Leav­ing a job is emo­tional — don’t let it take your com­po­sure, too

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Job Market - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

Stephanie Know­ing says she can re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing about the day she quit her job as a tele­mar­keter. “I was a stu­dent at North­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­sity and I was work­ing at a tele­mar­ket­ing sur­vey place that paid by the hour but also gave in­cen­tives for get­ting com­plete surveys,” says Know­ing, 56. “Most of my classes were in the af­ter­noon so I al­ways ended up work­ing in the evening, which hap­pened to be right when peo­ple were sit­ting down for din­ner. It was prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to get some­one to talk to you and there was also the ex­tra added guilt of both­er­ing them when they were prob­a­bly eat­ing.”

But that wasn’t the part that made Know­ing angry enough to knock her phone off of her desk, grab her coat and walk out the door while yelling “I quit!” to her boss and any­one else within range. What par­tially set her off was a bad phone call “with a real jerk. The guy made me cry,” Know­ing says.

While Know­ing tried to re­group af­ter the call, her man­ager rep­ri­manded her in front of the rest of the part-time staff. “He went off. He was call­ing me a cow­ard for not get­ting peo­ple to an­swer these dumb ques­tions. He was in­sult­ing my voice and in­sult­ing my gram­mar. Ev­ery­thing. It was like a free-for-all. I ac­tu­ally don’t know why I just didn’t com­pletely break down but I did the op­po­site. I snapped. I pushed my phone off my desk, threw the files that I had in my hands at the guy and I walked out,” she says. “I prob­a­bly said a few choice words, too, but I was prob­a­bly 19 or 20 and was used to watch­ing these big dra­matic ex­its on TV and in the movies. It prob­a­bly was a lit­tle bit ex­treme but I don’t re­ally re­gret it.”

Fast-for­ward 30 years to this sum­mer and Know­ing’s 24-year-old son tells her that he’s go­ing to make a grand exit at work by the end of the week. “He had a pretty tough job and was in a bad sit­u­a­tion, which his man­ager had no in­ten­tion of re­solv­ing, so he was telling me how he had scripted out what he wanted to say,” she says. “At first, I laughed it off and thought ‘good for you. Way to stick up for your­self.’”

But that atta-boy opin­ion soon changed. “I thought about it a few min­utes later and then I flipped out. I mean, in 2019? What the [heck] was he think­ing? I made him prom­ise me that he wouldn’t do it and just be cool with quit­ting pro­fes­sion­ally. I mean, in 2019? When peo­ple video ev­ery­thing you do on their phones and share it within 30 sec­onds?” she says. “Not to men­tion ev­ery­one you know now will know you for­ever be­cause of so­cial me­dia? For­get it.”

Save the drama

Know­ing’s ma­ter­nal ad­vice to her son — “be cool” — sums up ca­reer coach Brad Alan’s ad­vice as well. “Peo­ple spend years build­ing a ca­reer, prov­ing their worth to peo­ple, and then they seem to have this idea that throw­ing it all away in a dra­matic scene is a good thing. Let me tell you — it’s not a good thing. It’s a bad thing. A very, very bad thing.”

Alan, who lives in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land, echoes Know­ing’s opin­ion on the long, un­for­giv­ing mem­ory of so­cial me­dia, adding that he’s worked with clients who are work­ing to prove them­selves years af­ter a rep­u­ta­tion-wreck­ing video or im­age emerged on­line. “It’s dan­ger­ous from a pro­fes­sional point of view, es­pe­cially af­ter you’ve been hired. Once peo­ple know you, they do a lit­tle dig­ging on­line and the next thing you know, you’re the guy ev­ery­one is high-fiv­ing one day when you come back from lunch,” Alan says. “It’s best to avoid the big exit al­to­gether.”

Look ahead

De­spite any neg­a­tive feel­ings you may have for your cur­rent em­ployer or some of your peers, you al­ways should think about what’s next when you’re leav­ing what’s now. “The last thing you want to do is dam­age a po­ten­tially great sit­u­a­tion that might be in your fu­ture,” says Alan. “If you’ve been bur­dened by a job and in­sulted by your boss and frus­trated by your lack of pay, that’s fine. That’s why you’re leav­ing. Start by putting it all be­hind you. By quit­ting you’re giv­ing your­self the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove your sit­u­a­tion and if you in­ten­tion­ally mess things up be­cause you feel like you have to have a hero mo­ment, that’s dumb. And it could cost you.”

In­stead of giv­ing in to the anger you may be feel­ing, whether that anger came to you in a flash or if it’s built up over months or years, Deb­o­rah Jes­nik, a so­cial worker in Ocala, Florida, has a few sug­ges­tions. “Place sub­tle re­minders around your desk about what you want to be do­ing six months from now or send your­self an email that you can read when you’re feel­ing stressed,” Jes­nik says. “You have to con­trol it. You have to find small solutions to main­tain your dig­nity.”

Know­ing ad­mits that in hind­sight, she lost a lit­tle bit of her dig­nity that night as a tele­phone sur­vey-taker in DeKalb, Illi­nois. “One of the girls I worked with was my room­mate,” Know­ing says. “She told me a cou­ple of weeks later that ev­ery­one had a big laugh af­ter I left. Even my boss. Oh, well. Not ex­actly like in the movies.”

De­spite any neg­a­tive feel­ings you may have for your cur­rent em­ployer or some of your peers, you al­ways should think about what’s next when you’re leav­ing what’s now.

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