Working at a job that you hate feels like a slow, painful death. You’re still alive, but it’s like you might as well not be living. If you think that comparing a soul-sucking job to death is dramatic, then you’ve clearly never been in that situation. I have.
The worse thing about working in a soul-sucking job is that no one else understands. From the outside looking in, everything seems to be great. You might have what seems like a great job, and a gre
at position, along with what seems like a great salary, but is it worth it if you’re being tortured 5 days a week, for 8 hours a day?
It’s not worth it. Nothing is worth your sanity and your soul.
For me, it started about 2 years after I began working for my organization. The first two years, I felt very optimistic. I had a supportive boss. I was learning a lot of great skills. I was young and eager, well-educated, and what one might consider to be a “rising star.”
Then, I experienced my first “reorg.” A reorganization, re-structuring, or overhaul of an organization is what happens when new leadership comes in and decides to change everything. It can be a new leader of a company, or just a particular department within the organization.
I worked in the Human Resources department, which was the largest department and the most prone to volatile changes. The term “human capital” just about sums it up. Human Resources departments often look at people as assets within the organization, and assets can be manipulated.
During the reorg, we were assured that “no one would lose their jobs.” This might seem like a relief, but it’s a trick. When some corporations reorganize, they lay people off, give them a severance package, and send them on their way.
In other organizations, like mine, they need your talent. So, they don’t let you go right away. Instead, they move new people in who can learn your skills, and then they force you out. This keeps them from having to fire you, offer you a severance package, or add you to their statistics as having been, “fired.”
So, although I was momentarily relieved, it did not last long. As my new supervisors moved in over my direct boss, they started to change things up.
They denied my requests for professional development, citing it as “too expensive.” They took away my personal assistant, whom I had diligently trained, and reassigned her elsewhere. They instituted a stricter system of breaks, where we could no longer have any flexibility in our schedules. All of this was in the first few weeks.
Still, it didn’t seem like it was too bad. I still had my job, right? Wrong. They wanted my position. I was in a powerful role where I had access to a lot of information, and I had influence over a number of decisions.
I am a person who always acts with integrity, and I try to follow the rules and policies as much as possible while still treating decisions about humans with heart. Remember what I said about human capital? Well, my view didn’t fit in with my organization. They wanted to make decisions based on the bottom line, and the “needs of the organization,” not based on the needs of the people.
Slowly, my work increased and the “thanks” lessened. I was given impossibly tight deadlines that required me to work nights and weekends. I had to attend more meetings during the day, which meant that I had to do my actual work during my off time.
I was deathly afraid of making a mistake, so I started to develop anxiety. I was heavily criticized, and I would double and triple-check my work, so as not to make a mistake. The department secretaries became loyal to the new boss, so they rarely helped me as they had in the past.
I started being shut out of meetings regarding decision-making. My direct boss, the one who had helped me and taught me so much, was also under heavy pressure. They were pulling power away from her, and shutting her out of decisions as well. It wasn’t too long before she and I were in conflict with one another.
The message was pretty clear. I had to get out. (This was well before the movie, but the message was pretty spot on.)
I started applying for other jobs. I had planned to work for my organization for a long time, but the pressure was starting to get to me. I had a son to care for, and bills to pay. I couldn’t wait until I got fired to make a change.
The strangest part about the whole thing is that I was performing very well. I was working harder than ever before, but the environment that I was working in was chaotic.
I finally ended up filing a formal complaint about my work situation. I had no choice. The new bosses were breaking policies right and left as they tried to force me out. Quite a few of the requests in my grievance were granted. My job was safe, but I was still in a bad position at work.
I finally ended up accepting a new role in order to give them the position that they wanted to hire someone else in. I sat on the interview committee and helped them find someone to replace me. (He ended up staying in the role for less than a year.) It may sound hard to believe that I helped to hire my own replacement, but that it how these corporate environments work.
It’s funny how things happen the way that they happen. I wasn’t ready to move on to a new position. I was unwillingly forced to. But, things work out the way that they do for a reason.
About a month after I switched to the new role, my son was diagnosed with cancer.
If I had quit my job, I would have been without health insurance. If I had stayed in the same role, it would have been very difficult for me to take time off from work to care for my son. In my new role with in the same organization, I requested Family Medical Leave.
The same supervisor who had pressured me to change roles actually helped me a lot when it came to taking my leave. So, in the end, it actually wasn’t all bad.
The lesson that I learned is that sometimes God will move you out of a situation, even though you are not ready. I know that I was skilled at my job, and that I had a lot to offer. But, that job didn’t “belong to me.”
I didn’t belong to that organization.
I was there to work, to offer a service, and to do my best at it. I wasn’t there to take possession of a role, or to let it take possession of me. When we work for other people, organizations, and companies, we can only work in a role for so long as it benefits the organization.
My values were no longer in line with the direction of the company. It was important for me not to let myself be bullied by bad practices, but it was equally important for me to simply move on when it was time to move on. Changing roles allowed me to take care of my family, which is most important.
That experience, not just of going through hell at work, but also dealing with my son’s cancer diagnosis, taught me my first real lesson about what is most important in life. What is most important is not titles or positions; what’s most important is family, taking care of the people that you love, and taking care of yourself.
I vowed to never let myself lose sight of what’s important again. It is simply not worth fighting for a job that is making you feel physically ill, unappreciated, and anxious about life. There is a better opportunity out there for you, even if you have to create it for yourself.