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From quiet quitting to rage applying, workers on the lookout for the next job

The rage applying phenomenon appears to be picking up steam, as frustrated employees try to balance stagnant wages and workplace frustrations with the cost of living.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
A worker looks at her phone as she crosses a pedestrian bridge after leaving her office in the Kuala Lumpur city centre.
A worker looks at her phone as she crosses a pedestrian bridge after leaving her office in the Kuala Lumpur city centre.

Syahidah remembers the day that she landed the job of her dreams. Today, though, she is on the lookout for a new job – anything in her field that will match her qualifications. 

Much of her dissatisfaction is linked to disenchantment with her office leadership, as well as concerns about the mismatch between her salary and the cost of living. 

"The pay is just enough to cover my basic needs," she said. 

"I don't have much savings and I face constant pressure from my bosses." 

Given the state of her bank account, though, quitting before landing a new job is not an option. For now, all she can do is continue applying for positions at other companies and organisations, through online job portals and recommendations from friends and family. 

Syahidah is part of a wave of employees who, fed up with their current jobs, have been actively looking for new opportunities elsewhere. 

Known as "rage applying", the trend comes on the heels of the "quiet quitting" fad seen in 2022, especially in Western countries amid a lethal combination of inflation, rising cost of living and stagnant wages. 

Where quiet quitting saw employees putting in just enough effort to get through the day, rage applying is the act of simultaneously applying to several different jobs due to frustration or discontent at the current workplace. 

Researcher Amanda Yeo said the trend appeared to be a continuation of the shift in attitude towards work, especially among the digitally savvy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
"Instead of following strict working hours in the office, they are more inclined to work anywhere, at any time, at their own pace," she told MalaysiaNow. 

"So when they experience unsatisfactory employee welfare at their workplace, they will start applying for more jobs to match their expectations." 

Both quiet quitting and rage applying follow the so-called Great Resignation seen in the US at the height of Covid-19, where millions went on strike or quit their jobs due to pandemic-related frustrations.

Today, at least part of these frustrations appear linked to the economic situation and the gap between their wages and the cost of living. 

On TikTok, Canadian user Redweez claimed to have secured a US$25,000 raise by rage applying. Her video has gained some two million views so far. 

More thin-skinned?

Shahryn Azmi, founder of local job portal Maketimepay, said both rage applying and quiet quitting appeared to be rooted in a greater awareness of workers rights. 

"Some may say that we are just more thin-skinned than before – that we are excessively sensitive and unable to tough out the hard times," he said. 

"We seem less able to let things go, and instead feel compelled to counter-attack in some manner." 

He said digitalisation had also contributed to the trend, with everything from examples of resumes and cover letter templates to application submissions available at no cost online. 

"You don't feel the time spent because it's so gratifying," he said. 

"You're doing something to get back at your current employer." 

Yeo meanwhile said young people sometimes feel that their work contributions are underappreciated.

In some instances, salary increments are not forthcoming despite years spent on the job. 

A survey released early this year by recruitment firm Robert Walters found that 48% of professionals in Malaysia were expecting salary increments to deal with the rising cost of living. 

One-way communication

Yeo also warned that employers who adopt a one-way approach to communication with their employees risk losing their talents. 

"And they may have difficulty finding a replacement to continue generating the company's productivity," she said. 

Shahryn meanwhile said rage applying meant that employees were moving jobs due to negative sentiments. 

"They are not leaving to broaden their experience and horizons, but because they want out of where they are now," he said. 

However, he cautioned that such individuals could also end up in yet another job they do not want due to "the knee-jerk rage part of the equation". 

"They will likely leave that job too, albeit for different reasons," he added. 

"When they discover that they have landed in another inappropriate job, they quit and plot their onward move, but with less drama this time."

For Syahidah, though, there will be no regrets about leaving her current company. 

"I love what I am doing, but I can't stand the environment," she said. 

"There are other fields that I am interested in, and I am eagerly preparing for my interviews."