Communicating is Better than Rage Applying. Also Harder.
The latest TikTok trend from Gen Z workers is “Rage Applying”: sending off resumes to other employers because of an unpleasant incident at work or feeling chronically unappreciated. For many young workers, it’s easier to quit (and more satisfying) than to try to talk out a problem with their manager.
If you suspect you have a “quiet quitter” or “rage applier” on your team, you probably do. Just as we advise workers, if you have to ask yourself if you feel appreciated for your work or satisfied with your job, you probably aren’t.
Douglas Stone has written a whole book on how hard it is to talk to each other about sensitive topics. He writes: “Why is it so difficult to decide whether to avoid or to confront? Because at some level, we know the truth: If we try to avoid the problem, we’ll feel taken advantage of, our feelings will fester, we’ll wonder why we don’t stick up for ourselves, and we’ll rob the other person of the opportunity to improve things. But if we confront the problem, things might get even worse. We may be rejected or attacked; we might hurt the other person in ways we didn’t intend; and the relationship might suffer.”
No wonder we avoid the hard stuff.
As a manager, it’s up to you to make sure communication is a priority. Not just about things that are obviously big issues, but consistently so that little issues do not become big issues. If you and your team members are communicating frequently and clearly, there should be no surprises. Your team should know where you stand, and you should know where they stand.
Communication is job one for any leader. In our new book, Relentless: Leading through Performance, Relationships, and the Lessons of Sports, we talk about communication as one of the foundations of success at every level of business. (To be notified of its release later this month, click here.)
Periodically, you should hold formal development meetings with each of your team members. These meetings allow a manager to check in to make sure the employee has everything they need to be successful. Development meetings usually involve ensuring each employee has what they need in terms of:
- Professional growth
You might also add questions that open the door for substantive feedback. “What could I be doing better?” “Is there something that’s getting in the way of your success or job satisfaction?”
In addition to formal development meetings, leaders should always give regular informal feedback. If you don’t give feedback often, its rarity makes it seem more significant than it really is. That’s why coaches, teachers, movie directors, music conductors, and others charged with helping people improve their performance make feedback an everyday occurrence.
If you see something, say something. “I noticed you got very quiet after we announced the new incentive plan. Is there something about it that didn’t feel right to you?” or “I thought I sensed some tension between you and John in the staff meeting. How do you feel about working together on the project?”
And the feedback should go both ways.
It’s hard to communicate with someone you feel has more power than you. If you are one of the people who happens to hold power, even a little bit, the more you can do to make that power less intimidating, the better. The more you level the field, the easier you make it for people to feel comfortable communicating openly. I do this a lot through humor and humility. I share embarrassing moments. I discuss mistakes I’ve made. I offer up challenges I may find intimidating or upcoming meetings that make me anxious. The more real I am with my team, the more real they are with me.
If your employee feels safe enough to tell you they’re mad, it might be uncomfortable in the moment. But talking through an issue helps build important skills (on both sides of the table.) It’s possible the employee misunderstood or overreacted. It’s also possible that you screwed up. Either way, your conversations will go a long way toward preventing the simmering resentment that eventually pushes talent out the door.
About the Author:
Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development. He is also a former All-Big Ten football player for the University of Wisconsin. XPG Recruit provides recruiting for staffing companies. The XPG Recruit Athlete division places former athletes into business careers and works closely with universities through its sister company, Podium X.