Cool off before flying job coop, experts say

Steven Slater slid his way into notoriety with arguably the most memorable “I quit!” exit in recent history.

Steven Slater slid his way into notoriety with arguably the most memorable “I quit!” exit in recent history.

Social media sites were abuzz Tuesday with chatter about the dramatic resignation by the JetBlue flight attendant.

Slater allegedly cursed at a rule-breaking passenger over the loudspeakers and reportedly announced he’d “had it” and “that’s it” before grabbing some beer from the galley and making an abrupt departure via the landed plane’s emergency exit slide.

On Facebook, more than 40,000 users “liked” at least one site devoted to Slater. Meanwhile on Twitter, “JetBlue” and “flight attendant” were among the top trending topics with largely thumbs-up support and in many cases admiration and adulation for Slater.

“Someone needs to write a folk song for that Jet Blue flight attendant.

“That man is a national hero,” tweeted Todfilm.

“Love the Guy on jetblue. What a way to go. Wish I would have made a bigger splash out,” wrote StanWarr.

While the now-suspended Slater may have acted out the fantasies of some who would love to pack it in and walk off the job, experts say the decision to quit on a whim may end up costing some people more than just a steady paycheque.

“No matter how you leave a job or how you resign, it’s invariably going to influence your career in the long-term,” said Sheryl Boswell, marketing manager for Monster.ca, an online career portal.

“We always say, ‘Don’t get mad, don’t get even, just get out with professionalism and your reputation intact.”’

“You can get caught up in the emotion of it all, but it’s the oldest saying in the book: Just don’t burn bridges,” she added. “You just don’t know when, obviously, you’re going to need a reference, if you’re going to need that job.”

Boswell said individuals should think ahead, think rationally and avoid getting into an emotional exchange.

“In (Slater’s) case, it might be a little more difficult because you’re in the confines of an airplane, but if you just take a breather, step back for a moment … be honest and say, ‘Listen I’m just having a bad day,”’ she said.

“There’s no sense in getting revenge, there’s no sense in getting emotional. The tensions may rise but you’ve got to keep yourself in check and remain professional.”

Debra Wolinsky, senior director of clinical operations with PPC Canada, an employee and family assistance program provider, said when people are overwrought emotionally, it’s not the best time to be making the decision to quit a job.

Wolinsky said she believes people know themselves fairly well and can determine if they’re demonstrating atypical behaviour, like becoming more stressed out, snapping quickly, being less tolerant or more withdrawn.

“If the individual is starting to react in a way that’s excessive or maybe atypical to one’s typical pattern, a very, very important question to ask one’s self is ‘What’s going on with me? What else may be contributing to my state at this particular point?” she said from Burnaby, B.C.

Wolinsky also said it’s critical for people, especially those working with the public, to be self-aware and engage in good-self management.

Both Boswell and Wolinsky said it’s important to have a support system in place both within and outside of the workplace to be able to debrief and discuss any on-the-job problems.

“I think you do need to be honest with your manager if you’re going through a tough personal time,” Boswell said.

“Companies today are very, very understanding of that with the aging workforce and children.”

“There are certainly some options available to you that you should explore if you feel that you’re just not contributing,” she added.

“When you’re at the workplace you want to be contributing in as high a manner as possible. If you feel that you’re not doing that, then there is obviously something else going on, so I think that honesty is a good start.”

One expert said that in Slater’s case, there could be other factors at play that resulted in his on-the-job meltdown.

“We’ve got maybe a combination of factors that are operating here,” said John Godard, a professor of labour relations at the University of Manitoba.

“One, is the changing nature of work in the industry, the changing nature of passengers, but also the changing life circumstances of people as we have an aging population, and as we have a population which is financially tighter.”

Godard said it can’t be an accident that Slater is being hailed by some online as a hero.

“This is resonating with people. It’s saying, ‘Yeah, good for you. I wish I could have the guts to do that’ because they’re identifying with the circumstance of someone who is overworked, underpaid, treated with abuse, and has all these external stresses on them that are not of their own making, and they’re having real trouble coping,” he said.

“It’s not an HR issue to me, it’s a broader system-wide problem that causes this kind of behaviour. I think it’s a manifestation of something much deeper than somebody just being fed up on a particular day with the way they’re treated by a particular passenger and not having the proper training with how to deal with it. It’s much more fundamental than that.”

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