STICKY SITUATION: About a month ago, I had a disagreement with my boss of three years, and I impulsively walked out and quit the job I loved. I cleared out my desk and split without even giving two weeks' notice. I also left behind a huge project I was in charge of midway through.
I have not spoken to my boss since I left. I really blew it, since I'd had excellent reviews for three straight years. I just saw my old job advertised in the paper. Should I try to mend fences and apply for my old position? I haven't had any luck landing a new job.
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: Ah, would've, should've, could've. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, as you were when you abruptly quit your job. You broke a few rules by walking out the door. First, you gave in to your emotions and did not look at the big picture. Second, you left your boss in the lurch, appearing to be not only hotheaded, but also irresponsible, and hurting his opinion of you. And third, you let the situation fester by never calling your boss to straighten things out. This has led you to rehash the situation to a point where you have lost perspective and now think that your old boss would even look at your resume without tearing it up and tossing it into the trash.
But you must talk to your boss -- not to approach him for your old job, but to straighten out this mess so it does not impact your ability to land a new position elsewhere. Best, ask him out to lunch. Since you knew each other for three years, he may be amenable to that idea. If he declines your offer, take care of this over the phone.
Write out your speech ahead of time. Apologize for walking out on him in the middle of the big project, and admit that you overreacted and now regret your actions. If your old boss tells you how awful you were, don't argue with him. Just listen and repeat that you are sorry you left him in a lurch. Say it was all a big misunderstanding.
Next, tell him you would like to use him as a reference. Refresh his memory about the many successes you had at the company, and appeal to his sense of humanity as someone you worked well with for three years.
You'll get a sense during the conversation of whether or not you'll be able to use your old boss as a reference. If you can't use him, call another manager in the company who you've worked with over the past three years, and ask him to be your reference.
And the next time you're tempted to walk out, make a trip to the corner Starbucks to cool off. Then return to work within 15 minutes and say you just needed a break.