Let's hear some quitting stories.

I am friendly with several people who all  worked at the same company (not an architecture firm, but related) until recently. They have all quit, spectacularly, in the last few weeks, after finally reaching a breaking point with mismanagement . They have shared letters of resignation with me that include accusations, personal grievances, and lists of reasons why they are jumping ship.

This seems cathartic but dangerous, IMO....but I do really, deeply understand the desire to do so.

Has anyone quit spectacularly? And did it come back to bite you later? Or did you sail on out, head high, and never regret it?

Oct 25, 16 9:04 am

I just quit. In fact, I've quit many times. I've worked for a contractor, interior designer, architect, expediter, and engineer. I've worked at large corporate offices and small shops. I have always quit because I felt that I was not respected, my skills were underutilized, or I was really underpaid (or some combination of the above). Most recently, I used the following line: "every pot has a lid, and your firm isn't mine." At the end of the day I hate the hierarchy and strong grip management has over design at the larger offices, and have come to despise the compensation at small shops despite all the great other things in such environments. Sometimes, the principals of the firms I have worked at were complete arrogant asses. Anyway- not sure if this qualifies as "quitting spectacularly," but its part of my quitting history... 

Oct 25, 16 9:15 am

Your comments re: small vs. big firms ring painfully true, Bulgar.

I'm curious what your work situation is now? Did you quit to go bigger or go smaller, or did you pivot (to use trendy parlance of changing focus in your job...)?

Oct 25, 16 9:37 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

This one time, this kid apparently on strange Chinese herbal shit decided to quit, but not before he took a hammer to the computer screen and bashed it.  I was the one that actually grabbed him from behind and restrained him as another employee knocked the hammer out of his hand.  It was clearly premeditated or premedicated?  He had already written out a $150 check to the company for the computer screen.

Oct 25, 16 9:55 am

I work for myself and work for a 3 person firm.

Oct 25, 16 9:58 am

I wrote a letter recounting all the nasty things a principal had done and said to me and gave it to him when I left. He called me into his office and I thought I was going to get a major chewing about how inappropriate that was but all he said was that he wished he was young again and wished me good luck with my future and to have fun, by far the nicest and most respectful conversation I'd had with him in years. I don't regret it. I felt sorry for him because it was then that I realized he was an asshole because he was miserable and felt trapped. 

I also worked at an office where a bunch of people (1/3 of them maybe) quit in quick succession like dominoes falling. 

Donna, are you thinking of quitting?

Oct 25, 16 10:07 am

I generally try not to burn bridges, but there have been a couple times where I was happy to pour gasoline all over the bridge, light it, and roast marshmallows on the flames.

The first time was at a now-defunct Circuit City store in the suburbs of Chicago. We had a new store manager who apparently learned his trade at Walmart, and he instituted a new policy where all staff had to remain in the store after closing, off the clock, until all the cash registers had been counted down and reconciled with the receipts -- a process that could sometimes take hours. He'd personally lower the roll-down shutters at the main entrance and stand there to guard it, effectively locking us all inside the store without pay. One particular evening it was taking even longer than usual to count down the cash registers, and my ride had already been waiting out in the parking lot for an hour or so. I finally snapped, told the manager to suck a fart from my ass, and let myself out through a fire exit and went home. It was the last retail job I ever worked.

More recently, I was working at a small boutique firm in NYC after grad school, and the owner was a narcissistic, sociopathic Donald Trump type with the attention span of a gerbil who routinely heaped abuse on the staff. (Despite his family money and much-vaunted degree from GSD, his only method of "designing" was to have us copy and reverse-engineer whatever he saw in Architectural Digest that morning. And one day he threw a full-on temper tantrum in the office because a lighting vendor in California wasn't picking up her phone at 9 AM Eastern Time.) The environment was so toxic that I had begun a new job search before the end of my first week there, and two critical members of my project team had already quit the firm within my first month. I eventually got an offer from a much better firm that I'd previously worked for and turned in my notice, with every intention of resigning as professionally as possible. As it so happened, the boss's executive assistant had also been looking for a new gig, and we turned in our two-week notices within minutes of each other on a Friday.

The boss responded by removing us from the payroll system without bothering to tell us, so a direct deposit that was supposed to happen the following Tuesday never came through for the previous two weeks of work we had already put in. The pay was so shitty that I was flat-broke all the time anyway, and I had to borrow my roommate's Metrocard just to ride the subway to work that morning. The executive assistant and I had left several messages on the boss's voicemail to try to find out why we hadn't been paid, but he wouldn't pick up his phone or return our calls. So I sent an email to my new employer asking if I could bump up my start date to the following day, and the minute they responded in the affirmative, I walked out of the office and left a final voicemail to my boss telling him I was quitting immediately and that if I didn't have a check by the end of the day I'd be filing a formal complaint with the state. I eventually got a partial check (he still owes me about $700), and he went back and rejected all my IDP hours, including the past several weeks that he had already approved. The remainder of my project team ended up also leaving the firm within a few weeks, and I'm pretty sure that if that boss is ever found beaten to death in a dark alley, there'd be about a thousand suspects.

Oct 25, 16 11:10 am

I've only left one job, but I made it fairly clear to many of the people why I was leaving.  There were plenty of other reasons, including but not limited to: pay, vacation, insurance, and project quality, but the biggest reason was management.  I can suffer through a crappy project and a crappy client.  But a dumbass running a company is intolerable.  Worse still is a dumbass not running the company, rarely showing up, but when they do, making sweeping changes without any real thought. 

Oct 25, 16 11:20 am

Only way to quit is to keep it professional.  Totally unnecessary to create a laundry list of all the wrongdoings that led to your decision, because nothing is going to change.  Every office is dysfunctional and all you are doing is trading one for another, the key is finding an office where you are at one with the dysfunction.  

Oct 25, 16 11:24 am

chigurh, I tend to agree that keeping it professional is the road to take, but do you feel there is ever a teaching moment when one quits? I'm a little surprised at the vitriol I'm hearing from these friends' comments to their former workplace, but then it *did* go through some pretty surprising management changes lately (senjohn, your comment Worse still is a dumbass not running the company, rarely showing up, but when they do, making sweeping changes without any real thought  sounds about right).

At one firm I worked for, generally very well-managed, the management came to understand that we longer-term employees were all being pretty severely underpaid when they attempted to hire a few new people, all recent grads, who were all asking for significantly more than we long-timers were making. As I understand it, one kid in particulate told my boss that he should be embarrassed at how low our wages were; that successful firms must be better-managed than us if they couldn't afford to pay us more.

Do any of you who are bosses recall someone quitting and telling you something you learned from when they did?

Oct 25, 16 11:36 am

David, I'm so sorry. That's awful that they kept you in the store after you clocked out. I worked at a hardware store where we had to stay to count the drawers, but didn't have to clock out for it.

Oct 25, 16 11:41 am

My wife has had a few biggies.  She’s been brought back in by HR, lunches with the big bosses, deposed twice, talked to the FBI fraud department as part of their investigation, and the Police.  Not so much due to her, but because she thoroughly documents why she left and leaves that paper trail for the investigators / attorneys to find her and use her as a witness.

Oct 25, 16 11:52 am

If there is ever a teaching moment it isn't going to come from a scorched earth departure. Firm owners are generally old, stubborn, and stuck in their way and getting a bunch of criticisms from a twenty something with one foot out the door isn't even going to register with most.  I think they have to internally figure out why you left.  Some firms are just harsh work environments and they just have that turnover built into their workflow and they don't care. The firms that care wont have that turnover in the first place and if you do leave they will have an exit interview where you can air (professionally) some of the issues that influenced your decision.  The others aren't worth you energy.

Oct 25, 16 11:53 am

people expect too much - just accept the dysfunction - go with the flow

Oct 25, 16 11:54 am

for once I agree with xenakis.

Oct 25, 16 12:17 pm
Wood Guy

My quitting stories tend to the other end of the spectrum. After I gave my notice at a place where I had worked for 12 years, I stayed on for another 5 months so as to not leave them shorthanded and to help them transition. 

The last place I left, I gave my notice after being there 3 months but stayed another year, until they had a chance to find and train replacements for the different aspects of the job that I handled. (Not that I'm that special; it was a unique position in a rural area, and my primary replacement didn't work out.) 

Oct 25, 16 12:25 pm

Nice <command> <Q> graphic on the front page, Alex! (or was it someone else?)

I don't have any good quitting stories myself.  Mainly I'm a wuss so I use the excuse of going to grad school or something as an exit strategy.

The stories that really make me sick to my stomach are the ones like David's boss who pettily wouldn't sign off on IDP hours. Or people who cancel payment on salary paychecks rightly owed, good lord. That is just low. I hate to think there are people like that in our profession.

Oct 25, 16 12:32 pm

Forgot to mention that a fourth reason I have been leaving (and continue to leave) is the project quality. I can suffer through 1, 2, or even 3 projects. But I can't do roll outs or prototypical environments. Sorry kids; there's a better way I think I can be making money. 

Oct 25, 16 12:40 pm

An employee wrote a letter about how awesome we (her bosses) are. Accept the dysfunction only if you can't do better yourself like xen.

Oct 25, 16 12:48 pm

Here's a suggestion...

Archinect allows comments posted on articles, forums, features, etc., but not on their job postings. Might they consider doing so? Yes, I understand the risk that this could quickly spiral into past-employer bashing, but the scary reality is that there are many nightmare firms out there like the one David Cole described above. They post job listings on this site, direct your to their beautiful website often showing nice projects, and there is little indication of the hell that is awaiting you. And on the flip side, it would be great if people could weigh in on past job experiences they had that were positive.

Websites like Glassdoor exist but they don't seem as heavily used by architects as by other industries, and I wonder if the Archinect community would open more of a dialogue than is done there.

Oct 25, 16 12:57 pm

I had a situation where the Principal cut everybody's pay 20% due to the '08 collapse, asking everybody to work 4 days a week.  More junior people were asked to only work 3 days a week.  To that point I had been working for that principal for 8-9 years, was only making $40-ish, with a family and two small kids.  I wasn't earning a big paycheck (peak- 10 person firm; see Bulgars comment about small firms).  Ok- no biggie, we all make it work.  Sometime later he writes us all and rips us for not doing more for the firm during the downturn; he specifically cited the fact that people did things other than come to work on that 5th day.  We should have done more to "help the firm".  I left couple of years after that, but that was the beginning of the end for me. 

Oct 25, 16 1:22 pm

I once walked out of job without saying anything. Just never went back. Never answered any calls, emails. just left. It was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. 

FYI this was at a stupid college job not career related. At worst another employee got to cover my hours. 

Oct 25, 16 1:50 pm

I had two situations; the first was my first job after graduating, i received a good pay rate and was pretty stoked to start work and a decent office ( although a bit more developer focused ). Unfortunately was the only one in the office who had any skills or desire to make a decent effort ... I quit the second day after it was evident the office mojo was completely lacking.

The second situation was similar to JeromeS. I had been working in an office for about 4 years as a senior member of the team in a small office with about 6 people and we lost a few jobs around 1993 and could have either laid off folks or all take a cut in pay and work a day or two less per week.  The staff decided on mass to all take a cut in pay and let the boss try and get back up to speed with new work. Turned out the boss was just frazzled over the next few months and made the office environment brutal after we slowly came back and slowly we all quit as he wasn't so good at getting any significant work. 

Walking home that first day at noon with a new wife and baby on the way was just so depressing. Having to take the pay cut and time off was the first step in confirming that I needed to finish my registration and get my own license, never ever looked back or wanted to work for anybody else again.

Oct 25, 16 2:39 pm

JonathanLivingston, I was wondering if anyone had ever "ghosted" a job. Now that I think of it I think one of my grad school classmates did that - walked out at lunch and flew to Europe to work for a starchitect. Then came back to do grad school a few years later.

Oct 25, 16 3:26 pm

I did that too. Didn't show up for two days straight, didn't call in. I was forgiven.

Oct 25, 16 3:44 pm

I would never do that for an Architecture gig. but the Resturant industry is a different beast. 

Well actually I may have Ghosted a bad client or two in the past.... :) 

Oct 25, 16 5:28 pm

I used to teach skiing - we would line up in the morning and get assigned the days teaching tasks. Seniority and professional certification got you the better groups - I had both. I don't even remember what I got assigned, just that I looked at my boss and said "I won't be right back." in my most positive, tourist-friendly tone. He just sorta nodded and moved on to the next group without really comprehending. Blew up my cell phone about 30 minutes later, left a bunch of angry messages, etc. I never went back to collect my stuff and spent the rest of the season skiing.

Oct 25, 16 9:50 pm

I've got a few semi related stories. Maybe the best is the father of an ex of mine, an accountant at a large manufacturing firm. He discovered that the owners were embezzling money, and he called them in it. They fired him, so he threatened to go to the police. In the end, he got a 2-year severance to keep his mouth shut. He went golfing every single day, the next 2 summers.

Oct 26, 16 12:38 am
Let's see....I gave a three month notice to Osco Drug because I was going off to College after High School, and 6 months to Menards when I decided to transfer (and was accepted) to Tulane.

I'm boring.
Oct 26, 16 8:45 am

He discovered that the owners were embezzling money, and he called them in it. They fired him, so he threatened to go to the police. In the end, he got a 2-year severance to keep his mouth shut. He went golfing every single day, the next 2 summers.

He could have been implicated as an accessory to fraud.  Not a good strategy.

Oct 26, 16 10:45 am

Always give at least a two-week written notice. Finish your work if possible, or get to a good hand-off place, and let them know you can be reached for any questions. No point in making the job worse for your co-workers left behind or for the firm's clients. If your boss is a total ass just tell him politely you prefer a more collegial working environment. In a few years all that will be left of your presence is what is in the file and in the memory of some old-timers who have not moved on.

Oct 28, 16 8:25 am

Just get a new job offer at a better place, makes quitting very simple

Nov 3, 16 10:19 pm

∆ What if you get a job offer from your current firm's former manager (now at a new firm)? In the past I've burned plenty of bridges but that's not high on my priority list despite the enticing offer. And I get along great with my current boss, even if we'd never be friends outside the office. He offered up his fucking home made chili for me at lunch today because I mentioned I was hungry. If I decide to quit, it's not going to be easy, not by a long shot.

Nov 3, 16 11:44 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

in the mob world the Chili offer is serious shit, you quit now you might be taken out.

Nov 4, 16 6:49 am

We had a project manager few years back and when I marked up his drawings, he tried to argue with me what we should do instead of doing what I marked up. Pretty much I had some revisions on the floor plan to make some of the required clearances, but he insisted stretching the building would be better. I was just puzzled that he had no idea what implications stretching a building have. He refused to to understand. Brought in the principal for our discussion and the principal just said "just revise the floor plan and don't change the footprint of the building" and walked away. While walking away the project managers rolled his eyes and said something about being a stupid idea or whatever. The principal just flipped out on him, never seen him pissed off like that in the 10 years I've known him. Finally project manager agreed to revise, but he was furious.

Then 5 minutes later, he got up and said he needed to go outside for a walk and some fresh air......never returned, answered calls, never picked up his belongings, left his desktop at the office (he wanted to use his own). Shit, maybe something serious happened to him! 

Nov 4, 16 11:42 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

neuce story poop. its friday I fucking quit. I did tell my exleditor today I wanted to punch him in front of an examiner to which the examiner said "this is a city office I did not hear that."....too much work to quit, so just for 12 hours....

Nov 4, 16 6:34 pm

I've either been fortunate in my employment, too patient, or too careful in choosing my jobs, but I never had to leave in anything but a civil manner.  Laid off only once: of the 12+ jobs I've had, each boss thanked me for my time and effort with most offering me an open door - they often asked what they could have done to make me stay and listened to my feedback.  My most recent job switches involved the bosses telling me that I was one of the most profitable employees that still did a lot of non-billing tasks; my notices were flexible to meet their needs (4~8 weeks); and I gave them a list of 'what was good' 'what could be better - short term and long term solutions'.  From what I hear many of those offices adopted at least some of the suggestions.  Not every architecture job is awful, each has pluses and minuses and it's important to find the fit including some faults you're willing to put up with.

References go a long way - having dealt with difficult people well is something that can look really good on a resume.

Nov 7, 16 2:39 pm

Worst quitting story above /\

i want to hear some fireworks, Yelling and screaming. Computer smashing, roundhouse kicking and fireballs! 

thank God Monday in the office is over.

Nov 7, 16 8:22 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

heard one today from a client. they had a guy quit first day after lunch. just left and never came back.

Nov 7, 16 8:25 pm

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