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

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who was ready to rage-quit her job? Here’s the update.

I’m happy to say that my work life is so much healthier and happier now.

I should start by saying that, at the time I wrote, my boss Alex was just a couple of weeks into a 3-month block of parental leave. I didn’t mention this for the sake of brevity because I wanted your advice and your word count instructions are pretty clear. But it’s important context for this follow-up.

I’m a big believer that not all bad things are created equal. We have to accept some discomfort in life. I’m not saying that we should tolerate any bad treatment. But I didn’t write in because I was being abused, demeaned, put at risk, underpaid, exploited or anything like that. I just had a boss who really aggravated me sometimes. Your letter helped me de-escalate my emotions and approach the problem in a more rational way.

A week or so after you published my letter, Alex and I had a conversation that allowed me to naturally bring up the “work is the only thing that makes me happy” outburst I mentioned in my letter. I told him it was unfair to say stuff like that to me because it put me in an awkward position, and that he shouldn’t treat work as an outlet when he’s upset because it causes him to make ineffective decisions. He really understood where I was coming from and committed to doing better, which included actually stepping back from the business during his leave.

Alex kept his word for two and a half months. He actually took time and space during his leave to focus on his family life. He trusted me completely, and I got to really prove myself in his absence. I signed our biggest client to date, increased our scope with existing clients and cut our costs dramatically. Within a few weeks of Alex’s return from leave, we were in the black, making healthy profit every month.

He and I have also put a lot of effort into our working relationship. Brevity (and my own pissed-offness) kept me from discussing the good things about Alex’s personality in my letter, but he really is a very open-hearted, caring person. That’s made a huge difference in this situation, and allowed me to approach it differently than a lot of people might be able to do with their bosses. We’ve come to really understand each other’s priorities and motivations, which makes it easier for us to trust each other. I think the initial letter I wrote displays a mutual lack of trust. There are still times when we butt heads, but the fact that we trust each other keeps those conflicts minor.

Alex and I are very different in some ways, but we’re alike in many ways too. We offset each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well. It’s a healthy, supportive partnership that I think will bring us both a lot of satisfaction and success in the long term. We’re currently negotiating a formal partnership agreement that would see me recieve 50% ownership of the company. I want to wait a little bit longer before I officially sign on since the business is carrying some debts I don’t want to take on, but we’re on track to pay those off quickly. I feel confident about the business we are building together.

One thing I wanted to note here—when you published my letter, there were a lot of people in the comments who were adamant that I must quit my job because it would never improve. No offense to your readers, but there’s a reason why you’re the expert. I really liked the amount of nuance and rationality you brought to your answer. It was just what I needed. Sometimes bad things are minor enough that they can be tolerated. And sometimes, bad things can actually get better.

Many, many people in the world work under abusive, exploitative or unsafe conditions. I am 100% in favor of those folks doing whatever is necessary to improve their lives. But I think it’s important for those of us whose problems are merely annoying to put that in perspective. There’s no such thing as a perfect job, or a perfect boss. I could spend the rest of my life chasing that ideal. Instead, I accepted and dealt with the relatively minor flaws in my workplace. The end result is as close to perfect as I think I’ll get.

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    Really great perspective and realism – congratulations for being assertive and for your success in your role!

  2. Venus*

    I’m very happy for you, and your experience is a good reminder that having a detailed conversation is often helpful.

    I do agree that many commenters often leap too quickly to suggest quitting, however in your case you did specifically mention the option of rage quitting, and I think a lot of people write in to ask for advice that confirms plans that they already have in mind. “I shouldn’t rage quit, should I?” tends to be viewed as “I want to do this, please tell me that it’s a valid option and give me permission” and in your case it was a valid option. You ended up choosing a much better path, and thank you for sharing it!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also, the LW omitted a lot of information that might have garnered different responses had we known it.

      1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        This. People can only analyze the situation with the information that the OP decides is relevant.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Alison’s first sentence was “Rage quitting isn’t a great answer, but regular quitting (after lining up another job) might be.”

            1. Rosie*

              Right like it’s great that talking to Alex worked but if it hadn’t then yes, finding a new job and quitting would have been the next logical course of action.

            2. SimplytheBest*

              “Might be” isn’t “this is your only option.” Which is exactly what OP is saying when she references Alison’s nuance in her answer.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Also when you mention the company is in financial trouble, a lot of us believe in protecting yourself from your check bouncing one day. If the company is in financial trouble, that is often the Owner’s job to fix, not an employee’s. The fact OP saved the company while the boss was gone is great. But, you can’t always counting on being able to do that.

        1. Observer*

          That’s true. But it seems to me that one of the reasons that the business was in trouble was the way the boss was handling situations. By being able to step back and trust his staff to do their thing, they were able to do their thing (which includes signing new clients and keeping existing clients happy.)

            1. pancakes*

              It also seems that a key part of what turned things around for the letter writer is the potential to take part ownership of the company. Being trusted to make decisions is an essential part of that, but for employees at less senior levels of responsibility and with no likelihood of ownership, working for a boss who is a bad communicator, etc., often isn’t nearly as worthwhile.

        2. Delta Delta*

          That’s the part I picked up on, as well. I had a vision that Alex was micromanaging a sinking ship, and that one day they’d all show up to a padlocked office.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I think the point is, that’s always going to be the case. People will include the most pertinent details about a specific problem and not have space to include everything that might be relevant.

        Wonderful update, LW!

      4. T. Boone Pickens*

        I mean…that rarely stops the commentariat from speculating regardless. See: the rampant run of self-diagnoses that takes place whenever there would be a LW that would write in asking for help focusing on work tasks and the comments would devolve into ADHD talk.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I think overall the commenters have good intentions but there’s definitely a tendency On the Internet to jump straight to the nuclear option (leave your job! fire that report! divorce your spouse! cut off contact with your parents!) and… in some case yes that is the right choice but a lot of times there are steps in between that might help turn things around.

      5. Myrin*

        As far as I can see, the only thing OP didn’t originally mention was that Alex was on paternity leave – which I honestly don’t think would’ve changed Alison’s answer or the commentariat’s reaction – and that he is generally “a very open-hearted, caring person” – which also probably wouldn’t have changed Alison’s answer and which the commentariat would’ve instantly dismissed. Is there something crucial she left out that I’m missing (totally possible; I only skimmed the original letter just now)?

        1. Loulou*

          Agreed. I don’t think the parental leave detail changes the advice all that much. I DO think that the commenters who suggested quitting were likely responding to the tone or the letter, which was very emotional. Quitting was definitely not the only answer (and I’m glad OP found a solution that worked!) but it seems clear that the level of frustration OP was dealing with was unsustainable.

        2. Batgirl*

          I think it’s pretty relevant. It’s a temporary situation for one thing, whereas the original letter read more as “this is what Alex is permanently like”. It’s also to be expected that people going through big life changes will be somewhat more emotionally charged than normal. I’d be more inclined to sit down and chat things out with someone who was not taking parental leave in the predictable way than I would with someone who was unable to take a standard vacation without turning to work as an emotional crutch. One thing is tweakable, the other is hard wired. I think this is a reminder that letter writers can’t fit everything in and to trust their judgement because they are the ones on the ground.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I’ve just checked through and the vast majority of “you should probably quit” comments refer to LW’s slightly throwaway reference to “the company, which is in serious financial trouble”. They seem to have taken it as if all the comments were, “Your personal problems with Alex are insoluble, you should find another job”, but actually everyone was kind of, “we’re worried that the company is going to go bust, your personal problems with the manager seem like a distraction.”

      I’m glad LW turned it around, with Alex’s support, but based on the letter LW sent in I don’t think most people would change their response!

    3. Data Analyst*

      Totally. It’s why like half the updates are “that was good advice but I ended up just leaving for a different job.” Which is totally valid and I love those updates too! But it happens so often that, yes, the assumption can become “this person wants permission to quit.”

      1. Smithy*

        I agree. I also think that there are some motivations that people have for staying at jobs that are never going to be easy to include in a letter, and for commenters it really can on devolve into wild speculation.

        I have a friend who for a very long time, her stated professional dream was to work for this very larger employer who has a very competitive hiring process. She was on a path to getting a full time job there, but it was a job she really did not like, on a team she did not like, etc etc etc. When hearing her talk about it, there was always the advice of – if this remains the path you want then you need to focus on tricks to survive day to day in this job. Which were mostly things like creating boundaries from work and finding ways to unwind at home – but it was clear she always wanted to hear advice on how to fix a system that my experience at least taught me could not be fixed.

        Every now and then I’d mention that she could always try to look at jobs in the same sector with a different employer, but kept that light if it wasn’t what she wanted and being sensitive to that larger aspiration/dream I knew she had. With most letters, I think its easy for commenters to just say its ok to leave. But it’s also hard for letter writers to include those larger dreams and subtle positives without being far too specific. Someone says “dream job” and then talks about how unhappy their daily life at work is – and it’s just hard to capture the specifics of why the job is a “dream job” without getting really personal.

        All to say, thrilled this worked out for the OP.

      2. Loulou*

        Especially because the framing of the letter was “is it unfair to my boss to quit?” Even if OP shouldn’t quit, it’s not because quitting would be unfair to their boss.

  3. Observer*

    That’s a great outcome.

    I don’t think that the additional information would have changed Allison’s advice so much, but it definitely is helpful in understanding the outcome you got.

    The reason I say that is that Allison does make it clear that if you hadn’t talked to your boss, that’s your first step. To be honest, she was right that more often than not it doesn’t work in a situation like yours – and the fact that he was on parental leave doesn’t really change that. But, as she ALSO pointed out, it does sometimes work, and it’s worth trying.

    I’m very, very glad for everyone’s sake that the conversation worked.

  4. Erin Johnson*

    “Brevity (and my own pissed-offness) kept me from discussing the good things about Alex’s personality in my letter, but he really is a very open-hearted, caring person.”

    I’m now picturing Alex as Darryl Whitefeather from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; not great at boundaries, but super-sweet, and capable of learning (including about boundaries)

    One of his employees comments at one point, that the first time she saw him with his daughter, she thought “ohhh, THAT’S what he’s good at!” – that comment was made directly to him, and it didn’t adversely affect their working relationship.

  5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    This is a wonderful update. I’m especially glad that OP called out those who were saying to just quit because it wouldn’t get any better. This happens all too often on internet forums. Commenters tend to forget that people do sometimes take the OP’s words seriously and try to improve, and all too often the OP hasn’t had a proper, honest conversation. Alison points out the salient facts, cutting through the emotion to look at how the work is affected, and helps the OP frame the issue in a way that shows clearly what needs to change.
    And yes, when writing in with a problem, people don’t always mention the good parts.
    Well done, OP, for navigating all that. You’re obviously a stellar employee since you brought the firm back from the brink of bankruptcy while the boss was away for three months. Getting 50% ownership is a very just reward for your skills.

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