No Title
December 20, 2009 8:00 PM   Subscribe

Well I quit my job Friday after I did something embarrassing and foolish. Now what?

This is going to be long:

I had a job as an electronics technician for this little outfit that operated out of a warehouse. It was a temp job that was going to end in a month anyway but the pay was fifteen bucks an hour and it had medical benefits, too. I was usually the last person to leave, so it was my responsibility to lock up the office and such. I came in Friday and apparently I had forgotten to lock the warehouse/garage doors. They are not linked to the security system, so a person can set the alarm and walk out while the doors remain unlocked. I was in a hurry Thursday night to meet a friend, and I neglected to check to see if the doors were locked. The following morning I was greeted by a coworker who said "I came in this morning and the lights were on and the doors were unlocked. I don't have a problem with the lights. The doors I do." Then he walks off. I checked my company email and saw a six post thread concerning why the doors were unlocked and what my take on it was. As I was reading this, another coworker whom I thought I had good rapport with, came into the warehouse and rolled her eyes at me and walked away. That weirded me out tremendously. So I repacked my lunch I brought for the day, laid my company ID and cellphone on my desk, and walked out. I have blocked all calls and emails from all related parties. I feel that if I had stayed they probably would not have fired me, but I would have been the butt of numerous jokes and ridicule because I would be "that guy" and have to walk around with my tale between my legs. That's really what I feel like right now.The biggest thing I have lost here is a good reference on my resume. My supervisor was a cool guy, but I could never look him in the face now.

I am going back to school at the end of January. My GI bill has paid for it and what amounts to a little over half of what I was earning at my former job for living expenses so I think I can survive but I am also paying about $200 a month in debt on maxed out credit cards and $100 a month to the IRS since I goofed my taxes. I am nowhere near paying these off.

Finally, the questions:

1. Do any of you have any experience in dealing with the military VA? I was going through treatment for ADD/Depression a little while back and now is a good time to really commit to that and see it through. I had heard you cannot apply for help unless what you are applying for is related to your service, which this is not.

2. Should I stop paying my debts to save money? The payments are just enough to stop them from calling me and to pay the interest, so I am not really paying them off. None of the cards are over $2500, if that is relevant.

3. If I were to apply for another job, how do I list my former job on my resume? If I were to leave it off it would create a ten month gap in my work history. If I leave it on, how to I explain my departure? I really don't feel I have the right to list my supervisor as a reference after the way I left.

WHEW! I think I got it all out. Thanks for reading and just chip in where you can.
posted by Brandon1600 to Work & Money (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If this kind of situation causes you to walk out from a job before you learn what the ramifications, if any, of your mistake are, you have some issues that you need to address.

In other words, you should see a therapist. There is likely more going on here than you tell in your story. (Fear of rejection? Embarrassment? Failure? Etc.)
posted by dfriedman at 8:07 PM on December 20, 2009 [15 favorites]

The fact that you referenced the GI bill and military VA leads me to believe you have been part of a very structured, very rule-based social hierarchy not so long ago. Jobs have rules and social status attached, but they're not the military.

Everyone is "that guy" to an extent. Sure, leaving the doors unlocked could have been a big deal, but it wasn't. Nothing happened. I don't know your workplace, so it's possible that people poke fun at or mock each other, but why is it such a problem if they have that to mention to you?

I'd seek out some sort of help, if only to help you blend into a workplace better. You're human, let yourself be human and make the occasional mistake, and learn to move on. If therapy helps, it helps. I would consider going back to your job, explaining your frustration and embarrassment, and move on.
posted by mikeh at 8:09 PM on December 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

3. If I were to apply for another job, how do I list my former job on my resume? If I were to leave it off it would create a ten month gap in my work history. If I leave it on, how to I explain my departure? I really don't feel I have the right to list my supervisor as a reference after the way I left.

It's not too late! You can fix this on Monday by going to work and having a chat in private with your supervisor (or call him on the phone). You had your reasons, just explain as much as you feel is necessary to leave you two on decent terms. If he's really such a cool guy, what's the worst he'll do? Fire you?
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 8:18 PM on December 20, 2009 [10 favorites]

1 -- The VA has a lot of counseling services. Regardless of whether it's service-related, they'll try to help.

2 -- NO. You think it's hard to pay them off now, just imagine that the interest rates are jacked up for non-payment and collection agencies are getting a lot more aggressive. Keep paying them, and call them up to see whether you can restructure the debt, or talk to a reputable credit counseling agency.

3 -- You're going to have to list it on your resume no matter what. But tomorrow, call your supervisor. Ask him for a face-to-face meeting. Tell him you screwed up, and you're sorry, and you hope that this one mistake won't outweigh the ten months of good work you did. Let him lecture you. Take it like an adult. Two possible outcomes: A) he respects you for owning up to it, even after the fact, or B) he still thinks you're an idiot. If B, you're no worse off than you were, and if A, then you've still got a decent reference.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 PM on December 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I think I am trying to answer #3 here. Can you speak with your old manager, tell him/her what happened, and preserve the reference? It may not be as bad as you think. Everyone amplifies what they do wrong, try speaking with your old manager.
posted by kellyblah at 8:19 PM on December 20, 2009

Also, just because you "have good rapport with someone" doesn't mean they can't roll their eyes at you. My best friend and I eyeroll each other sometimes. If you had bothered to stick around at your job they probably would have forgotten about it in a day or two. Now, by walking out, you may not be able to go back. Everyone makes mistakes, and you can't run from them or you'll be running forever. Next time just say "hey, I made a mistake, sorry."
posted by IndigoRain at 8:19 PM on December 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

You gotta get some help with how to deal with problems asap, so you don't throw a good job in the toilet because of your feelings of inadequacy and shame. Every job you have for any reasonably length of times will have periods when you fuck up many, many times - often to great embarrassment and expense. I have myself, many many times.

But you gotta learn to roll with it. To err is human, and you will be surprised how many non-divine people are willing to forgive if you're straight with them. Being "that guy" for a week or two is well worth it for the few hundred dollars it will bring in.
posted by smoke at 8:45 PM on December 20, 2009 [2 favorites] should totally go back to work on Monday, apologize, tail between legs, get spanked.

Basically, you fucked up at work, you took a small beating for it. You shouldn't have done what you did. But most likely they weren't going to fire you for it. If you don't go back on Monday and try to keep your job or at least account for what happened (that you were embarrassed, working on it, very sorry, etc) you are going to have a problem.

Stupid shit happens at work and people don't get fired. It's sort of amazing. I sort of accidentally poured wet plaster of paris into a toilet at an old job. It dried immediately and they had to replace the toilet (luckily that was the extent of it). I worked there for another year. And my boss was a total angry tool. You need to maybe develop a thicker skin about stuff.

Your coworker could have been rolling her eyes in commiseration with you, feeling bad for your fuckup. You fucked up. I appreciate when people roll their eyes on me. It's like they are saying "you fucked up, ha ha, you dumb". I know it's stupid but it makes me feel better.
posted by sully75 at 8:47 PM on December 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I know at least one person who "quit" like this over something stupid, called their boss after they had cooled down a few days later, and then ended up going back to work. Maybe that won't happen to you, but you really need to take "ignoring it and hoping it goes away" off the option table.

You cannot avoid the confrontation about this. I totally understand that visceral panic that shows up anytime you even think about discussing this with your boss. If you're anything like me, you're willing at this point to pay almost any price and suffer almost any consequence in order to not confront your boss and/or your coworkers at this point in time. It's not responsibility you're trying to dodge, but confrontation. But sadly, there is no real option that avoids this. If you ignore it now, it will come up (as you've surmised) when you apply for jobs in the future. And then you'll have to confront someone about it in a much, much worse set of circumstances. Nobody wants to hire someone who just tries to walk away and ignore their mistakes. But of course, they'll ask you for your point of view on the issue, and not only will you have to live with the seriously negative impact it will have on their opinion of you, but you'll have to confront someone face-on about it.

You screwed up when you left the doors unlocked. Walking out and blocking all contact was even worse. But continuing to avoid it once you've gotten a chance to think about it blows all that out of the water. You have to deal with this as soon as possible. Your best bet is to walk back into the office tomorrow with your tail between your legs and explain exactly what happened, including the fact that you were so ashamed that you ran out without properly thinking things through. If you can't bring yourself to go contact people in person, send an e-mail. It's not as good, but sometimes when you're fighting your own base instincts, you take what you can get. I've used this before when I couldn't bring myself to confront something in person. It gives your brain a chance to do all the double-thinking it wants while still maintaining the possibility that you might just not send the message, and once you've got a message composed, it shoves that big nasty decision into a single click, which is a lot easier than the long drive to the office. Again, in person is better, but you have to do something. If you can't even manage to send an e-mail, at least stop blocking the e-mails. The stupid part of your brain is desperately trying to avoid an outside confrontation as if that's going to somehow make you feel better. But it isn't. This is going to tear you up even if you're all by yourself.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist, and even if I were, I obviously don't know enough about you. I'm operating under the assumption here that you're running into some of the same mental blocks that I've encountered in the past (I have ADD as well, but no depressive tendencies so far (knock on wood)) and that I've observed in other people close to me (who also have been diagnosed with ADD and/or depression). So if the mental processes I've described above don't really sound familiar, than please ignore that part of my advice.

But whatever you do, don't ignore the part where you have to confront your boss about this.
posted by ErWenn at 9:06 PM on December 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you qualify for Vet Center benefits (link goes to eligibility info)? That's a VA program specifically designed to help vets get along when they come back home. If not, you may qualify for other VA services. Someone at the VA should be able to direct you.

I figure you should let the VA evaluate you, and then have them determine how much of your mental health concerns are service-related-- while your ADD and depression may have started prior to your service, there may be aspects of service that have made things more difficult to deal with over time. Don't talk yourself out of possibly getting assistance until you've hounded them to your satisfaction.

(I'm not a lawyer or a vet. I have friends who are vets and receive VA services, and I think you should too if at all possible.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:09 PM on December 20, 2009

Oh, and what others have said about your debt problems are spot on. It's completely separate from the rest of this stuff. If you think you're in a situation where "just stopping payments" on your debt is a good idea, you're wrong. If for whatever reason, your debt is not decreasing, you should talk to your creditors about your options. Believe it or not, there are options. You can also talk to a debt counseling service (just don't talk to anyone who wants you to pay them up front). You might think that you're out of options, but you probably aren't. Even if you are out of options, you're better off filing for bankruptcy then you are just stopping payments and hoping that the collectors will go away. They won't.*

*An anecdote about the stubbornness of collection agencies. I bough a house in 2005. The previous owner was a divorced woman. Later, I discovered that either her ex-husband or her son (I don't know which) happens to have the same first name as me (though he spells it "Eric" and I spell it "Erik"). We signed up for phone service on the house and got a phone number that was not the same as the previous residents had. At some point in time, This Eric guy got himself into some kind of debt. At some point after that, the collectors discovered somehow that there was someone named "Erik" living at Eric's old house with a completely different phone number. Then they started calling me. It took me months to convince them that there was absolutely no connection between this guy and me. So yeah, don't think you can just disappear from your debts.
posted by ErWenn at 9:21 PM on December 20, 2009

At one time I was a socially anxious neurotic and would have done or strongly considered doing what you do did. Nowadays, I would consider that that a completely crazy stunt.

At the end of the day we are all flawed people who will make mistakes until our dying day. You really need to take a breather, ask yourself why youre so scared of disapproval/confrontation, and if you over-reacted. Ask yourself what can realistically happen. Try to remove emotion from the scenario. You really need to accept that sometimes you will be 'that guy' and on the days youre not 'that guy' you should be nice to 'that guy.'

All you did was forget to do something. Everyone I know has done something like this at work, usually with real consequences. Yes, you feel bad. Yes, some people will think of you as a moron for a day or two and in a couple days its pretty much forgotten. Instead of having an amusing story to tell people about your forgetfulness, you are hiding out from phone calls and emails and stressing over finding a new job.

I think you need to really reel yourself in and accept your mistake. Call and apologize for it and just tell them you felt so terrible you couldnt stay. Ask if you could come in on Tuesday so you can finish your contract. If not, at least ask for a decent reference if they wont let you come back.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:37 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in with another 'have made cringeworthy - and what I thought were deal-breaker -mistakes before, where I would have preferred to chew glass rather than face my peers/colleagues/friends/family about it' hand wave over here.

So stop digging that hole for yourself (...with the blocking all contact bit). It may feel worse, but you're only like three feet in, and seriously, so many of us have made a mistake, owned up to it, and deflected the usually good humored grilling - that I'd be surprised if your boss or colleagues weren't part of the great big group either.

/sidenote/ On a probably unrelated side note, good humored teasing can be par for the course, but it can be withstood. I have a colleague who we sometimes tease because we offered her a job with our organization, and she turned us down. We actually went back to her and asked her if she'd reconsider - and she turned us down again. We moved on with the hiring process, and halfway through she called us and said she made a huge mistake turning us down, and would like to be considered for the job. We were all eye-rolly oh-NOW-you-want-us too at first, but then interviewed her, and she apologized and explained what was going on for her which brought some clarity to what happened) and throughout the interview reminded us why we hired her. It's been something like 2 years and we still occasionally tease her - but we're incredibly happy that she's part of the team and she is too. My point is that sometimes that you make mistakes (which is inevitable), but how you handle them is what makes you stand out.

/end sidenote/

So if you can, tell yourself you are going to have a rough day, and that you are going to get through it. And if you can, talk to your boss (even if via email). Apologize. Explain that you made a mistake in leaving the doors open (cause you did - a very human, very common mistake), and then in not apologizing earlier, and then in leaving without an explanation. And that you understand that it was inappropriate. Explain that the second and third things happened because you were angry at yourself for making the mistake. (And if you want your job back, say that if they give you your job back, none of those things will happen again). If you can't do it for yourself, do it for your supervisor who you think is an okay guy, who'd probably like some sort of closure, not just for himself, but for his decision to hire you (which he probably doesn't think was a mistake).

Best of luck to you, OP. I can appreciate that what folks are suggesting might feel incredibly humiliating. But in situations like this I prefer to focus on the 'humility' part. I think the strongest and greatest people I know all possess a bit of humility in the face of their imperfection. And regardless of if you want the job or not, it might be decent to at least thank your supervisor for the job, apologize for the inconvenience you might have caused, and wish them the best.
posted by anitanita at 9:42 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Facing up to this most likely isn't going to be as bad as worrying about it makes it seem. Also, "I was wrong and I'm sorry" are powerful words, and this will be a good exercise for you in saying them.

Plus, I'd suggest you go man up and talk this over with your supervisor ASAP before they start concocting ideas like "Brandon1600 left these doors unlocked on purpose so a partner of his could rob us! Why else would he have quit so suddenly and blocked our calls?"

Not that they are concocting these ideas, but, just sayin'.

Good luck.
posted by 4ster at 10:13 PM on December 20, 2009

You totally overreacted.

When you began your post, I was expecting to find out that you got caught masturbating at work to internet porn, or stealing, or something else really embarrassing ...

But you just screwed up, and there were no consequences, and you slapped your ID down and walked out?

You need to go back to work Monday and try to make this right.
posted by jayder at 10:46 PM on December 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I did something at work once that was, in my view, significantly worse than what you did --- and I was crapping my pants from fear of what would happen to me. But I kept my cool, I talked to my supervisor, and everything was fine.

One lesson I have learned, through years of experience in the working world, is that things are rarely as bad as they seem. Seriously, you can almost count on things being better than you imagine.

Unless your boss and co-workers already hate you and already want to fire you, one screw up (even if it's major) is usually not enough to get you fired.

I'm a boss, and I never want to fire anyone. I don't even want to fire the people I want to fire. If I found out that any of my employees left my office door unlocked, I would be pissed, I would probably lecture them a little bit, but I wouldn't fire anyone over it.
posted by jayder at 11:19 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You won't be remembered as the guy who left the place unlocked. You'll be remembered as the guy who walked out when he couldn't face up to the imagined consequences of making a simple mistake.

Humans are going to make mistakes. If this is more than a tin-pot operation, they should be paying for a security patrol to come by nightly and check that kind of thing, anyhow (although that's neither here nor there from your perspective, but it's something the boss might be thinking about).

Call your boss, arrange to meet him in private. Admit to your screw-up, and apologise. If he's (or she's) a decent human, even to the slightest degree, you'll be forgiven. If you're interested in working there again, ask if something can be worked out. If you're not interested in going back, at least you've "manned up" and admitted your mistake.

If you do go back, most people will have completely forgotten about the unlocked door in a couple of weeks, although they'll probably remember the walk out for quite a while.
posted by Diag at 1:26 AM on December 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

A day will come -- it will come -- when somebody much younger than you will fuck up in some way that they consider to be unimaginably horrible. And on that day, you could be the guy that walks up, while they're sitting there with their head in their hands, numbed by their own staggering incompetence, and you could be the guy that punches them on the shoulder and say "Dude, that's nothing. You know what I did back in '09?"

You could be the guy that helps other people get through their fuck-ups with your fuck-up story, and you could be the guy that they look at and says "hey, this is a solid performer with a good track record, and if he screwed up once and the sun kept rising, I guess maybe what I did isn't the end of the universe as we know it."

To be that guy, though, you have to be that guy. The one that owns the fuck-up, understands how serious it was, and then puts it behind you. And then you'll be in a position to help out everyone else that fucks up with some moral support and your own stellar fuck-up story.

You can be the guy that fucked up once, or you can be a fuck-up.

I suspect you're the former, not the latter, but getting back on the damn horse is one of the determining factors.
posted by Shepherd at 7:21 AM on December 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

I empathize with you immensly. I've been "that girl" many times, and I can guarantee I will be "that girl" many more times in my life. You also will screw up many more times in your life, and this is one of the smaller mistakes you will make in your working career.

It's not too late to contact them and set things straight. I'm not saying that they will rehire you, but it will make you feel better and give you closure to talk it out. It may work out a lot better than you think, because it says a lot for you when you take responsibility for your screw-up and subsequent actions. And you WILL get through it.

Also Nthing the thought that the coworker rolled her eyes at you in a commiserating manner.
posted by batonthefueltank at 6:01 PM on December 21, 2009

« Older Can I get the newly released "Belkin Bluetooth...   |   Best digitizing options for dual-language... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.