6 Reasons to Quit Your JobBy Money Mage · · Work, Reflection
A time of crisis is an ideal opportunity to take a step back. To evaluate the bigger picture.
In mid-2019 I quit my job. I chose to fall down a few rungs of the career ladder.
Now, 12 months on, I know it was the best decision I made in the last decade.
I was a senior manager of a small high-technology software company. I was on the executive management team, in the role of deputy-CTO. I ran a $4m revenue division of about 30 people, so pretty modest.
I felt I had a dream job: It was a small company I’d helped build up from nothing. I got to travel the world. My boss was a decent human being, an encourager who let you get on and supported you in making your way. I was surrounded by a world-class team. Business was good. I was my ‘own boss’.
I was also young in the role. I was ~10-20 years below the age of everyone else on the executive management team.
Sounds great? It was killing me.
Climbing Up The Ladder
I work in software. I’m a coder by trade.
I knew I was a leader, I always have been. I wanted to lead. In small software firms, I found it quite easy to climb the ladder.
I have an interest in leading, in empowering, in motivating, in looking after people and helping them grow. Many peers quit and went onto work for the biggest companies on the planet. It made me proud to see them go on to bigger and better things.
I worried about my team and if they were OK. If they needed anything. If they had problems. I wanted to help.
I had an interest in helping improve processes & the way of work. Of continually improving. And encouraging others to continually improve.
This all meant through my mid to late 20s I was quickly promoted. I worked my way up the internal corporate ladder.
Each promotion came with a nice little salary bump. I was always paid a little bit more than the people I managed, but not much. I didn’t think much of it.
Then I started to grow outside coding. I started paying attention to the business side. To value propositions. To use case. To user experience. To margins. To sales.
I started to get involved in pre-sales, account management & working face to face with customers, often on-site. I got to travel the world. I found I was sort of competent in an area I didn’t expect to be.
Soon, I was managing our biggest accounts. Taking small Proof of Concepts through to multi-million dollar global rollouts.
I got promoted on the back of this again. I was tasked with running a division to accelerate growth. In a moment of stupidity, I accepted a large one-off bonus rather than a significant salary bump.
The New Boss
Then a new owner came in.
In Scotland, we call his ilk a ringpiece.
The command-and-control, micromanaging, bullying, yelling, sacking, nepotistic hiring type. Your all-round nasty piece of work.
Don’t get me wrong, I can turn on the nasty piece of work tap if the situation demands it. But he was off the chart on the ringpiece-o-clock chart.
It didn’t take long for me to clash with him.
Everyone else just politely played along. I’m not wired that way. I speak my mind. I value bluntness, honesty and openness over sucking up.
Soon, I was being pressured into way more work than I could fit into the day. Reprimanded for taking approved holidays. Shouted at. Undermined. Eventually promoted sideways. Finally, I was pulled into a room, and told if I don’t worship at the altar of this ringpiece ‘this might not be the place for you.’.
I was being bullied out. It was clear they wanted rid of ‘the old guard’ and to put in their own ‘trusted’ people. I was red-eyed. I wanted to call up a solicitor and take them to town.
Instead, I took a look at the local job market. To my horror, I was being paid about 5% above what a Senior Engineer with absolutely no responsibility was paid. And that was the local market. If I moved to London, or New York, or Palo Alto, or Vancouver, it was double that and then some.
I had nobody else to blame but myself. I did a little bit of introspection and found myself way too attached to a company that wasn’t mine: I didn’t own it in any meaningful sense of the word ‘own’.
Not only that, but I’d also let that attachment blindside me into allowing a company to underpay & mistreat me.
I went through a little exercise in whether it was worth fighting, staying or leaving.
Thanks but No Thanks
One major motivator for me is to see people grow. Even when they move on to better places. A sort of altruism.
I bounced my situation off some trusted colleagues. Colleagues I had supported, grown & looked out for. Some of these colleagues even witnessed me being publicly humiliated by the ringpiece.
They were not overly concerned about me. They were looking out for their own positions and interests.
I was out to pasture.
Their reaction shook my belief in people to my core. The scales were balancing towards ‘time to move on’.
This was the first in a few major decision points. But there were Six major reasons I left:
- #1 - Know Your Value.
- #2 - Small Pay Cut does not mean Less Long Term Income.
- #3 - Reduced Stress.
- #4 - Free Time.
- #5 - Learn Something New.
- #6 - To Enjoy Life.
1. Know Your Value
I knew my value. I could quantify the revenue of the accounts I had grown and delivered. I also knew my costs: I knew all of my team’s operational costs were. Down to the penny. I knew I was operating a profitable division.
I also knew what my peers were paid compared to me.
My value was greater than what I was being paid. By a big margin.
I could be paid way more for doing the same elsewhere. But I’d also discovered I could be paid about the same/slightly less for doing way less.
2. A Small Pay Cut does not mean Less Long Term Income
The other-MM and I were fortunate enough to be clearing the mortgage at around the time I was contemplating quitting.
This meant our outgoings were heavily reduced. It gave me the freedom to make a decision that wasn’t going to damage our long term finances. The ‘outright ownership’ of our home helped sway the decision.
If I jumped down the ladder, I would have the option of building back up again if I chose to in the future.
If I jumped up the ladder, I would have to sell & relocate, or put up with 90minute+ each way commute.
It made complete sense to me to jump for the same kind of money, with the option of climbing back up the corporate ladder in the future.
3. Reduced Stress
I wasn’t sleeping well: I was worried about how I was being treated I had anxiety about going back into the office I was losing sleep over whether contracts would be renewed There were layoffs, and I was concerned for those affected
I had chest pains when travelling. Running & Meditation wasn’t really helping.
When I was stressed, I was drinking with peers as a crutch. 20+ units a week, maybe more. I was in a bad negative spiral. I had to cut off contact with those peers who were not helping my drinking problem, with support from the other-MM.
The doctors were not hugely helpful: ‘drink less / eat well / exercise / relax / meditate more, but do get in touch if you get any worse’. The words were right, but I was close to not hearing them.
I figured taking a job with way less responsibility would help my stress levels & overall state of mind.
4. Free Time
I didn’t quite realise how little free time I was wasting.
I was always thinking about work. Or always working. Weekend work was commonplace.
I’d always be checking my phone, answering calls. The other-MM gave up telling me to stop it.
- Calls late into the evening with US timezones
- Calls early in the morning with Asia timezones
- Constantly checking emails
- Nights out with the team
- ‘I’m just nipping into the office’
- International travel every few weeks
What little time I did spend at home ‘relaxing’, I just ended up decompressing from all the pent-up stress. Sat on a couch, watching crap TV. Or in bed.
I just couldn’t see it.
5. Learn Something New
I’d worked at the same company for 10 years. I felt at home. Looking back, I was becoming very set in my ways. In the ‘way of work’ which I’d helped form & create.
I felt a change of scenery would allow me to experience something new. Something different. A different way of work. To learn something new.
I’d also only ever worked in small to medium companies, of less than 300 people. Most of my career had been in small companies of between 10 to 40. I’d never worked in a large company of a few thousand or more people.
I felt I’d like to experience that, having worked with them as customers & seeing that they do tend to look after their staff.
6. To Enjoy Life
My introspection had led me to conclude I was far too work-centric. I needed to change. The other-MM was always telling me ‘a jobs a job’.
I’ve always felt a job is an opportunity to learn, and grow, and to commit to. To be part of another family in a different kind of way.
But I’d gone too far.
So I was really contemplating swinging more towards ‘a jobs a job’. And focus on the more important things: Family & Health.
What Actually Happened?
I decided I couldn’t work for the ringpiece. I decided not to fight in the courts. The day I got a fair offer from another company, I resigned, worked my notice, and took a demotion.
He thanked me by throwing even more work on my plate. A colleague coached me to say no: ‘What do you have to lose by saying no to him?’. I’ve never been very good at saying no.
The salary was about 5% lower than I was earning, but with more opportunity to grow. I figured within 2 years I’d be above what I was on.
But I had no responsibility. Literally none. It was actually quite a change. It took me about 3 months to stop the urge to fiddle in things that I would have otherwise done. Like hiring, pre-sales, account management, helping with upwards communication.
Now, I have more time than I know what to do with. I’m back to the odd hobby, playing games, more walks with the dog and the other-MM.
I’m less stressed than I was. I don’t check my work email out of hours. I work mostly 9-5. I still suffer from stress, but it’s much reduced. This COVID-19 crisis has me very stressed.
I’m spending more time growing and learning. I‘m reading more.
The new company I work for is awesome. They are growing rapidly, and really seem to care about their people.
They have been spectacularly competent during COVID-19, shutting offices & instructing Work From Home well before government direction. Weekly communication from the CEO & leadership team.
They keep asking me to step up to a leadership role, which I’ve batted away a couple of times. I don’t really want to at the moment. I’m enjoying learning about the company’s way of work, product lines, and want to deepen my expertise in their technology. They seem OK with that, and if they are not, so what…
Having our finances in order made the decision much easier. Would I make the same decision again? You bet I would. There is no point in being money rich, but health poor.
Subscribe now, follow me on Twitter @moneymagery, stick by your principles and you’ll be mortgage-free in no time.
Sources and Attribution
- Costa Brava (c) Sheila Dee, CC-BY