Every day Life
In 2013, after 17 years with a blue chip company, I found myself on the wrong side of a layoff package. It had been a very good company to work for, and it had treated me well. However, it was time to move on.
Change came in the way of a 20-person, 25-year old company that was seven short miles from my house. The people seemed pleasant, the work would be interesting and hey, it would be a steady paycheck again. Plus, I was assured that there was great life-balance involved. I signed my offer letter and was excited to start this new chapter.
As is with most honeymoon periods, mine was blissful. I went in at 8:30 a.m., took a lunch hour, and left at 5 p.m. I hadn’t worked such short hours in years. We were building a new project, and it was a slow period while things came together. I had the luxury of having actual water-cooler discussions. I took my time. I was able to do real research. I was motivated and happy.
Gradually – and sometimes abruptly – things changed. My product launched and was more successful than expected, but the company was unwilling to invest in adequate resources. I started to work long hours, including most evenings and weekends. Quaint technologies that worked just swell 25 years ago, were straining to keep up with the current processes. There was a lot of manual processing, which drove me crazy. The management team was disengaged and gave no direction. Still, I liked the work and I liked my co-workers. I hit my 18-month anniversary and trudged on.
Yet I started to like it less and less, until one day when I realized that I actually was unhappy. I had an unsupportive, disconnected and uncaring manager. When I told him I needed help, he patronizingly told me to give him a list of what I was working on, and he would help me prioritize my tasks. That night, I spent time I didn’t have, creating a list of the major tasks ahead. When I presented it to him, he glanced at it, said, ‘Yes, there is a lot to do. Do the best you can,’ and grabbed his coat so he could leave at his usual 4 o’clock departure time. I tried another time, using the method from my previous company, by asking him what I would be measured on. ‘Everything,’ he replied. ‘Everything?’, I said in disbelief. ‘Marketing? Finance? Business Development? Customer relations? Operations?’ ‘Yep’, he said. ‘Everything is important.’ And he walked past me, on his way out to lunch.
My personality started to change. I became crabby and had no time for pleasantries with my colleagues. Twice, I closed my office door and cried in frustration. I ate more chocolate that usual. I became bitter, resentful, frustrated. But good things would happen – we would close new business, we would run a successful event – and I would get a tiny bit of that exhilaration back. It didn’t last long, but it was enough to keep going.
My turning point came after working very long hours for two months in a row. Exhausted, I tried to negotiate a raise for a highly-valuable, underpaid person on my team. Our revenues were robust and I wanted to bring her up to market rate. ‘You’re all commodities,’ my manager snapped as he rejected my request. ‘I can get rid of any of you and find a replacement, any time.’
And that’s when I decided it was time for the divorce.
I planned carefully, and updated my resume. I called in connections, went on interviews. But my day-into-nights-and-weekends job still pulled at me, zapping my energy and my time. After a month of looking, I decided to just take the plunge and resign, so that I could regain some energy back before starting something new.
Now two weeks into unemployment, I’m happy again. My wallet is slimmer, but my smile is wider. One of my favorite quotes is from Tokyo Drift, where Han says, “Life is simple. You make choices and don’t look back.” I’m at peace, and ready for whatever adventure lies ahead.