Traditionally, the only people who know how you quit your job are you, your boss and maybe a representative from human resources. If you go by the book, your resignation notice ― along with what you say and do on your way out ― typically stays within the company.
But as record-high numbers of workers quit during the pandemic, people increasingly went public with their exits, posting their resignation notices on restaurant signs or posting the moment they quit on TikTok for all to see and share.
Shana Blackwell, a Walmart night stocker who quit in October 2020 after more than a year on the job, used her store’s intercom system to broadcast her exit to everyone in the building.
Blackwell, then 19, had reached a breaking point with her draining, physically demanding job at a store in Lubbock, Texas. She had taken complaints to Walmart, she said, but nothing came of it. She was initially prepared to quit calmly to a manager, but none were unavailable to have a conversation. A truck shipment had come late, and managers were yelling at the team “as if it was our fault,” she said.
“I was angered. That day, it gave me PTSD of the whole year and a half I had spent there. So not only was that day making me mad and frustrated and all these emotions, I was reminiscing on the past and how that manager was yelling at me now, and two months ago he was yelling at me, the day that I got hired he was yelling at me, and it’s been hell ever since I got here,” Blackwell told HuffPost. “I guess that’s what led me to going to one of those phones and dialing the number to make my voice heard all over the store.”
“Attention all Walmart shoppers, associates, and managers,” she announced before proceeding to call out co-workers by name for being “racist,” “stinky,” and “lazy.” She referred to employees in one section of the store as “perverts” she hopes don’t “talk to your daughters the way you talk to me.” She thanked another colleague for getting her the job when she needed it, and ended with a resounding “Fuck the managers, fuck this company, fuck this position … I fucking quit.”
Blackwell filmed herself as she spoke and later posted it to TikTok in a video that’s been viewed more than 35 million times. So began an outpouring of both praise (“She said nothing but straight facts!”) and negative responses (“Good luck finding another job”) that she still receives to this day. She said her allegations were looked into as a result of the video, but didn’t result in any colleagues being fired.
“If more people did it, more corporations would pay attention to everything that goes on behind closed doors that they don’t normally pay attention to.”
– Shana Blackwell
“We took these concerns seriously and after a thorough investigation, we made corrective actions that include training on how to properly report concerns and effectively utilize our complaint procedure,” a Walmart spokesperson told HuffPost, declining to share specifics about any disciplinary action.
Still, Blackwell personally recommends going public with why you quit your job, as she did on TikTok.
“If more people did it, more corporations would pay attention to everything that goes on behind closed doors that they don’t normally pay attention to,” she said. “Other things like sexual harassment, racism in the workplace should also be important to them.”
TikTok quitters say they go public so others know it’s OK.
Blackwell is part of a growing trend of people who make their quitting experience public under hashtags such as #quitmyjob that have hundreds of millions of views. In person, you cannot rewind the way you quit, but on a TikTok, you can directly show and relive the experience. You can also make it a story with protagonists, boss villains, edits and cheerful soundtracks.
COVID-19 may be one factor in the uptick in quitting stories. Management researchers have dubbed this moment the “Great Resignation,” citing pandemic-related epiphanies people are having about office life, their families and what matters most.
Marisa Mayes is one of them. Mayes said she wouldn’t have quit if it wasn’t for the pandemic forcing her to rethink her priorities about her “fancy corporate sales job,” in which she was miserable. When she decided to quit her job in December, Mayes, 26 at the time, said it felt “second nature” to record it for TikTok: “I don’t if it’s because I’m a millennial and phones have been in our faces since I was born, or if I just knew it would make a great piece of content for other people to relate to.”
Her hunch that the video would perform well was right. As of July, it has over 2.7 million views and 3,000 comments.
In her TikTok, Mayes records the hours and minutes leading up to when she calls her boss, then the actual moment she gives two weeks’ notice and becomes visibly relieved. As she prepares to quit, the uplifting beat of Florence and The Machine’s song “Dog Days Are Over” plays in the background.
Sharing a resignation is relatable, but invites backlash, too.
Many commenters said Mayes was living their dream by quitting, but others critiqued her choice. As a result, she posted that she would delete negativity in her TikTok comments “to protect my own energy.”
“I didn’t have the mental capacity for any judgment or people telling me, ‘Oh, you’re going to be unemployed for the next year.’ A lot of people were just projecting their fears onto me,” she said.
Mayes said people who plan to share a personal quitting experience should also plan on moderating their comments. “I deleted probably at least a couple hundred comments that week [my video] was circulating,” she said. “You have the power to delete, you have the power to block people, you can thank people for supporting.“
Some people found that sharing their plans to quit with anonymous strangers was freeing and acted as a helpful support system. Santana Garcia said she chose TikTok for sharing the day she quit her restaurant job because Snapchat and Instagram were filled with people she knew personally. On TikTok, she had more anonymity.
A day after being passed over for a promotion, Garcia recorded herself saying she was going to quit. She did so, she said, because she wanted to hold herself accountable to her decision.
“If I didn’t do it, then [the video draft] would be there as a reminder that I allowed myself to be … walked on,” she said.
Her TikTok video is a play-by-play of the turbulent emotions, like hesitation and sadness, that go into quitting. Resigning felt more like a “breakup,” said Garcia, and her goal was to show the real emotions that go into leaving a job and co-workers you actually enjoy working with.
“Me being vulnerable would show [viewers] that it’s okay to be scared to quit, to cry when you leave the people you love. Change is hard and it’s OK to feel it,” she said.
For Garcia, posting the TikTok video also provided anonymous support in an emotional time. “I posted right after the last clip was recorded on my way to the car and I was met with a lot of support in the comments,” she said.
The TikTok users have no regrets.
Wanting to help others realize it’s OK to quit a job that doesn’t value them was a common reason people made their story public. But is it enough of a good reason to call out an employer?
Jackie Cuevas, a nonprofit human resource administrator who gives career advice on her TikTok account, cautioned against filming your resignation for social media. She said she recommends resigning privately by writing a simple letter or meeting with your boss. Cuevas said she understands that doing a TikTok video can be empowering and relatable, but “I honestly think the reason why people film it is just for engagement and likes and views, because people prioritize wanting to go viral on the internet.“
Cuevas said that short TikToks that call out employers are missing the broader context of what a company is like. “It’s basically painting this overall big picture and creating this narrative that this entire company is bad, when maybe in reality it’s just one person,” she said. “In my eyes, it’s not fair to put this out there on social media.”
While some purposefully call out their employer, like Blackwell, others choose not to. Last month, CJ Blessing shared a TikTok video detailing the catharsis of leaving a toxic job in health care finance.
“I was overworked and exhausted and felt under-appreciated,” Blessing said. “I did my best to not have my employer at the time shown, because I do believe others have a better experience there but some have the same as me.”
Blessing said that sometimes a 15-second TikTok can give people the power to look for something better and more deserving, “just like some of my TikToks have helped others with their sexuality or about their flat chest from a double mastectomy.”
Although career coaches like Cuevas caution against publicly calling out your employer on social media, those who spoke to HuffPost said their viral TikTok experience has not hurt their careers. Garcia is still in the restaurant industry, Blessing said they feel valued and respected at a new finance job, and Mayes is a TikTok growth coach.
Blackwell, now 20, recently got a job utilizing her license in cosmetology and plans to go to school to be a dental assistant later this summer.
If she could go back in time, she would say her resignation more calmly and call out a few more managers. But ultimately, she said, “I wouldn’t change anything about what happened afterwards.”