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I Fired My Boss and Quit My Job

Right before COVID-19 happened.

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hula girl figurine with post it note on desk
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The phone meeting with my boss and the new agency we hired didn’t go well. Understatement.

As soon as the meeting was over, my boss, let’s call her “B,” called to offer me some feedback. I had put in a little over a year at this job and felt like I was getting nothing but feedback.

My colleagues got their fair share, too, but they seemed more Teflon-coated than me. In truth, I rarely saw B, who traveled 85 percent of the time. Yet I was developing a severe allergic reaction to our interactions. I had three choices — to glean how to meet her expectations, grow a thicker skin or get a new job — because the constant criticism was wearing me down.

The next day I arrived at the office early. My team was overdue giving feedback to a client on a project. We needed B’s approval before sending and had given it to her for review five days earlier. Finally, that morning, she sent it back. I opened her email and started reading her notes.

In bold, she listed eight things I had done correctly but 28 things that I had done wrong. Twenty-eight! My eyes started to swim with the demands that we were expected to pull off ... yesterday.

I took a deep breath and hit print.


I could hear the printer start working down the hall. I scrolled down and down, and the email just kept going ... seven, eight, nine pages. I felt like a can of carbonated soda had been shaken up and cracked open inside of me. My head was going to explode.

No paycheck was worth this. Right then and there I decided to fire my boss. That’s right. Give her a pink slip and replace her with a superior superior.

So what if that technically meant I had to find a new job?

Just then my colleague, whom I adore, appeared in my office with a dozen pink tulips. They were the fancy kind, with the double petals, and wrapped in brown butcher paper. Her arm was outstretched.

“For you,” she said. “I heard yesterday’s meeting was rough.”

Zsing, the printer continued. “Do you hear that?” I asked her.

Zsing. “That’s the printer,” I continued. “B wants us to do 28 things before we can get back to the client."

My colleague’s jaw dropped.

Zsing, zsing, zsing, the printer continued its death march of helpful hints.

“I’m quitting,” I told my colleague.

She nodded sympathetically. We looked at each other for a moment.


And then quiet. That printer must have been exhausted.

“I’ll close your door,” she said, backing out.

I picked up the phone and dialed my boss. B answered chirpily, with forced cheer. She must have known I was calling about the 28-pointer.

“I’m calling to resign,” I said. “I don’t think I’m a good fit for this job.”

“OK,” she said in a high voice.

“OK?” I repeated, taken aback. “Is this what you wanted?”

“No,” she said, her voice still higher than usual.

Was she for real? I had a junior high school flashback of when a boyfriend manipulated me into breaking up with him, because he was too chicken to do it himself. B and I then started bickering about what would and would not be possible to accomplish in a single day.

“I was trying to help you, but I guess it’s not coming across in that way,” she said. We made an agreement to speak later in the day about a mutually beneficial end date. I would be the third departure within a month, which didn’t look good for the organization, and I didn’t have a job lined up, which wasn’t optimal for me. So, there were advantages to make this a “conscious uncoupling,” to borrow Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce euphemism.

We hung up. All joking aside, this felt very much like a breakup. I respected my boss, but we had irreconcilable creative differences about management and motivation.

Once the tingling in my body started to dissipate, I tried to catalog my emotions. First of all, shock and awe. Quitting had not been on that day’s to-do List. I was disappointed to not be able to carry out the complicated reorg that had recently won board approval. Also, I loved my team and would miss them.

Another part of me felt defeated. A born pleaser, I had become adept over the years about intuiting a boss’s needs, and yet I was unable to crack B’s code. Was I losing my touch?

Still, an exhilarating relief was rising within me. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I was never going to change B. And to be fair, maybe B didn’t need changing. She was the boss, and it was her prerogative to treat people as she liked. But I had to admit, the premise of finding a leader who would appreciate my skills, experience and ideas filled me with giddy hope.

The last time I fired my boss, it was world-rocking. After years of being judged by my inner critic, I finally woke up to the self-flagellation and sent her packing. Thanks to years of therapy, solid girlfriends, and even my yoga and meditation practices, I slowly but surely learned how to switch the voice in my mind from harsh to encouraging. Amazingly, it enabled me to accomplish even more.

Little did I know, however, that the coronavirus would strike the following week. The country would head into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment rates would soar to unprecedented heights. Finding any new boss was suddenly a daunting prospect.

And still, I’ve had no regrets. Sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith.

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