Person quitting
These 'live' resignations on TikTok have covered a broad range of content, including secret recordings of conversations, quiet musings, and dramatic exits. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Enter QuitTok: A smorgasbord of workplace drama served with a side of viral fame. Think epic Zoom meltdowns, side-eyes and resignation letters that demand a standing ovation, all packed in funny, awkward and “shocking” videos, to rack up the numbers.

Yet, is this the way to go about addressing discontent?

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While these ‘QuitTokers’ might get a temporary thrill from livestreaming their discontent, experts warn of potential long-term consequences. Burning bridges online can have a negative impact on future career prospects. Moreover, even the TikTokers admit that it wasn’t quite the mature thing to do. Last year, a 24-year-old woman from Florida quit her job live on TikTok after dealing with a demanding boss. The initial act may have felt empowering, but later she confessed to US-based Fox News Digital, "It seemed like a cool way to show I had power.... But, the next day I felt like it was stupid." Paige's experience isn't unique. Many QuitTokers admit the trend can be impulsive and have unintended consequences.

Such incidents were recorded on TikTok in 2021, and have finally become a full-blown trend by 2024. Psychologists and employers weigh in on this trend, the issues with ranting about employers on social media and what to do instead.

The Gen Z perspective

I quit
This trend is a way of exposing and changing poor employee conditions and bad treatment from bosses, as many Gen Z believe. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Gen Z has grown up in a digital era. As Lauren Tess, a British Dubai-based therapist explains, it’s obvious that they would want to stream their conversations with employers too, online. “You have to take into account that this is how they have experienced life. They’re used to recording and sharing things online,” she adds, that the entire trend cannot receive a negative label or slotted as immature.

“There are many aspects to it, not just people being dramatic with their exits. In many videos, people are also addressing their toxic workplaces and why they chose to leave, encouraging others to share their stories too,” she says. There’s an entire spectrum of content, ranging from covert recordings exposing unfair treatment to post-quitting reflections that double as internet therapy sessions. The common thread: Employees are fed up and ready to be vocal about their grievances.

Calling the QuitTok a deeply layered and complicated phenomenon, she says. “Gen Z, who are the drivers of this trend, have seen their parents struggle with jobs and burnout, yet never having the option of quitting. Gen Z has also had to contend with entering the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, and brought up the discussions of mental health, happiness and positive work environments,” she says. So, they see people leaving toxic workplaces as something inspirational and standing up to difficult managers as aspirational. “It’s a unique form of protest,” she adds.

Times are changing, and they’re using TikTok as a form of spreading awareness, continues Tess. They are demanding more flexibility from workplaces, hybrid work, and work-life balance, and an employer who cares about their well-being, she says. “This trend is a way of exposing and changing poor employee conditions and bad treatment from bosses. “It's a way of calling out bad managers," she says.

Australian TikToker Christina Zumbo, who performed a QuitTok last year, recently told the UK-based BBC that taking such action could boost the confidence of the person. She added that it further showed that “you are in control of your own happiness, you make the decisions for your life, and a job is just a job sometimes – not your whole identity”.

However, creating a scene, livestreaming your resignation on TikTok, humiliating your employers, is definitely not the solution as other psychologists say.

‘A form of protest and revenge’

Upset person
Publicly broadcasting rage on the internet isn’t solving anything: It just makes it worse for yourself. Image Credit: Shutterstock

It’s an adrenaline rush at first.

Asfar Afridi, a Dubai-based psychiatrist, explains this trend as something that provides people a “false sense of control”. “It’s a form of protest, but in many cases, it is revenge. It’s an opportunity to embarrass your employers, and this kind of streaming provides the people a sense of community as they share such videos,” he says. Others who are also facing issues with the workplace, will validate their actions. “You think that you are empowering others with your story and actions, but what is actually happening is that you’re trapped in an echo chamber, without any form of reflection or analysis of the situation at hand,” he says.

Speaking more about the “shocking” revenge element in this trend, Meenakshi Ramaswamy, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist says, “Most of the aspects about this trend isn’t about quitting so much as it is about inflicting humiliation on others - and that’s the deeply unhealthy, unsettling aspect of it. Most of these videos are made to shock others, rack numbers and not to spread awareness. It’s an act of wanton revenge, because you’re bringing someone else into the limelight, recording someone else without their consent, and trying to present yourself as a victim too. There is so much more that also goes on behind the scenes, and it is almost unfair to make a snap judgement of a workplace based on TikTok videos.”

Acknowledging that workplaces can be toxic and unhealthy, Ramaswamy adds that publicly broadcasting rage on the internet isn’t solving anything: It just makes it worse for yourself. “You are not addressing any of your issues in a healthy manner, instead, it has become more about creating a scene, rather than bringing an important issue to the fore,” she says. “You’re quitting for someone else’s consumption, rather than solving anything on your own.”

Damaging for career prospects

You may gain notoriety and go viral for ranting about your employers, but this can come at a cost. As both Ramaswamy and Afridi explain, by livestreaming your resignation in such a way, people appear unreliable and impulsive. “This puts them at further risk, as future employers may not want to hire them,” adds Afridi. As a result, people might find themselves without a job, for quite a while, which can aggravate anxiety, and even lead to depression, says Afridi. So, doing such bizarre social media stunts can actively impact your personal and professional life negatively.

People who livestream their resignation appear unreliable and impulsive. It puts them at further risk and future employers may not want to hire them...

- Asfar Afridi, psychiatrist, Medcare Camali

As Keith Jordan, a Canadian Dubai-based manager in public relations notes, such videos aren’t a good look for the employer as well as the employee. “It becomes a manner of airing dirty laundry, and the authenticity, morals of the firm come under question,” he says. For the employees: They need to remember that their digital footprint is always visible. “People might not want to hire someone who talks negatively about the organisation on TikTok,” he notes.

What to understand about the QuitTok trend

The trend cannot be ruled out completely, neither should it be glorified and considered as the “right” method of exposing weaknesses in the workplace, says Lydia Barrett, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist. “What the trend has done is that it brings into question many hostile and toxic environments that go unnoticed, and is an eye-opener for many organisations to at least do some reflection and introspection,” she says. It’s a chance for managers, employees and organisations to examine own practices and see what can be overhauled. The questions also need to be considered: What pushes employees to quit and bring their discontent to the public sphere?

People might not want to hire someone who talks negatively about the organisation on TikTok. Image Credit: Shutterstock

April Kearns, a Dubai-based Human Resources Manager elaborates, “If employees feel that the most appropriate way to announce their departure is via social media of any kind, in order to share the state of the office culture - the business should spend time and resources auditing company culture. Of course there will always be instances of employees not being a strong cultural fit, but this could be an indication of deeper issues in the business.” If employees are treated with respect, regardless of the circumstances of the exit, they will respond with respect. “The best exits are delivered with compassion, understanding and empathy. If you can connect with your people on a human level, you are less likely to incur issues after a termination.”

If employees feel that the most appropriate way to announce their departure is via social media of any kind, in order to share the state of the office culture - the business should spend time and resources auditing company culture.

- April Kearns, Human Resources Manager, Tish Tash Communications

On the other hand, people who feel as if they have been suffering at the hands of their current employers, need to press pause, says Barrett. Acting in the moment is one thing and putting out a video: Yet what’s the long-term plan? Is this really helping you, or is it creating more problems for you in the long run, she asks. “If your current organisation is causing you so much dissatisfaction, see how you can address those issues with the managers, rather than resorting to digital gratification immediately. Once these videos go viral, it just spirals into more ugliness, and could cause you more grief in the long run, rather than closure,” she says. At the end of the day, it’s your life and career that you have to worry about, not a video on the internet.

The legal consequences

However, be warned: As daring as you think it is, venting on social media about your boss and company, it can come with severe legal consequences. In fact, as Rajiv Suri, a Dubai-based lawyer breaks it down, defaming a company or making unproven or false allegations about a company, or organization—whether orally or in writing, can cause harm to its reputation. It would fall under UAE cybercrime, according to Federal Decree Law 31 of 2021, defamation is a crime and the perpetrator can be penalized under the UAE Penal Code as well. The  defamatory statements made on social media or any other digital means, such as WhatsApp, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, websites, SMS, and email, can constitute an offense under the new cybercrime law.

Article 43 of this law prohibits insulting others or attributing to them an incident that could expose them to penalties or contempt, using a computer network or any information technology means, and carries criminal penalties of fines ranging from Dhs 250,000 to 500,000 or imprisonment. Moreover, recording or photographing someone without their consent remains prohibited, as well as copying and distributing these recordings or photos. This too, is punishable by imprisonment or fine.