Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quitter

I always leave myself an out but once I've started something, I like to finish. For example, when I started grad school, I made sure my department granted a Master's degree in case I decided to leave before getting my PhD. Of course, I did finish my PhD but a lot of people thought I wasn't ever sure about doing it because I spoke openly about giving myself the option to quit.

I always knew that I was going to finish, because I finish what I start, but I liked having an escape route.

I don't always finish things. I took a couple of incompletes in college that I never completed. Luckily, it didn't ruin my career.

Quitting the rowing team (in grad school) was a difficult decision. After two years and a semester, I decided I needed to focus on my graduate studies. Finishing that MA thesis wasn't going to happen if I kept rowing. That, plus a new and hated coach, helped me decide to end my competitive rowing career.

I have finally decided that I need to quit my job. It's a painful decision.

It's no surprise to long-time readers that I'm not happy with my job. In the very first post I wrote, I mention that unhappiness. Check it:
I'm also grateful for my boss. He is probably the number one reason I like my job at all these days. Did I mention that I hate my job? I'm starting to fantasize about other careers, but it all feel hopeless, and I feel guilty for being so damn UNGRATEFUL because I have such a good job. It pays so well, it's so perfect for me, and it should be interesting. And, then, I go and chat with my boss for half an hour, mostly about work, which is actually enjoyable, and then not about work, which is even more enjoyable, and then I'm awfully glad I'm here because I would hate to ever have to work for anyone else.
Every damn word is still true but now I AM working for someone else (TR). It's a disaster.

Recently, I've picked up the pace a bit, held myself more to account and done a better job. Still, the nature of the work is dull. It's challenging but in a tiresome way. Nothing about the job, the actual tasks, excites me. To be frank, it never did, but while I still had something to learn, it was interesting. I have always enjoyed the learning part of any enterprise, even when what I was learning wasn't exciting. And, even when I don't enjoy the substance of my work, learning the organizational structure of the work place is fascinating. The federal system is awesome in its complexity and figuring out how the wheels turn could be a job in itself--in some ways, it's the most important thing I've learned.

But the breaking point finally came on Friday night. I walked home with TR. Sometimes we talk about work on the walk, but usually in a non-practical way. He'll tell me about a project he's working on that I don't know much about or we'll brainstorm something. This time, I criticized the way he manages (not for the first time) and he told me what a lousy employee I am. Ok, the latter is an exaggeration. However, I walked away feeling furious and disrespected. As though TR doesn't trust me to do a good job and he doesn't respect my professionalism. He thinks I can't do the political stuff and he wants to keep the one big interesting project that was his before the promotion. You know what I want to say to TR? Well, this is a family blog, so I won't say it. But, c'mon. Even if I'm a slacker, it's because I don't have enough work to do. I do all my assignments, professionally and usually on time. If I wanted a non-structured, work more than 40-hours a week gig, I would've gone into academia. I'm here for the structure and it's your role as boss to help give it to me.

Over the years, I've had a number of contracts go wrong--that's because my old boss trusted me with tough assignments. Those projects went RIGHT because of my tact and skill. Did I vent to TR and Larry (old boss) about my problems and frustrations? Sure I did. But I didn't cry or get emotional with the contractors. And I didn't get overwrought with TR or Larry either. I felt free to express myself to my colleagues. I used you as sounding boards so I could figure out the best way to deal directly with the contractors. And, when my extensive discussions and detailed comments couldn't bring in a publishable report, I took the work and did it myself. Think of all the money I saved the government by salvaging unpublishable work--by making sure we didn't just throw away those contract dollars.

No, TR didn't think of that. Instead, he said that I couldn't handle those contractors. That it was some failing of mine that caused those contracts to go wrong. Really. So, if I'd been, what? More TR-like in my approach they would have become better writers? They would have learned how to hit deadlines? They would have actually followed my explicit directions instead of coming back to me later with, "Oh, you did tell me to do that, didn't you? I remember that." After they went ahead and did what I told them NOT to do? I'm sure, TR, that you could have done a much better job. Yet, somehow, in every single project I've had, the good and the bad, we've always had a high-quality report at the end. Does that not mean anything?

Other times, when I tried to take on new tasks, TR stood directly in my way. I mentioned that and he admitted that I was right--that he wouldn't give me the project. But TR said that it was because there wasn't a "good fit" between the clients and me. How did you decide that, TR, when you wouldn't get out of the damn way so I could have a chance at the work? You blocked me and then you blamed me. There was no working together. It was your way or nothing. Even at the time, I knew that you thought my way was wrong and your way was right. But who managed to offend a huge client? It sure wasn't me. My way was fine but you couldn't see that. Even as you admit your fault, you refuse to grant that my way might have worked just as well. That my way might have been better.

The one thing I cannot abide is being patronized or disrespected. TR doesn't know how to be a good boss to me and I can't stand working for him any longer. That, plus a long-standing dislike of my job, make it clear that it's time to go.

With my old boss, I probably would have stayed forever, out of loyalty and guilt. Maybe I should be grateful that TR was such an ass because now I have the push I need to get out.

I haven't decided what I'll do yet--I have lots of options. Apply for public sector jobs in DC, move and get a job elsewhere, take my sabbatical, or who knows what. I have to mull it over and see what I most want to do. I will make a change but exactly what the change will be has not yet been decided. I will talk to a few people and get a resume out there, just to suss out the options. I'll figure it out eventually--in the next month or so.

In the meantime, I ask just one favor: don't tell my mother. Oy.

Grateful for: being ready to go.

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