Rule Nine: Know When to Quit
Look, we’ll be candid—it can happen that rules one through eight just don’t work. And that’s when you need rule nine. Sometimes, however skillfully you make your case, your boss just won’t be able to overcome the worry list. When you really have tried everything and still can’t get the work life you want from a boss who just won’t budge, you know it’s time to quit.
Christy Runningen of Best Buy had come to that realization before she landed in a ROWE. When she was suffering from those back-to-work Sunday evening blues you read about earlier, she was trying everything she could think of to carve out time in her life to be with her kids. The stress levels were getting unbearable. You’ll remember, she had permission to work “summer hours,” a system that theoretically allowed her to squeeze her full-time workweek into four and a half days. She would go in very early Monday morning, work hard until Friday noon, and then take that afternoon off with the children.
“I was calculating all of my time and hours and saying, ‘Yeah, I have over forty-five hours in by lunchtime on Friday,’ ” she recalls. “I was just so excited to be able to take my daughter to the pool, just spend the afternoon with her.”
But her boss kept giving her grief. “He kept saying, ‘I’m here late, so you should be here late too.’ ” Christy was starting to panic. “I thought this is not a balance for me and this is not the way I want to live my life. Nitpicking the number of hours that they are seeing me here; or proving that I’m only leaving my desk for a half hour for lunch, just so I can scrape together some time so that I can be with my daughter.”
She started making plans to leave the company and was considering a job as a day care provider, desperate to escape the prison-like stress. In the end she was rescued. The manager left first. Poetic justice. She moved to another team, joined one of Best Buy’s ROWEs, and hasn’t looked back. “It’s like the heavens opened up,” she says, laughing. But if chance hadn’t intervened, Christy knows she would have been out the door.
For Jennifer Winell, quitting meant leaving not just her job but also giving up on years of training as an orthopedic surgeon. It was her passion. It was also a field where women are extremely rare—less than five percent of all orthopedic surgeons are women. After qualifying, Jennifer ended up at a tough New York hospital where she was on call constantly—even more than the other surgeons, because she was the only pediatric specialist there. “It was just unbelievably stressful, and I was like Pavlov’s dog. When my beeper went off my heart would start racing, and I just felt, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this,’” she remembers.
Over the course of her two years at the hospital she tried to tweak things around the edges to win a little more control, but there was a massive expectations gap. Jennifer knew that one day she’d like to get married and have kids, but it was also very clear to her that in that profession, which she calls the ultimate old boys club, she’d never be able to get the flexibility she needed to have a family. “It would never have even crossed my mind to ask for something like that,” she remembers. “It would have been unheard of.” Jennifer ultimately decided not only to quit but also to take some time off so she could choose her next move with greater realism. She researched hospitals, practices, and the entire field of orthopedics. Eventually she decided she had to give up operating, after six years of training. She joined a team that gives her a four-day workweek, and she evaluates cases that might require surgery. Along the way she got married and had a baby. “There are definitely parts of my old career that I miss,” she admits, talking about surgical practice, “but at the same time it’s worth it to me to never be constantly on call again.”
As with everything else, there are good ways to quit and bad ways to quit. We suggest you resist the Scarlett O’Hara impulse to flounce out and bang the door. Here are some tips for quitting with dignity, in a way that burns no bridges:
1. Do pick a day when you can control your emotions. Yes, we’re trying to embrace our deepest feminine selves in this book, but a departure without tears is SO much classier, and SO much more commanding.
2. Do be clear about the reasons for your departure, and be overwhelmingly positive, yes, even about that job
you hate and are now leaving. "Bob, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but after a lot of thought, I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on. We’ve had a terrific working relationship, and we’ve brought in extraordinary business together, more than any of us expected, but I’m afraid I really can’t compromise on the schedule requirements I spelled out. I hope you understand, and with any luck we’ll get another chance to do deals together in the future.” Focus on accomplishments, without bragging (let that annoying boss take credit), and mention your demands briskly and crisply. No long dramatics about school plays and carpools and the chaos that your life has become. You may yet cross paths again.
3. Don’t be anything less than sure ofyour message and your goal. You have to mean it. If you still somehow believe this is part of the negotiation, and you are expecting a last-minute apology and an incredible offer from that troll-like creature in front of you, it will show.
4. Do know, however, that your superior may well be shocked ("What—leave this heaven on earth?”), panicked ("What is management going to say about me losing Sally”), or genuinely remorseful ("I didn’t think we were heading here. I wonder if we can work this out”). You may be asked what it will take to keep you; in that case, calmly say you’ll think it over, don’t commit to anything immediately. Even though you’ve been through Womenomics training, that desire to please, to smooth things over, will be extremely tempting. Resist, at least temporarily.
5. Do think and think hard about the counteroffer. If they make a play to keep you, are they really going to make good on the things you’ve asked for? Or will it just be talk? Do you believe, despite their initial reluctance, that they can really change their ways? Sometimes corporate resistance, or the underlying Scrooge-like spirit of the company, is just too strong. Your gut should help you a lot here. Suggest a trial period if you are worried.
Quitting can feel traumatic we know, but there is a huge upside. It gives you a chance to start fresh, to find a company or field that is compatible with the kind of work life you really need. You owe it to your newly reconstructed Womenomics self to move on and find what you want. We’ll show you how.
news you can use
1. Outline exactly how your proposed freedom will work.
To the letter.
2. Use the economy to your advantage.
3. Anticipate your supervisor’s concerns and answer them head on.
4. Know your Womenomics power and productivity stats cold.
5. Know when to quit, and how.