Slowly Sipping Coffee

When Work Makes You Want to Quit EVEN Sooner.

What a week it has been around the office. I’ve been back for a week from our most recent vacation up to the MT/ID area, and I was feeling pretty refreshed.

Lake McDonald - Glacier Nat'l Park

Lake McDonald – Glacier Nat’l Park

I had gone the whole vacation not even thinking about work, and after I got back I was even feeling super recharged from a Personal Finance (PF) standpoint. The field I’ve been working the last 3 years is almost ready for drilling and we’re just finalizing the field development plan. The other project I’ve been working on has gotten extended as we’ve come up with more ideas to test than upper management was expecting, so that has been fun too. There was even another minor reorg/power shift while I was gone and I lost 2 of my 7 bosses, so now I’m back to having only 5 baby, yeah! All, in all it was looking up. And then the rails came off of the train… I essentially got ambushed in a meeting that wasn’t even my group, and taken to task for things I didn’t work on and wasn’t responsible for. It didn’t matter though because I was the one that was there accounting for any and all work done on that project. Let me back up and set the stage for one of the weirdest, bizarre, and unprofessional experiences I’ve ever dealt with in my career, and how knowing where we were in relation to Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) helped me keep perspective and make the best out of a wack-a-doo situation.

Meeting or Ambush?

I’d gotten invited to a meeting for another group separate from the one I work in. I was supposed to be support, just in case the person that called the meeting, let’s call him Tom, had any questions regarding the field development aspect. From all descriptions, it was supposed to be an update from that team on their overlapping work in my field. However, 5 minutes into that meeting it was clear, that wasn’t the case at all, and it was directed solely at me and my team. Keep in mind there are about 20 people in the room, 8 of which are upper management, and then there is me. I’m representing the development side of my field, yet I have no management from any of my teams present and no one else from those teams present. Just me.

yep... source: me.me

yep…                                                                      source: me.me

The meeting started with a question on how we planned to reduce the uncertainty associated with our geomodel, and I reminded Tom, that as I’d told him in our meeting 3 weeks ago, here’s what we were doing to lower the uncertainty and address the issue. Tom then proceeded to question the quality of my work, my teams work, our supporting teams work, my manager, my other manager, our GM’s background and his decision making abilities and the fact that our team was putting lipstick on a pig and selling it to management. Yep, it was that sort of meeting and it lasted an hr and 15 minutes. The most senior manager in the room tried to adjourn the meeting 3 separate times to no avail. The first one was about 10 minutes in when it was awkward for everyone in the room because it was essentially me and Tom talking at the table in front of a large audience, lol.

Everything your team did is wrong!

Everything your team did is wrong!

Let’s Not Get Personal

I initially started off a little defensive, and my blood began to boil a bit. Then I realized, “This is just work. I don’t know what Tom’s deal is or why he thinks I’m the one that should address this, but whatever. Let’s just get through this and move on…” I took some deep breaths and detached myself from my emotions and for every negative point that Tom had an issue with, I brought up how we had already addressed it, and how it fit into our development plan. It reminded me of my thesis defense, except I was not only defending my thesis, but about 3 other ones I didn’t even write. Hilarity at its best.

Couldn't be said better.

Couldn’t be said better.

Being able to detach from the “I’m being personally attacked” mindset and frame it as “Tom has concerns, however misdirected they may be, and I’m the only personification in this room for him to address them to” led to a rather calm well reasoned response on my part. I think having proper perspective is key in those ambush, wtf, work situations. Me from 8 years ago would have jumped on Tom’s crazy train and gone sailing off the rails with him and it wouldn’t look professional from either of us. By keeping the proper perspective, after the meeting I had 5 upper managers apologize to me for whatever that was that had just happened, but better than that, they all told me I did an excellent job keeping my composure and being able to defend ALL of our work so well. In short, they were impressed. Small win for this guy!

'Nuff said...

‘Nuff said…

Freedom to Not Give a F@&!

I think this was helped out by knowing that it’s just work, and I’ve got the freedom to not have to deal with work if I want to, so that seemed to make it easy to detach on a personal level. By not living at or above our income level, we have been able to save enough money so that we are about 2 years or so from being able to “early retire”, or at least retire from a 5 day a week career environment. As unprofessional as that whole “meeting” was on Tom’s part, I didn’t feel like my livelihood was threatened. I knew that if all hell broke loose and I was out of work that afternoon, financially we’d be just fine. Yeah, it would suck and I sure as hell better get a good severance out of it, but I wasn’t too worried because I know where we sit financially.

That’s the short version of one of the weirdest encounters I’ve experienced in my career and definitely a first for this company. Sure it sucked, but it wasn’t enough to make me go file an HR complaint or anything, I just chalked it up as Tom having a bad day and me being the whipping boy apparently.

What about you, have you ever experienced a situation like that? Did it work out well for you or did you jump on the crazy train too? Did you feel like Johnny Paycheck and telling anyone involved, “You can take this job and shove it!”

38 thoughts on “When Work Makes You Want to Quit EVEN Sooner.

  1. The Jolly Ledger

    Oh geez, I know this well. Ours comes in the form of being perpetually kept out of the loop and then being the go to when things need to be fixed, like today. Then we get blamed for the problem in the first place. I find the whole thing to be infuriating constantly. I wish I could keep as calm as you did knowing how well we are doing financially, but usually I spend the rest of the day brainstorming on how to get the hell out of this bullshit right now.

    At least your upper management could clearly see what was happening. That’s encouraging at least.

    1. Mr. SSC

      It was encouraging to get the followup with upper mgmt, and I found out in a follow up meeting that one of them brought up the unprofessional nature of that whole debacle. Hooray for small wins right? :)

      Around here sometimes it seems like things go from day to day pace to “OMG, we needed that last week, get it together for tomorrow or the world will end!” Because that seems to be more of the norm than an exception, I tend to let a LOT roll off my back and just focus on what I can control. So far, it’s working fairly well.

      I hear you on brainstorming to get out of this sooner. Barring some drastic changes to our plan, I’ve still got another 2 years to go. I’m not above making some drastic changes though, lol.

    1. Mr. SSC

      I agree, knowing that things will be fine – mostly – if I left is amazing in keeping perspective. It’s just a little difficult remembering that in the middle of a meeting, or the beginning of a meeting. :) It’s not at a “leave” point, and in the 3 yrs I’ve been here that’s the first situation like that I’ve come across, but man it sure made me disconnect for the rest of the week.

  2. Oldster

    I’m a firm believer in controlling what you can control, and letting the rest go. The Stoics had that right. Sounds to me like that’s what you did. Can’t control Tom. Can control your emotional response. Check. Well done.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks, and I totally agree. No sense focusing on things out of your control, which at that meeting was almost everything, lol. I at least didn’t get angry or let it get under my skin which is about all I could do.

  3. Brian

    Doh! Unfortunately, I’ve been a part of many meetings like that. It’s hard not to take it as a personal attack because we pour some much time and energy into our work. But when you leave emotion out of it, we usually come out ahead, nicely done. I’m sure Tom had the opposite reactions to his antics from management after the meeting.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks! I’ve heard Tom got more negative feedback after that meeting than anyone on my team, so woohoo to that. :)

      This was the first time I’ve experienced that sort of ambush to that level of intensity here, so once in 3 years is not too shabby I’d say. Man, the last megacorp, there were a few people that thrived on these sort of meetings. I am glad that’s not a day to day threat in my current position.

  4. Fervent Finance

    Yikes. Luckily I haven’t had anything like that happen… yet. But my FI plans have enabled me to build a stash where I’m much less frightened by losing my job. I say “no” a lot more at work, and I’ve learned it doesn’t negatively impact my job at all. It actually makes my job more bearable because I’m not afraid to say no to the task/project that would require me to work more and stress out.

    Good job keeping a level head. You only have 2 more years left!

    1. Mr. SSC

      OMG, 2 years left… times like that make the clock seem to just slow to a stop, and make me brainstorm more ways to make it less than 2 years. :)

      I’ve found having the latitude to say no or even recommend other people for something that got offered to me has been amazing. It hasn’t stopped the requests coming in for stuff to work on or seem to be any other negative factor either.

      It’s just easy to lose perspective at meetings like that and rein it in, but fortunately that day I was able to and came out on top. Whew.

  5. Mrs. COD

    What a feeling of freedom that must be to know that the “worst” (losing your job suddenly) wouldn’t be catastrophic to your lives! I wonder if more people would up their savings rate if they considered the mental and emotional benefits of not being beholden to their jobs…

    1. Mr. SSC

      Haha, I know right? My first thought was actually, “well, maybe I’ll get to go fishing tomorrow instead of work…” :)

      I’ve tried to pass along how having a nice cushion of savings or investments or both does wonders for reducing stress. Only a few seem to take it to heart and work on doing something about it. Having been on both sides of the coin, I know I don’t want to go back to worrying/stressing/obsessing about money/bills/etc…

  6. Mrs. Adventure Rich

    Oh man, that sounds like “loads of fun” (in the most sarcastic voice ever…)

    I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve certainly had my fair share of blood boiling moments at work. I’m getting better about letting them roll off my back, but it can be hard. I’m not exactly one to by shy or sit quietly, so my instinct is to get right back and defend or explain.

    Here’s to F-You funds and the freedom they can grant us (…someday)!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Cheers to F-You funds!

      It’s amazing how that kind of freedom can change perspective, but it would’ve been super easy to get drawn into Tom’s game and go down in flames with him. Fortunately, I didn’t go that route that day. :) Maybe it’s because FIRE is getting closer, or maybe it’s because I knew the meeting would have to come to an end eventually, or maybe it’s because I sat thru 3 previous meetings with Tom and immediately thought, “Lord, didn’t we just go oevr everything he’s bringing up again?”

      Who knows, but at least that day I was able to defend our team and my work and not get emotional or hostile about it. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      I started taking it personally, but fortunately he’d prepared me for it because we’d just had 3 meetings with the same guy over the same issues in the previous weeks before I left. So, yeah… That’s when I knew, “let’s just do this and wait for this meeting to end…” lol

  7. Tawcan

    That sounds like a lot of fun…. NOT!

    Love how you were able to not take it personally and get defensive. That usually make matters worse. That’s not easy to do when the heat is on. Something I try to practice whenever I can.

    Just one more reason for hitting FIRE. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      One more reason to hit FIRE indeed. It’s not an easy thing to do and I’m sure a couple of times I came off sounding exasperated, but overall I was able to stay detached enough to come out ahead by the end of the meeting. Whew… :)

  8. Erik @ Hippies de Land Rover

    Ohh yep… that’s what the Corp environment is… lots of politics and self-shown-ups.
    You’re right, the fact that you can Give a F@&! about those situations make you stronger and more open to confronting in the case it’s necessary.
    Keep it up and swim in the Corp world :)

    Good luck!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, la la la la la la… hahahaha

      Fortunately, not too much time left to deal with those sorts of politics, so yeah! Even more so, just knowing that it would jsut wrinkle the overall plan if this job went to sh!t and I left it, one way or another, is very liberating indeed.

  9. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    I am going through the same thing *right now* and it’s been so hard to deal with it. We’re having a development error and our CEO is blaming it on me (marketing…). It’s been insane trying to get off the crazy train when people come by on the train swinging at you with bats lol.

    But yes, it’s important to keep your cool, particularly in a really weird and unfair situation. It makes you look like the smart one in the end. It’s so much harder to be the level-headed person.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Sorry to hear about your situation. Ugh… When you get pulled onto the crazy train, it’s so hard to try and stay sane. Reminds me of the tea party in Alice in Wonderland…

      Staying cool and not reacting the same way you’re being attacked is key to not ending up looking as crazy as everyone you’re on the train with.

  10. Mrs. BITA

    I love how you took the moral high ground in that meeting and pulled the carpet right out from under Tom’s feet. Nothing makes a someone who is ranting worse than being surrounded by calm and reasonable folks. FIRE for the win!

    Here is my gem from last week:

    1. Senior Management (SM) comes to my desk while I am talking to the manager (M) of a project that I am leading and says, “Hey, Mrs. BITA, I am starting to get involved with our project. Could you please set up some time tomorrow so that you can whiteboard the basics of the project with me so that I know what I am talking about when I go to meetings.” I agree, M asked to be invited too. So I set up a meeting for the 3 of us.

    2. Twenty minutes after that meeting gets done I get mail from a Technical Director (TD) who is responsible for the project, cc-ing a couple of other managers, including M. TD: “I heard that there was a deep dive meeting about project X. Was there a reason why I wasn’t invited?”

    3. Me, genuinely puzzled, “If there was such a meeting, I wasn’t invited either”. M, who is faster on the uptake that I am then replies and says “oh that was just a casual white boarding session, really not worth your time TD”.

    4. I can hardly believe it was my meeting with SM that TD had his panties in a twist about. TD replies to M “Well, next time I’d like to be included anyway”.

    At that point I got mad and replied to TD asking him if anytime anyone came to my desk to talk about X he would like me to refuse to respond until I could get him in the room with us.

    Major backpedaling followed, and TD tried to pretend it was all a joke.

    This goes a step beyond micro-management. I think I’m going to call it nano-manangement. Bah.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Ohhh, nano management – that was why I left my last company and position. More the supervisor over that position than the company.

      Good for you for responding like that and keeping TD in check. Otherwise you enver know what those things can morph into. Like a situation where he would want you updating him anytime someone talks about project X. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

      My last supervisor at the last megacorp gave me a research project to manage. And then we would spend ~2 hrs each session reviewing my 8 slide powerpoint proposal and get thru about 2 slides each time because he wanted to anlayze, discuss, and breakdown every word, sentence, picture, “meaning” etc… OMG, so frustrating.

      Nano-managers deserve their own level of hell…

  11. Jacq

    I’m sorry you had to go through that, and very glad for your positive perspective. Bonus recognition by management. :)
    I am careful to also invite a manager, if only I am invited to a meeting at this job.
    I haven enough in my savings to last a while, and I find new jobs fairly quick (except for the last time, but it was worth waiting for this job). We had layoffs last fall, and in the rumors preceeding people kept asking if I was worried. Nope. #1 I do solid work, on time, etc. #2 I have savings. #3 I have a back up plan for most situations. I’ve been unemployed before, and survived.
    I’m not FI yet, but maybe FC Financially Comfortable for situations like that. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      Oh, I like FC, that’s a good one. It’s like when we think things are about to go pear shaped and we say, “Well, maybe we’ll have an Mostly Funded Lifestyle Change (MFLC) rather than a Fully Funded Lifestyle Change (FFLC)”.

      It’s good to keep perspective and especially around layoffs. The moods get so down and negative and it’s easy to get sucked into it and become less productive and a negative Nancy. Good for you staying above that.

  12. kdrevik@39months.com

    It is amazing how, as you embrace the FIRE lifestyle and get close, a lot of work stress just seems to melt away.

    I’ve really hit my stride this year in terms of that, and feel myself being a lot more calm (and more productive).

    Kudos to you

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks, and it is amazing how the perspective changes the closer we get. There can still be work stress, but it stays at work. For the first time in almost 2 years now I was discussing work and issues about this meeting and the sh!t storm that it stirred up, at home on a Sunday. I even caught myself thinking, Ugh, what am I doing, no work, that’s tomorrow…

      Good job on being more calm and productive around your office. Cheers to perspective!

  13. Fruclassity (Ruth)

    Good to see another post up here! I do remember a situation like that, and I went into shut-down mode, which isn’t much better than hopping on the crazy train. You handled it brilliantly. Not joining crazy, not shutting down, but confronting with calm strength. It’s a huge compliment that the other managers approached you afterwards to apologize. Such a great confirmation of your pursuit of financial freedom!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks! Oh yeah, calm strength and a slight tone of exasperation at times. :) I at least kept my tone moderated to a non defensive, non attacking level and just stayed focused on the fact that this meeting too, will end eventually.

      It’s hard to do when you sit down and the next thing you know the crazy train pulls into the station and yanks you on board though.

      Definitely makes me appreciative and grateful for where we are in regards to FIRE.

  14. Miss ASC @ A Step Closer

    Kudos to you for being able to detach emotionally! I know that “blood boiling” feeling all too well, and am working on being able to separate my emotions from what needs to get done. A great example of the stand you can take while on the pursuit towards FI! Great article, as always!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks! It’s easy to get pulled onto the crazy train and sometimes it feels good to jump in the mix and go crazy with everyone else on board. Fortunately, I was able to detach in that instance and man has it paid out. We’ve gotten approvals to move forward since then from the GM level, and it solidified other people’s understanding of my grasp and breadth of knowledge around our field, so hooray for little wins!

      I found that when I start feeling emotions get into work conversations, if I can recognize it quickly, I ask myself, “what am I getting emotional about” and “what can I do to detach and approach this from a non-emotional standpoint?” It doesn’t always work, but Lord knows I’ve had a lot of practice with it lately, lol.

  15. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    Yes indeed, my jobs have taken me through several Crazy Stations with prolonged stops and I’ve had to defend my team against unwarranted, baseless attacks from people who decided that playing politics was their job, not doing actual work.

    Generally I was able to keep my cool but it sure wasn’t easy early in my career. It took quite a few rounds to learn to put distance between me and the problems at the workplace. I imagine it’ll be even easier when we have an end date in mind and the problems are even less personal!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Oh yeah, that’s the point that started to get me irked, was the baseless, unwarranted nature of it. We’ve been discussing lately (my team and others that have been drug into this mess) “Don’t these guys have real work to do? What happened that made them decide they have nothing more productive to do than make us come and defend all of our past work and future work to them when they’re not even at a gate keeper sort of level. Wtf?!”

      Yep, that level of crazy.

      I agree early on in my career, that would’ve gone a totally different way I’m sure. Now, I like to leave work at work, except when I need to vent about it on the blog, lol. The problems still seem as personal, it’s just easier (some days more than others) to have a different attitude about them.

  16. ZJ Thorne

    I had a similar WTF last fall. I work for a temp agency who gave me to a subcontractor who gave me to the federal government. I reported a coworker for sleeping, but apparently I did not report to the proper person in the line. 4 senior VPs (2 each from the subcontractor and temp agency) and the project manager had an off-site meeting with me to tell me that it was really important that I report this sort of situation to them only. I almost laughed. Clearly their jobs had nothing at all better to do that day and berating a low-level temp with no job security is a good use of everyone’s time.

    They don’t realize that I have my own business and am learning a skill that will double my wages as a temp, with the happy bonus of getting me away from them. So I smiled and nodded and told them that I understood how important reporting the sleeper to the proper authority was.

    The sleeper was never reprimanded. She still sleeps and bills for it.

  17. ambertreeleaves

    Super story! I do also have the feeling that I can be more relaxed at work by thinking: it is only work. Even when we are further away from our FIRE date. I know our numbers, I know the back up plans we can develop, and that brings a lot of freedom in the mind that helps you see the right perspective: it is only work!

    Right now, I am 2 days before going back to work. I will catch up slowly with emails on Mon/Tue and be ready for Wed. Right now: catching up with blogs after the holidays!

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