I Walked Off My Job. Can You Help?

A reader writes:

I am an Admin in Health care for the last 25 years,most recently working for a company for a year that had 15 secretaries before me. I came as a temp and worked with the secretary that was there for 8 days. I came in one day and she was gone.

I met with the Manager who told me she had decided to move on with her career (I found out later she had been fired the night before) and if I wouldn't mind to assist him. He was upfront telling me that there had been 14 secretaries in the last 3 years and that he wanted me to tell him what he needed to do to correct this problem. I took over the job and from the beginning I had problems with his direct reports that were insulting, threatening, screaming.One was fired but the others remained. The atmosphere/environment was just terrible most of the time and even with that, I continued to "get the job done" working dusk till dawn every single day. The last straw was when I was working on an off-site in November, I answered the phone and one of his direct reports screaming "bloody murder" at me on the phone. I was so shook up by her screaming.I told my Executive, where my Executive didn't do one thing about it, said he wasn't on the phone call.

I came in one morning and he told me that he hated to do this but that he was going to have to write up his expectations of me. I was standing in the doorway and he was seated in his chair while he said this with the door open. I just lost my cool and walked off the job. I just had enough. I came home and sat for 6 weeks angry at myself for leaving this way.

My question is that on upcoming interviews, what would you say when they ask why you left your last position (without a job)?? I know that it is always better to find a job when you have one. In retrospect I probably should not have even thought about taking this job since the odds were really against me right from the beginning,but I tried to make a difference and I did. I had a tremendous following of employees who really enjoyed working with me. I don't want to be negative on any interviews.

Thank you for any input. I'm trying to move forward for 2009. I have so much to offer the right company, and I am trying to get over that traumatic experience of walking off my job and loss of income too.

Where to begin?

You walked off a job and there really isn't a way to sugar coat this at all. You have to disclose this in an interview and when doing so, be prepared to address a question that may be largely unspoken, "what makes me think that she won't do the same if I hire her here?" The situation you describe here is absurd. Absurd that such a hostile environment would be tolerated and that any leader would accept it and really makes you (me) wonder why people are permitted to rise to the positions they are in. I digress, this is about you.

As an interviewer, I often ask a number of performance based interview questions to see how a candidate responded to situations in the past, as an indicator of how they may respond to similar situations in the future. You were in a tough position no doubt; however, my question sitting across from you would be, "When the going gets tough, will she bail?"

Your job is to convince me that you would not. You can go about doing that by filling in the blanks. Did you attempt to talk with your supervisor and explain the situation from your perspective? Granted his timing in may not have been ideal, but were his expectations unreasonable? What was unreasonable about them?Did you attempt to contact any one else in the company at any time after you left to discuss your concerns, to officially end your employment, or tie up any loose ends? What was your role in this situation? What have you been up to since then?

What I am looking for is any positive action you may have taken after the "heat of the moment" passed and you regained your cool. I am looking for actions that show a sense of responsibility, initiative, and professionalism in the face of adversity. I am going to consider your answers, your honesty, your accomplishments, your references and your work record in making a hiring decision.

Walking off the job is definitely a hurdle to overcome; prepare yourself well. Best of luck to you.