Fed-up Workers Are Rage-applying Their Way to Better Jobs

Meet the latest workplace trend
(photo: iStock)

It’s 5 p.m. and you’re gearing up for your evening plans when you hear the ding of a new Slack notification: Your boss is asking you to work late to get a project across the finish line—the third request of this kind in the past month. Feeling resentful and overworked, you dream of slamming your laptop shut and frisbeeing it out the window. But rather than mutilating your computer, you could channel that resentment into 2023’s latest workplace trend—“rage applying.”

According to a recent Forbes article, Gen-Zers and Millennials who feel under appreciated or taken advantage of by their employers are shooting hundreds of résumés out into the ether in the hopes of landing a more balanced job with better pay. The trend gained traction on TikTok after a user told her followers that she was upset with her work, and “rage applied” to 15 jobs, ultimately landing a new position with a $25,000 salary increase. The video, which has been viewed 2.4 million times, is sparking conversations online about how mass applying to job openings might be a way for frustrated workers to gain back some feeling of control over their work lives—and potentially get a new job while sticking it to their bad bosses.

What’s driving rage applying?

Rage applying reflects a larger problem in today’s work landscape: employee dissatisfaction—something that’s increased over the last three years. According to a 2022 survey conducted by office-supplies company Hamster, 24 per cent of Canadian workers say they are less satisfied with their jobs since the start of the pandemic due to things like increased workloads and salaries that haven’t kept pace with inflation. Forty per cent of workers are dissatisfied with their salary, up 10 per cent from 2021. What’s more, one in five employees are considering switching jobs soon, with 72 per cent seeing their current position as purely a means to make money and not something that brings them fulfilment.

Whether employers offer competitive salaries and generous raises contributes to employee retention, according to the survey. Hamster also found that workplace recognition and career advancement opportunities play a major role in job satisfaction, yet employers tend to ignore the significance of these factors, causing employees to feel under appreciated.

Michelle Schafer, an Ottawa-based career coach with Clariti Group, says that dissatisfaction with a job almost always traces back to management. “A lot of it stems from the leadership,” she says. “Some leadership approaches really don’t work with employees.” These can include narcissistic behaviours, like when bosses take credit for employees’ work, or a lack of boundaries, which can happen when managers email their team at all hours. But, one of the most common ineffective approaches is micromanaging, Schafer says.

Micromanaging has increased with remote work, Schafer says, as it has caused many employers to feel like they don’t have control over employees’ productivity—even if there’s no evidence that productivity has decreased. This fear has caused some workplaces to start tracking their employees’ time, asking for more one-on-one follow-ups, and even proofreading emails before they’re sent to clients. Workers on the receiving end of this behaviour might turn to rage applying rather than addressing this issue with their employer, wagering that if they send out enough résumés, they’re bound to find something better.

Is rage applying effective?

The short answer, according to Schafer: No. While she doesn’t doubt that some employees have found better opportunities through rage applying, especially since LinkedIn streamlines the process by allowing job seekers to apply directly through its site, the scattershot approach has its downsides. “It doesn’t put the candidate any closer to knowing what would be a good fit for them,” she says.

Schafer explains that because rage applying promotes speed and volume in the job hunt, job seekers are not being intentional with their applications. It’s likely employees will end up in the same situation they left—or possibly a worse one—without a search strategy. Instead, she recommends “mindful applying.” When looking for their next opportunity, job seekers should consider what type of work energizes them, what values they want to see in their future company, and identify any non-negotiables, such as a salary below a certain mark or restrictive in-office mandates. 

“Once you know that framework, you have a bit of a target. Then you can intentionally seek out organizations that fit that right profile,” Schafer says.

What should you do if you’re unhappy at work?

Trends like quiet quitting, The Great Breakup and rage applying may highlight bad work situations, but they don’t address the root problem—which is often the relationship workers have with their employer. Whether you’re bored with the work you’re being given, don’t feel your personal time is being respected or need more support, Schafer says you should discuss these problems with your boss first, and clearly tell them what you need.

When approaching your boss with concerns, make sure emotions aren’t running high. “The key is to not approach the conversation with blame, anger or frustration,” Schafer says. The conversation needs to be a collaborative one rather than a rant. If, for instance, you’re asking for a salary increase, start by talking about how much you enjoy working for the company, followed by any results you’ve achieved during your time in the role. Then ask whether your employer would be open to discussing an increase in compensation and what kind of range they could offer.

“It’s very possible the leader is not aware of what’s causing their team member dissatisfaction, so approach the conversation as a way to build awareness,” Schafer says. “The employee may be surprised by what happens next when they bring forward the reason for their dissatisfaction.”

At the end of the conversation, ask your employer for a timeframe on when you will see these changes happen. Don’t be afraid to follow up if the date passes and there’s been no progress. If your employer is unreceptive to your concerns and is unwilling to make changes, Schafer says it may be time to lay the foundation for a job search. She recommends developing a job-search plan before making any big decisions, such as quitting. Figure out what type of jobs you want to apply for, update your résumé and LinkedIn and start networking. 

“The key thing to remember is that you can only change yourself…not your boss or the organization as a whole,” Schafer says. “If a team member is expecting a change in culture overnight, they may want to start thinking of whether that organization is right for them.”