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Dear (Former Boss), Thank You For Laying Me Off A Year Ago. Here's What You Unleashed In Me

Mission in a light bulb

Hello friends, it's Danielle, one of the founders of OOO-Marketing. I hope you listen to our March 1st Rabbit, Rabbit podcast where I share the opener to a "letter" I wrote a while back to the former boss who laid me off, and then chat with my co-founder Kristine about the Work/Life lessons learned from that challenge.

As promised in the podcast, below is the full letter. And while it's not an actual letter I sent, it was such a helpful exercise for me to write this reflection on how I navigated my post-job loss journey and how I transitioned from feeling terrified to feeling powerful.

Read on, and we'd love to hear from you in the Comments below about some of your own journeys back from challenging work or life experiences.

Dear (Former Boss),

Lying in bed this morning and snoozing my alarm for more “belly scratch time” with my dog Betty, it occurred to me that I feel truly grateful to you for that Succession-style group video call last year where you told me, and 200 others, our jobs no longer existed. Don’t get me wrong – it was a punch in the gut, but it gave me the long overdue kick in the derrière to re-boot my career and my personal life.

I’m not downplaying the financial and emotional trauma of job loss. As the family breadwinner, and with my children’s college tuition bills looming, I felt terrified, panicked, unmoored and deeply unsure of myself and my next steps. And sure enough, I went through the five steps of grief I had read so much about but never imagined going through: Denial (“maybe my employer will call me with another role,”) Anger (“how could they NOT have found me another role?,”) Bargaining (“let’s downsize our lifestyle so I can work part-time,”) Depression (thankfully short-lived) and finally, Acceptance (“ok, this is hard and scary but here we go!”). 

A year later, here are just some of the good things that bad Zoom call led to: 

I launched my own business. I fantasized about starting my own marketing agency for years but thanks to my “creature of habit” tendencies, I felt safer staying in the job I had already proven myself in. In my defense, being the breadwinner didn’t allow for a safety net if my own business failed – but deep down I know if I had been braver, that wouldn’t have held me back. Losing my job freed me of the option to take the safe route and two weeks later I launched a boutique, remote marketing agency with three incredible women who were also laid off on the same Zoom call. After year one, we’ve surpassed our revenue goals and more importantly, repaired our work/life balance (see next!). 

I recalibrated my unhealthy work/life ratio. Speaking of burnout, after my layoff, I mustered up the courage to take a hard look at all the important life moments sabotaged by my work stress (honeymoon, maternity leave, my kids’ sporting events, you get my drift). I knew there wouldn’t be a magic overnight remedy for my lopsided work/life balance, but this was the time for a reset. Since “balance” implies a 50/50 ratio, I decided to try a more realistic and fluid “Work/Life Smoothie” recipe. By planning and customizing my work/life ingredients each week based on my changing needs, I’m able to schedule my essential work tasks while blocking out personal time and self-care moments.

I’m better about saying “no”.  I’m a people pleaser who mistakenly equated saying “yes” all the time with making me better at my job. I had to reframe my mindset from employee to entrepreneur and embrace the “forest through the trees” power of “no” – helping me focus my energy on big-picture objectives with less distraction and burnout. 

I got comfortable with being uncomfortable. I loved my job, and was comfortable and confident there, despite crazy hours and stress levels. This “better the devil you know than the devil you don't know” mentality was behind me not pursuing other job opportunities that would have accelerated my career trajectory. As a new business owner, comfort is not an option! In addition to the initial financial uneasiness, from day one I had to jump into uncomfortable new experiences. My entire professional life was as a marketer but I instantly had to become an overnight “expert” in sales, web design, accounting, tech support, and HR to name a few. Having business partners navigating the same learning curves accelerated my crash course on conquering my “stay comfortable” habit. On a much lighter “note,” my resolve to embrace uncomfortable situations also helped me find my voice again – literally. I used to sing in a band in high school and after an embarrassing stage fright incident, I stopped singing in public for 20 years. Two weeks after my layoff I did karaoke with my friends for the first time, which helped me find my groove and confidence in other ways as I navigated my post-job loss pivot. 

I’m working remotely. This is a biggie and I want to acknowledge upfront how fortunate I am to be in a position to work remotely. I wish it was an option for more people. The life-changing effects are immeasurable, but for starters, eliminating my commute gave me back 15 hours a week. Working remotely has allowed me to spend significantly more time with family members who don’t live near me. Beyond just the reclaimed hours, I’m in a better headspace and not overwhelmed at the thought of road trips or flights – and I don’t need to limit visits to holidays since I can work from anywhere I can access Wi-Fi, and have the support of business partners who will cover for me during “unplugged” travel time.

I got a dog. You don’t have to work remotely to have a dog but it was the nudge I needed to take the plunge. Beyond boosting my joy factor immeasurably, Betty was by my side to make my transition from a bustling in-office environment to solitary remote work less isolating. Thanks to our regular walks, she also gets the credit for helping me get my daily activity steps back to healthier levels after losing my commuting steps – and it forces me to step away from my computer screen a few times a day for fresh air and a refreshed mindset. 

I stopped canceling doctor’s appointments. It feels ridiculous to write this but I canceled and postponed so many doctor’s appointments because I was afraid of not meeting deadlines, even though you never discouraged me from taking the time I needed. Now, having three business partners, we all keep each other in check with prioritizing self-care.   

I’m nicer to my husband. Feeling self-empowered professionally, I’m no longer looking to my corporate job for approval or validation. This has made me happier in general, which has resulted in me being less bothered by his idiosyncrasies that used to irritate me so much. 

In closing, thank you again for the nightmare layoff that launched me from the job I’d been plateauing in for a decade to owning the business of my dreams.

With belated, yet immense gratitude,

Danielle Neumann



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