When that little voice in the back of your head whispers, “Let’s superglue the boss’s desk shut and then quit this miserable job; yeah, let’s do it!” most of us don’t listen.
But some of us do. Some of us who are angry, disgruntled and jaded enough; infuriated, incensed and irate enough about a horrible job or a crazy boss, do gleefully listen to that brightly burning little voice.
Take former JetBlue steward Steven Slater, arguably the father of the incendiary job resignation. In 2010, during preparation for exiting a flight that had just landed, Slater instructed a passenger to sit down and stop unloading his luggage from the overhead compartment until the plane came to a complete stop. When the passenger ignored the safety instructions, Slater hurried down the narrow aisle to take control of the situation, reaching the passenger just in time for a loose piece of luggage to bop him in the head. After requesting an apology from the passenger but receiving an undeserved string of curses instead, Slater snapped.
After turning the other cheek for 20 years in the airline industry, the exasperated flight attendant had had enough. He grabbed the mic of the plane’s public address system and unleashed a stream of invective at the passenger for all to hear, culminating the performance with “It’s been great!” Figuring a hasty retreat might be wise — and there could be none hastier than the plane’s inflatable emergency slide — Slater grabbed a beer from the galley, hit the activation button and slid off to notoriety, tons of news coverage, an arrest and some other way to make a living.
Whether he knows it or not, Slater has become that little voice in the back of the head to a host of imitators who have rejected the discreet, neatly typed resignation letter in favor of the grand, public gesture uploaded to the Internet for all to see.
In late September, Charlo Greene heeded that little voice. The on-air reporter for KTVA, an Anchorage, Alaska, television station, had just completed a report on an anti-marijuana initiative slated for November’s ballot. Deviating from the teleprompter, Greene, whose real name is Charlene Ebge, admitted that under her real name she is president of the pro-cannabis club she had just reported on. Knowing that her breach of journalistic ethics had doomed her job anyway, she blurted out, “F… it! I quit,” leaving no one to wonder what in heaven’s name she had been smoking. Greene has hit YouTube and other media outlets, attempting to get out the “munchies” vote and raise some funds for her cause (watch video below; warning: contains expletives).
Leaving a job through attention-getting behavior may seem like a good way to make a point, says Barbara Babkirk, a career coach in Portland, Maine, but employees who publicly go negative about a former employer are not going to be looked upon very favorably for the next job.
“Oh, so what!” you can almost hear Marina Shifrin snort. Last year the now 26-year-old Chicago native was working in Taiwan, making videos for a big media company. But long hours, the sacrifice of her social life and a boss who valued the number of “web views” over product content and quality, had finally bubbled over. One morning she let herself into the office early, set up a camera and proceeded to dance atop desks, across the floor, inside the restroom and elevator — all around the office — to the Kanye West song, “Gone.”
Subtitles on the video clarified for management precisely how she felt about the job. The video ended with Shifrin shutting off the lights and disappearing into the elevator. Big superimposed letters — “I’m Gone” — were synced to the soundtrack on the video (watch the video below).
Shifrin returned home to a spate of television interviews, including one on “The Queen Latifah Show” in which Queen Latifah herself offered an incredulous Shifrin a job during the on-air interview. To date, Shifrin’s YouTube video has garnered some 18.5 million views.
Those less tech savvy, however, might appreciate the old fashioned bile of Joe Sale. Four years ago, the marketing consultant had a job in the St. Petersburg, Florida, office of LivingSocial, a coupon-deal company headquartered in Washington, D.C. Aggrieved that corporate continued to raise his quotas and cut his commissions, Sale began to sour on the job. True to his let’s-get-the-maximum-attention marketing roots, Sale tossed all of his business cards, promotional items and marketing materials into a white trash bag and sent them to corporate, along with this note: “Treat your sales force like trash and see how bad your company starts to stink.” Said a LivingSocial spokesman at the time of the incident, “We don’t talk trash about our former employees, but we think this was an isolated issue.”