quitt.jpgI’ve been getting endless pitches from PR folks about Steven Slater, the JetBlue airline attendant who quit recently in a spectacular fashion.

If you haven’t heard about him, he got so frustrated with a mean passenger that he cursed over the loud speaker, grabbed some beers, and then illegally unfurled the plane’s emergency slide, jumped on it and headed home.

Everyone, including me I suppose, is trying to jump on Slater’s new-found fame to advance their own agendas — getting press for a client, getting people to read stories and blog posts, etc. But much of the coverage has centered on how frustrated workers are today.

It is so true. I think a word may be added to our lexicon “Slatering,” essentially meaning, “take this job and shove it.”

It’s a great story and one that touches everyone because so many have daydreamed about slatering, but quitting the way Slater did is probably only acceptable once. So should the rest of us try to leave more gracefully?

At a time when so many companies are laying off workers, slashing wages and benefits, it’s not surprising that some employees feel no obligation to be nice when they head out the door, says David Kaplan, management professor for Saint Louis University. “It’s understandable,” he adds, “because they feel the employer has violated the psychological contract with employees, and they don’t feel they owe them anything.”

Whether it’s giving notice, training your replacement or abiding by noncompete agreements you may have signed, these post-employment niceties that were expected once upon a time are not a given in today’s workplace.

“I think it’s a function of the economy,” says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute. “If your employer has been treating you well, morally you should give as much notice as you can. On the other hand, if your boss is screwing you, you don’t want to be nice.

You have to be careful and not get too angry. If you divulge company secrets or take all your clients with you when you depart, your employer may come after you. If you figure they don’t have a legal leg to stand on, or the money for a legal fight, you still end up leaving your co workers in a lurch if you just leave, don’t help train a new hire, or take all your institutional knowledge with you without offering to share some of it.

And forget about recommendations from your former managers. That means those coveted recommendations on LinkedIn as well. There is no law you have to give two-weeks notice, but it’s still expected in most circles and word will get around that you didn’t.

But maybe, in the end, grabbing a few beers and telling everyone to “F” off will help you feel better.

Or maybe not.

Is that the most civilized way to deal with your problems?

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