New Boss, Who Dis? 📱

How I Built then Destroyed an Amazing Relationship with My Ex-Boss

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George was one of the best bosses I ever had.

He was the Site Operations Director for a major nuclear construction project in eastern Georgia. I was a new grad engineer with less than six months experience.

Before we had ever met, a deal had been made to transfer me down from headquarters in Pittsburgh to our construction site in Georgia.

I was ecstatic. The job was a one-in-a-million chance for a guy like me to report directly to an executive. Especially one with as much clout as George. Unfortunately, my future boss did not share that same enthusiasm.

When we first met, things went well enough, but through the grapevine I heard he was disappointed. He didn’t want me. He wanted someone with more experience. Someone who, on paper, had proven themselves more than me.

I started my new role with a chip on my shoulder from day one.

The first few months

Honestly, I was in a great situation.

The bar was so low that anything I did well would be a surprise. Yeah, it sucked that he was disappointed, but he had every right to be. I was a nobody. It just meant I had to earn my place.

I started with the basics. The bare minimum things a boss expects of you:

  • Showing up on time

  • Looking professional

  • Following the site rules

  • Doing the tasks that were assigned to me, on time

After a few weeks, I generally understood my role and what was expected of me.

I think George took note because then he tossed me into the deep end. Looks like I was going to either sink or swim.

With more responsibilities, I found that I was able to really prove myself.

I didn’t quite yet understand all of the technical aspects of the job. Nuclear construction ain’t easy. But I flourished with what I knew by asking questions. Generally, the right ones.

Other things that I did:

  • Deliver high-quality work

  • Take initiative and ask for other things to help with

  • Ask for feedback (e.g. “Is there anything I could be doing differently?”)

He wasn’t sold on me yet, but he was happy with my performance and style of work. About three months in, I noticed his demeanor changing.

I was swimming.

3 to 12 months

Work was in full swing, and I finally felt like I was carrying my share of my load. George paid less attention to me on a daily basis. At first, I was worried. But then I realized it was an indicator that he was beginning to trust me.

With less daily interaction, we started having weekly one-on-ones. Dedicated time to check-in and talk strategy. Over the course of my first year, the chats became less about work and more about personal stuff.

  • What do you think of the [Pittsburgh] Pirates this year?

  • Any big plans for the holiday?

  • Are you happy with your role?

We had gotten mostly comfortable with each other. Things were going well.

At the one-year mark, during my first performance review, he confessed how he felt before we started working together. Awkwardly, I said, “Oh, that’s OK. I needed the motivation.”

Company-wide raises that year started at 3% and were capped at 7%. The slackers got 3. The high-performers got 7.

George gave me 9%.

That’s the first time I realized that a good boss can break the rules in your favor, if he’s willing to stick his neck out for you.

Beyond the first year

I became George’s go-to for anything he needed help with.

Our working relationship continued to strengthen. I got his work done and made him look good. He pushed me past my comfort zone and put me in situations to grow. He always made it a point to introduce me to important people.

One time, he invited me to the project’s monthly review. The big one with all the head honchos. Then, he said, “Jason’s going to be running the show today. Jason, take it away.”

I was nervous as hell. But survived.

George was my greatest ally, and I knew that we had a good thing going.

  • At year two, I got my first promotion (I had become a senior project engineer, at age 23)

  • He invited me to all of the annual trap shooting competitions held amongst our site execs

  • He asked that I celebrate Thanksgiving with him and his family

  • He gave me high-profile projects to work on

We started as acquaintances. One excited. The other not so much. Then George became a mentor. One that I’m thankful I had early in my career. Eventually, we became colleagues with a mutual respect for one another. Lastly, we became friends.

They say you should always keep your work and personal life separate. And they definitely say that you should never try to be friends with your boss. But humans are humans. It worked out well for both of us.

Then, I ruined everything.

The last couple of months

“Are you serious? You’re quitting?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“I think so.”

Honestly, I didn’t have a clue. I had grown bored of the same routine day after day. The work varied. Certainly had its challenges. But I was only 25 and had worked that job longer than I had spent in high school or college.

Plus, my personal life outside of work had taken a turn for the worse. I was stressed and needed a fresh start. An opportunity came up and I pounced.

After more than four years of working together, George listened as I told him my plan. Two months and I was out. Heading over to south Texas for a bit, then up to Washington D.C.

No solid plan for work, just a fair amount in savings and “a buddy who owned a business that wanted me to help him out remotely.”

Every day, George asked me if I had changed my mind. I never did. I’m sure he thought I was a dumbass.

Then, I quit.

And I definitely proved him right.

The aftermath

George and I lost touch. It’s been years since the last time I heard from him.

The first week after I quit, I hopped on a Skype call with my “buddy”. The one who owned the business that I was excited about.

He started the call by sharing some information about McDonald’s, and how a franchise was an amazing concept where you could leverage an established system for maximum benefit.

I hadn’t really talked to this guy since high school. Turns out, his business was an MLM scheme. He was trying to get me to join his charade.

Not a great start.

Then I tried my luck at becoming a famous blogger. Unfortunately, I realized that I couldn’t become an internet millionaire overnight, and that I was going to have to scratch and claw my way to survive.

That next year was the worst of my life financially and mentally.

After exactly one year, I got my shit together and started a new engineering job at the bottom of the barrel. Level 1 Engineer.

I threw away the best job and boss I ever had for virtually nothing.


Yes, I screwed up. But some pretty great things came from it.

That year introduced me to writing (which I still love doing today), and it led me to Greenville, SC, where I planted new roots and found a wonderful family.

It took some time, but I’ve since proven myself to my new boss. Mostly the same style of relationship with a few less perks than George had to offer.

Turns out, most bosses are people just like you and me. They love. They hurt. They get angry. And they also have bosses who expect things from them.

I followed the same steps I did with George and was able to replicate my success. My new boss and I are great colleagues. Probably even better friends.

Maybe I’m wrong to approach work this way. Maybe not. It seems like it’s working well so far.

Regardless, I’m happy and looking forward to the day when I can say, “New boss, who dis?” to some young promising kid. Hopefully one that doesn’t break my heart.