Like I said, I got a new manager. At the time of the reorg, this news didn’t phase me in and of itself. I’d only had one manager, and so I figured that all managers must be the same, and therefore it shouldn’t matter that much, right?
Let’s call this new guy Mr. Data. He specialized in compiling statistics to gauge employee performance and then held meetings with personnel to suggest changes for improvement. Mr. Data immediately set up weekly one on one conferences with employees for this exclusive purpose.
This was a new thing for me. My old manager had a different philosophy: If you’re not in my office, then we’re OK. My customers were happy and never called my manager, ergo he never pulled me aside, and so We Were Good. I liked this. It gave me the freedom to take care of what I needed to take care of without feeling suffocated. My idea of one on ones prior to meeting Mr. Data involved a man, a woman, and whiskey.
Since these were my very first exclusive sessions with management, I really had no idea what to expect. Mr. Data started off our first conversation with the following statement:
I hold these meetings for the benefit of the employee.
Stupid me, I believed him. He seemed trustworthy enough, with his glasses and his plaid shirts and his sharp beak of a nose. He looked like just another geeky guy trying to make a living. Nothing to worry about.
So I’m extremely candid with him. I treated our first few sessions like he was my therapist — I’d spill whatever the hell was on my mind without a second thought. I told him that I didn’t like the selection of drinks in the kitchen and could he work on adding Mountain Dew to the mix? Also, I wanted to start going to movies once a month with the team after work, billed to SoftwareCompany, of course. And finally, most importantly, I didn’t want to get high profile tickets any more.
The ones from the big companies tend to suck, I told him. You know, problems reported by Verizon, Citibank, Hewlett-Packard. Those customers are really demanding. I could do without those.
That’s right. I really did that.
He let me know right away that I was going to take the tickets I was assigned and there would be no further discussion about it. After a month of naivete, I wised up and started keeping my thoughts to myself. Once I stopped talking during the 1:1s, though, they got even worse, because it was an opportunity for him to talk.
And what did he want to talk about? Goals. Objectives. Numbers. Performance. In support, everything is measurable. How many customers did you speak to yesterday? How many tickets did you take, and how many are now closed and resolved? How are your customer satisfaction numbers looking? Are you learning new skills so you can take tickets in a broader area of focus? Where do you want to be in five years? How can I help you to get there?
I didn’t care. I wanted to work on interesting problems, get paid, and go home that night. His insistence on making sure I cared about these things made me hide my true feelings. I remember the first time he asked me about my so-called professional development plan and I just stared at him, bug-eyed in confusion. Professional Development what? He had to explain that this was a method of outlining how I was going to achieve the next level in my career. I was just floored — I had no idea how to respond other than to say that I wanted to do a good job doing what I was doing.
Wrong answer. Apparently you have to want to go somewhere in SoftwareCompany. Doing your job is never good enough.
At this point I’m eleven months into the job. I’m gaining weight because I’m drinking most nights, and I don’t have energy to run like I did in college because all of my time is spent at work and I’m hung over half the time and I’m talking to what seems to be an increasingly pissed off customer base and the tickets just pour in every day, day after freaking day, and there’s no letup.
And I’m lonely. The people I’ve met in this town are co-workers. They’re not real friends. I call my old girlfriend up, the one on the East Coast that I’m still in love with, and we take a vacation somewhere and spend several days in a hotel room.
I get back, feeling much more relaxed, and begin my second year.
Year End Financial Summary
I started the year at -40, and ended the year at -40.
I didn’t take on any new consumer debt, but I also only made minimum payments on my student loans, and neglected to contribute to my employer sponsored retirement accounts even though they offered a match up to 6% of my salary.
How did I manage to spend the entirety of my 60K salary, you ask? Great question! I wish I could answer it, but honestly I’m still not completely sure. I wrote down what I could remember in the Mistakes Were Made post. The short of it was that I was so eager to adjust to work life that I adopted the habits of everyone around me unconsciously, in order to best fit in. Everyone else spent money, so I did, too. And it didn’t seem that important to me because I didn’t yet equate working with money, and money with my life. Besides, work seemed OK — I didn’t yet hate it — so there was no reason to question the paradigm.
I did one smart thing. I donated my car to charity. I lived in the city, after all, and simply didn’t need it. At the time, I did this purely to free up more cash for bars and restaurants.