We've all had that moment, at least once in our working lifetimes. It's when the light bulb goes on bright in our brains and the realization hits: It's time to QUIT. Perhaps it's the boss screeching at you one too many times, or the sheer drudgery of the job overwhelming you with despair.
You've reached your last straw, and it just broke in half. Read on for tales of a few more obvious moments on the job that caused our contributors to realize that quitting was not an option, but a necessity.
Hosing off the poo
While hosing excrement off of a 75-year-old schizophrenic, I realized that my days working as a counselor in a partial-care facility for mentally and emotionally challenged adults was at an end. I mean, dealing with human waste wasn't in the job description.
I had gone to school to be a teacher but, toward the end of my master's program, which also would have granted my state certification, my marriage was imploding. I lost a wife, half my friends, two cats and my ability to finish the program in the divorce. With no other options, I fell into a profession that my bachelor of arts degree did qualify me for, which was social work. And I was good at it.
I started out working with at-risk teenagers in a non-profit organization, and after two years I bumped over to the for-profit arena at a day facility for emotionally and mentally challenged adults. Somehow, working with teenagers for two years qualified me for this.
One of our clients, we'll call him Joe, was that 75-year-old indigent man, who had schizophrenia and mild dementia. Occasionally, not realizing he was sitting on a couch and not the toilet, he would evacuate his bowels. A shower stall and hose were in place for just such an occurrence. After the second time it was my turn, I realized that I had to quit my job, that I needed to look into teaching again.
After an Alternate Route program that got me my teaching credential, I found myself in my new job, teaching in a high school. And now every time someone complains about hall duty or lunch monitoring, I just smile and say, "It could be so much worse."
– Scott W. Alten
Insult my pants? I'm gone!
Insult my intelligence, and I can handle it. But insult my pants, and that's the last straw!
I had been working at a classical music-presenting company in San Diego for two years when one day I was called into my boss's office, along with my co-worker, where he lectured us about our work attire. I never dressed unprofessionally, but he gave us both a lecture about the quality of the jeans we wore to work. No holes (of course, that's a no-brainer), make sure that they were pressed (What? Was I wrinkly?) and make sure that we looked kept-up.
I was making barely $25,000 a year at that job, and I knew my boss was making about $60,000. The income disparity between a fund-raising coordinator, and a fund-raising director was to be expected, but I guess that since his jeans cost $100 per pair and he could afford that, and I could barely afford the $40 jeans I was wearing, my choice in brand of pants just wasn't "work appropriate." That was the last straw. No one insults my pants and gets away with it!
For the last year that I worked with that company, I had worked under the fund-raising director, and for eight of those 12 months I was his only staff member. I was treated like an idiot at almost every turn. I just figured it was because I was young and naive and I knew I had a lot to learn. But looking back, my boss could have given more guidance and expected less telepathy on my part when trying to figure out what he wanted from my work.
I would be asked to produce a report, and I would produce it. Then I would be told that I did it incorrectly and he really wanted it another way, so I would regenerate the report with the new instructions that he should have given me the first time around! I would generate a batch of tax receipts, then he would tell me that he had already created a template for tax reporting, and direct me to re-print the batch of letters to go with them. He also pointed out that he didn't like the spacing between paragraphs and that I would need to change it.
So, I would take my stack of 50 letters and have to regenerate and reprint them. At special events, I was dismissed as "that girl in the background who fetches things and checks people in" while my boss schmoozed with our donors. I was underpaid, and knew it; needed the potential of upward mobility, but there was none; and would have liked more respect, which probably was never going to happen.
Since I was so young, having started at that company fresh out of college, I could take my intelligence being questioned on a daily basis. I knew I had a lot to learn. But the day my pants were insulted as well, that was the day I started looking very hard for a new job. Now, five years later, I work for a much larger company and have almost doubled my salary. Better yet, no one ever treats me like I'm dumb and no one ever criticizes my jeans!
– Annette Grieshaber
My first job before college turned from a money-saving plan into a nightmare.
When I took a summer job before my freshman year of college, it seemed like a perfect set-up. It was a part-time position at the University of Utah campus bookstore, working in the general books department. The pay was modest, but I saw it as a resume builder and figured any extra funds would help keep down my student-loan costs.
My well-laid plans were thwarted once I learned my boss had other ideas for me. To her, I was a pawn who existed solely to fill her needs. This became obvious when, a week before the start of my first semester, she scheduled me for work shifts during my classes. I protested the scheduling, only to be told I was needed for floor coverage during those times. My boss insisted I could miss the first week of class and be fine. She followed up by threatening to fire me if I continued to protest the bookstore's scheduling policies.
That conversation told me all I needed to know about that job. I went to college to get my degree, not to work part time in a bookstore. I went home, typed up a resignation letter and brought it in at the beginning of my shift -- the day before the semester started. Upon handing my boss the letter, I declared loudly I had quit and then turned and walked out of the store. My boss was speechless as I walked out after just three months on the job.
It felt good at the time to quit and it still feels like I made the right choice a decade later. Now, at 32 years of age, I am immersed in my true passion -- working as a writer. To me, John Coon: Professional Writer looks and sounds much better than John Coon: Part-time Bookstore Clerk, anyway.
– John Coon
A Syrupy mess
After three months of not finding construction work (my job of choice), I resorted to taking a job waiting on tables. I quickly learned I didn't have the vocabulary for this, as the words that were acceptable to spew out on a construction site will put family diners into a fit.
Needless to say, I was doomed from day one. Serving people food was not my forte. Especially the mouthy little twerps who are allowed to change their order, just as I'm setting what they ordered in front of them. Telling them that "you will eat what you ordered and you'll like it!" does not go over that well either.
My final moment came when waiting on a group of Brownies. Twelve of the noisiest little female squealers I've ever heard! I was able to handle them spilling a full juice carafe well enough, and their demands for more chocolate milk was tolerable, but when one of them jumped up and hit her head on my serving tray, which was full of pancakes and containers of syrup, well, that was it!
While the little gupper screamed at me about her hair being saturated with maple syrup, I started laughing hysterically. I'm sure the boss thought I'd slipped the surly bonds of sanity, because I kept on laughing as I walked out the door and all the way to my car.
I was still laughing when the boss called me and asked, "You're coming back, right?"
– Chip Clark
Dream job nightmares
At the age of 39, I found my dream job just in time. I had been a successful corporate manager for many years but always led a double life as an actor and all-things-theater amateur all my adult life. It was November 2009, I had been laid off during yet another downsizing, and I was also in early recovery from alcoholism. Things didn't look good.
But scouring through job listings on the Philadelphia Theater Alliance website, I stumbled upon a managing director position at the Hedgerow Theater Company, America's oldest repertory group, just outside Philly. After going through months of what were more like job auditions than interviews, I landed the job and dove in head first. Little did I know that the pool was shallow and I would get scraped so badly so quickly.
Looking back, it is like trying to remember a horror show where you kept your eyes closed the whole time. All I remember is weeks of grueling days and sleepless nights.
One night, I woke up at around 4AM, consumed with worry about the theater. I went to my computer and logged into my work e-mail account. My boss, the producing artistic director, had had a sleepless night, too, and had been blowing through e-mails, sending me countless messages in what I like to call screaming e-mails, ALL IN CAPS. I was overcome with panic. How would I get through the day? What was I doing checking work e-mails in the middle of the night? Would I be able to get back to sleep?
Only one answer came to mind: I need to drink!
That was the only answer I needed. I was not going back to being an alcoholic because of a job. So I sat down and calmly resigned from my post on the spot via an e-mail (with no shouting caps necessary), crawled back into bed and slept more soundly than I had in weeks. And I didn't drink.
I left the theater company with a mess and regret deeply how I quit. It was professionally irresponsible; I let down a lot of people including myself. It stung for a long time and I was thrown into a depression. Now, two years later and still sober, I am a massage therapist with a robust practice, and I write regularly. I have found a way to make money in a meaningful way and to create art. I am working my dream job now, even though it is something I could never have imagined before.
– Tom Burke
Everyone jokes that work is bad for your health. But I had a job once that really, truly was bad for me. The moment I realized that, I had no choice but to quit, and I don't regret a thing!
There I was, sitting in an artificially lit exam room, waiting on the doctor. I was attempting to fill out the "Headache Survey" the nurse had given me to complete. How often did I get a headache? How long did they last? What was the severity, on average? Rate the pain between 1 and 10, 10 being the worst pain you've ever felt.
I had a headache every day, and they never actually seemed to go away. They fluctuated in severity. At their worst, usually at bedtime after a long, trying day, I'd cry myself to sleep. Yep, overall, I'd rate my headaches around a 9 or 10.
Every morning when the alarm went off, and I got up to start my day, I could feel the dull pounding beginning in the back of my skull. The doctor asked myriad questions, trying to rule out causes of my constant pain. They didn't appear to be triggered by anything I was eating or drinking, nor by monthly hormone fluctuations. He wanted to know if I was under any stress.
Stress? I was raising two young boys, ages 6 and 8, trying to stay on top of school projects, sports activities, keeping our house running smoothly and working 40 hours a week. I didn't even have time to be stressed! And that's when it hit me.
The headaches weren't caused by caffeine, or my period or my children. They were triggered by my job.
When I had that "Aha!" moment, it all started to come full circle. I worked for a doctor who may have been one of the rudest, most disrespectful people on the face of the planet. I worked hard, covered for him when he blew off patients, took the brunt of his abuse and had been doing so for a few months. He was relentless, and mean no matter what. He would sit for hours in his posh office, talking "business" with different financial partners. Meanwhile, his afternoon's appointments, patients having arrived on time to see him about their Alzheimer's, brain tumors and multiple sclerosis sat in the waiting room, wondering where their doctor was.
Thirty minutes would pass and I would be quietly instructed to apologize for the doctor's tardiness, telling them he was "handling a hospital emergency." Once an hour had passed, their understanding started to fade. Should they just reschedule? Was the doctor going to be back soon? It was my job to make sure they stayed; I was NOT allowed to reschedule -- that made the doctor furious. If they left, he didn't get paid. If they left, he couldn't mark their chart, and charge the insurance companies for the office visit. If they got away, there was no way he could schedule them to have pricey, often unnecessary in-office procedures done.
Every now and then, a patient did leave, and he would fly into a rage. Charts, pens, pads of paper and other various office supplies would take flight as he threw them across the room. Veins would protrude from his temples and throb, his face turned a deep shade of maroon and he would stomp back down the hall to his office and slam the door. He would remain there for the better part of the afternoon, sulking.
I was sad for these patients of his, to have ended up with this despicable person as their doctor. He wasn't interested in healing or helping. He looked at his patients -- most of whom were diagnosed with debilitating or fatal conditions -- and all he saw were dollar signs. I realized I could no longer be associated with such an uncaring monster. I could only hope that the people under his so-called "care" would quickly see him for who he really was and find a better doctor, one who truly took an interest in their health and quality of life.
The afternoon following my headache appointment, as I waited for my migraine prescription to be filled, I spoke with the nurse and front desk clerk in the doctor's office I worked in. I explained to her that I wouldn't be into work the next day, or any day after that. They understood completely. The doctor's actions had often been the sad subject of our lunch conversations.
I drove to the office the next morning, earlier than usual, to drop off my parking pass and keys that I had been given. I left a letter which thanked the doctor for giving me some real perspective on life and stated to the records clerk that my resignation was effective immediately. She wished me luck, and with a huge smile on my face I rode the elevator down to the parking lot, never to set foot in that office again.
The next week, I took a job as a receptionist at a very small company, working for the same salary. I no longer have to lie to cover for my boss. I don't experience epic headaches. I took one pill from that prescription since it was filled. The bottle sits under my sink now, collecting dust.
– Carrie Lank
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