3 Steps to Firing Your Boss

[Note to the grammar police: I know that the sign in the image should say “You’re Fired.” I don’t care – I like the photo.]

One of the benefits that comes from writing about entrepreneurship is hearing from people who are making it happen. Some of the best stories are those where a person got laid off or fired and then, instead of going out and getting a J-O-B, they started their own business.

They usually have a twinkle in their eyes when they recount the story. They refer to a “weight being lifted” from their shoulders. They feel like they’ve “come alive.” Most say they make more money now then when they were back at their corporate gigs.

One of the most popular posts on this blog is from my friend Amber Khan who has one of those success stories.

Why Wait to be Fired?

Then I got to thinking. Why do so many people wait until they’re fired or laid off before they launch their own business? Why didn’t they quit that job they hated and fire their boss?

I know that fear is an obvious answer. But I think it’s more than that. Some people just don’t know how to quit. To them, quitting seems overwhelming because they’ve not taken the steps to be ready for it.

You Should Quit At Least Once in Your Life

Unless you’re one of those rare few who’ve never had a job (I’m looking at you, Chris Guillabeau), you’ve likely found yourself in some miserable position that sucks the life out you like a teenage vampire named Edward. Maybe you’re there right now.

I found myself there a few times. Too often though, I tried to stick it out. I rationalized that things would “get better when _______________.” Unfortunately, “when” never came.

The reality is that even if it did get better, it will never become great. You make the mistake that better than crappy is good enough since it’s an improvement. You settle.

Don’t ever settle. Why?

Quitting Can Make You Happier and Wealthier

This may surprise you, but unhappy people generally have less fun and make less money. Let that sink in.

Happiness and wealth don’t follow miserable people around begging for a chance to sulk with them. They actually don’t follow people around. Happiness and wealth have to be pursued.

It’s difficult to pursue happiness and wealth when you make a habit of settling for crappy positions that you hope will improve.

3 Steps to Firing Your Boss

So what do you need to do to fire your boss so that you can pursue something that fulfills you? Here’s a quick-start guide:

Step 1: Prepare

Prepare for the change in income. If you’re going to open that consultancy you’ve been dreaming about or start that home-based business, find ways to lay the groundwork before you quit.

When you’re laid off, you often don’t have this luxury. However, those who are gainfully (even if miserably) employed can do some initial prep-work before launching full time. Here are some recommendations to get you started:

Start the Business on Your Nights, Weekends and Lunch Breaks
Tell everyone you know (that can’t get you fired) what you’re doing. Get some initial clients and work out those startup kinks. This is a great way to test the waters and find out if you even like the work.

You’ll hear some people talk about trying to get their side business income to the level of their current position before they quit. While this is a fine goal, don’t be surprised if it proves to be more difficult than you planned. Time and energy are finite and certain businesses can only grow so large with part-time effort.

If you find that your nights, weekends, and lunch breaks have you to 40-50% of your salary, it may be time to quit. Ask yourself if you think a full-time focus on your business could get you up near (or above) 100% in a month or two.

Get Out of Debt and Build Up Your Savings

“Opening a business with debt is like trying to run a marathon with a loaded backpack on.” – Dave Ramsey

If you want to be successful at running your own business, you must learn to say “no” to yourself. Debt comes from saying “yes” too often. Climbing out of debt will give you the discipline you need to run a business on a budget.

Also, make sure you can survive through those lean months with a nice cushion built up in savings. Dave Ramsey recommends 3-6 months and I agree with him.

Step 2: Uncover Your Passion

Part of the reason we end up in positions we hate is because we chase money rather than pursue our passion. Money is important – but it’s not the only thing that should determine what you do with your life.

Use this foundation-laying time to discover what makes you come alive. What are your interests? Which activities do you participate in that cause time to fly at work?

There are great resources that can help you get started. I recommend the StrengthsFinder series along with Dan Miller’s book 48 Days to the Work You Love. They will get you thinking differently about your career path.

Step 3: Pull the Trigger (In a Non-Postal Way)

If you’ve taken the two steps above, you’re ready to pull the trigger. Here’s a tip: try not to burn bridges. I’ve watched people quit in over-the-top fashion just because they could.

Sure, it may make you an internet celebrity for a week, but remember that your reputation as a person of character is much more important. No matter how bad it was at the company, be gracious and look for win-win opportunities.

You’re about to leave them with a void in their team and this can be an opportunity for you. I was able to contract back to previous employers for varying lengths which helped smooth transitions for me financially.

Share Your Thoughts

If you’ve ever quit a job that sucked the life out of you, how did you feel after you made the decision? What tips would you offer to those who are thinking of doing the same?

If you’re stuck in a rut or a job you don’t love, what steps are you having the most difficulty with? Why are you staying put?

I’d love to get your thoughts below.

Photo credit: maisonbisson

About the Author

  • Thanks for writing this. I’ve quit jobs in which I was miserable four times and only once did I already have another job lined up. The mistake that I made; however, was in not using the downtime to uncover my passion but rather to look for another job. So again, I ended up in a “need to pay the bills” job. Unfortunately, passion, until/unless it translates to dollars, doesn’t pay any bills. I’m looking forward to the day when I can again fire my boss, but this time for good because I will be my own boss. This time, I will have a plan.

  • Thanks for sharing your story. You’re absolutely right that passion alone doesn’t pay the bills. Sometimes, we have to take the work that puts food on the table and a roof over our heads. However, that doesn’t mean we should ever give up the fight for a career we love.

    It sounds like you’re pressing forward and are laying the groundwork for becoming your own boss. I can’t wait to hear about it when you do.

    How is the planning stage going?

  • Excellent post, as always!

    Preparing is crucial if you plan to quit your job. You constantly reiterate this in your blog, but too many people live beyond their means. They spend like crazy on material things they do not need. When I had my corporate gig, I would buy whatever I wanted all the time. I ended up with a lot of things I did NOT need. Looking back, I was shopping to fill a void – whether I was bored or depressed – and I was always miserable.

    Now that I work for myself, I don’t have a problem saying “no” to buying things. I used to think it was because of financial worry, but really, it is because I am happier and not trying to fill that void with useless crap. The only debt I have now is my student loans.

    When it comes time to “pull the trigger” a lot can be said about the feeling you get after you quit. If you instantly feel relief, euphoria and just all out amazing, I think you know you did the right thing.

    Finally, if you hate your job, you have to leave it. Really, you are not doing yourself or the company you are working for any favors – and chances are, your job performance and moral is going to lead to you getting fired at some point, ha ha

  • Amber, you bring up a really good point that I hadn’t thought about: all the purchases really were trying to fill a gap that I no longer have. It truly is much easier to say “no” to myself because I no longer want as much stuff.

    Congrats on getting down to just your student loans! I’ve got something I’m working on that I want to run by you in a week or two. I’ll email you when it’s ready. 🙂

    • Cool, will keep an eye out for your email. 🙂

  • Can you really be prepared to quit your job? In my opinion, the answer is no, so go ahead and do it, because the time will never be right and you might as well get starting learning the skills that you can’t possibly prepare for.

    My thoughts…

    You could study poker (or any “Vegas” game) from books or play against a computer opponent or friends using “points”, but it’s not nearly the same experience as when you’re playing with real money.

    So to anybody thinking about quitting a job, I’d say do it now…as in today. You can always get another one. But know that having that option can cause problems when trying to make self-employment stick… Are you going to work as hard as you could when you can always go back to working for somebody else?

    • Interesting thoughts, David. I agree that you can never be perfectly prepared – meaning that you can do only so much before you have to get out there and experience it for yourself. When you do, you will stumble, make mistakes, and experience failures on your way to success.

      However, I do think we can be prepared prior to the jump and your analogy actually makes that point. If you never studied poker books, never played with a computer or friends, and instead went directly to Vegas, you would get slaughtered because you would be ill-prepared.

      You’re correct in that – until you go to Vegas – all of that preparation has yet to be tested in battle. However, I think we can do some thing in advance of quitting (or heading into the self-employment battle) to prepare ourselves, our finances, and our relationships for the jump.

      And you’re right – at some point, you’ll be as prepared as you’ll ever be and you just need to quit. I think we can get caught in the trap of “just one more.” Meaning that, if we’re not careful, we’ll end up pushing it off due to fear while rationalizing it as “being prepared.”

      Thanks for your comment!

      -Travis

  • Anonymous

    Song, “Sweetest Lemonade”
    Hear @ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYcHW1kuP-k

    A song about the bad boss, improving your position in life, and never settling