It probably happened before this call but I distinctly remember it somewhere between the f bombs being said by my manager and when I hit my mute button and stopped responding to him. It was that point we all get where we just give up. There’s nothing more to say or do. We reach that limit where we know in our hearts whatever we say or do will not help anymore and it doesn’t matter. We stop caring. It is now a matter of what we do now in that vast area of space where the noise is no longer heard. I was there. It was like the slow motion action film scene in the battle where the warrior gets his second wind and does the unimaginable when it had just looked he was out of the winning. I was done fighting for this job at a company I loved. I was tired of finding myself in the middle of political office games that were unproductive and hurtful to others while being completely opposite the expensively well written company values that clearly were just words. I stopped fighting that day for anything more than a basic paycheck to cover my family’s needs and tide me over until I could build up my own business to support us and find another job. The rest could go to hell.
Maybe it was one too many bad bosses that led to this point. Here I was being shouted at on the phone by my current boss for what he felt was unacceptable; even though he admitted somewhere in the conversation I had been right with how I handled something. He however didn’t have the backbone to stand up for it and was yelling at me to fix it in the way that wasn’t right. I said no to that. I had put myself on mute at some point during the call as it was fruitless to respond and I just let him shout and yell, swear and disrespect me for the next 45 minutes. It was at some point in this call I decided to stop fighting for my job. I didn’t care anymore. Yes the paycheck was important but everything else didn’t matter. Not the goals, not the promotion that always dangled like a gold carrot you never reach and not the growth opportunities or the vacation time I barely had time to use anyway. None of it mattered to me and was worthless.
I had already started looking for a new job a few weeks before this phone call. It wasn’t something I had wanted to do and part of me had hoped things would turnaround where I was at now. You go through enough situations in your career you just know when to start updating your resume and putting out some updated connections in your network. It’s a necessity in jobs to always be looking for your next opportunity it seems. In my case it has always been when you start to smell trouble brewing you look to seek shelter in the form of a new role. It really sucks every single time too because we usually lack any type of defense to these situations beyond looking for new jobs.
In this case, there was a territory war waging on if my team and I were even needed and if we were who should we report up to? One leader a week prior had shouted in a meeting she was the boss of my team and we owed homage to her in all ways of kissing her rings and ass. We weren’t doing that to her liking either she told me. Literally this is what she said. My manager said nothing in response in that meeting and I was tired of being whipped on this matter. It was there I chose to stand up to her like David holding a pebble against a giant. Probably a stupid move but I did it anyway because what was happening wasn’t right. None of how it was handled or messaged represented the values of the company proudly promoted everywhere about thriving together, working collaboratively and leading with integrity. Values I worked hard at every day and promoted in my team. There was a definite disconnect between those pretty words and these ugly self-promoting actions though and it was only made worse by me speaking up against them, defending my team, their work and myself. Me standing up and saying enough in that meeting is what resulted in the phone call I was now on with my manager screaming.
I no longer cared. The caring felt like it had been beaten out of me at this point and I realized no one really cared anyway. The female leader claiming she was a mob boss not getting her pound of flesh was only interested in empire building. My manager was only interested in saving his own butt after years of not defending his teams or performing well himself. There was no one talking about the work that needed to get done, who was doing it and how important it was to the company and members we serve. No one was talking about how we work together to fix things or what even the problems were. This was all about ego, self-promotion and mismanagement of what is means to be a leader.
The hard part of the situation was I had 24 people reporting to me that I deeply respected and understandably they were all looking to me for answers. We had worked hard to build our team culture and were very highly functioning. There was trust, loyalty and respect for each other. We had rallied together to respond to every emergency, urgent deadline and more to mitigate problems over the last few months. We had gone above and beyond to meet the expectations of these two supposed leaders so they would stop the nonsense and let us do our work. In my experience, teams don’t do this if they don’t trust, respect and like their leader. In this case the leader was me.
I was told repeatedly by this group of talented individuals I was humble enough to serve that I was the best leader they had ever worked for and they loved me. Their words still make me cry because while appreciated and honored to hear them, I deeply felt like a failure for not being able to solve this larger problem and make their jobs easier. I couldn’t give them or myself a sense this would turn out alright for us and that things would get better. I couldn’t deliver more for them than a pile of latest screamed directives and lack of meeting expectations of these disrespectful supposed leaders that we needed to respond on.
As is my management style and why I believe people always want to join the teams I lead, I was just straight with them about the problems. I knew we didn’t have direct leadership advocacy to help us and I didn’t know where this would go. Some left as they found other jobs. They told me they were sorry but they had families to feed and what was going on here was just too much drama. I understood completely and supported their decisions by offering a reference if they needed it. Some cried as they told me knowing it would only add to the scrutiny our team was under. I encouraged them all to look forward and take care of themselves. We would stay in contact and I was proud of them and thankful I had the opportunity to serve them.
In reflecting on this situation I realized all too often we put so much of ourselves into our jobs only to have them create this incredibly frustrating and painful situations in our life. They become a large part of our identity whether we mean for that or not. We want it to work out. We want it to be like it was where we just logged into work and did our job, shared a laugh or two with co-workers and have normal days. We want to moderately enjoy what we are doing, finding answers to problems, hitting goals and building up our retirement accounts. Yet so often those are just sporadic occurrences and more often than not we find ourselves where my team and I found ourselves – trying to survive a war that wasn’t ours among large egos of leaders who didn’t know how to lead or manage. They were out for their own gain and reputation at all costs as it is always easier to blame someone else in those situations when things are not working in a company.
I found myself detaching from it. I was numb, burned out and exhausted. I had given my all and felt what my team and I had done was incredible despite the odds. I had also accomplished what the leadership books tell you is important in a team on top of it. Those accomplishments would always be mine and this team’s best memories even if no one else bothered to recognize us for them. It was time to move on as disheartening as it was to all of us.
It is not that I have the luxury of not working, just like I knew was the case of everyone on my team. I would have loved to say I could walk away from it and just rely on Dragonspit Apothecary, my small business I run and pour my soul into, but it just wasn’t financially at that point yet to do that for my family. I would have to find another job at least for now. The problem was though I knew it would just end up like this one in some way or another. Perhaps it wouldn’t be ego charged incompetent leaders next time but just a layoff due to profit losses or a restructuring because of a merger. Maybe it would just be a bad boss, uninspiring job or something else but I knew sooner or later it would happen again and I would have to find another job after that one too.
The average duration in a job these days is 2 to 4 years. That statistic represents a lot of job changes in one’s lifetime career. According to articles on the matter the top reasons for this short job lifespan is because of situations I was encountering now as well as job layoffs and company structure changes or pursuit of higher level positions where advancement was not available at the current job. This all made perfect sense and I had experienced all those things in my own career. It got me thinking that honestly if that is the way corporate work is it is little wonder most of us were like me in this moment and not caring anymore what name was on the paycheck.
This experience and knowing all too well it is a common thing in a lot of workplaces told me there had to be a different path forward. Continually looking for your next job is hard on top of focusing on trying to do the best job you can at the one you have now. It’s stressful, exhausting and often leads to this point I found myself with a screamer on the phone. The paycheck is important but at a certain point we realize we deserve so much more than that when it comes to our work. At a minimum we deserve the safeguards to reduce the dependency of how much we need abusive, never stable jobs to rely on for feeding our family and paying our bills.
At a minimum, we didn’t deserve being yelled at by managers like I was now. While I no longer cared and would find another job I also knew it was time for an all round different plan. This would after all just keep happening and I was too tired for it. I wanted to be happy in my work or at the very least not dread it like I had this morning knowing this call was on my calendar first thing. Money and work are important to our lives but there is a better way to earn it. People can say what they want about direct sales and side businesses all they want but I at least never had to put up with this type of behavior to earn money for it.
If you’re tired like me and want to try something different, let’s talk. I may not have all the answers but am happy to share with you what I have found through building Dragonspit Apothecary that is offering that shred of hope I don’t have to spend my time in a numb state listening to some asshole scream at me on the phone for his own lack of leadership. You don’t deserve that either. Let’s talk. dragonspitapothecary.com