Sunday, January 11, 2009

Choosing truth, freedom, and happiness over security

Up to this point I've never written about any issues at work in my blog, for several reasons:
  • For the most part I have been very happy and haven't had any issues.
  • When I've had issues they've been minor and I could work them out.
  • My boss reads this column and I worry more about upsetting her than I worry about upsetting my other friends.

But recently I realized that in order to do what I consider to be my life's work, I have to be willing to talk about everything and not censor myself because I fear the consequences. It's not that I don't fear the consequences; I do. But I can't let fear stop me from telling the truth.

So after almost two years of working at my job and loving it, I sent an email to my boss on Friday and told her I was unhappy. She had opened the door for me to do that over a year ago, when she asked me to let her know if I ever was unhappy. This is something new for me. In the past I have told my boss I was unhappy only when I had made the decision to leave. By then it was usually too late to fix things. I have made no such decisions here. My fear is that she will think me an ungrateful, lazy employee and let me go. Still, I need to tell her the truth. I promised to do that.

I remember decades ago telling my boss at Columbia House that I was unhappy. He was a big burly man with a loud voice and everyone was afraid of him. I was afraid of him too. But my life had become so miserable at work that I was willing to leave even though I didn't have another job. His reaction surprised me. He looked at me and said, "Don't you know that no one is happy?" My response was that I knew that, but I was choosing not to participate any more. I was choosing to be happy regardless of what the rest of the world was doing. To my surprise he asked me what my issues were. He asked me what was going on with the other employees. He asked me to please stay. I never expected that. That night he invited all his employees out to drinks and the next day he visited all his direct reports and asked them how they were doing. People were wondering what got into him. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

Fifteen years later this situation is very different. My current boss is the opposite of that big, burly guy. (OK, the one thing they both have in common is that they are very tall.) She is sensitive and very much in touch with what is going on with her employees. But we haven't talked in a while, probably because she is extremely busy and dealing with stressful situations that would have me running out of the office pulling my hair and screaming, if I were in her shoes. I am in awe of what she is able to handle. I cannot do what she does.

I do not have her energy, her youth, or her willingness to deal with corporate insanity. I have loved my current job because:

  • It has been stress free.
  • It has allowed me to use the talents I have.
  • It has offered me the right amount of work for the hours that I am suppose to be working.
  • I have been able to meet everyone's demands easily and I have been appreciated for that.

In the last month-and-a-half, and especially since the forced two-week vacation, I am reminded of why I thought I could never work for a corporation:

  • There seems to be a corporate amnesia about the fact that we were forced to take vacation. All projects are due asap.
  • I have more work than I can handle in the time allotted.
  • I am asked to do some work that does not appeal and that I don't have the talent for.
  • I cannot meet everyone's demands and need to push back.
  • I can sense people's disappointment, impatience, and frustration with me.
  • I am stressed and exhausted--physically and emotionally--and do not have the time, energy, or space to work on my book.

I am not happy. I have no idea what the consequences of making this statement will be. But I have to make it because I choose truth, freedom, and happiness over security.

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