career lock Subscriber Exclusive

'Toxic and damaging': A resignation letter to my narcissistic boss.

I handed in my resignation with tears streaming down my face but with a strength I honestly thought I'd lost thanks to my toxic boss. It said:

"I know that it would have shown great strength to stay and work through this with mediation, BUT I hope equally me politely declining is also a sign of great strength - to walk away from a situation that is not only toxic but damaging me as a person. To walk away with no next job, nothing lined up, to just jump and put faith in my biggest belief - that it will all pan out in the end."

That was two months ago.

It was a position I had dreamed of getting for the last 10 years.

I still don’t have a job. But I look different. The dark circles beneath my eyes have all but disappeared, and I laughed last week for the first time in I don’t know when. 

I’ve reconnected with family and friends. My children have their Mum back and my health; overall mind, body and soul are at the centre of every decision I make.

How the hell did I get here?

How did working with a narcissist break me?

Firstly, I am a recovering perfectionist but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to do my best. To prove I can do it, deliver my best work, just get it done. I’ve always happily done the extra knowing the payoff was always worth it. 

So you combine this with a clever, calculated and manipulative woman and it’s the making of a perfect storm. 

After all the articles I had read about dating a narcissist; why didn’t I see the flags? Seriously, working with someone is EXACTLY the same when it comes to personality traits.

Watch: The signs you're dating a narcissist might be the same signs you need to look out for when working with a narcissist person. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/Psych2Go.

And so the story began, just like any other relationship. 

I was Mel's* ultimate wing woman. It was my job to support her in her role and a very quick friendship formed. So quick, that when she first asked me to lie for her; I question now why I didn’t question it then. 

It could have been because I was new in the city and didn’t yet have a friendship base and because she bought me in fast and close; I still don’t know. 

The lie wasn’t even a little one either, but it was the ultimate test.

"If the blonde woman over there asks when did I first meet her husband, tell her it was tonight," she said at company drinks, despite the fact the three of us had dined together just days earlier. "He has a high-profile, high-pressure job and we are a great comfort to each other. We often go away together, but we don’t tell anyone. No one would understand."

I told the lie. 

I could sleep at night because it was none of my business. I was just doing what I was told.  

What was I going to do? Tell the wife the truth? Blow up my career?

It was the little things that Mel* would do.

She would walk into the office every morning with a big hello. Then one morning, she'd point blank ignore me. Then three hours later, she'd give me a massive hug as if she hadn't been giving me the cold shoulder all morning. 

She did this on repeat until I never knew what version of Mel* I was going to get. I started bracing myself before I walked into work each morning.

I didn’t even realise I was in such a state of vigilance at first. 

I was the team leader, and I had started to protect the wider team from her, hoping her sharp tongue and hot and coldness wouldn’t affect them, and wouldn’t cause someone else to feel what I was feeling.

What I didn’t know was that seven other people had already quit before I got there. In a quiet moment, a colleague pulled me aside and said: "I don’t know how you are doing it. She eats people alive. Well done for lasting as long as you have."

I was the shield for the rest of the team. But I was losing myself.

Behind closed doors, I would mention to my bosses that things weren’t great, but I also didn’t want them to think I couldn’t handle it.

Either way, it was all too hard to prove. It was in the little things, never obvious. Not to anyone else at least. 

One day Mel* accused me of forgetting things. Despite being a note taker, I questioned myself. 

After pulling me up on not remembering something in a huge meeting with the bosses, she whispered in my ear: "We can’t be perfect all the time."

An hour later she posted and tagged me on her socials "best in the biz."

A couple of months later it was Mel’s* birthday, and she invited a bunch of friends to her party. At the last minute, I couldn't go because one of my kids was unwell. 

She didn't speak to me for a week. 

Eventually, I pulled her aside and said again I was so sorry I couldn’t attend the party but we can’t be not speaking to each other at work. Her response was; "I have no idea what you are talking about, but you should know. The rest of the team doesn’t like you. You have a lot of work to do."

I couldn’t help it. I cried in front of her. 

The next day I pulled her aside and said it was unfair and untrue to say the things she said and she responded with, "I didn’t say that, you must have misunderstood me."

I am certain to this day I saw her smirk as she walked off. 

I started to pull away from her. Work was work. Personal was personal.

She would rip my work up in front of the team, then pose with her arms wrapped around me for social work events. On the outside, everyone thought we were besties.

I couldn’t sleep. I’d look in the mirror and not recognise myself anymore.

Listen to Fill My Cup where Allira is joined by Author and Clinical Psychologist Dr Rebecca Ray on how to set better boundaries and remind us why we need to look out for our own needs. Post continues below.

I felt so alone. All of this happened in the first six months of working with her. 

So, why didn’t I just quit?

I didn’t want to throw away my career because of her. 

I would get home from work and cry out of sheer relief and exhaustion. 

Then after the Christmas holidays, I got sick. I couldn't move for three days and ended up having 10 days off work. But something happened on day five. I started to feel different. More importantly, I started to wonder.

What the hell was I doing?

Who was I doing this for? 

What was I trying to prove?

Was this ‘career’ worth it?

I wasn’t living.

Lots had happened at work over those Christmas holidays. Changes were made and Mel* wasn’t happy.

My bosses finally got it. She had 'accidentally' shown them her true colours.

They listened. Human Resources got involved but for me, unfortunately, while the company did everything to help me through I knew the solutions they were proposing weren't enough. It was also going to be like putting a bandaid on a broken toe.

Of all the fury in me; this flight or fight mode I had been in (without realising it) something else had come over me.


I had a choice.

I could stay on in an environment that was slowly killing me or I could choose me. 

And so I wrote my resignation letter. 

Feature image: Canva.

Calling all internet users! Take our survey now and go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!
Unlock unlimited access to the best content for women