Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Whining on the Job

Almost 3 years ago, I decided that I wanted to be ambicious at the Previous Employer. I didn't have a desire to enter the management track, but I did want to join their massive Research division. To get PE ("Previous Employer") to pay for the Masters I would have to earn my way into a program to pay for the masters, which would include 1 semester of pay just to go to school. Only a few people get in the world get into that program every year, so I was going to have to hit the top to do it.

Subconsciously, I decided to do just that. I would take the Broom* company from machines in boxes to production on my own back. I wouldn't care if the job really needed three people, I'd do it myself with the help of one person who (then) didn't know a lot of AIX. If it took 60 hours a week, so be it. If it meant that I worked all hours of the night and day, so be it.

So I did it. I did 50-60 hour weeks. Since "PE" had Saturday to Friday weeks, it wasn't uncommon for me to have my 40 hours in by Wednesday. I comp timed almost an entire week one time. I was even talking about an ongoing problem to a co-worker on my cell phone in the above-ground-level portions of Ripley's Aquarium while in Gatlinburg.

It finally came to a head when the Broom account started having a series of high-profile mistakes, including 2 by me. We were making almost 500 change activities a month on Broom computers, and no one could keep track of it. The final mistake that I could take was one a co-worker did on my instructions, taking down a computer ahead of a change window. I'd already worked about 40 hours, and it was either Tuesday or Wednesday. I knew I couldn't be trusted to be competant, so I had him do the work, and asked him to check the schedule. Then I told him a time that I thought was right, but wasn't. When I came into his office, and we realized that he'd done his work three hours early, I was too tired to think straight. However, my co-worker told me later that I turned so white that he was afraid I was having a heart attack.

A few days later, I realized my need to get out from the stress. One of my other co-workers was driving us back from a Chinese buffet, and she went to make the left turn when there was an oncoming big truck. She hesitated, and from my view in the front passenger seat, all I saw was the oncoming truck. She only hesitated a moment, of course, and immediately pulled on in, but that was the last straw for my poor system. The next afternoon, I was at my doctor's office, with mild heart-attack-like symptoms. I had a battery of tests, primarily because I've inherited my father's strange heart rhythm patterns, and all that came out was a prescription for acid reflux medicine and an instruction to lose the stress (and some weight, which I haven't really done....). My manager then pulled me off the account and for all intents and purposes put me on the bench for a couple of months (I'd comp time out a bunch of the overtime, and do needed, but not high-intensity, work).

After winding down a while, Paula and I decided that there wasn't a lot of room for advancement at "PE". My manager was regularly under more stress than I was. Moreover, he had earned a significant promotion by taking a deathmarch project in New Jersey for six months, but that promotion had never come. I didn't want to hit the management stream at 30, which left project management and solution development. They too worked killer schedules with constant stress. They weren't any more an improvement than my job then. We started praying for the Lord to open up new opportunities. Then something rather unexpected happened.

He said "No." At first, this didn't bother me, since the Lord surely had something that just wasn't ready. Then three months passed, then six, and finally a year, and two. I spent a second tour of duty on the (fortunately MUCH calmer) Broom account. Where was the Lord?

Finally, I realized that I was content at "PE". I didn't need to move up, down, or sideways. If I worked thirty years in exactly the same job, drawing my paycheck, that was fine. I had to shed my sinful resentment of my employer's use of my own overeagerness, and start working like I was working for the Lord, which the Bible tells us I was. If the Lord had a better job ready, that was great. If not, I'd work there until I couldn't work any more.

I reset my work expectations. I decided to become the most useful person in my department. I would never be account lead, and would like it. I wouldn't stand out anywhere, just be the one person who could (and would) do anything that needed to be done. And most of all, my first loyalty was to God, my second to my family, and then my third to "PE", but when working for "PE" I would give it my best.

I had just been told that I had been (for the second time) considered for a low yearly rating just because of my previous mistakes, not for any problems with current work. An opportunity through the best local contracting house fell through because of their management's lack of desire. It looked like nothing was going to happen. On a whim, I checked the web site for my current employer. Wow, a job administering SAP systems on AIX. Just exactly my skill set. I go onto their web sites, and the project looks well thought out, and not going to collapse under its own weight (a common problem on SAP implementations). The HR policies are good, and I can live with the insurance plans.

So I apply. The hiring process takes months, but they take me for a salary that improves my finances enough. When I told my boss in his office that I was leaving, he actually did a real double-take (you know, when the cartoon character jumps back when surprised). He had called me into his office to assign me to Broom yet again, so I got out while the getting was good.

I've been here at the Current Employer for 6 months, and (other than Number 1 Son's illness) it's been the best six months of my professional career. We've straightened our own finances, and gotten some work done on the house.

This is why I struck out the whining I did in my post over the weekend, and prayed for forgiveness that I did it. It's not a place the Lord wants me in, and I'm not going anywhere He doesn't want me.

*No, this isn't their real name, but it's close enough that those who know me in Real Life will know who it is. Of course, everyone in Real Life has heard this story so many times, they're sick of it now... :)

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