26 September 2015

rearview mirror

Here's the big huge dump of the scenarios surrounding leaving my job.

It's been a whirlwind of emotions, soul-searching, gathering facts, making comparisons, and trusting/ defending myself.

I suppose the biggest surprise and disappointment of this whole experience is that my superiors were unable to maintain a professional attitude. I really thought there was mutual respect and they were better than that. Suck it up, take your loss, grit your teeth, and wish me luck. Nope.

Here's the story about what happened. It's not unique.

I came to work and gave 100% every day. I excelled. I gained respect. I loved my job and the people I worked with.
I also gained a lot more work. After a while, I began to see how lopsided things were. It's that classic misguided strategy: Keep piling things on top of the person who performs them best.

I asked for compensation for my efforts; especially because our salaries are public and it was evident that the person who carried the most weight received the least amount of money. (I'm obviously talking about myself here.) I felt like a fool; my coworkers made more money than I did, including ones with less experience who graduated after me, and including ones who pulled WAY less of the workload. Combined with a miserable hour-and-a-half commute each way, my job began to feel discouraging.

When I asked my boss, I was told that she did everything she could when it came to yearly evaluations and raises (and she did), but institutional limitations meant I couldn't be given more money, even though I deserved it. The inequality of salary in the department, even though it was supposed to be based on experience, could not be explained. They also acknowledged that yes my commute sucked but think about my benefits! I was reminded that I would eventually rise up in the ranks and one day it will be worth it. But in the meantime they asked if I could take on this extra project? And that one? I was told how good I was. I was the best in the department. I was the star. Actual words from my boss. I appreciated that.

I know that everywhere you go, you're overworked and underpaid. It's not a unique situation. And I believed them when they said that one day it would pay off. So I updated my resume, but trudged on.

Then we were blindsided. We were asked to do some pretty unreasonable things, like drop everything to be on call for someone who threw a temper tantrum over regulations that we have no control over, and work mandatory overnight 12-hour shifts on the weekends with no notice.
This was not a situation where something went terribly wrong and somebody needed help. This was the kind of situation where we were chosen to be the doormats because the person who made the decision decided that we didn't matter.

I watched my coworkers scramble to re-arrange their lives to keep their jobs, and I did the same, and that was the last straw for me. Not only was it insulting, but it set precedent. Even after this situation got resolved, I didn't want to stick around to see what happened next.

You know what? I've said it before. Life is too short and there are too many jobs out there to stay where you're unhappy. So I looked around and found something great for many reasons. Among them are a super short commute, less responsibility, accrual of valuable marketable skills in this field, an ideal schedule, not to mention that pay raise. Yes, please.

When I resigned I was met with incredible resistance. I made it very clear that I was leaving in part because of the recent shenanigans, and I was not met with surprise there; my boss understood that part because we'd all been clamoring about how it was NOT okay. I also clarified that it was nothing personal and my decision was based on what was best for me, and there were no hard feelings from my end.

It wasn't enough.

My superiors were pissed I was leaving and though they tried, there was nothing they could do about it. Since there was nothing tangible to offer, the guilt was poured on thick. Which was super fun to endure while maintaining a professional attitude. I am grateful that they thought highly enough of me to convince me to stay. What I didn't appreciate was the way they treated me when I told them my final decision. Zero respect. No thanks or well-wishes. Their attitudes trickled down.

The lesson here, besides don't mistreat your employees, is don't make someone irreplaceable. Spread the workload more evenly. That way when the one person you rely on most walks out, you're not left wondering what the hell to do. Literally no one else in the department knew how to do some of the things I did. It's not my fault. I simply did what I was asked to do, and I did it well. I'm certainly remembering this experience for the day that I'm a manager and I make decisions like these.

After word got out, I lost count of how many times I was told "You're making a huge mistake." By my supervisor, manager, colleagues, random people from other departments, people I don't even know. The widespread knowledge of me and my departure was staggering. I even started to hear un-true things about myself. It was super bizarre because I pride myself on staying under the radar and excluding myself from gossip. Suddenly I was the target.

I know it was probably said with good intentions, "You're so good you can't leave." I was even asked to meet with mythical creatures such as the Director of the division. I told the same professional story everywhere; my decision was based on what was best for me and there were no hard feelings from my end.

After a while, it became insulting. I felt like I was basically told over and over again, "You're not intelligent enough to make a decision about your own life." I started to feel attacked. Some of these people knew nothing about me, my life, or my situation. Yet they insisted I must be stupid if I decided to leave.

I declined to say anything negative about my reasons for leaving, but with the rumors flying everyone knew what was going on. Yet I was still condemned for leaving. I couldn't figure it out.

Those kinds of remarks made for a really rough couple of weeks. I went from a respected individual to someone who was making a huge mistake. The only support I received was either reluctant, or from my own coworkers who understood and are currently actively pursuing what's best for them.

Then it hit me one day when I was being bombarded by "well-wishers" in the break room, and it creeped me out: These people, these employees, institution-wide, really are brainwashed to believe that there is no better place to work and when someone leaves, no matter what the reason, it's considered a mistake. Unthinkable. This is the Stepford Wives of the Institutional Machine, believing that there's nothing better out there.
That realization only reinforced my decision to leave. It super creeped me out. When I confided in my coworker Chic about the brainwashed theory, she wide-eyed told me that she secretly thought the same thing. I knew I liked her. So far I haven't been brainwashed. I'm okay with moving on. This feels right.

I did not make this decision rashly. I did my homework, I weighed scenarios, I checked my gut, and I feel that this move will improve my quality of life. Faced with the facts (and I checked them thoroughly), one organization compared to another is roughly equal. Even though I've had a bad experience, this institution is NOT a bad place to work, and continues to be a phenomenal place to receive treatment, but it's certainly not the above-all, end-all magical best place to work. Even with the perceived benefits, it's not worth it to me. In the end, I'm not sorry that I made a decision about my life that is different from what they thought I should do.

I can't say enough that I will miss the wonderful, thoughtful, hard-working people that I work with, and I value our relationships.

But man, I'm ready to leave that mess behind, and I'm excited about this next chapter.

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