The Time I Quit12 Feb 2016
In my last post, I focused on all of my successes in 2016. Lest anyone think I’m perfect, I thought it would be fun to write a post about a time I quit a job.
It was January, 2014. I’d been working this job for about a month. It was a bit of an odd situation. I had been hired as a part time receptionist for a tiny little company. There were 5 people in the office, not including myself. The office was tiny. Everyone had their own office room, but we were all pretty much on top of each other. The takeaway here is that it was impossible to have a conversation without everyone else in the company hearing.
The receptionist before me was apparently fired. All I’d heard was something like “He just wasn’t cutting it.” I mean, it’s reception. What could he have been doing, swearing at people who called in? How can you not cut it as a receptionist? Maybe he just didn’t show up. Who knows. I was there now.
At the time, I was also doing a part time internship learning Ruby on Rails. They provided me a sweet 15” Macbook Pro Retina. The receptionist gig had a laptop shared between the receptionists that was a hunk of junk with Windows 8 on it. Which computer would you want to use? I would take the Macbook and do as much of the work on there as I possibly could.
When I first started the job, I sat down with one of the two bosses and he handed me a paper with a bunch of activities I could do while I was working there. I don’t really remember what was on it, but one of the things was improving the Windows installers that were written using NSIS. I was told to learn things that would be “potentially useful to the company”. I think this is where the first major gap in expectations surfaced.
First, I thought I was hired to be a receptionist, not a developer. I’d never been a receptionist before, I honestly thought they just chilled all day and answered phones. Is that not what they do? Second, I heard “Learn things potentially useful to us” and they heard “Do the things on this paper”.
So I spent about a month chilling, answering the phone, and learning Ruby on my Macbook.
I should add that the nature of the company was software. But, they didn’t actually have any developers in the office (or at all?). There were the two bosses (owners), and three support/sales guys. I should also add that the software was literally written in Visual Basic. Combine those two things together, and what do you get? A crap ton of phone calls when the software literally doesn’t work at all. There was no calling system that customers would get, they would just come straight to me. Most of the customers had existing relationships with the support guys, so having to talk to me was pretty annoying to them. They just wanted to go straight to the support guys, and why wouldn’t they? Also, the company had just started using an online support ticket system. I was supposed to fill one out with their issue and their info. That added to their frustration. Add to that equation an idiot receptionist kid that had no idea what he was doing, and it turned into a pretty ugly situation more often than not.
I don’t really know how that’s all relevant to the story. Maybe the point is that my job was at least a little unenjoyable? It wasn’t like I was playing tetris all day or something.
From time to time, one of the boss guys would give me a specific task to do. More often than not, it was importing new customer data into their database. It’s not like the database was centralized or anything, I’m pretty sure they ran a local instance of it on all customer’s machines. I don’t know how that worked if a customer had more than one machine to run the software on. Anyways, they’d get an excel spreadsheet of all the customer data. Things like phone numbers, names, addresses, the usual stuff. So what they’d have me do is manually go through each customer entry and make sure phone numbers were standardized, and addresses were standardized. The spreadsheets were enormous, like thousands of lines long. As you can imagine, it took a really, really long time to do all of that. So I thought to myself “I’ll write a ruby program to do that for me!” So from then, I’d spend free time playing around with manipulating excel files and stuff.
I think it’s important to note that I never told my bosses what I was actually doing here. To be honest, I didn’t really think they cared. I figured as long as I was answering the phones, they were pretty much okay. They also didn’t really ask what I was doing. I was just out there on my macbook doing my thing.
As time went on, I started feeling more and more tension from the boss guys. The office already had a pretty weird dynamic since everyone was more or less sharing an office. But I just got weirder and weirder vibes from everyone. I chalked it up to maybe the business was struggling due to the massive technical debt that comes with having your entire codebase written in Visual Basic.
One day, I went into work and things were really weird. One of the boss guys was gone on vacation, or signing a customer or something. The boss guy that was in was the same one that initially gave me the run-down and the sheet of paper with activities on it. First, he meets with one of the support guys. He basically just gave him a raise. I know, because the door was open the whole time. The support guy was super nice, I was really happy for him. Next, boss guy wanted to meet with me.
I went in and had a seat. He asked me “Why do you think we hired you?” That’s an awkwardly loaded question, isn’t it? It definitely set a passive aggressive tone. I don’t really remember what I said, I mean what would you say? I think it was something like “You thought I’d be a good receptionist.” He said “We hired you because of your technical abilities. We thought you’d be able to help us with our installer scripts, our website, and other stuff.” That was news to me! From there he basically descended into a half rant, half lecture speech about how I had done nothing they had asked me to and how if I thought I could just waltz in with my laptop and do homework or whatever it was I was doing, I should just leave right now.
I’d like to break here and make a note. I specifically remember him saying the part about doing my homework. I wasn’t even close to being in school at the time. They knew that! Maybe it was a slight on his part, but if they seemingly knew that little about me, how could they know what my technical abilities are? I’ll never know what exactly they thought I could do for them.
Going back the the speech, I would estimate he went on for somewhere in the 5 - 10 minute range. What I thought was really interesting though, was he wasn’t even really asking me questions. It was just like getting yelled at by your dad or something. He just kept going and going, beating a dead horse and with each passing second, another nail was driven into the coffin of that job for me.
This was basically my train of thought: If this guys is legitimately this mad at me, and this is the first I’ve ever heard that they even had an issue with me, this relationship was over. A total failure. Maybe I should have been more perceptive, maybe they should have been more forthcoming with me. Whatever, it was over.
And really, with each sentence of his tirade, I lost more and more respect for the boss guy, the company, and the job. I mean this guy was completely beside himself, practically seething. I honestly thought at any moment he was going to just lose it completely. I’m glad he didn’t I guess. If that was how they operated, there was absolutely no way this relationship last. It was like we were in separate universes, with no possibility of ever touching base. It was over.
He cooled off a bit and ended his speech by telling me to get back out there and get their software installed on the Windows laptop so I could start learning it so I could help with the support calls. I’ll admit, I was at least a little bit hurt. It was especially awkward since all the other guys had clearly heard the whole thing. But I try not to let my pride get in the way of my responsibilities. I was married and felt like I had an obligation to my wife to provide for us. It was a job that provided me money. So I did go back out there and tried my best to install their software. In hindsight I should have just stood up and walked straight out of that office never to return without saying a word.
So I went back out and attempted to install their software (futilely). Next up on the boss guy’s list was another support guy. What’s interesting here though is that boss guy actually went to the support guy’s office for their chat. I was still pretty shaken up from my chat, so I can’t really remember the details of their conversation. What I do remember is that support guy just broke down. There were literally tears, even sobbing to an extent. At that point it was pretty clear to me that this was not a nice place to work. I remember boss guy being not comforting at all, and if anything he was maybe even cold. He was just kind of like “Well, I’m not sure what to tell you”.
After that, boss guy went back to his office and called up (presumably) the other boss guy. Remember, the other boss guy was gone this whole time. What I heard was something like “Yeah, uh huh. Yeah I told him. Yep. Yeah I talked to him too. I don’t know what’s going on, he’s pretty upset, he’s crying. Yeah I’m not sure what to tell him. Okay, yep, talk to you later.”
After that call ended, he hollered out to me “How’s that installation going Dave?”. “Screw you” is what I wish I would have said, but I said something like “Okay”. Well, I couldn’t get the software to install. That was the last straw. This company was so dysfunctional that I literally couldn’t even get the installer to run. I was 100% done with that. So I sat there for about 5 minutes and thought about the consequences of quitting. I pretty quickly determined the consequences would be 100% worth it. I texted my wife something like “I think I’m going to quit”.
I packed up my stuff, and stepped into boss guy’s office, bag in hand. I said “Hey, in light of all that was said, I’m just going to go.” I’ll never forget the look on boss guy’s head. It was a perfect mix of confusion, shock, and relief. He said “Yeah, if that’s what you want to do”. I said “Yep.” and walked out the door.
It was a pretty upsetting experience for me all in all. It definitely doesn’t feel good to have your boss tell you you suck at your job. Especially when your job is a receptionist. But you know what? Forget those guys. Here’s where I get 🐓y: I literally have so much abilities and potential, losing me was a HUGE loss to that company. It’s like they threw away a diamond in the rough. But they were so entrenched in their own thing, they couldn’t even stop and say “Hey, there’s a diamond in here. Let’s try and break it out!” Well, good riddance.
You’re probably reading this and thinking “Man, this is a really one sided story”. Well it is, because it’s my side of the story. And if you by some miracle you’re reading this and you were involved in this story, please, be my guest, write your own blog post about it. This is my blog, and I get to write about what I want. If you have a problem with that, please don’t visit my site.
Here’s what I took away from this experience: First, if you work somewhere and you’re getting “vibes”, you probably shouldn’t work there any more. What I mean is that if your superiors don’t even have the management skills to let you know how they feel about you, so they send “vibes” instead, your supervisors are probably not very good ones. Second, don’t just assume people are okay with what you’re doing. Give them an out. “Is it okay if I do this?” “Is there something else you’d rather have me be doing?”. It’s a lot easier to bridge expectations early on. If you wait, you can easily end up in my shoes here and by that point the relationship is irreparable. Third, if you feel like quitting, you should. What I mean is, every job has aspects that are not fun. My Dad used to say “There’s a reason they call work work and not fun.” However, if you’re not happy, you’re not happy. Life’s simply too short and too precious to waste it toiling at some labor you despise, or to suffer emotional distress from a job. I can promise you, you can find a job that you enjoy and find fulfillment from. It won’t always be fun, but you can enjoy it just the same. Maybe you need to improve your skills first, but every step is like climbing a rung in the ladder.