Did You Quit Your Job to Face an Even Worse Boss? by@alizakr

Did You Quit Your Job to Face an Even Worse Boss?

Aliza Rosenfelder HackerNoon profile picture

Aliza Rosenfelder

Google for Startups UK Ambassador | LSE | Blockchain

Resigning from your job is like reaching the top of a rollercoaster — you know you’re going to experience a rush, but you don’t know whether it’s going to be the ride of your life or a rapid descent. You may relish the liberation from the rigidity of 9–5, or wake up to find yourself looking in the mirror at an even more tyrannical boss than the one you just left.

So how do you make the best of a situation which can be either completely empowering or totally overwhelming? As Socrates said and Elle Woods embodied — know thyself. No matter your field, it’s easy to fall into cognitive traps when you go from having others manage your time to managing your own. These 3 ways of self-sabotage are the lessons I’ve learned in the shift from employee to self-employed.

1. Self-justification

It’s easy to believe truth is relative— pick one that works. When you no longer have someone else dictating how your performance is measured, it’s easy to focus on what you enjoy and neglect any mistakes you make.

This can happen in two major ways:

1. The first is confirmation bias, where we seek to confirm what we already believe. In a study with people who held strong views about capital punishment, both sides were presented with the same evidence either affirming or contradicting their position. Disturbingly both sides treated it in the exact same way. The evidence confirming their position was taken at face value and the contradictory evidence was treated critically.

2. The second is cognitive dissonance where the mind finds a way to justify holding two mutually exclusive beliefs. That may be the reason I simultaneously believe I’m good with numbers whilst dreading filling out my tax return.

It’s important to catch yourself when you may be doing things that will not benefit you in the long term. I’d advise tracking your time for a week and seeing what you really spend your day doing and seeking advice, not validation, from those you trust.

2. Lack of routine

There are few sensations on earth comparable to the realization you do not have to spend the best part of your day standing under a stranger’s armpit. However, when the boundary between work and home blurs it can be damaging. Though you no longer have the same social pressure to stick to a schedule, keeping one is hugely beneficial.

Tel Aviv University found that both humans and animals are soothed by routine and ritual as repetitive behavior reduces stress and anxiety. Similarly, UCL discovered it can be better for our health to commute as it creates a clear separation between work and home. When faced with the unpredictability and randomness of life it helps to know what you’re doing on any given day. Haruki Murakami perhaps embodies this better than anyone:

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10 kilometers or swim for 1,500 meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

Now I appreciate the theory of running 10k if not the practice, but that mesmerizing quality he talks about is something I deeply connect to. If there’s one thing we all do not need it’s extra stress and when routines begin to feel automatic it’s soothing.

3. Negativity bias

Likewise, when you go from working with others to working alone interactions with others take on more meaning. Historic negative and embarrassing events can often replay in our minds and unfairly impact the image we have of ourselves. This is the negativity bias at work.

Evolution gave us a negativity bias so we wouldn’t be lunch for a hungry predator, but its impact on modern life is surprising. For instance, celebrities who haven’t had plastic surgery or fillers are now more abnormal than those that have. It tells you the power of the negativity bias when even the most attractive and successful people can look in the mirror and not like themselves.

This is why I believe Martin Seligman’s work as the father of Positive Psychology is so important. Just as negative behaviors can be learned so can positive ones to help you. One of his techniques is thinking of three things every day that you’re grateful for and making note of them. This subtly shifts your mindset over time and allows you to put events into context.

Equally, I find it comforting to listen to Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail as so often we see the shiny veneer of success, not the 10,000 attempts beforehand. Just as you felt like a failure so did James Dyson and Richard Branson. When you’re working for yourself your mind is your greatest asset — where possible try to let it help not hinder you.


1. Self-Justification: If you wouldn’t accept this behavior in others, don’t accept it in yourself.

2. Lack of Routine: Routine takes away stress and anxiety. Find one that works for you.

3. Negativity Bias: It’s easy to give negative events more power over you than they deserve.

To conclude, having left the confines of the corporate world do not impose the same mental confines on yourself. Every one of us is susceptible to behaviors that harm us and whatever industry you’re in, leaving the structure of a 9–5 is the moment where you have to fight hardest for who you are and the talents you have to offer. As the great Oscar Wilde said go and be yourself — everyone else is already taken.

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