Rage quitting happens. We love it in movies where the hero does a "you can't fire me, I quit!" rant and storms out. It's not so great when one of your employees does it, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found out on Sunday.
Antonio Brown ripped off his football pads and shirt and left the field shirtless. (Thankfully, he left his pants on.) Coach Bruce Arians said Brown is no longer a member of the team. While NFL players aren't at-will employees, so a termination or voluntary resignation is more complicated than for most employees, it's safe to say they aren't planning on having him back anytime soon.
It can happen in your business, but it doesn't have to. Of course, you can't prevent it 100 percent, but there is a lot you can do. Here are four things you need to do.
1. Pay attention to bad behavior
Antonio Brown came with a record of bad behavior, including sexual assault and battery charges, faking a vaccination record, and burglary. When your employee is behaving badly off the field (or out of the office), expect it to eventually show up at work.
Washington Post sportswriter Adam Kilgore wrote that even after all the above and multiple suspensions, "Arians and the Buccaneers welcomed back Brown because they believed they needed him to defend their Super Bowl title."
Deal with problems at the moment, even if it means losing someone who closes sales or wins football games. You don't want a rage-quitting temper tantrum. If you're paying attention, you may be able to head off bad behavior.
2. Listen to employee complaints
People don't (generally) get fed up and walk out mid-project (or game) over one bad thing. It is generally a buildup of problems and frustrations. If your employees complain about how bad things are and you ignore it, prepare for someone to rage quit. Even if you disagree with what your employees say, listen to them and consider their concerns. This is a case where you can either be right or have employees, but not both.
If you constantly undermine employees to keep the customer happy, change schedules without notice, or anything else the employees complain about, expect some rage quitting.
And another red flag? When your employees complain about nothing. Why? Because that means they know you don't listen. No business is perfect. No manager goes through the day error-free. If no one points out any problems, it's not that you're perfect. It's that they are silently seething.
3. Don't be a jerk
While this goes along with listening, one big jerk move can be enough. Take this viral post, originally on Reddit (it has since been taken down, hence the screenshots from Facebook).
The original poster requested vacation time well in advance. A client emergency came up, and his manager demanded he cancel his vacation. To add insult to injury, the manager reported that HR refused to allow him to carry over the vacation time. He quit. The company begged him to come back but wasn't willing to pay extra for his time. Eventually, the client company hired him twice his requested rate to do the project.
There are many areas this company could have improved on to prevent this from happening, but the act of saying "sorry, it's your fault for leaving your vacation time to the end of the year" put this employee over the edge. Don't adhere to rules so strictly that your employees walk out.
4. Make mental health an absolute priority
Simone Biles stepped aside during the Olympics this summer, citing the emotional stress of the competition. Tennis great Naomi Osaki withdrew from the French Open for mental health reasons as well. They knew when pushing it another day was too much and stepped aside for a moment--but not forever.
This is not to say that Brown ignored his mental health--he hasn't made any statements regarding his mental health. But ignoring mental health comes at a risk. Biles, with an estimated net worth of $16 million, and Osaki, with an estimated net worth of $45 million, can walk away without risking poverty. It's unlikely your employees have the same luxury. They need to know that mental health care is real health care, and you, as the employer, should make sure they have mental health care available.
Whether it's through your traditional insurance, your employee assistance program, or subsidizing therapy directly, your company can help people before they reach a breaking point.
The bottom line: Be a better manager and a better human, and your employees will be less inclined to walk out mid-presentation, run to Reddit to complain, or strip down mid-game. Make mental health care a priority--for yourself as well as your employees.