Ever had such a bad boss that you felt physically ill? This is a personal story of an event that forever changed my life. It started that horrific Friday. My husband sensed something terrible had happened to me after I arrived home that day. Sitting across the table, my eyes welled with tears as I thrust the document across to him. In disbelief, he held my hand repeating “I love you sweetie and we’ll get through this”.
When I first started, I loved my office manager job and took great pride in making sure everything ran smoothly. My life became hell shortly after they hired my new supervisor three and a half years' ago. He was lazy, an arrogant bully, and even worse completely incompetent. Not only was I doing his job making him look good, he resented me and searched for ways to belittle me. For example, once he stated to my face “We have no female managers”. His secrecy became worse with each passing month. To illustrate, people changed their office locations which involves moving computers, phone lines, etc. Unbelievably, he didn’t think it was important to let me, the office manager, know.
After seven and a half years of dedicated and exemplary service he had, finally, found a way to "put me in my place" with his exaggerated over the top disciplinary action; a first and final warning threatening immediate termination. That weekend was hell with a seesaw of so many emotions – fear, anger, shock, disbelief to name only a few. It was horrible and draining on both me and my husband. It consumed our thoughts! I dreaded going into work Monday and the smug expression I was sure to see on his face.
When I started thinking about the situation that had been thrust on me, the anger and indignation kicked in. Thoughts whirled like a tornado in my head making it hard to think straight. It was so unfair. I didn’t deserve what had been done to me as I had always been an exceptional employee. How dare they treat me that way? I felt betrayed, abandoned and extremely pissed off! Hurt, shock, disbelief and anger cannot even describe how I was feeling. A pay check was not worth going back knowing he would hold this over my head for the rest of my days to “keep me in line”. Starting over again at 55 years of age isn't easy in this day and age. And knowing it might be a while before I saw a pay check again, if ever.
Surely, I could put up with my "bosshole" for a few more months until I found another job. Otherwise, how would I cover the car payment, household expenses, and health benefits? My pay check was deposited into my bank every two weeks. Now, I would have NO money coming in. You can imagine my dilemma and concern. The more I stressed about money, the more terrified I became. Like most of us, I wished I had more retirement savings (for more details, see Baby Boomer Facts). I felt sick to my stomach, wondering if I was over reacting. I am independent and didn’t want to put my husband in the position of supporting me. That would be completely foreign to my nature and not how I lived my life. However, now that I was out of my prison, I didn’t want to go back EVER and, in retrospect, definitely not worth even considering.
Struggling all my life with self-esteem / self-doubt issues, I had come to accept the treatment I received at work without question. However, my self value should not need to be "validated” by someone else’s opinion. I knew I was highly competent and did my job (and his) exceptionally well. Yet, most days, I returned home feeling beaten up and completely emotionally drained.
My appetite diminished and sleep was elusive. I started to suffer from migraines and my blood pressure became alarmingly high (almost stroke level). My health was deteriorating.I panicked I would sink into that “dark place”. Once before, I was there and I never wanted to return. In short, this job was killing me day by day.
You know how hard it is to focus on yourself (and not someone else) without thinking about being self-centered. I didn't want to be thought of as one of those people. Putting myself first does not come naturally. However, it became clear that I needed to leave this job as soon as possible.
My favorite saying all my life was my saving grace. “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”. Recognizing I have so many opportunities open to me was important. Because of all my experience, willingness to learn and openness, I can be or do anything I want. I am the only one slowing me down. Remembering this calmed some of the emotions. It redirected my thoughts. I decide what is important to me. My options are endless. The question is to decide what is a good fit for me, my convictions and my lifestyle.
The rug had been pulled out from under me. And I felt taken advantage of and undervalued. Yet, it was the colleagues I worked with that I cared most about and I worried how it would be for them after I left. If you have been in a similar situation, you can relate to the emotions that flooded through me. However, I reminded myself that it was time to move onward.
Loneliness and being alone (or solitude) are two different things. I enjoy being alone and not being dependent upon others to entertain me. Whereas it is good for my peace-of-mind, I was scared to death that that I might slip into total social isolation. That has happened to me in the past and the work environment makes it easier to stay connected with people. Unfortunately, my bad boss from hell had created a high stress environment and I definitely needed less stress in my life! I had enough of that over the last seven and a half years. The truth, I realized, was that I was burnt out and needed to change to better look after myself emotionally and physically.
“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.”
My decision was not made lightly yet anything else was infinitely better than continuing in that toxic environment with a "bosshole". The total surprise and panicked look on his face after submitting my two weeks' notice was bittersweet. It was only at that moment did it dawn on him that he had pushed me too far. Completely oblivious to my daily misery, his disciplinary action was the final straw that broke the camel’s back following months and years of suffering in silence.
Feeling calm, I knew it was best decision I could make and that helped me survive those two weeks. After learning I was leaving, my assistant broke into tears stating that "I was the best boss she ever had". Others were in disbelief and highly skeptical that the office would ever function smoothly again. Each of them had dealt with him in the past, seldom gaining any timely resolution when issues arose.
True to form, he strutted about like a “chicken hawk” (remember the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons?) acting as if he could easily handle everything alone. Full of self importance, he announced my position would be filled as an administrative role saying an office manager was no longer required. Interestingly, the job description included all my previous responsibilities with less pay and no title. The question was posed if I would consider working a few more weeks to train my replacement. As you can imagine, at that point, I was counting the hours to finally be rid of him.
Understanding and embracing all your special talents gives you the foundation to realize work is an extremely small portion of your worth. My leaving was the best decision I ever made and really was my only option. Today, my health, peace of mind and positivity are recovering quickly. You are only as old as you feel. And you can only learn what you think you learn. Work to live not live to work. Most of the time, you are your own biggest barrier. I know you are worried that when it comes time to retire, you won’t be ready financially or emotionally. In fact, everyone has the same thoughts!
Being able to work full time on our own business is much more rewarding and fun. Now, I have time to explore options to help others realize there is so much more to life than work. And learning new skills such as building this website literally had me pulling my hair out at times.
Also, it is immensely satisfying to create something new. Challenging yourself, even when something is scary, can open you up to a wonderful world you didn’t know existed. So even if it freaks the crap out of you, do what you know deep down is right for you, your sanity, your happiness and your life.
In conclusion, a bad boss can change your life forever. And, sometimes, it is the best thing that can happen to you. Although I had been in management positions my entire working career, it was no longer enough to exchange my time for a paycheck. I wanted and needed new challenges that actually do make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Baring my soul to share my journey to “hell and back” pushed me way out of my comfort zone. My desire and hope is that my experiences will provide insights and inspiration that may help others. And my husband was right, we did get through this, the bad boss is gone, my health improved 100% and I transformed with a completely new direction, excitement and happiness.