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.