Shelley (not her real name of course) was a walking rain cloud. If you came into the office feeling great, she had a talent for taking that down a notch. Or 10. She once randomly asked me if I’d been punched in the face, because for some reason she thought I looked like I had. She cared so much about her work and the product, but sometimes that manifested as her yelling at people about design or architectural decisions. In email, that meant ALL CAPS.
So, it’s no surprise she forgot your name, or at least pretended to forget. She called you Intern all week long, but what you didn’t know is we’d all been called worse.
You caught me totally by surprise, after months of applying, reapplying, finding me at career fairs, calling the office – in short, making me want to get a restraining order – to tell me you were quitting your internship after a week on the job because of Shelley.
I couldn’t tell you that I didn’t like her either, or that pretty much nobody else did. What I did tell you is that you were getting a very important career lesson early on; the chance to learn to work with someone you didn’t like. It was actually an opportunity.
I told you my personal stories; that I had left a job I absolutely loved because of differences with a coworker. It is one of my life regrets. Quitting didn’t show anyone anything. Pretty much everyone is replaceable, and the world kept turning at that company without me. The coworker may have even felt that he had won. I left some valuable stock options on the table, and (now hindsight is 20/20 here) he left not even a year after I did. I suspect his heart wasn’t in the company like mine was; I should have stuck it out!
You told me you loved the company and you loved everyone else, but you simply couldn’t stand the disrespect Shelley dished out, and this would be your last day. Your manager was surprised and sad when you left. The rest of your coworkers (aside from Shelley) were as well.
We let Shelley go not even a month later. Your story had a cruel twist similar to mine.
You know how you surprised me even more than quitting?
I hit the “rejected” box without replying, shaking my head that you couldn’t see you’d burned this bridge. I have no hard feelings against you and I know you can and will build a successful career for yourself – just not here. There’s no way I’d be able to explain to your manager, who was hurt when you walked off with no notice, or with your two coworkers that pulled two consecutive near-all-nighters to make up your work.
It’s a good thing NYC is a big city and there are plenty of other places to make a name for yourself. Those places will have Shelleys of their own, though, so if she asks you the same question she asked me, try “I must have punched myself in my sleep. I do that sometimes.” It might make her actually crack a smile and decide you’re too crazy to tease.