I’m ready to rage-quit my job — am I being unfair to my boss?

A reader writes:

I am a department head at a small business. My boss, Alex, is the owner/founder. I was an independent contractor for most of my career, and this is the first time in years that I’ve had a boss.

I have strictly enforced work/life boundaries, so when I’m out of the office, my staff knows not to contact me unless it’s a true emergency. In turn, I don’t contact them at all during my vacation.

There have been a few times when my team has decided to set aside non-urgent tasks for me to complete when I get back from vacation. This is minor stuff that’s still best left for me to handle, like responding to a friendly message from a vendor who knows me personally. Unfortunately, in these situations, Alex tends to step in and “help” without knowing the full context of the situation, ultimately creating confusion and stress.

This meddling behavior also occurs when Alex is out of office himself. Every time Alex preps for PTO, he says something like, “I’m disconnecting completely, don’t expect to hear from me. I trust you to handle anything that comes up,” leaving us with what seems like a clear set of expectations.

However, he’ll randomly violate those expectations. He’ll often get basic details wrong, because he reacted impulsively and without proper context. For example, we’ll think he’s surfing in the middle of nowhere but receive a contradictory email response from him on a thread we’ve already resolved, calling our judgment and authority into question with clients.

My response is to reach out and say something like, “We’ve got it under control, please let us handle this. Hope you’re having a good break!” Alex’s replies are often extreme — “I just spent hours arguing with my wife, work is the only good thing in my life, I’m just trying to be happy again, why can’t you let me have that,” or “oh, so I’m not allowed to check my email now? I was just trying to help!” Awkwardness aside, it’s unsettling that he’s treating this business, which is in serious financial trouble, as a source of emotional comfort.

This pattern has started making me angry to a degree that might be unfair to Alex. I’ve almost quit on the spot the last couple of times he’s done this. (I didn’t, though, because I think about my actions at work, which seems like a pretty standard professional thing to do.) This feels like an overreaction on my part. Though annoying, these situations are ultimately minor and infrequent.

If I had an employee who behaved the way Alex does, I’d tell them to stop “helping” and trust that the team can function just fine without them. The ability to step away completely is a good thing! But I’m not Alex’s boss, and though he’s never explicitly said “this is MY BUSINESS—I’m the boss and I can do what I want,” that message feels pretty heavy in the subtext.

So … what should I do? I feel like rage quitting is the wrong answer, but it also doesn’t feel right to just stand by and watch this happen without doing anything.

Rage quitting isn’t a great answer, but regular quitting (after lining up another job) might be.

If Alex were otherwise an excellent boss who just had trouble disconnecting when he was on vacation, I’d encourage you to try to let that go. Some bosses are like that. It’s annoying and it’s inefficient, but if everything else is good, it’s not worth leaving a job over.

But you have:
* a small business that’s in serious financial trouble
* an owner who regularly delegates authority to you (“I trust you to handle anything that comes up”) and then takes that back
* an owner whose “help” creates stress and confusion and calls your judgment into question with clients
* an owner who personalizes routine work conversations in inappropriate and uncomfortable ways (“I’m just trying to be happy again, why can’t you let me have that?”)

I’m guessing these aren’t the only issues with the way Alex runs things.

I’m assuming, of course, that you’ve tried speaking with him about the problems this behavior causes — that you’ve pointed out that he’s causing confusion and stress and undermining you with clients and sending contradictory messages about how things should run when he’s out. If you haven’t, you should — it’s worth having that conversation at a time when he’s in the office, not on vacation, and giving specific examples of how it’s impeded people’s work.

But my hunch is that it won’t change much, particularly because Alex seems to want to use his business as a way to nurse emotional wounds rather than to run it effectively. Changing that would probably require a significant mental shift from him, and it’s not easy to nudge someone into that shift from below. It’s still worth trying because you never know — and also because the way that conversation goes will probably help you decide if there’s any point in expecting anything different in the future.

That said … there’s another option here, which is to decide that you simply don’t care. If you otherwise like the work and the business isn’t so unstable that your job is at risk, it is an option to just accept that this is how Alex will operate, expect interference when he’s away no matter what he promises, and just work around it as best as you can. A fair number of people find their way to reasonable contentment at jobs with highly flawed managers. You’ve got to be able to let it kind of flow off of you though (I once had a coworker at a dysfunctional job who repeated “like water off a duck’s back” as a mantra to herself all the time, and it did seem to mostly work) so you’d want to figure out if you can do that or whether you’re too fed up and will be on-edge the whole time you’re there if nothing changes. If it’s the latter, work on getting out.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Clorinda*

    “This business, which is in serious financial trouble”: way to bury the lede.
    You need a new job. This one has no future.

    1. Maggie*

      Yeah, what’s the financial trouble and what’s the plan for addressing it? The financial trouble is most likely playing into the boss’s fighting with his wife. I have a poorly communicating, moderately ineffective boss, but my job is also steadier than the Redwoods. We are never going under, so it’s a lot easier for me because I’m not worried in any way about the job/pay/benefits themselves. If you don’t have that… the advice to just roll with it is MUCH harder to follow.

    2. PollyQ*

      My thoughts exactly. A business that’s already in trouble, which is run by an erratic owner, is not likely to be around much longer. Everything else is very nearly irrelevant.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent summary. That’s everything OP needs to weigh in right there.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have to wonder if the financial issues stem from or are made worse by the erratic behavior of the owner.

        Even if not, the financial instability would make me dust off the resume and get out there to find something far more stable quickly as possible. Job hunting is normally easier when you are already employed.

      3. Selena*

        Absolutely: if a job has stability and the money is decent than it makes sense to try to work around any problems.
        But why bother with a bad boss if the business is on the verge of collaps (or so it seems). I bet the other team-members are also looking to jump ship and are probably putting in minimal effort.

        LW might be worried that their period as self-employed made them too critical of managers. And i do think the reaction to the obnoxious boss is a bit overblown. And that they should keep that in mind when looking for other jobs.
        But the most urgent fact remains that this owner seems to be destroying his own business, and thus it is time to bow out.

    3. Elenna*

      Yeah, that was my thought too. All else aside, are you sure this business will even continue to exist if you decide to stay in it?

      (Also, it’s interesting that OP suggests their only options are “rage quit” or “stay in this job”. OP, if you find another job and politely resign, that’s not rage quitting! That’s a rational, professional decision if you’ve decided that this job isn’t what you want.)

      1. SuperDiva*

        This. And the fact that OP is considering rage-quitting over the vacation issue when they admit it’s infrequent suggests that there are probably other, more pervasive problems with Alex’s leadership. As Alison always says, this is a business relationship and you can and should look out for your own interests while conducting yourself professionally and ethically. I’m hard pressed to think of a situation where “fairness” is even relevant when quitting a job. OP, you have no obligation to Alex beyond doing your job well while he employs you, and (arguably) giving proper notice when you leave. It is absolutely not unfair to Alex if you want to quit, whether because his behavior is inappropriate and disruptive, because you’ve decided to take up llama farming full-time, or for any other reason or no reason at all. Your life is your own! Save yourself without guilt, OP.

      2. traffic_spiral*

        Yeah, there’s also “strategically and diplomatically choosing to nope out.” Just brush up your resume and start looking.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes to all this. It seems unlikely that a person who tries to foist their emotions on others in this childish way (“why can’t you let me have that,” etc.) is otherwise a good leader. It’s a terrible way to try to manipulate people.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            My thoughts too. Those responses (“oh, so I’m not allowed to check my email now?”) sound like they’re straight out of one of those lengthy arguments with his wife. Rest of the sinking ship aside, I’d still find those parallels problematic.

            1. Selena*

              Yup. Very unproffesional. The business will never turn around with a boss who is this irrational.

      3. Le Sigh*

        “Also, it’s interesting that OP suggests their only options are “rage quit” or “stay in this job”. OP, if you find another job and politely resign, that’s not rage quitting! That’s a rational, professional decision if you’ve decided that this job isn’t what you want.”

        This reminds me of when people worry that ghosting someone is rude — except what they actually mean is they’ve already told the person they’re not interested in another date or that after four months they want to break it off or they don’t want to be friends or whatever, and that other person just keeps pestering them. That’s not ghosting!

      4. rachel in nyc*

        One of my friend’s recently went thru this- constantly feeling like she just wanted to quit her job because she was so tired from working 60 plus hour weeks. She was convinced (not by me- I supported whatever decision she made) to apply and interview while she was there, and hold out.

        Her last day is this week.

      5. LW*

        I’m well aware there are other options. I didn’t catalog all of them in a 500 word letter to an advice column, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware.

        1. Purple Cat*

          LW. In kindness, this feels like a pretty aggressive comment. Commenters are picking up that YOU chose to only include “rage-quitting” in your letter which says a lot about your emotional state. Line up another job and quit with reasonable notice. Get out, get out, get out.

    4. EPLawyer*

      That’s where I stopped. This is a HUGE FIELD OF RED FLAGS saying GET OUT NOW.

      There’s a happy medium between rage quitting and sticking until the ship goes down — it’s called job hunting.

    5. staceyizme*

      I know, right? How toxic does it have to be before “help me deal with my unreasonable boss” becomes “oh, by-the-way, this biz is sinking, so… there’s that”. No rage quitting. Real quitting. Quickly, if at all possible. (Can you possibly find something to do on a contract basis while you work out the next steps for your professional life/ consultancy life?)

    6. Lexie*

      I worked for a business that was in financial trouble and the owner was not really cut out to manage people. I ended up quitting. A few weeks after I left one of the employees messaged me to tell me that they had showed up to work one morning and there was a sign on the door saying they had gone out of business. I don’t know if they ever got their last pay check. I had to threaten to report the owner to the IRS to get my W-2.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        OP – don’t let this happen to you. The only person really who has to go down with the sinking ship of a company is the owner.

      2. Hagbard C.*

        Indeed. Pull the EJECT lever and punch out. We found out my 2nd-worst boss had driven a 45-year old business into the ground when he announced he’d found a new job w/ some software outfit. He’d played a lot of football as a youth. First worst? OD’d on nitrous oxide one night and hallucinated regularly thereafter.

  2. Kelly Brooke*

    I have found that in these situations, accepting that it’s terrible actually makes it easier. For me, wanting to “rage quit” tends to be a sign that I’m not completely validating my emotions because I’m suppressing them, and then I can’t hold them back anymore and they want burst out. From your letter, it seems like you’re focused on the fact that he’s contradicting his vacation time, whereas Alison points out that there are a lot of reasons to leave. Accepting your job is terrible can make it easier to tolerate because reality = expectations.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Anger can stem from feeling a loss of control.
      It’s more to the point to just say, “This is out of control and I need to move on.” Anger is a whole bunch of energy that can be channeled into job hunting a night or so every week or looking for a new job over the weekend.

      The tricky thing about emotional people is we can get caught in their tornado of emotions. OP, if a friend were talking to you about a remarkably similar problem, how would you advise the friend to proceed? This is a friend you care about and do not want to see hurt financially, emotionally or professionally. So what do you tell her?

  3. Daniel*

    Alex sounds exhausting.

    Given that this business sounds like it’s having financial issues, I’m taking it for granted that you are already looking for a new job. If not, please start–it’s a reasonable reaction to that situation no matter how Alex ran things.

    I guess a conversation with Alex about all this is worthwhile as long as you’re sure it wouldn’t put your job in immediate jeopardy. (I don’t think it would, but think about that before going through with it.) But between scattershot leadership and an already iffy future for the company, leaving is almost certainly going to be the resolution here. Alex does not sound like the sort to change his ways from this sort of conversation.

    1. John Smith*

      Alex sounds like my boss and for that, you have my sympathy. Please seek another job if able to do so.

  4. twocents*

    In regards to Alison’s final suggestion, among the many tips to come from this website, the “you can’t care more than other people do” tip has been something that stuck with me and served as a reminder to disengage. You can’t care more about saving someone’s job than the employee does; you can’t care more about the business than the owner does.

    1. HigherEdAdminista*

      This is very good advice and has been useful to me in my career so far. I used to (and still do have a tendency) to fall into feeling responsible when one of my students doesn’t accomplish something related to my work with them. However, if I have done what I can and they aren’t doing what needs to be done on their end, it really ends up not mattering what efforts I make; they have to care and take more action I do (or at least equal action) to get where they want to go.

      1. JelloStapler*

        As someone also in HigherEd, we say this about our students, that we can’t care more than they do!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Seen once in a middle school classroom (but is also appropriate for High school and college):

          You turn in homework, you get better grades.

          I heard stories that with certain parents, when they could finally be convinced to come in, the teacher would seat himself centered under that poster.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good stuff, twocents, it’s more like a million bucks in value, though.
      It’s good life advice and good work advice. OP, when you find yourself caring more than the people IN the situation, get ready. You may end up hurt in some manner if you continue to pour your energy into the problem.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      The French say “you mustn’t be more royalist than the king” and I think that’s highly appropriate for this situation.

  5. Lecturer*

    I don’t think you are being unfair on your boss. Next time he whines about his wife say ‘therapy can help a lot with that’. That will most likely jolt him into realising he shouldn’t be making those comments. However, I am going to focus on this part of the letter:

    ‘Though annoying, these situations are ultimately minor and infrequent.’

    I have an extremely annoying colleague who is just plain useless. I spent weeks fixing his crap (then it happens again the next year, 7 years running so far). I am not willing to move jobs because at best it will be another person or at worst things can get really bad (academia can be a nightmare).

    However, start off with gently being assertive and then progressing depending on how it goes. When he becomes defensive just say ‘everyone deserves to be off during their holidays’. If he doesn’t make these errors when he is at work point it out ‘these issues that crop up only occur when you are not in the office and not in the loop so if you just enjoy your holiday leave we can get on with ensuring everything is accurate’. If he reacts badly outline the issues in writing and ask him for a plan of how to tackle them.

  6. Jean*

    Find another job and get out now. (Rage quit if it would make you feel better, but the important thing is that you get out of there.)

    Not only is Alex a bad boss who isn’t going to change, this business is floundering, and I’m betting no one can tell Alex anything that would be helpful in fixing that. Best of luck!

    1. Miss Muffet*

      I wondered if maybe they *weren’t* copying him on things, and that was part of the issue with him jumping in to “solve” stuff — if he isn’t seeing that they do have a handle on it. For instance, if the client sends an email to him, OP, etc… and then they drop him off the responses, he knows there’s the initial question/issue but doesn’t see them take care of it and so he pipes up when he shouldn’t.
      That won’t fix his “helping” when the OP is on vacay but might mitigate the issues when he himself is out?

      1. Aspen*

        The question that I always want to know the answer to is, don’t these people read their emails starting with the top of their inbox like everyone else? Meaning that they should be seeing the up-to-date and aggregated response of everyone else on the topic FIRST; thus know the question has been asked and answered? I always have to wonder if these are the people who just want to stick their oars in and would do it regardless of whether or not the question was already asked and answered; and OP’s boss Alex sounds like just such a person.

        1. Nanani*

          Some people seem to think the world just sits around collecting dust when they aren’t there, so they’ll reply as if it couldn’t possibly have progressed without them.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Another vote for starting a job hunt now, rather than waiting to see what happens. A) you need to. B) it will actually lower your stress levels with your manager, because you won’t have so much invested in him not screwing up the business.

        It sounds to me that you would be more comfortable in an environment without a micro-manager. You want to own your role, be responsible for your own tasks, etc. etc. I would look for roles where managers are serious about wanting to delegate the work, and who expect to be updated regularly, have things escalated only when necessary, and who are otherwise busy enough with their own jobs that they don’t have time to step into yours. That’s a tricky thing to ask about in interviews, but I would do it.

        I had a client once who wanted me to take over leading their remote internal team, so they could focus on something else. Great in theory, but they could NOT stop stepping in to provide direction, solve issues, reassign work, etc. etc. After 2 weeks, I told them that it wasn’t working. No harm, no foul – they just couldn’t let go.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          There’s no point in waiting to see what happens, OP, as you can see all there is to see right now. The future will be more of this. When people show us how they operate, it’s okay to believe them. And we are NOT responsible for “fixing” them, nor their business.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      If it’s his business, the OP really can’t cut him out though, or be disrespectful of his authority to make decisions, even if she disagrees with them. That’s actually not keeping a healthy boundary between work and life. If the OP is going to disconnect while she’s out, she needs to disconnect from the owner deciding to handle something in her absence. She might be able to restrict within her own department what detailed info he needs access to while he’s out, but also keep him in the loop proactively on the final outcomes or Big Picture Items, even if he’s supposed to be surfing. But this comes across as really dismissive to me: “We’ve got it under control, please let us handle this. Hope you’re having a good break!” Perhaps it’s because of years of being her own boss, but the OP is taking “ownership” of a businesses that isn’t hers.

      1. Kella*

        If handling the issue in that email thread *is* OP’s job and the boss’s input isn’t usually necessary to resolve it, then it’s not necessarily disrespectful to his authority to take him off the thread. Not everything has to be done by the owner of the business or with their supervision.

        Especially in the example given, it sounded like the boss was responding to a problem that was *already solved* or a solution was on the way but he wasn’t up to speed and so he was trying to fix it all over again, in which case “We’ve got this covered” is a perfectly reasonable response. And if someone told me they were planning to disconnect from work completely and that they trusted me to handle it, I would assume “please let us handle this” would be exactly in line with his wishes to help him avoid getting sucked back into work.

        I don’t think OP is taking ownership of a business that isn’t hers. I think she’s taking ownership of a responsibility that is hers and/or *that the owner gave her to cover*.

  7. Delta Delta*

    I had a similar work situation (small business, sinking financial ship, boss with blurry boundaries), and eventually also had to quit. Boss wanted to let go and to delegate, but felt like he couldn’t (see above: sinking ship). He spent a lot of time whinging about the fact he was overworked, but when team members offered to help, his response was that he’s the boss so he had to take care of the issues. The best example I can give is once he went on vacation, and I offered to field certain client calls. His response was that he would do it from vacation, since he’s the boss and the clients expect to hear from *him.* Welp, he didn’t do it for whatever reason, and actually ended up losing a few pretty good clients. Had he allowed me to take the call and just say, “Boss is out this week but he’ll be back Wednesday” the client(s) would have understood and stuck with the company. Instead he lost a lot of business (see above: sinking ship) because he couldn’t let someone else do the work.

    So, all that to say, get out while there’s still a sliver of a ship still visible above water, and also before quitting actually does turn into a rage quit, because the more this happens the worse it’ll become.

  8. Anonymooose*

    Alex’s behavior is a reflection on him, yours and however you choose to handle things is a reflection of yours.

    If you rage quit or do anything within the realm of unprofessional, it’s on you and CANNOT be put on him.

    So don’t let his actions drive yours. People who do things and blame others (beyond extreme measures like self preservation of course) …well, that is a thing and no matter how maddening a boss or colleague can be, when you get so unhinged that you do something wildly unprofessional, it ceases t be them and it’s now you.

    Given how unprofessional he is, you should probably look around for alternate employment and then….maybe talk to him about the issues you are dealing with and your take on the matter. Also, since you are emotionally affected, it might be worth it to talk to someone who can be objective to give you their take on it. Sometimes the cumulative affect of so many different instances if unprofessional behavior taints the professional or legitimate actions. You need to try to separate those so you are truly only dealing with objectively bad issues.

  9. Jambanon*

    What stellar timing. I’m in a similar situation – I work for a small business that’s in financial trouble, and the owner/my boss has a lot of trouble with delegating, with making rational decisions, and with interfering in ways that make us looks bad to clients. The company isn’t healthy from a business standpoint or a personal one.

    It is so reassuring to hear the reminder that rage quitting isn’t the only option – (non-rage) quitting is also on the table. I think the converse is that, if you’re repeatedly thinking of rage quitting, (non-rage) quitting is definitely something to be looking at. I probably shouldn’t “storm out” and ship my computer back today, but I probably should be actively looking for something that doesn’t make me fear getting out of bed in the morning.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Or you can spend a little time on weekends thinking up a creative way to turn in your notice, that helps burn off steam.

  10. Narise*

    My only thought is could Alex be left off of the emails until he returns and then provided the chain plus a summary of the outcome? Not sure this is possible or if the client copies him but it’s a thought.

  11. Steve*

    ” (I once had a coworker at a dysfunctional job who repeated “like water off a duck’s back” as a mantra to herself all the time, and it did seem to mostly work)”

    Did Allison just ruveal that Jinkx Monsoon used to be her coworker?? Happy Pride!

    1. Momma Bear*

      Former coworker called it “growing duck feathers” when you learned to let things just roll off.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      Either it was Jinkx or a fan of Drag Race. XD I immediately recognized the quote too. I prefer to think it was Jinkx herself, the character, working an office job for reasons unknown.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        I’m confused. This is an old saying. Was it the motto of a show as well?

        1. Lenora Rose*

          it’s an old saying but the use of the saying as someone’s personal tic is a bit different and a lot more distinct, and it sounds like this is what they’re referring to. (And yes, it’s a tv performer and actor they’re talking about.)

  12. Momma Bear*

    Not sure how Alex gets looped into those emails, but another option might be to specifically leave him off and/or make it clear to the client that Person X is acting while you are away. If the client then does an end-run to Alex, that is one thing, but often people will be mollified with an autoresponse that they should reach out to Person X in your absence, or wait until you return. A LOT of people sneak in and read emails on their vacations. I see it less of a “Alex should do it my way” problem and more of a “Alex should wait for context” problem.

    I’d bring this up with specific, “When you did X, it literally cost the company Y fixing it.” Does Alex reach out to customers or to the team? If he worked with the team, would it at least shield the customers from an disorganized response?

    In the meantime, I’d look for a way to get off a sinking ship.

  13. surprisedcanuk*

    If you work for a business that’s in serious financial trouble. I’m going out on a limb here, but it might be a good idea to look for a new job. The rest sounds annoying, but doesn’t really matter. When your house is on fire, don’t focus on the sink full of dirty dishes.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      When your house is on fire, don’t focus on the sink full of dirty dishes.

      We need that in needlepoint!

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wonder if it’s a case of everything is just so toxic that the OP is focusing on the one thing that might maybe, if the right words/presentation can be found, be able to be fixed. Yes it’s a forest for the trees view (as in can’t see the forest for the trees), but I’ve seen that a few times as a coping mechanism.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, sounds likely. But still, the prudent thing to do would be to abandon ship before you have to start bailing.

        Don’t rage quit, but polish your resume, LW.

  14. Hello Friends*

    Just a quick personal story. One time my (now former) boss called me while skiing. Like had his airpods in and was literally going down the slopes and called me to discuss our weekly newsletter. Anyways, good luck, OP. Usually there is no changing that type of behavior unfortunately.

    1. twocents*

      I hate when people call in during dangerous environments. I worry that one of these days somebody’s going to be driving on a call, and we’re going to hear the sound of a car crash.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I had a student last semester who wanted to zoom into class while driving truck. I had to figure out how to politely and calmly word an email response that conveyed PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT NOW OR EVER without showing how close to panicking I was at the very thought.

        1. Delta Delta*

          I had a student zoom into a class while he was a passenger in a car. It was odd, but at least he was a passenger.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Just had a guy zoom into a hearing while he was driving. It got interesting when the judge needed him to review a document on screen to verify it.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Just dig up some statistics- facts will give you plenty of things to say.
          According to the National Highway Safety Administration, texting while driving is 6 times more dangerous than driving drunk. Six times.
          There’s more stats available. It’s very interesting to me that we have managed to create a culture where drunk driving is not acceptable. (I remember an era where we laughed at drunk drivers and I never understood what was funny. )We can do the same with cell phone usage if we decide this is important to us.

          Meanwhile, I know of a situation where a friend was talking with a driving friend by phone. The driving friend said something about not being able to get control over his car. Driving friend’s cell suddenly went dead. The friend was the first on the scene to find the driving friend’s body. I am not sure how many people we will need to lose before we decide we have a problem.

          1. Nanani*

            I wonder, when looking at stats like this, whether distracted driving from less technological distractions (chatting with passengers for instance) or just older tech (like radio) have been a danger this entire time. It’s easy to blame the new thing but maybe people are starting to realize all these fast chunks of metals with squishy humans in them have been REALLY QUITE DANGEROUS this whole time?

            Sorry about your friend.

        4. KoiFeeder*

          I had a classmate do once or twice that last semester, and I was about a hairsbreadth from an anxiety attack just knowing it was happening. He was fine, but it’s scary to see happening!

      2. The Rural Juror*

        That happened while I was on the phone with my boss once. He was driving down a road that’s particularly nasty when it’s raining. He didn’t come to a complete stop quick enough and rear-ended someone. Luckily it was minor and no one was injured…but he was pretty embarrassed that happened while I was on the line.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Back when cell phones were fairly new, I heard someone get into an accident while calling in to a radio show. (Uncle Bobby for anyone from Chicago who remembers Bob Collins.)

          Illinois has since enacted laws to prevent drivers from making phone calls on the road.

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          There used to be an advert here in the UK where this woman had called her husband to shout at him about something and while he was taking that call he ran into another call. The slogan was “You don’t have to be in the car to cause an accident”.

      3. Spicy Tuna*

        Sorry for the possible derail, but is it not common to take calls while driving? My boss told me I’d need to learn how to do it, in as many words. Almost every conference call I’m on has at least one driver.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          It can be very dangerous & is illegal in many places. Unlike listening to the radio, you tend to pay more attention to the phone than to the road. And the other people on the call can’t see what you do so they aren’t quiet when you need to concentrate. Unlike (good) passengers.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. Don’t do that in NY. Fines are high. Repeat offenses can mean you lose your license.

            1. Spicy Tuna*

              I’m nowhere near NY, but curious to know if that includes phone calls connected to your car’s bluetooth audio system? How would they even know you’re on the phone?

              1. Cats on a Bench*

                Even hands-free it’s still not safe. Your brain will be more focused on the phone call than on the driving. Think about times when you’re having a conversation with someone else in the car and miss your turn or stop just in time to not rear-end someone… and that’s with another person in the car who you could tell to hang on when you need to stop talking and focus on driving more, not a work call, over a cell phone where you have to concentrate on what’s going on because you’re not there. Your mind is on that call, not the road.

                1. allathian*

                  Exactly this. I can’t even listen to podcasts or talk radio when I drive because either I blank out on those while focusing on the driving or I’ll be more than likely to crash. I’m not going to take those risks.

                  I’m in Finland, and there’s a law on the books against talking on the phone and texting in the car, in practice it’s never enforced unless you get flagged down for another reason. Although if you get into a car crash, you’re automatically assumed to be guilty of reckless driving because you were distracted.

                2. Wonderer*

                  I read a study that showed people were more distracted by phone calls when they thought the person they were talking to was farther away. It didn’t matter where the call actually came from, but if they thought it was long distance then they paid more attention to the call. Imagine what this means for an important conference call – of course you’re going to be very distracted by it while you’re driving.

                3. Spicy Tuna*

                  Welp, always fun to learn that something you thought was normal is not. As the only woman on my team, I’m not sure I can do anything about it without feeding into “women can’t drive” stereotypes. Luckily I’ve only had to do it twice in as many years…

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          Also, why is everyone driving while on conference calls? I would feel very unsafe knowing that’s going on in other cars while I’m on the road.

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            I work in consulting/inspections (on-site presence required) in the sprawling Midwest. People sometimes have to call in to something while on their hour+ drive to the next client. But it’s usually people just listening while their phone is connected to their car’s bluetooth system…probably more like a podcast than anything. It’s not great, and luckily I don’t have to do it often, but I hate it when I do.

        3. PollyQ*

          Car crashes in the US had been declining for decades, but around 2013, started going up again, probably due in large part to people calling & texting while driving. Common? Sure, but not actually safe.

        4. Cat Lover*

          It’s probably common, but not safe. Many states (and DC) have laws again cell phone usage while driving.

        5. Lenora Rose*

          I think it can be done safely if A: it is bluetooth ONLY, no hands AND nothing to look at, and B: It is very short (think “While you’re at the grocery, pick up some llama feed?” type calls) and C: the person not on the phone is aware, calm, and minimally invasive. A conference call is absolutely NOT two of these things even if it fits with A.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Distracted driving laws here are absolutely not if hands on, absolutely no texting, speaker phone/bluetooth grudgingly allowed.

      4. wendelenn*

        Pretty sure we have had a letter here where the boss wanted the letter writer to be on a zoom call WITH VIDEO while driving. Maybe he would allow her to pull over, but if I remember right there wasn’t a good spot for that.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I think someone else is posting the link and it’s in moderation, so I’ll throw in the relevant snippet:

          > My boss declared this completely unacceptable. She said faces and eye contact were required. I explained I was driving without equipment, but she didn’t care.

          So, no, the boss probably would NOT have allowed her to pull over.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, and that’s completely unreasonable. I wonder how things went for that LW and if she’s still in the same job. The manager shouldn’t be managing anyone.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Given the legendary pile-on in the comments, I don’t think we’re hearing back from that LW. I do hope that that manager has been reduced to managing dust bunnies, though!

              (I mean, I agree that the LW in that post should have made different choices. But self-advocacy is hard, especially when you’re advocating for yourself against the person who controls whether you can eat or pay the rent.)

  15. Bookworm*

    There’s nothing you can do for this business. “Rage quit” or not, it won’t matter.

    Save yourself.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I agree that the OP needs a new job. It sounds like a sinking ship. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be professional & give at least 2 weeks’ notice. If not just to make the transition easier for the other staff.

  16. VanLH*

    You should be actively searching for work so you don’t need to rage quit. But if you do rage quit please write back.

  17. Budgie Buddy*

    The two options OP lists are 1) rage quitting and 2) standing by doing nothing.

    OP, please look up “black and white thinking.” There are many many responses that are between total inaction and going nuclear.

    Also there’s an emphasis in the letter on whether or not the anger is “fair” to Alex. I don’t think it matters. OP is frustrated and unhappy in their job. They don’t have to prove in Internet Court that their anger is justified in order to quit. Nor will the anger suddenly dissipate if internet strangers take Alex’ side.

    Given that Alex sucks and likely isn’t going to change, OP needs to do what will give them long term happiness—whether that’s quitting or something else.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      In this moment I wish to quote the wise song lyrics of Billy Joel:

      “Black and white once so easy for me,
      But shades of grey are the colors I see.”

      The point is, not everything is or can be black and white. Many things are actually on a spectrum with other options in the middle of the two extremes.

    2. J.B.*

      Anger is telling you something and you shouldn’t ignore it’s messages. Respecting your downstairs brain can also mean acknowledging that your upstairs brain is set up to do the thinking part.

  18. Cant remember my old name*

    Idk but the answer seems obvious to me. Regardless of what Alex states, their actions shows that they want to be and need to be kept in the loop even when they are out of the office. Wouldn’t it just make sense to give them a daily progress report via email (subject: for your return or something). That way they can at least try to unwind without feeling like the ship is secretly sinking while they are away? They might even back off and just wait for the reports if they know they are coming. Just a thought!

  19. CW*

    The biggest red flag is that the company is in “serious financial trouble”. OP, maybe your gut is telling you that your job security is at risk. I would start looking for a new job, then put in two weeks’ notice as soon as you get an offer. Your employer doesn’t look like it will be around much longer. The rest of your situation does seem annoying, but you are working for a sinking ship – that situation alone puts your job in jeopardy.

  20. wine dude*

    Leaving aside the obvious reasons to Get Out Now… a way to deal with the jumping in on and messing up things that are handled without having context, is to set up a system to easily flag checkpoints – emails that he should read first – with a key word starting the subject line. For example, once you take care of Wilson’s issue you send an email with LLAMA starting the subject line saying “We took care of Wilson’s cracked teapot and she’s happy now.” I have a system like this with my bookkeeper which works nicely.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      THIS: Include Alex on the solution and train him to look at the newest item in the thread before replying to the original request.
      (And start looking for another job that can just “fall into your lap” and get you out of there before your quit with cod.)

  21. Richard*

    I’m glad Alison brings up the option of caring less, which is unfortunately a pretty good option for a lot of folks with crappy bosses. If you’re constantly on edge and ready to rage quit, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about why you’re giving this manager so much power over your emotional life and look for ways to take it back, even as you look for a new job.

  22. llamaswithouthats*

    You should quit, but don’t rage quit if you want to maintain your professional reputation. Just put in your 2 weeks if you need to. (I understand that not everyone can just leave their jobs, but I’m suggesting this since the LW has indicated they’re willing to rage quit at certain points.)

  23. Employee of the Bearimy*

    OP, I think our bosses are separated-at-birth twins. In my boss’s case, he’s a control freak who still hasn’t really come to terms with the amount of growth our company has had in the past 5 years, so he still acts as if we can do it all himself even though we’ve doubled in size. I’m definitely looking for something new soon and you should too – the fact that you want to rage-quit so badly says to me that you’re starting to normalize his level of emotional over-reaction, and that can really mess things up for you when you land in a functional environment.

  24. Tuesday*

    I would try, when you’re feeling calm, to be specific about the problems you’re running into. “We’ve got it under control, please let us handle this. Hope you’re having a good break!” makes it sound like his chiming in isn’t really a problem. I think you need to say, “We resolved the issue with the client this way, so when you said X, it caused awkwardness and confusion.” Give some examples. Make it a problem for him, not just for you. And yeah, probably job search too, especially because of the financial problems.

  25. MissDisplaced*

    Don’t rage quit. Quit when you’ve lined up another job. And it is worth trying to have a discussion about the protocol for handling things while away.

    That said, thanks for this post because I have a manager who does similar things. Im at a large company and he regularly “escalates” minor things up the chain instead of waiting a bit for responses from people actually doing the work. It always causes confusion, anxiety and needless stress.

  26. Aron*

    If I’ve learned anything over the years, and this may seem extreme or unfair, but it’s to objectively describe the inappropriate behaviors without attempting to rationalize or excuse the behaviors. In the times I’ve found myself mired in a toxic situation for way too long, when all the signs of mental/emotional instability and workplace dysfunction were consistently present from the start, it’s because I tried to rationalize or excuse away the dysfunctional/unstable behavior, or, worse, I bought into the rationalizing/excuses the inappropriate party provided. It’s comparable to gaslighting, in my opinion. Alison’s list is a really nice way of neutrally objectifying Alex’s behavior, without any of the emotion, background, or attachment weighing in (been there). Another thing or two I’ve learned is that (1) people don’t usually change (sorry, they don’t); and (2) consistent unstable behaviors typically escalate.

    I wouldn’t ragequit but I would get out. I browsed some of the other comments and would only add that I would NOT recommend therapy or directly call Alex out on his behaviors. I may get jumped for this, but Alex seems mentally or emotionally unwell in a way where an explicit “call out” like that could very much backfire on you and/or send him spiraling into face-saving behaviors. Some of the responses you listed that he provides are concerning and generally remind me of some clients I’ve had. Business is business, and your job isn’t to be Alex’s intervention or referral source for therapy. Relinquish control of Alex and his business, and you do you, ONLY.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah. Alex reminds me of a boss who called my colleague by his son’s name once (the son that caused the most problems).
      When his wife finally decided to divorce him, he plunged into depression. He called me and the other senior colleague in to his office and explained that he was going to their country house for a week to think things over, and so now was the time to tell him everything we hated about him, so he could think about that too.
      We both maintained a stony silence, because of course we couldn’t give him a litany of all we hated about him in case he wanted to do himself in during that week of solitary reflection, but we couldn’t be nice and smile either because he was such a shitty boss.

  27. Sparkles McFadden*

    You cannot control Alex’s behavior or make his business successful. You can only control what you do. If you start the job search process, it’ll give you perspective. You’ll feel more in control and less rage-y. Hopefully you’ll be able just quit in a professional way. Even if you are driven to rage quit, you’ll be ahead of the game if you’re already searching for a new position.

    Good luck!

  28. ToodlesTeaTops*

    You know this is one of the things about society that I don’t understand. People getting angry over the fact that we didn’t appreciate their “help” that wasn’t helpful at all.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      The boss here is not helping because help is needed. He’s helping because it makes him feel good to be working. So of course if he’s asked, however nicely, to stop, so that he has to face up to his angry wife, then it’s a problem for him.

      I remember my mother getting angry that I didn’t appreciate all the plans she’d made for the time I and the kids would be staying with my parents, threatening not to bother next time. I said, that would be fine, we can just take each day as it comes, and do activities according to inclination and of course the British Weather. She’d planned every single day, with no down time, no time for me to fit a shopping trip in (even though she’d seen me raid the shops for all the stuff I missed living in France every time I went to see them) and no consideration for the fact that we might not want to go on a dinky railway the day after spending all day in trains travelling to their place.

  29. The Other Dawn*

    I get the impulse to rage quit/quit without notice, but I feel like that should be reserved for extreme situations–this doesn’t sound like one of them. Your boss just sounds annoying.

    I think your bigger problem is the fact that the company is in financial trouble. Just that alone would be a good reason to start looking for another job.

    Rage quitting might feel great in the moment, but carries with it repercussions that can follow you throughout your career. You’ll burn bridges and are unlikely to get a good reference from anyone at the company. Sure, you can omit the boss as a reference, but a good reference checker is still going to call him and/or others not on the list. In addition, this is what you would be remembered for. Not all the good work you did there.

  30. Sara without an H*

    OP, do you see yourself as a “fixer”? Do you think that, if you can find just exactly the right words, you can “fix” Alex?

    It can’t be done! Alex is what he is, he’s the founder and owner of the business. You just work there. Yes, he’s being unprofessional and his management style is probably contributing to the firm’s financial instability. But it’s his business. He can run it into the ground if he wants to.

    Please think about Alison’s advice to “care less.” You should care less. This isn’t your business, and it isn’t yours to “save.” Instead of rage quitting, follow the advice of virtually every commenter upstream and start looking for another job. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile and start working your network. Alison has lots of good advice in the archives. But please quit wasting emotional energy on Alex and Sinking Ship, Inc. and work on finding your next job.

    1. JennG*

      This. I work in a small business and the thing about a small business is…it’s small. Part of the skillset of working for an entrepreneur who has a small business is learning to disengage a bit. Small business owners are rarely well-trained in management; what they specialize in really is getting things done “by hook or by crook.” For me, as the person under the owner, I try to start to establish better procedures, clearer lines of responsibility, expertise, etc. – but ultimately, any single owner business that’s small is going to reflect its owner’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s the nature of the beast.

  31. Here we go again*

    I have a question to piggy back off of OPs and to elaborate more. Does quitting a company in the middle of bankruptcy or severe financial trouble without notice such a bad thing? If things like pay or other benefits are being messed with. It’s obvious why people are looking in that situation. I was going to quit my last job without notice, because they would walk me off the premises for joining a competitor. But they declared bankruptcy and let us all go a couple of days before I was going to quit. So the issue never came up.

    1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      I don’t think this is bad. When a company has declared bankruptcy it’s an emergency for the employees to find new jobs. I’m sure both your new employer and soon-to-be former employer would understand that.
      If a person not quite in your situation lined up a new job, they could always give notice of whatever time is available before their new start date.

    2. Sara without an H*

      If the situation has gotten to the point where they’re messing with pay and benefits, it’s an emergency. An every-employee-for-themselves emergency. You could explain it in interviews by saying, “They were having some trouble meeting payroll, and I wanted something with more stability.”

  32. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    His reactions “I just spent hours arguing with my wife, work is the only good thing in my life, I’m just trying to be happy again, why can’t you let me have that,” or “oh, so I’m not allowed to check my email now? I was just trying to help!” are completely ridiculous. I’m pretty sure his wife’s friends are all telling her to leave too! OP, he’s talking to you the same way he talks to his wife, and that’s totally unprofessional. You have no business dealing with the state of his marriage, you should not have to cater to making him “happy”, that’s not your job. I mean, maybe if you do your job well he’ll be happy about that, but the important thing is that the work gets done properly, not his emotional well-being.

  33. EmKay*

    Staying in this job would be somewhat akin to playing the violin as the Titanic sinks, no?

Comments are closed.