Marc Grabanski, CEO & UI Developer of Frontend Masters

Lessons Learned from the Worst 6 Months of My Career

February 25, 2009

In the last few years I have shared many triumphs and positive things, but now I am going to pull from a chapter in my life that was dark to pull out lessons learned and expose the story about this company I worked for. Early-mid 2006 was the worst 6 months of my professional life, but it didn’t start that way.

How It All Started

The owner was excited, seemingly honest and downright cheerful and optimistic to work with me. He landed his first website job building an e-commerce store and needed someone to develop it. Sure, I wasn’t entirely equipped for the job but I took it on. He took the risk for a very tiny sum of money and we worked on it together day and night for about 400 hours to get it done. During this time, he yelled and swore at me for losing a few hours of data entry. I should have heeded that warning and not continued working with him, knowing that it would happen again in the future. But none-the-less, I liked the work I was doing so I continued onward.

How I Got Stuck in the Job

I really liked the guy, trusted him and we continued to take on more website jobs. I definitely saw an anger issue in him through this time, but hey - who doesn’t have problems? I enjoyed the work, but figured I could not get another job doing website design in the area because it is a small area and I didn’t have any kind of name for myself. I continued to work and try to get better at my job. Meanwhile, I was not making enough to pay rent and going into debt ($10/hour job, even though I had finished 4-years of schooling at $28k/year).

The Tyrannical Man Shows his Colors

I was happy with the location, but became more and more unhappy with my job as the outbursts of anger and rage moved from me, to the other workers (also hired for dirt cheap) who were yelled at (including profanities) until forced to quit. One of the workers shared with me how he became so depressed that it spread to the relationship with his wife. He finally got a job elsewhere, took it and got the heck out of there. I didn’t blame him, but for the time I was stuck for the aforementioned reasons.

Learning to Listen to Grievances and Anger

After my co-workers quit from the job because of the owner’s raging outbursts, I was the only one left. Why was I still there? Because I thought that by staying there it would making me stronger. It did. By hearing a list of grievances against me each day for a few months, I learned to tell truth from a lie and not get upset. This was a great skill to learn. It isn’t that I wasn’t listening to him, it was just that I didn’t agree with what he was doing to me or how he ran his business. Even so, I sincerely checked myself to see if I really was a screw up, because his shredding comments got through to the deep parts of me. This guy once wrote out an 8 page summary of grievances against me, at one point even mentioning that I was”poisoning the well”. “Crazy”, I thought. “I couldn’t be such a horrible person as this man describes me to be”. After a few months of realizing that I was truly well-intended (hard to do when words are so harsh) and knowing full-well that I was trying hard as I could (given the circumstances) - I knew it was time to leave.

How I Got Out

I put my resume on and within a week was hired at in agency in Minneapolis, MN. The new job was a great move, a wonderfully refreshing experience filled with positive reinforcements and triumphs. Really, you can’t get much more of a [high”, after such a low. People always wondered why I was so happy and working so hard. I have testimonials to prove it.

Positive Outcome

In the Midst of Working for a Nagging and Angry Boss Through the hard times you have the potential to grow in the midst of it, and this experience was no exception. For all those caught in a destructive working relationship with your employer I just want to give a few words of advice:

  • Try to honestly seek out if the bad things they are saying about you are true.
  • Sort out truth from a lie, and use it as leverage to be a better person. No one will be more honest about your weaknesses than someone who is violently angry at you, even though any grievances will be amplified beyond truth.
  • Keep your head up, learn to deal with it and then get a new job. It will be a great one.

Final Note

Regardless of how difficult this was for me to write about such a deeply negative experience. It is hopefully worth it for you, my readers to learn from and certainly my personal health to finally get this out there. Keep it real, yall.

Marc Grabanski, CEO & UI Developer of Frontend Masters

Career Journal on Web Dev, Business, & Life

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