This post wasn’t going to be this post.

It was supposed to be just me and a couple of anonymous internet readers, talking about having unexpected guilty feelings related to quitting and retiring early.  (In just two months, in April of 2015, I’ll be leaving my job forever.)

Because, up until a couple of days ago, that’d been the emotion I’d been grappling with most intensely:  Guilt.

Gosh, I work with nice folks, I had been telling myself.  How can I possibly up-and-leave them?  Somehow, my plans felt wrong. Selfish.

So I carefully prepared a blog entry about how I’ve been working to overcome these ridiculous emotions.  I picked out a few images, made a couple of bad jokes here and there, and described the techniques I was using to battle my idiotic, irrational foe.  I thought the sharing might be potentially useful for people working through the last stages of an early-retirement plan.  Maybe it’d help them push through the guilt and quit.

That all changed today, when my manager kindly decided to take care of my little guilt problem by being a colossal fucknut.

Thanks for resolving my issues, Mr. Manager.

I feel much, much better about leaving you now.

So instead of writing a potentially useful post, it’s turned into a full-on rant.

Sorry about that.


We got a massive blizzard earlier this week. Two feet of heavy white stuff accumulated between Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning in Massachusetts.

As luck would have it, I was out of the office for the entirety of the event, taking some scheduled vacation. (I’ve been burning my available days in attempt to make the last few months before quitting move a little bit faster.)

So I didn’t have to worry about commuting through the snow on Monday.  And I didn’t have to work from home on Tuesday, trying to juggle digging out with handling work-related obligations.  Instead I shoveled, attacking the snow like a madman.  I don’t have a snowblower so I used good old fashioned people power, creating 5′ high mountains of white to border the black asphalt on my driveway.

Wednesday my employer was closed, due to town cleanup efforts.

So today, Thursday (as I’m writing this) I returned to work. Again, I’d been off since the previous Friday.  I made an effort to arrive a bit early and immediately took care of a few important tasks that’d been delayed a bit due to my scheduled absence. Then I sent my manager an update email just to give him a heads-up that I was in the office, cranking away.  I’m a good employee — well liked, good reviews, conscientious — and I’ve made it a goal to continue this responsible behavior through to the end.

So far so good.  It’s a perfectly acceptable day in the office.

At noon, my wife called to inform me that we’re getting more snow tomorrow (Friday). Three to six inches — enough to make the commute a giant pain in the ass, and dangerous besides.

Immediately I dispatched an email to my manager to ask if I can work from home for safety reasons. He’s been agreeable to this request in the past, and he knows that it doesn’t impact my productivity:  I don’t just sit on my ass and watch Netflix all day.

In the same email, I also asked for a compensation day for some upcoming weekend work.

He responded:  Not sure. We need to talk about this in our 1:1 later today.

Every previous time I’ve asked, he’s given approval immediately, so I was surprised.

And I wondered what, exactly, had changed.

In our 1:1, my manager wasted no time giving me the scoop: There’s a new crackdown on working from home.

Upper management got pissed because practically no one was in the office on Monday. It’s a visibility thing.  When CIO Joe goes to the effort of driving into work through snow and ice and slush, he damn well expects all of his subordinates to have done the same.

So Joe patrolled the offices and saw that only 10% of staff was present: most cubes were empty cells.  This guy fancies himself to be a commander with a big sack, a modern action-hero against an office backdrop, a leader who sacrifices himself for the company.  Yet today, he’s got virtually no troops to command.   Joe got mad, and started digging to figure out why no one was around.

Turns out that:

A) Lots of people gave themselves a work-from-home day on Monday in order to avoid the storm


B) There was significant server-work the previous day (Sunday.) Dozens of systems got patched and rebooted. When this happens, the majority of IT staff has work to do: starting up services, health checking applications, generating reports and ‘sign-off’ that everything is functioning A-OK. The work started at 5AM and didn’t end until noon. Practically everyone involved in these efforts sent email to their managers saying: Fuck you, I’m not coming in on Monday. Call my cell if there’s an emergency. Because: Weekend ruined, need sleep now.

CIO Joe didn’t like these reasons. When staff isn’t around, he feels cheated. What is everyone getting paid these massive salaries to do, anyways? Sleep on Mondays? I think not, lazy bastards!

So emails are circulated to mid-tier managers: No more work-from-home. Every work-from-home day must be approved by a director-level contributor or higher. And no more comp time. If you work a few hours on Sunday, that’s not enough of a reason to ask for a day off the following week. Workers need to tow the line.

After emails are dispatched, followup meetings were scheduled early Thursday to discuss the new policies.  Every mid-level manager in attendance realized that, moving forward, they had to make sure everyone under them was in the office, present at all times.  If they didn’t, their careers would be at risk.

So there I was, sitting across from my manager with a desk in between us, getting ready to have a little chat.  I didn’t know anything whatsoever about any of these so-called issues regarding employees dodging work.

Yet, just that morning, I’d asked for a work from home day and a compensation day.  I’d unwittingly pressed the two hottest buttons on his dashboard, guaranteeing a spectacular response.  I was the kid in the elevator running his finger down the entire selection panel, lighting everything up.

So now you know in advance that it wasn’t going to go well.  But, at the time, I sure didn’t.

My manager starts our discussions by delivering the backstory I’ve provided above.

So, you see, that’s why you need to come in tomorrow.  I need all hands in the office for the foreseeable future so upper management knows I’ve relayed the message:  People need to be here during business hours, period.  We’re righting the ship.

Okay.  I don’t agree, but I understand where you’re coming from.


I still need a day off in return for the upcoming Sunday morning work.

Were you listening to me?  I can’t grant that.

I’m not an actor.  I don’t intentionally control my body language or facial expressions in order to elicit any specific responses.  But I found myself becoming genuinely incredulous. My eyes widened and my lips parted in surprise.

Are you kidding me?  That’s a joke, right?

Of course not.  It’s just not something I can do right now.

I’m instantly indignant.  My back stiffens and I realize there’s no way I can accept this. It’s impossible to plan my response.  Filters have been removed.  Words spill out of me.

Well, there’s something I can’t do right now either, then.  I won’t be doing Sunday’s work.  Maybe we need to push it off for a few months until this incident blows over and you can reconsider.

There’s silence for literally half a minute.  It bakes in the room, the heat of it turning my manager’s face red.  Finally he breaks it.

This is a bad career move for you.  I already sent the notice to our department saying the work will be done.  If you aren’t going to do it, I will have no choice but to escalate your decision to the highest levels.  I’m not sure what the outcome of that will be.

It’s a threat.  I know it is, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.  I have just two months to go before I quit anyway.

That’s fine.  I’m willing to talk about this issue to anyone.  People who are getting up at 4:30 AM on a Sunday to do work on systems should get a full day off in return, period.  If there’s no willingness to be flexible on the part of management here, I see no reason why I should be flexible with my personal schedule, either.  Do you want to call CIO Joe down to talk about it right now?

I can’t believe I’m saying these these things.  The sentences are just popping out.  Even so, I do feel relatively in control.  I’ve had confrontations with management in my past that have left me shaking and breathless from excitement and anxiety.  But this time, I find I’m steady.  I want to have these discussions.  I want to talk about expectations and work-life-balance and the importance of flexibility on both sides.

No, that’s not necessary.  But this work needs to be done.

I completely agree.  It does need to be done.

Then you’ll do it?

I need a day.

I’ll compromise.  A half-day.  Come in the following Monday and leave after lunch.


Why are you being so disagreeable?

Because you and I both know that when you wake up at 4:30 on a Sunday for a major event that your entire weekend is ruined.  You can’t travel that weekend, and in fact, I canceled a visit with my family in order to accommodate the needs of the business and do this work.  Saturday night I will be trying to go to sleep as early as possible.  And after it’s is done, my day is forfeit — I will be a waste-product.  I will not be exercising. It’ll be tough to do anything of substance due to my exhaustion — I’m gonna be a zombie.  Also I’ll be edgy, waiting for a page-out to inform me that something isn’t working as expected and I’ve got to log back in and join a conference call.

(Post-publish date update:  As predicted, I got that page-out at noon and worked for two hours to rule out my change as being a source of a reported issue.) 

So, if anything I feel that working these sorts of schedules should entitle me to two days off instead of just one. 

And you know exactly what I’m talking about.  You used to be an individual contributor.  You used to have my job — you lived my life.  Don’t pretend that you don’t understand, because I’m certain you do.

While that’s true — I do understand — my hands are tied.  This is policy.  I need you to understand the policy.  And it is required for people in your job description to work off-hours as per the needs of the business.

This is a good opportunity for me to remind you that — also according to company policy — employees are only supposed to work 35 hours a week.  How do you reconcile the conflict between the two policies?  If I work on Sunday and report into work, 9-5, all week, then I’ll be far over 35 hours.  That’s no less a violation.

We need visibility in the office.  I’m in a difficult position and must enforce the policies.  But we also must get the work done.

Look, you can have one of two things with me.  Real production — where I do the work that needs to be done, wherever and whenever, off-hours or no — or Visibility, where I’m in the office eight hours every day like a perfect little order-taker.  One or the other. You pick. Production or Visibility.

He sighs.  There’s another lengthy pause.  I realize he’s battling two intense urges:  the desire to do what upper management has instructed him to do — to be strict — and the desire to do the right thing and grant my request.   He emerges with the correct decision.

Fine.  You can work from home the following Monday.  Be sure to not tell anyone else, okay?  It’ll be our secret.


I rise from my seat, turning around to exit his office — I want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Anything else to talk about?  

Yeah, I say, rotating my upper body around and casting him a sideways glance, even as I’m opening the door to leave.

Like I said before, I’m working from home tomorrow.  

Not asking.

On the way back to my cube, all I can think about is quitting.


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36 Responses to Indignant

  1. another worker drone says:

    My former company, a few years ago, all of a sudden stopped all work at home days. I had one day per week, agreed to at the interview but not in writing (my mistake). My manager worked at home 2-3 days per week. He told me no more working at home, period, from upper management. I asked him if he too would stop working at home, and he said he would. I stopped working at home, and began looking for a new job. He continued working at home, but instead of calling it working at home, about 2 days per week he would email in a reason he couldn’t come in that day.

  2. Lisa says:

    Holy shit! Way to stick to your guns. And thanks, manager, for ridding Dr. Doom of the guilt.

  3. Jessie says:

    Awesome that you were able to stand up to your boss due to the early retirement plans! This is the reason why we recently dramatically scaled up our savings. I like my job now, but you never know what changes upper management might pull on you (and in my case, upper management is Congress, so its especially toxic!). Seems so short-sighted to assume that liking your job now means you will like your job always.

    • livafi says:

      Agree. That’s fundamentally why everyone should shoot for FI: There are no downsides. If you hit your mark and find you’re still passionate about your job, just keep doing it. If not, you have the freedom to seek something else.

      • BackNColo says:

        That is EXACTLY my goal. When the fit hits the shan you say your piece and walk away. Nothing like having a door unlocked and your bags packed to make the stress low. If you have ever had the psycho coworker that tries to get you fired, an exit is the thing that makes sleep possible.

        My wife and I greatly enjoy your blog. We should be joining you soon in the land of FI.

        Keep fighting the good fight!

  4. Love it.

    I honestly never had a run in with management as I approached my FIRE date. But I was silently itching for one. The part you noted about past confrontations with authority being terrifying but suddenly being no big deal rings true. As you approach your date, your “give-a-[feces]-o-meter” starts to get really close to the “E” mark. You are unpreturbable. For me, it was just one day deciding dress shoes [apply vacuum] to donkey [testes] and [fornicate it], I’m wearing tennis shoes until D-Day. That went by without incident because like you, I was productive and otherwise professional to the end. There is a dirty little feeling of superiority you get too by realizing for the first time in the history of relationship, you have a stronger negotiating position than the boss. The only real power the boss has in the final equation is to fire you and you just don’t give a [fornication] any longer.

    Have you told them yet? I waited until about 2.5 weeks out to give notice. It was going to be a standard two weeks but immediate boss called me to office to discuss a project that was going to start the week I’d leave and integrity said I had to let him know assigning it to me would be an error. It is kind of funny when you lose two weeks of productivity to having to attend multiple daily meetings with increasingly more senior managers to discuss “what is wrong?” You can’t really be RETIRING AT FORTY! That is INCONCEIVABLE!!!

    I never had the guilt though. I stayed too long and was finding the routine deeply unfulfilling. It was just a relief when I finally “decided.”

    • livafi says:

      Terrific comment, and yeah, I do unfortunately relate to the dirty-little-feeling you described. Boss still needs his job: You don’t, and you’re somehow proud of it.

      No, I haven’t told them yet. After some deliberation I decided: 3 weeks. Giving them any more will make things unnecessarily awkward for a prolonged period of time while I’m still reporting for duty. They might also take the opportunity to squeeze harder on my output. It comes down to risk, really, b/c you don’t know what they’re going to do after you hand them your written resignation. 3 weeks = “friendly” goodbye — you’re giving an extra week, after all. More than that is probably not wise.

      • Yabusame says:

        I took voluntary redundancy a few years back from a company I was with for 15 years. I gave my decision to take VR in the July but opted to stay to the end of the year (December). They squeezed me for everything I knew. I ended up writing How-To reports for all aspects of my job for most of my remaining time. Still, I eas happy I was leaving and looking to pursue a different career.

  5. ScottishSteph says:

    Good for you. Years down the line, you will be glad you did this. It’s one of my regrets before leaving a job I hated, that I didn’t tell them a few home truths before leaving. You can look back with satisfaction that you stood up for yourself, in a polite and reasonable way. My response to work frustrations was to burst into tears. Not very professional. I think your feelings of depression are quite normal given the massive life change that’s happening and it’s great you have recognised this, before you get to the ‘can’t get out of bed’ stage. I had what I think was a nervous breakdown and haven’t worked full time since. That was 9 years ago. I’ve been able to stay home with my daughter which is lovely but my brain sometimes feels the need to have something to chew on, something bigger than family finances. BTW have you got 2 sites running now, which is the one you want people to comment on?

    • livafi says:

      Thanks for the comment. Despite some of the recent content of the blog, truth is I’ve been really upbeat for many moons now. I still think about FI and quitting a lot but I’m no longer stuck in a rut about it. Instead I’m moving forward and executing plans.

      Re: Two sites. There’s actually only one site, but and now resolve to the same site. Two doors to the same room. Also I just removed the feedburner RSS feed for so hopefully that’s clear now, shouldn’t get multiple notifications. Appreciate the heads-up.

  6. FFA says:

    Hi livingafi, came across you from mmm forum and enjoy your writing a lot. Intending to read back through this entire blog when time permits. I’m also about to RE, February is my final month in fact, exciting times! having similar experiences (I’ve refused unreasonable overseas work travel a few times recently, something I would have put up with in the past) and also wrestling a little bit with guilt, although that’s now getting pushed aside by time constraints to organize our overseas move. Anyway, I wish you all the best for the final months of work and the new chapter ahead! Looking forward to read about it here

    • livafi says:

      I still may publish the guilt post because even though it’s not relevant anymore thanks to recent management behavior, it was for at least a few months.

      And it is AWESOME that you are so close yourself. Congratulations!

  7. David says:

    Awesome story.

    Thankfully (err, I guess) my management gives me reason to quit every day, if not directly to me than in the way they treat the other peons.

    About to draft my resignation letter for handing in tomorrow. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

    • livafi says:

      What I like about your comments GC is that you’re entirely consistent: Work sucks, you will leave as soon as you can responsibly do so.

      Which is apparently today. It must feel incredible.

      • David says:

        Well, I had to bike through a snowstorm (thankfully not as bad as what hit Boston) to get here. About to hand in the letter. So, I’ll probably feel best when I get home safely 😀

      • livafi says:

        Here’s hoping you do a post about it. Love it.
        Ride safe.

      • Lisa says:

        Agreed. I’m still oscillating. OMY might kill me. I admire those of you who are able to make a clean break without some agony.

  8. Sergio says:

    Haha, awesome, dude. Nothing like having FI and “I am going to quit anyway” standing behind you as you grow the balls to talk to your manager like an adult, instead of letting yourself be treated like an insubordinate child.

  9. Minion says:

    Is there anything in your employee agreement that compels you to work weekends? Probably a dumb question but I’m not in the US.

    • livafi says:

      Yes, there’s an “as per the needs of the business” line in the contract: I must work to cover events and outages that are impacting my employer, regardless of when they occur.

  10. achudy10 says:

    I loved this story. Way to stick to your guns.

  11. Whit says:

    I just quit my job to move into semi-retirement for 6-7 years. At first, guilt was a huge issue. It took me a good two weeks after deciding it was the right move to even bring it up with my boss. Then she asked me to stay on for 3 months due to the holidays and so she can find and train a replacement, which I agreed to. Somehow, in that three month time period, my guilt vanished entirely. I am thrilled to be leaving and realize what a waste of time that job was, even though I love my boss and coworkers.

    I think even if you didn’t have this run-in with your boss, your guilt would have disappeared almost immediately after turning in your notice.

    I, similarly, started writing a blog post about how to explain to a tough parent that you’re semi-retiring in your 20s, and how I thought my Dad was going to react. Then, I realized that the post I was writing was actually opening me up to criticism from my Dad in the first place. It was written by a place of weakness, where me, a grown adult, was seeking approval from him, a parent who should no longer have a say in his daughter’s major life decisions. When writing the post, I was making excuses for his behavior and being too kind and understanding. What was REALLY effective was realizing how absurd it is for a parent to think they have any say in my life decisions at 27 years old. By writing a here’s-how-you-make-excuses-for-your-life-decisions post, I was unconsciously opening myself up to criticism by my Dad. What is REALLY needed was to tell him matter-of-factly and with the confidence that it would be absurd for him to comment at all (and a back up plan on how NOT to get defensive if all goes to shit). In the end, I am glad I never published the original blog post because it was giving bad advice and encouraged people to indulge guilt and need-for-approval feelings.

    Perhaps your post on guilt was never meant to be…

    • livafi says:

      Nice comment. You’re very self-aware. Plus: Entirely correct. You are free to make your own choices. You have your own desires and should pursue them. Doesn’t matter what your Dad wants. It’s not his life and you don’t need permission.

      I just trashed the guilt post. It’s covered by a superset post, anyway, which lists all sorts of internal emotional stalling tactics. Good riddance.

      • bilgepump100 says:

        Good thoughts from Whit. I’m still grappling with the guilt thing. Even though all the passion has been wrung out of me and I achieved FI, I still feel the societal pressure to participate in the work ritual. Since quitting, I often wonder if I deserve this freedom and wonder if there is some hole in the statistical models that will prove me a fool several years from now (your posts on the models have helped tremendously). Even today, I’m wondering how to reject a former work colleague’s offer to freelance for a week after being out of the biz since August.. I don’t think I can “fake it” through another assignment. But for some reason I feel compelled to help and not let someone down–even someone who is likely to fade away into the vast array of likable colleagues I’ve known through the years. Why? I don’t know because there are a lot more needy projects out there I’d rather donate my time to (I have been volunteering and it has been rewarding). Anyway, it’s great to see you are developing a big head of steam while you head toward your objective. Beaten down middle mangers be damned. It really helps to hear other well-written stories like yours to get through these small bumps in the road. I look forward to hearing about your next phase.

      • ZootsTwin says:

        I’d actually love to see the guilt post. I’m working through some similar issues myself (having recently left a job to semi-FIRE, but still working with the company as a contractor) and am having trouble letting go. Any chance it might appear–if not here, maybe via the MMM forum?

      • livafi says:

        It’s gone. I’ll be honest — I deleted it permanently in a fit of frustration after the confrontation with management detailed in this post.
        You might benefit from reading this thread, though.
        The TL;DR version of the original post boils down to:
        1) Identify conflicting thoughts, e.g. Thought A) I need to quit this job, Thought B) These people have been good to me, I feel bad about leaving them, they need me.
        2) Focus on the thoughts which are related to your own wants and desires rather than what you imagine the thoughts and desires of other people to be. In other words, turn the volume up on your own internal voice. Set “I need to quit” to volume 11. It’s your life, this is 100% appropriate adult behavior — you know, to live your life for yourself and your family rather than to endlessly serve the needs of a company once you no longer need the compensation.
        3) Remind yourself that you are not irreplaceable. Unless you work in a company with fewer than 10 people, your organization will figure out how to get by without you.
        4) Acknowledge the guilt (it’s real, after all) and make an effort to move on instead of letting it slow you down or paralyze you. And be secure in the knowledge that it’ll go away in under 6 months. Because it’s nearly certain that it will.

        Okay, maybe that’s still TL;DR. 🙂


  12. I usually love to complain about work, who doesn’t? But in my current job, no one really cares where I am as long as I’m getting my work done. I write this post from my couch as we have a slushy, icy, snowy day outside in NYC.

    Much admiration for standing up for what you believe in! I bet that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter each day!

  13. DMM says:

    I just love corporate hierarchies – it’s like those middle managers exist only so higher level management doesn’t have to interact with you.

    • Schaefer Light says:

      As a middle manager myself, I think that is precisely the reason we exist. Well, that and the fact that the higher level managers are too busy attending meetings to see what’s actually happening in the company.

  14. victoriaboast says:

    I had a day like this at work yesterday. Indignation indeed!

  15. Lisa says:

    Curious to know if there was any fallout from this interaction, Doom. I had a blow out with one of the managers who completely and unfairly undermined me to clients. The structure is such that he is not my boss, but deals with issues between clients and staff. He accused me of lying when I needed his support on something. I did state, “Are you calling me a liar, because if you are, I am walking out that door and I am not coming back.” I went over his head to complain and while at first our boss defended him, later he acknowledged that it was wrong to insinuate that I was a liar.

    I expect that at some point in the not too distant future we will both be investigated for the incident. I wouldn’t get fired and could quit today, but I was hoping to hold off until mid December.

    I’ve been thinking of you and wondering if there was any fallout. I understand if you don’t feel comfortable sharing that information though.

    • livafi says:

      Your response was entirely appropriate given the situation you described. Good for you for protecting yourself and escalating the situation. Underminers continue to undermine until they are called out.

      If you get investigated, just hold your ground. State the truth, talk about your perspective openly, try to stay calm. If the result is something you can’t live with, then poof. Bye bye Lisa. It could end up being a good thing, as it sounds like you’re mostly ready to leave.

      That being said, I understand you’d prefer to have the exit entirely under your control. I have the same personality. I get fiery from time to time but prudence and caution usually win out: I prefer to steadily execute plans.

      Fortunately there was no fallout for me. In the end, my boss is — to borrow another reader’s description — a “beaten down middle manager.” He’s scared of not enforcing policies, but he’s also terrified of me leaving, and I think it was pretty clear to him given our interaction that I’m fearless at this point and will not tolerate unfair treatment. So he never, in fact, escalated the situation. I did that Sunday work and took the following Friday off for comp. Nothing so far.

      It’s a big game of chicken, and I’m winning, for the moment.

      I hope you win out, too. Your odds improve the more your company needs/values you.

      • Lisa says:

        I’m glad there was no fallout for you. So far, for me, over a week later, there has been no fallout, but apparently this manager is being investigated. Looks like I’m not the only one he’s treated in this manner. I found out that he has a reputation of incompetence and lying in the organization and his current assignment was his last chance before demotion. I am now realizing that it was easy for him to accuse me when he is a liar himself.

        I’m not completely out of the woods yet and plan to answer honestly if questioned, but it really seems like the meeting I called with my boss was enough to hear my side and determine where the real problem lies.

        This description fits me too: ” I get fiery from time to time but prudence and caution usually win out: I prefer to steadily execute plans.” FU/FI makes it so much easier to be me. I really like my boss too, and don’t want to give him any grief.

        Thanks for being so inspirational.

      • livafi says:

        I hope it goes OK for you. Your update was encouraging! That manager sounds like a certifiable jerk – I hope he gets his.

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