I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. I have a beautiful home and a wonderful husband. (We’ve been happily married for 24 years.) We have two grown children with successful careers, and I have a good job making a six-figure income. And yet I’m completely and totally miserable—thanks to a horrible boss who regularly uses fear, intimidation, and bullying tactics to “motivate” his employees. I do the best I can to protect my team from his tirades, but I come home every day feeling angry, frustrated, and exhausted. I am keeping a daily journal of his bad behavior and have spoken twice with our HR Department about his bad behavior. However, he has been with the company for 25 years and is “good buddies” with the CEO. I’m good at my job but catch myself daydreaming regularly about walking away and starting my own business. You would think that, by the age of 58, I could simply “suck it up” and be grateful for my many blessings. However, I don’t want to feel miserable for the next seven years—just to make it to retirement. I’m feeling utterly stuck and would appreciate any advice you have to offer.
Miserable in Montana
I’m so sorry to hear about your plight, having personally experienced the agony and ecstasy of two Horrible Bosses in the not-so-distant past. It sounds like you are doing the right thing by protecting your people, maintaining a Cover Your Posterior (CYP) journal, and apprising HR of the situation. What particularly captured my attention, however, is your dream of starting your own business. How long have you been considering this option? What business would you start? What’s stopping you from pursuing you dream?
Not so long ago, yours truly found herself in a similar maddening situation. I had spent the prior 16 months watching two new “superiors” systematically dismantle a company-wide program I had spent years developing. To make matters worse, my immediate supervisor decided the best way to deal with me was to pretend that I simply didn’t exist. When we passed in the hall, she would neither look nor speak to me. During meetings, she would look past me as if I wasn’t there. She offered me no guidance, direction, or assignments, which drove me completely crazy since I no longer had a program to lead. As a result, my mental and physical health took a slow, downhill plunge—landing me in the emergency room of a lovely nearby hospital. (I was especially annoyed that I couldn’t remember the ambulance ride—my one and only ever.) As I recovered consciousness, I found myself the subject of considerable interest, with five or six ER nurses, attendants, and “candy stripers” peering curiously at me. Turns out, they had never seen a case of global transient amnesia resulting from extreme stress at work. The doctor told me that all I could say upon arrival was, “My boss broke my head,” over and over again.
That’s the moment I decided to walk away and pursue my own dreams—rather than helping someone else pursue theirs. I spent every waking moment of the next 16 months learning everything possible about launching a career-coaching business for people 50 and older. (Along the way, I lucked into this little gig as an advice columnist—clearly my forte as a writer.) The start of my journey has meant enrolling in an intensive, 7+ month, coaching-certification program and all of the hullabaloo associated with starting a business. Last weekend, I attended my first three-day, face-to-face training session and had a blast—knowing that I was taking the first step toward helping others like me to explore the Next Chapter of their lives.
I am not saying that starting your own business is right for you. However, I can say that each of us has many gifts to offer the world. If you haven’t done so already, start exploring other career options NOW. Doing so will empower you, give you a sense of meaning and purpose and, best of all, reenergize your mojo. In the meantime, you can leverage your current salary to plan a viable off-ramp to your career dreams.