Interview With A Former Coworker Who Went to Lunch and Never Came Back

How long did we work together?

Two months? Close to two months.

Last Tuesday you went to lunch and never came back!


It was totally unexpected. We have a very difficult boss, who shall go unnamed, but you’ve always handled her calmly. You never lost your cool.

Oh no. I did once. I think you were out of town. It was during a project for [household brand]. It was due that day and she just stood over me for two hours. Whenever it took a while to do something, she’d start sighing really loudly and telling me to hurry up. She was saying things in this taunting way. I think she knew I was mad and wanted to push me. It was, like, this third grade moment. At one point, I snapped and said, “This is the way I do it!” I think she knew she’d pushed me too far.

At the end of the day, I wanted to smooth things over for losing control. I high-fived her and things were cool. I apologized, but she didn’t really acknowledge anything she’d done. I wanted to produce great work and do a good job, but I found it so difficult in that environment with her.

She apologized to me the first time I got mad at her. It was maybe three weeks in. She hated everything I’d done that day, but had no useful feedback. I’m really patient—as in former-Special-Ed-teacher patient—but I had just had it. So I raised my voice and she backed down. Later, she apologized, and she’s been better since I stood up for myself. She does these little things sometimes when she knows she’s been mean or inappropriate.

Yeah, like, “Hey, come check out this band I saw last weekend,” after saying, “Don’t ever fucking do that again” and freaking out about something small like a font. I think she gets away with talking to her team like that, because they’re all freelancers. No one should be treated that way. This was the last time I’ll work in an environment like that.

When you didn’t come back, she was storming around the office and called you a douche. I told her I didn’t think you’d just leave. I worried that something awful happened, like you had a seizure and had been taken to the hospital. Or you got this call that there was a family emergency, and you were distraught and went to take care of it.

Ha, nope! She actually called me that day, trying to sound like she cared. But at the very end of the call she said, “Uh, we have to get [household brand] project out, so…”

Why did you just leave like that?

I’ve been depressed for weeks. It’s been hard to get out of bed. It wasn’t the work or the place. It was the boss. Dealing with her is like walking on eggshells. I’m a designer, and being around someone like that blocks my creativity. I was more worried about making her mad than I was about doing good work. It makes for lame work and a lame day. The morning I left, she pulled me into her office to talk about something I’d turned in. It was a quick first round, but she acted like it was supposed to be perfect. She started talking about how I need to make a checklist of all these things to do before I show anything to her. Really obvious stuff that I do already. She talked to me like I’m an intern and made me feel worthless.

She also said that I was the freelancer costing her the most money. I thought it was bullshit. This job was the lowest-paying and most abusive freelance gig I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t what I want to do. I won’t show any of the work in my portfolio.

So when I went to lunch, I thought, “I feel like shit working there. I’m not going back.”

Set the scene. Where were you eating lunch?

At Pret. I had a tuna sandwich.

Did you have this epiphany at the end of the meal, or when you first went to lunch?

I was sitting there, getting ready to go back to the office. And I just dreaded going back.

You didn’t think of going back, saying what you had to say, and then quitting?

I just wanted to leave. That morning, she said there wasn’t going to be any work between Christmas and New Year’s, so I thought I may as well start searching for a new job now. If I hadn’t walked out, I would’ve stayed until Monday before the holidays and then taken off. And I mean, I kinda wanted to spite her, too.

You emailed me to see if things were okay, but I didn’t want to tell you what was going on and put you in the middle. I didn’t want you to feel like you had to lie. I figured I’d give it a day before explaining what happened.

You’re so considerate when you’re going AWOL! And you know, no one else was mad at you. Everyone was like, “You do you.”

I did me! I felt bad about that, because I knew someone had to finish what I was working on. I don’t think I was doing anything due that day, though.

So what happened with the staffing agency that placed you at the job in the first place?

I contacted them the day after I left, and they were really understanding. I explained what happened. The boss puts off this cool, spunky older lady vibe, but I think they know she’s crazy. I told them I’m looking for something else. I’ve had a great relationship with them. They’ve placed me at other jobs that went really well.

So what’s next?

I’m looking for another job, and I have money to survive on in the meantime. I got divorced in 2011 and lost a lot of cash that I’d been saving. So things are tighter now, but I have enough to float me while I hunt for the next job. But here’s something funny: The day I left at lunch reminded me of leaving my broken marriage. I felt the weight come off.

I really wouldn’t recommend doing what I did, though. Some might say it’s brave; some might say it’s stupid. I think it was both. But it was kind of fun.

Any advice for the next person in your cubicle?

Beat my record: Stay three months!


Amanda Green lives in New York.


30 Comments / Post A Comment

Oh yeah. I had a toxic boss (toxic as in I not infrequently vomited before going in to work) and one day we were totally slammed and she was hovering over my shoulder giving me some bullshit about these ALT/AST levels and then taking over my workstation, compromising my ability to reach our precious turn around times… I was so pissed, and then, as I was finishing up work at yet another station, because her precious favorite who whined about being broke all the time, wouldn’t take on extra work… I typed up my two weeks notice, and handed it in to her that day.

@TrotskyHolds MyiPod One of the best feelings I ever had. Freeeeeeeeeee!

erinep (#4,236)

Good for you!

Also, you guys, the article tags. “he simply vanished into the pret”

halloliebchen (#5,373)

I came for the article, and stayed for the tags.
Also this is my fantasy every day.

sea ermine (#122)

“he simply vanished into the pret” omg, this is perfect.

echolikebells (#3,272)

These tags though. Also seriously I fantasize about this every day through the watery-eyes and nausea that precede any time I have to come into the office, whether it is for the day or back from lunch. My hero!

Nibbler (#5,331)

Good for you, mystery former coworker! I did this once, but I was a college student at an unpaid internship, so I felt like I was being cowardly and unprofessional by slinking off during lunch. But I just could not go back to the office after the guy in charge insisted that I change a detail in an article to be incorrect, simply because he thought he knew what he was talking about. It makes me feel a little better to hear someone else has done this.

I actually don’t think I even ate lunch; I just walked around in a huff for a while, then sat down on a public bench and sent an email from my phone saying I wasn’t coming back, then I took the subway home and told my parents I’d quit my summer internship. I still don’t regret doing it, even though it would have been the only newspaper job on my resume.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@Nibbler My friend who works in fashion says this happens with their interns ALL THE TIME. She says that she sort of encourages them to do so too, just because the industry is so brutal and they’d be so much better off just getting out.

ThatJenn (#916)

Ah, it’s so nice to read about this fantasy come true for someone.

I don’t feel this way about my current job, but I’ve had several where I did. Including one where I almost did this: After leaving my keys and an official resignation letter at my desk, I called the boss’s cell phone and work phone right after work one day, let her know I had to quit effective immediately, and left her an email with the same info. She… didn’t bother checking any of those until an hour after I was supposed to be there the next day, and just sent an email saying “Thank you.” in response to my email. Never heard from her again but have seen her around occasionally (she looks away and ignores me).

I don’t feel GOOD about it, exactly, but I was actually scared of this woman and afraid that a really, really bad confrontation might occur if I told her in person. As it was, my replacement called me a few months later and we discussed her case for turning the boss lady in to child services [she ran a very small school that was basically a homeschool group]. So… glad I got out when I did.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

I had a job for one year where I dreamed of doing this every day. I did not have the guts, but I took up boxing during that time and pictured my boss on every bag. I only stayed as long as I did because the boss disappeared to South America for a few months (to “telework”), and suddenly my life became so peaceful that my head was finally clear enough to look for a new job. Now I just have funny stories, but they are only funny because I am so many years removed.

gl (#5,458)

I fantasize about this every single day.

madrassoup (#929)

Maybe I’m too sensitive, but the interviewer sounds a little undermining. Like, “I wasn’t mad at you but she called you a douche! Just thought you should know!” Why is that helpful? It seems like the coworker was in a not great place, is probably already doing some second-guessing over how things went down and, likely suspects that the boss did some smack-talking (although, as I write that, I wonder if I’m being undermining now?). I don’t know. Again, I’m probably too sensitive.

samburger (#5,489)

@madrassoup idk, I felt like the interviewer was substantiating his claims to the boss’ horribleness. You know, filling us in from a different perspective.

@madrassoup Personally, I’d want to know what the employer said about me! I think the interviewer was trying to emphasize that she didn’t share the employer’s feelings.

@madrassoup Yeah, I found that to be backhanded as well. The part where she was like “but *I* told her you wouldn’t do something like that.” Generally, I just think this interviewer is not very good at interviewing without sounding snotty.

Allison (#4,509)

@samburger I’m with you, I think it validates why the coworker left.

ephem (#5,696)

@madrassoup I agree.”Not to trash you, but um, she called you a douche!” I thought it was kinda ugly. No need to tell people the ugly things others say about them. Guess what, those same people say the same ugly things about *you* to *them.* ‘Cause ugly people say ugly things, period, it’s got nothing to do with the people they say them about and everything to do with the people who say them.

Susan Tidebeck (#5,691)

This sounds like an advertising job (duh). There are a considerable number of sociopathic nutjobs in the industry. I have personally worked with at least six people that put themselves in grave danger with their inexcusable behavior.

flickafly (#4,808)

@Susan Tidebeck I was going to say advertising/marketing. in fact this sounds just like my old terrible boss who ended up firing me after i saved her ass working 70 hour weeks for a huge client meeting while she was on vacation.

Kthompson (#1,858)

I loved this article. More quitting stories! And good luck to both the current employee and the former coworker.

Olivia2.0 (#260)

I have done this. It is amazing. And totally worth it. Good for this guy.

charmcity (#1,091)

I just want a whole series of quitting stories!

Sauso (#5,724)

Good luck to you, Sir.

This is the most compelling reason to save for a rainy day (aside from personal/pet illness, etc.). I once considered if I could be ok with declaring bankruptcy, to allow me to walk off a toxic, soul-crushing job and live off a month of savings. Instead, I waited until I let go due to politics (as so many had been), and then collected unemployment. It wasn’t as much fun of an exit, though.

Lili (#4,882)

So satisfying to read! Best of luck. Please follow up, preferably with a story called “Going to Lunch and Never Coming Back Was the Best Decision I Ever Made.”

Wilgrims (#1,318)

Wish this had gone into why “freelancing” as a designer in this (ad?) industry seems to require being at your employer’s office every day. Maybe that’s just because you need to use the computers/equipment, but that seems to set up situations like this that are ripe for abuse … and also tax abuse.

Marzipan (#1,194)

The only thing I ever really wanted to quit was the softball team in high school (again, always, it’s the boss – or the coach in this case) and I really really wanted to storm off in a big scene but I didn’t have it in me. I ended up finishing the season and then just not going out for it the next year. I was disappointed in me but I can’t really imagine it going any other way, really.

Myrtle (#116)

I’ve been on both sides of this one and have some thoughts. 1) watermark “DRAFT” on anything not a final. You may find yourself suing for harassment or a Hostile Work environment, and want to counter a charge that you were turning in below-standard work. 2) I once led a team and had one of my guys tell me, “You never ask us to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.” (I felt so proud!) A moment later, he continued with, “And that’s why you suck.” Oh, that burns now.
I asked way too much of that team, when what I should have done was march into the VP’s office and demand raises for all of us, or we’d all walk.

concrete_dreams (#5,413)

I thought this was a great, funny, human piece AND THEN I GOT TO THE TAGS and I’ve been laughing ever since.

Raw Bacon (#5,762)

The best thing about working is quitting. I’ve never been fired, but generally I only last about 7-9 months in any job (2-3 months to learn the job, 3 months of enjoying the work, 2-3 months of being bored/disgusted, leading to that cathartic sentence “I quit!”).

FinnFinn (#5,776)

I don’t find this at all cool, just irresponsible. If you want to quit, then quit, but give your coworkers and employer the courtesy of some notice.

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