The Job Experience, Tech Support: Year #4, Part 1

Work Changes


My Middle Finger You’ll Suck, Mmmm?

So I should start this page out by stating that my job was not a horrible fit for me.  I worry a bit that I’m a little too negative when describing it.  People don’t like to read about negativity.  Negativity bums us out.  We like Irrepressible Optimism and Endless Awesomeness.  As humans, this is how we’re wired.

Look.  I have always been very grateful to have a) landed a job that paid well, b) possess a personality type that enjoys logical thinking and therefore the problem-solving aspects associated with my position and c) found an industry that had a diverse, intelligent, and generally good-natured workforce.  This meant I genuinely got on with most of my peers, which is a big part of toughing out the grind.

So in many ways, it was a pretty good fit for me and I’ve felt extremely lucky to have stumbled upon a high-paying job that I could tolerate on my first try out of college.  I mean, I liked computers, I liked people who liked computers, I liked software, and I liked fixing stuff that broke. It wasn’t all bad, really.

That being said, I couldn’t shake the negatives, hard as I tried.  I hated the hours.  I hated the stress.  I hated the travel.  I hated the on-call duty, being called on weekends and in the middle of the night. I was honestly angry about the demands of the job.  It asked too much of me.  Like a misbehaving dog, my employer’s actions needed sharp correction.  It was time to take control.  I had a decent buffer of money to float me in the worst-case scenario of being fired, and I was willing to take a chance.  It was a healthy anger – the sort that lets you know that you have an urgent problem that needs attention.

After I returned from my vacation at the library, I went into my next 1:1 with Mr. Data carrying an agenda.

Hey there, <livingafi>, glad to have you back.  Let me open up the report on your performance and let’s get to it.

Before we start talking about that, I have a few things I need to go over with you.

Eyebrows raise.

Sure.  What’s on your mind?

Well, first off, I’ve decided I don’t want to do on-call duty anymore.

I take my pager off and place it on the desk.

Oh.  Well, that’s something we’re going to have to talk about.  Because everyone here serves time in the rotation.  You know that.

Right.  I do know that.  But I’ve decided I’m not going to do it.  I wanted to let you know.

He’s confused.  I told him I didn’t want to do it, he asserted that I had to, and I effectively told him that I’m still not doing it.  My response does not compute.  After a few seconds he recovers.

This is a core expectation and needs to be met.

Yeah.  About that core expectation.  When I was hired, on-call duty was not part of the package.  I took a look at the contract.  It says I’m a salaried employee with the expectation being that I work 40 hours a week.  I don’t want to work more than that.

In these trying economic times, we all need to do more than we are asked.  

Right.  I am.  My numbers are well above team averages, which means I’m hitting that goal.  I’m already doing more than my peers.

I should remind you that you’re getting paid extra to take on this responsibility.  You’ll effectively be taking a salary cut.

I know.  It’s not a problem.

I can’t agree to this.

Okay.  I understand your position.  But I want you to know that if you put me on-call for another shift, I won’t respond to incoming calls.  I’m not willing to do this anymore.

I’m sweating.  There’s another pause.  This is why people hate confrontations.  It’s incredibly uncomfortable to willfully disagree with authority figures.

This will be noted on your annual review.

I understand.

Anything else?  

I push my luck here.

Well, yes, actually.  I’ve decided I’m not going to travel anymore.  It doesn’t agree with me.  Also, anything I can do at a customer site, I can do remotely.  We can use conference bridges and remote-desktop technology to solve outstanding issues with clients.  There’s no practical reason for me to continue in this function.

Do we have a problem? 

I start to stretch the truth just a bit.

No problem whatsoever.  I like my job, I love the company, and I take pride in what I do.  That will always be the case. But I’m asking you to understand that this aspect of my responsibilities is having an extremely negative effect on my life. Can you work with me here?

I’ll have to think about it.

Makes sense.  Take your time.  But I want you to know that on this subject, I’m not asking.  If you assign me to go onsite to another customer, there will be no one arriving on the scheduled date.

<livingafi>, maybe you should go home for the rest of the day.  You’re clearly stressed out.  Let’s talk about this tomorrow.

There’s no getting around it.  It’s ugly.  I wonder if I’ll have a job the next day.

I head into the office on the following day with no idea what to expect.  My brain fantasizes about being escorted out of the building by armed guards.

But nothing happens.  I get to my cube, log into the software systems that assign me my work, and get to it.

The following week, in my 1:1 with Mr. Data, he doesn’t mention our conflict.  Not even once.  Instead, we talk about the current set of issues I own.  I’m working, as always, a large set of critical problems tied to high-profile customers, and we need to discuss logistics on satisfying their needs.

I dimly realize that this means I’ve been granted my requests.

There are some things Fuck-You Money can buy.

And my purchase just cleared.

The Job Experience:  Tech Support, Year #3 <<  >> The Job Experience, Tech Support:  Year #4, Part 2

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8 Responses to The Job Experience, Tech Support: Year #4, Part 1

  1. Dwayne Hoover says:

    Oh man, you totally owned Mr. Data!!! I am loving this series 🙂

    • livingafi says:

      Hi Dwayne
      I will say that at the time, it didn’t feel like I owned him (Mr. Data) — In fact, going into that meeting I was pretty sure I was going to get fired on the spot. I wasn’t even super happy when I realized that things worked out — what I felt was much closer to simple relief. I’m very glad you’re getting a kick out of these posts.

  2. Wow, that was only year 4! I guess I was lucky to have significant variety in my projects for the first 4 years, I felt like I was just hanging on by my fingernails while I learned what the heck I was getting paid to be an expert at. Getting a PE license my 5th year helped coalesce my self confidence and I did something similar to what you describe the following year, after one of the most miserable years of my life. Middle finger lightsaber, I could definitely use one of those, mine was more of a slow steady wimpering until my manager finally confronted me and I felt like I had nothing to lose (except a job I could barely drag myself to). Looking forward to Year 5!

    • livingafi says:

      Hi EV
      Yep, only Year 4 and it’s still not over. I had to split it into parts because it’s so unbelievably long. I know what you mean about hanging on by your fingernails — that’s how I felt year 1 and 2 for sure, before I started making real improvements in skill levels and efficiency. It takes time. Glad you corrected your own Year 3 issue. When work is THAT bad, it colors every aspect of your existence and feels like there’s no escape. And of course there IS an escape but when things are going that poorly you’re usually blind to the solution.

  3. I generally agree with you on the alcohol. I keep trying to find a balance but I’m not sure there is one. Whatever it is, I’ve definitely been consuming too much the past couple weeks.

    My version of the job experience would be terribly boring reading, but this is entertaining and enlightening, so keep it up 🙂 I imagine it’s cathartic for you as well.

    • livingafi says:

      re: Vitamin A. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people can find balance and some people can’t. Personally I’m not so good at it and my life runs better when I stay away. But GC, listen, I’d love to read job experience posts from you or anyone else. I find this stuff incredibly interesting — even when it’s not. Such large chunks of the human experience are invested in jobs, even kind of boring ones, and I feel there’s always value in learning what life is like for other people. BTW, just finished up Year 4 and pub’d it.

  4. Bank says:

    I quit a job in year 4 of my career, walking away from more money than I had ever expected to make in my life because I couldn’t get along with a new manager (immediate cause) and because the amoral nature of my position became impossible to square with my values (underlying cause). It makes a great story now, but at the time I thought I was going to throw up from the stress and cry from the relief.

    Really loving this blog. I have spent far too much of my workday following your progress. Keep up the great work.

  5. StockBeard says:

    Woohoo! I’m reading this series like I’m watching some sort of very cool TV show, totally awesome that you stuck it to Mr. Data 🙂

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