You might have noticed that over the last two years I was getting more and more dissatisfied with my job. Or, more precisely, with my employer.
Twelve years ago I landed a job at a USA corporation owned factory that had all the right components – interesting job where I could learn new things all the time, both manually and intellectually challenging so I could show off my wide skill set, and well paid, extremely so for my humble standards. After a few years however the shine got a bit worn off, as I was constantly struggling with the mindset that was prevalent on key management positions and I was always outspoken about my disagreements with anyone, no matter how higher in the hierarchy they were above me. Despite this (or maybe because of it?), I got enough respect and clout at all levels in the company that when it came to a serious clash between me and a complete nincompoop of a mid-ranking manager, where unkind words were said on record, the manager was sacked and not me.
All this instilled in me a deep loathing of managers and especialy those who have MBA. To me, MBA managers are the embodiment of Dunning-Krueger effect – they have no discernible skills, but they think they can dictate actual experienced experts how they should do their job. Not every manager is like this of course, but enough of them that it is noticeable.
Then the whole company was acquired by another international giant, this time a german one. For a short while it looked like things will get better, that the flaws/positives ratio will shift a bit for the better regarding how workers are treated. It did not last – our division was chipped off of the big block and sold off again. And unfortunately again to a USA owned company.
From the start I was fearing that things will go back to the bad old ways, and they did. More than that, it quickly became apparent that things will get a lot worse before they get better – if they get better. And these suspicions were proven true when previous years – in direct contradiction to what we were told after the acquisition I might add – a massive round of layoffs has started. First people were “merely” encouraged to go and they got adequate or even generous severance packages if they decided to do so. Then started the push to slash personnel even more, and people got terminated. Still with severance packages, because this is EU and not USAistan, but loss of job is still a loss of job, even when you get handed several month’s worth money.
When I started, I was first part of and then the head of a three-person team. The clash with the idiotic manager was because the team was taken from me and I was forced to do all the work alone, which was only possible in an Excel sheet, not in an actual real world. I got one team member reinstated and some duties were given to another team. It was still not ideal, but it was workable and under the then german owner it seemed like it might improve again in the future. However this last round of layoffs took also my last subordinate for good and it meant that I would, again, have to do everything by myself.
I am not willing to risk a full blown burn-out.
So I decided to quit. Had I been a mediocre or worse worker, I would have gotten a decent severance package and I could leave the company straight away. But being good has some drawbacks. The company did not want me to quit, and I was told I won’t get anything if I do so. I had some quite intense (but polite and respectful) exchanges with both my supervisor and my HR manager and an agreement was made, due to be signed on Monday. I cannot of course disclose the details (and if you by some coincidence know or think you know any of the obscured details, do not disclose them in the comments, it would get you banned and the comment deleted), but I can say that I will stay at the company until November and do my best to impart some key components of my extensive experience on my successors. In exchange for that I won’t be completely stiffed. I would prefer to go straightaway, but this is the financially more savvy option.
I could only go into the negotiations as I did because I predicted the situation and I was already preparing for this option for the last year, saving money so I feel more secure and can actually afford to say “I quit anyway” and mean it. I still get less than I would if the company fired me (partially because I still underestimated the strength of my hand, but for that I only have myself to blame), but a lot more than I would if I had one-sidedly quit. I do not recommend to anyone to try what I have done, however, I have also seen people to overplay their hand in these things.
My next plan – and it will affect the blog, hopefully in a good way – is to not seek another job. I feel pretty confident that I would find one, but I am so mentally tired from corporate culture that I need a looong rest to get my bearings back. So the plan is to make knives for a year and see where that goes. I will wake up just as if I were to go to a job, work 8-10 hours daily at knives, and when I build a bit of stock I will try if people will buy them. If it works, great. If it does not, the worst that can happen is that after a year (or perhaps a bit more, depending on how quickly the money dries up) of doing something I like doing I will be forced to sell the knives for just the price of the raw materials and seek employment again.
This is not the first time I am doing this. Straight after university I was working in USA for a short while and with the exchange rate at that time I could subsequently afford to be one year unemployed and live off of the savings. I used that time and money for purchasing a good PC and learning myself the skills needed to build and maintain one, as well as the skill set needed for work with Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Photoshop etc. all that new fangled stuff that I did not learn at school but thought – correctly – will be important in the future. This has helped me to land my first job, in which I have spent five years and I left it for similar reasons (and under similar conditions, funnily enough) as the current one. I felt quite happy leaving that job, despite not having a new one yet. And I feel similarly happy now as I did then. I hope it works out well for me again.