Sunday, January 3, 2021

I Quit

I left my job of 3 years, this week. While I've generally been happy with that job, something happened this month that made it impossible for me to stay. So, I took the financially unhealthy route in order to save my mental health and dignity. I decided that would rather be broke than disrespected. So, with Matt's support, I quit my job and we lost a good chunk of income. This makes me a burden on my family, rather than a contributor to our success, I know this, but there are things I cannot choose to ignore. Even if it means finding a part-time or lower paying job, or figuring out how to venture out on my own, I simply could not stay.

I feel like I need to write this down, for the sake of my sanity, because I have lost nights sleep and so many tears over this choice. I'm choosing to leave the name of the company out, because I still believe that they are generally a good company and a good place to work, depending on your position. And because the best leader I have ever had in my adult life, was a leader I had at this company.

For two of the three years I've been with this company, my role responsibility has been something that might directly co-relate to being an assistant supervisor, though that's not what the role is called. I was one of only two work at home people to be chosen for this responsibility, a brand new role with the company, and that was something I took very seriously. I knew, at that time, that whether or not work at home people were chosen for this responsibility again in the future really rested on how we two did at it. So, it was something I worked to excel at. I wanted to be good at my job and for the first time in my adult life, I had a job I really enjoyed that actually paid me more than a pittance. And, you know what, I was extremely good at this job. 

I got everything I needed to do done each day with time to spare and was vigilantly attentive to the helping/question answering portion of my job to quickly answer questions for the people on my team so they could successfully navigate customer phone calls. I was good at this and, most days, I enjoyed it. But, I was never able to actually move up beyond where I was because I work from home, rather than in the office (2 hours away). So, I'd put myself out there for new opportunities only to be told I don't interview well, or that my interview was great but I needed put myself out there more, or that I work from home and they aren't ready to hire-up from the work at home candidate pool. So, I kept doing what I had been doing, and doing it damn well. 

Then, a little over a year ago, the new director of our department asked that I take on a new responsibility. They needed someone to draft, edit, and send out our department-wide communications. This is an important job responsibility. It allows us to send out a cohesive message to all the employees in our department, informing them of new policies and update them on anything happening around the department. It was something I would do, for a nominal raise, in addition to my other job responsibilities. 

I happily agreed and, while I was nervous, I jumped in and, I believe, excelled at this new dimension of responsibility. The leader who gave me this new job responsibility saw that my education was in English and that I could do this job well. I worked really hard not to let him down. I stayed late on days when it looked like the job wasn't going to be completed by the end of my shift, I worked on the department comms even on days when I had called in sick (very rarely did I call in sick), and all the feedback I received for a year was overwhelmingly positive.

This is a good time to say that I'm not a person who needs positive feedback to know I'm doing a good job. I'm very much intrinsically motivated. If know I'm doing a good job, that's more than good enough for me. But to hear that I was doing a good job from our department director was meaningful to me. I knew I was succeeding, but to hear it out loud was bolstering to my confidence. This job, more than any other, has made me feel like I actually have skills that might be valuable to the world. 

Then, about two months ago, our department got a new manager from another department. This created an added layer of management that hadn't previously existed in our org. I have nothing bad to say about this person because I don't really know them and hadn't had much opportunity to work with them. And, while I had heard negative things, I always try to judge people on their own merits and don't put stock in gossip. This, however seems to be where things go downhill, not only for the reasons I left the company, but with our department culture.

People began moving around, we lost a higher-up to another department, which put added stress on the others in her same role. Then, people in my job position started to be disinvited to meetings we had, previously, been invited to. Daily syncs and weekly department meetings began to be for people above my level only, so the flow of information into my position was stemmed. But it felt like the cold shoulder to me. Like we weren't actually a part of management anymore, even though our individual team's successes were very much on our shoulders.

Here's the thing, most supervisors use their co-leader (my job level) to do all the grunt work. They assign them all the tasks they don't want to manage themselves, like answering questions or talking to all the escalated customers, or even taking on part of their responsibility with customer feedback surveys. This was a problem from this job position's creation, two years ago. So, to have much of the weight of the teams success on us, without being invited to any of the meetings was jarring and, frankly, disheartening. It said, at least to me, that I wasn't a valued member of the leadership team anymore.

Then, I came in one day recently to find a note from our new manager telling me that the department communications responsibility I had taken on last year was being shifted to a brand new job role in the department and that I was welcome to apply. He said that they were only opening it to people in my job position ("assistant supervisor") inside our department. To say I was upset would be an understatement, but I understood that the new role they were creating would be more than just a dedicated person to send the department communications. However, all of the role responsibilities were something well within my skill set. Something I could have taken on and excelled at. Doing the department communications had quickly become my favorite part of my job each week. It was more than just writing a department email, it was pulling multiple reports each week and updating metrics data. And, I loved it. So, of course I applied. 

I was told by this manager, our department director, our department's assistant manager, and my direct supervisor that they all thought I would excel at this role. This means every single layer of leadership above me had encouraged me to apply for this job. I interviewed for it, even though I felt like I was interviewing to hold on to a job I was already doing. But, here's the thing. I know I don't interview that well and this interview was tough. I came out of it feeling deflated, but I pushed forward and reached out to thank them for interviewing me and to reiterate to them that I thought I would be the right choice for the position.

As I write this, I still believe I would have been the right choice. However, they didn't feel the same, and this is where we part ways. I had done the department communications for a year and done it well. I felt like I had proven I was capable of taking on a new role, jumping in with both feet, and excelling at it. Proven not only when I was asked to do our department communications, but when I took on the brand new "assistant supervisor" job position two years ago, too. I'm adaptable and capable of learning new things very quickly. I communicate well and try harder than anyone I know.

The day after I interviewed, the new manager called me aside to tell me I didn't get the position. He said, "This is hard feedback, so I'm sorry. You're doing a good job, but we think the other candidate is better." That I was able to hold it together at this point is nothing short of a miracle. I'm a sensitive person, I cry when I'm upset and when I'm angry. I spent most of that day in tears and the day after wasn't much better. Yes, I know it's not particularly flattering for a 42 year old woman to be crying over a job, but it's so much more than that. This man just looked me in the face and said they think someone else would be a stronger candidate for a job I've been partially doing for a year. 

Then he said, "But we don't want to take away what brings you job in your job, so we'd like to keep you on as a fill-in for the person who is getting the new position, so when she's not available you can still do the communications." That right there is just plain brutal. I decided right then that I was not going to be returning to this job. I'm very well-educated, I've worked my ass off for this company, and I can't move forward because there's always going to be someone better.

If showing them, over the last three years, that I'm smart, dedicated, and capable isn't enough, then no amount of interviewing will do it. I could have absolutely crushed the interview (I'm sure I didn't, but no idea whether or not I did, no feedback about that) and still not gotten it. Because the person they gave the job to had an unfair advantage. She was applying for the job from outside our department and looking for a backward step from a higher level position. This was a little bit upsetting to me, because I had been told they were only opening the position to people at my job level, inside our department. Somehow, this high level person from another department had just happened to hear about it. I should put in right here that the person they hired came from the same department as our new manager. Apparently, people trying to step backward are giving priority over people are are trying to step up. They want to make room for people with families and I get that, but to do that at the expense of good people trying to advance seems wrong.

When I resigned, three things happened. My direct supervisor was upset but understood, his supervisor absolutely didn't acknowledge it at all (and never spoke another word to me), and our department director called me. I couldn't talk to him without crying, so I didn't. I let it go for a while, tried to pull myself together, and when I thought I could talk to him, I did. I was wrong. I still cried, which made me look like an idiot, I'm sure, but it's not something I could have helped. It could have been a week, talking to him still would have made me cry. He's a really nice guy and he had enough faith in me to begin with to give me the new responsibility. He's also been the one to tell me, repeatedly, how good a job I'm doing. He seemed upset that I was quitting, wanted to know if it was something the manager had said to me, and tried his best to explain the situation. 

I understood, from a business perspective he did what he thought would be best for the business. They couldn't have justified hiring me over her, she has higher level job experience, after all. But, when we were talking he reiterated to me that they want me to continue to back-fill the comms position for this new person they hired. It was a knife through the heart for me. I thanked him, because I truly like him and because, of all the leaders I've had, he really has been the best. But, I told him I was still going to resign.

From here, I'm not sure what I'll do. I need to find a way to bring in income, but I'm skittish about looking for work outside my home during COVID and about working for another corporation where I'll invest myself and be overlooked. And, if I'm being completely honest with myself, this has been a huge blow to my confidence. I know I'm smart and capable, I learn things quickly and apply myself. It doesn't matter if no one else sees it, too. Maybe there's a time when everyone feels like this or maybe I'm not seeing the whole situation, but I know for a fact that I'm too old for this. I don't want to stand by feeling disrespected and overlooked, and I have a good husband who is willing to make small sacrifices so I can feel valued.

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