Dear Elderly Aunt: I’ve been working for a small firm owned by my father’s best friend. But it’s making me miserable. The people there are fine, but the work isn’t what I want to do, and I’ve started dreading going to work. I’m in the process of looking for another job, but I’ve made the decision that I need to quit soon no matter what. How do I break the news to both my dad and his best friend (my boss)? I mean, it’s not like I can tell them that I hate my job and the work the firm does, right?
Allow the Elderly Aunt to start addressing your concerns, dear reader, by quoting one of her favorite fictional six-year-olds:
“Calvin : There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.”Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
The Elderly Aunt detects a whiff of self-reproach in the phrasing of your question, as though you, dear reader, are somehow at fault for expecting to wantto go to work. If she is as spot on-as usual, the first thing she advises you to do is stop it with the guilt! You needed a job. Your father’s friend offered you one. You went into it with a positive attitude and worked hard to earn you salary. The Elderly Aunt assumes you will give fair notice rather than flouncing out in a snit, and so for the life of her, she cannot see that you have the slightest reason to break bad on yourself.
As to your father and his best friend’s reaction, the Elderly Aunt assumes you’re worried about hurting their feelings. If so, do you really believe that they care more about patting themselves on their respective backs for giving you a leg up than about your own professional well-being? Surely not. The maturity of your decision may initially startle them considering they’ve known you since your wet ear days, but surely in their hearts they’re pulling for you to grow up fully engaged in your life rather than in theirs.
As to how to break the news that you’re quitting, the Elderly Aunt suggests you begin with a straightforward conversation with your employer. This is a business relationship, so keep it business-like. Express your appreciation for the opportunity, then explain the position is not a good fit for you and you’ve decided to look for something else. Ask how much notice your employer needs and by all means offer to train your replacement.
If your father’s best friend wants to rant (which would very much surprise the Elderly Aunt as he seems like such a kindly gent), listen to him respectfully, say you’re sorry he feels that way, and do notfeel defensive about your decision. It’s your life. As Henry David Thoreau wrote a century-and-a half ago, Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. Or as Ricky Nelson opined in 1972: You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.
As for your father, it’s a bit hard for the Elderly Aunt to advise as she has no idea what your relationship with him is like. If your father is controlling, steel yourself for some bluster. If he’s more accepting of your adult autonomy, tell him what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and then have a good, father-son heart-to-heart. Listen to his concerns, his hopes for you and perhaps a few stories about his own professional frustrations. But do not falter in your determination to seek professional engagement.
Allow the Elderly Aunt to close with a mash-up of Thoreau and Hamlet. To sing or not to sing your own song; that is the question.
How you answer it will set the tone of your professional future. If not in stone, in Quikrete.
The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday. And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”
Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions).