims) for six years.  Well, not Christmas, but the week between Christmas and New Year's.  He put in his vacation request in July.  He saw the data coming in late.  He knew there would be a "crunch" to get reports out by the 31st and no one else to do it.  He could have given two weeks' notice and alerted management that he would not be around - and make arrangements ahead of time.  He could have worked that week and then quit.  There were a lot of options.

The best option, of course, is that if you have such simmering resentment for your employer - justified or not - to be searching for a job while you still have a job and then quitting.  The problem the employee has here is that even if the company hired him back, they would keep him around only long enough to train his replacement and then fire him.  The "client" who claimed they would hire him for double-pay clearly wants to avoid paying the fines to the regulatory agency and thus will swallow his salary for a few weeks (which they claim they will back-charge to his former employer).  But would you keep a guy around who rage-quits and leaves you in a bind?  I suspect they would not.

And word gets around.  Yea, I know, most companies have policies of only giving "references" that amount to the dates of employment, as they don't want to be sued for slander or libel.  But there are other channels in many industries - background chatter and cocktail talk.  I am sure that even though he redacted the names of the people and the company in the thread (again, assuming this is real and not a rage-quit fantasy) there are folks in his industry who know exactly which company and clients are involved and the name of the employee.  In fact, I am sure his former employer is keen to make everyone aware of this.

So good luck finding a job in the same industry.  Or any industry for that matter.  Who wants to hire someone who finds glee in costing your company tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in contract breach fees and regulatory fines?

But again, I suspect the whole thing is made-up.  The whole "Christmas Carol" theme to the thing is just too obvious ("I suppose you'll want Christmas day off again, eh Cratchit?").  Also the revenge theme is just a little too over-the-top.

Nevertheless, it is a learning tool - don't burn your bridges if you can.  Rage-quitting may be emotionally satisfying, but it could come around to bite you on the ass later on in life.  Sure, employers can be abusive.  But the best revenge is to say to your boss, "I have a job offer for more money at a better company" rather than, "from hell's heart, I stab at thee!"

UPDATE:  The original poster of the "boss rant" ("twas the night before my resignation") deleted the thread, but it was re-posted.  Either he got called out as a fake, or realized he is in hot water.  The Internet is forever, as we all learn to our dismay!