A Surprising Number of People Have Quit Their Jobs in Super-Dramatic Ways

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Be honest: Has there ever been a time, in the darkest, lowest moments of the work week — facing down an impossible looming deadline, or opening yet another passive-aggressive email — when you’ve fantasized about just giving up entirely? Just opening a new draft and typing out some choice words, or, I don’t know, knocking over a computer? Or hopping up on a table and telling your boss, in a spectacularly biting speech, exactly what you think of them?

It’s okay if you have! It’s okay. Most of us have been there at one point or another. And most of us, as you can probably imagine, have also kept those fantasies to ourselves — but as it turns out, the number of people who have actually acted on them is higher than you might think.

Earlier this week, BPS Research Digest highlighted a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology identifying seven different “resignation styles.” The study authors surveyed nearly 500 people — a mix of online respondents and graduate student volunteers — who had recently quit a job, asking them to describe how they broke the news to their boss and how much time they left between the announcement and their last day.

One of the most common styles was one the study authors named “by the book”: 31 percent of survey respondents wrote out letters of resignation and discussed their reasons for leaving with their boss, and did it well in advance of their last day. Almost as many — 29 percent — took the “perfunctory” approach, doing everything right aside from being transparent about why they’re leaving. Other styles included “impulsive” quitting (4 percent); “avoidant,” or having someone else do the dirty work of notifying the higher-ups (9 percent); “grateful good-byes,” the ones who worked unusually hard after giving notice to ensure a smooth transition (9 percent); and “in the loop,” employees who let a boss know far in advance that they’d be moving or going to grad school (8 percent).

Which, if you’ve been keeping track of the math in your head, means that a surprisingly high number of people — a full 10 percent — were what the study described as “bridge burners”: the ones who said “screw it” and quit via barbershop quintet, or viral interpretive dance, or this glorious combo of banana suit and mariachi band. Or took a slightly more low-key approach, like slapping down an aggressive Post-it and then walking out forever.

The study authors also surveyed employers about which strategies they disliked the most. To no one’s surprise, bridge-burning was at the top of the list; more unexpectedly, though, they also viewed perfunctory resignations as pretty negative. If you really want to stick it to your boss, in other words, there’s an easier way to do it than putting your foot through a computer screen — and if you do want to end on good terms, it may take a little more effort than you’d planned.