Wednesday, June 07, 2006

That Didn't Take Long at All

What do you do when, on your second day at a new job, just barely out of new hire training, three different well-meaning (?) colleagues, on three different occasions, warn you that you have to constantly watch your back and cover your ass by documenting everything in e-mail? That you have to become paranoid in order to survive the office minefield, because folks from outside your team are out to get you and trip you up? I would've dismissed it as just so much scaremongering, but I saw signs that set off alarm bells in my head.

The company had growing pains because of rapid expansion. Office space was an issue. Some teams (such as ours) were understaffed. I was told of turf wars — oldtimers vs. newcomers. This fostered a highly adversarial climate, yet senior management seemed unwilling to deal with it. Imagine working among people who act like your friends but will stab you in the back, given the opportunity. Some folks had to dig up e-mail from 10 years ago, to prove they weren't to blame for longstanding problems. All this never came up during my interviews. Note to self: next time, get the unvarnished truth about internal politics.

Boy, was I ever stressed. I haven't had stress knots in my neck in years. I had them on Day 2. I already have high blood pressure, I didn't need extra help getting there. My Dad had a stroke when I was 7, and died when I was 12. He was 52. Both maternal grandparents died of strokes. The odds are not looking good for me.

In the end, it was not any one thing, but a combination of many little things. My last name was misspelled three different ways by HR, office services, and IT. At my workstation, I didn't have my own phone number — it was someone else's. I had spotty access to databases I needed to do my job. Sometimes a web login would work, other times I'd get an error. The fellow who was responsible for correcting this did so only sullenly — I felt like an intruder, not a colleague. My cubicle had a sign saying "Working with idiots can kill you." Hmm. In an oil refinery, sure. But in an IT department?

After work that day, playing with my son at the park, I thought: what would I do to my health if I stayed in that toxic pressure cooker? Life's too short to put up with that kind of stress.

I did the only sane thing I could do under the circumstances: I quit.

I feel sorry for the (really nice) headhunter who worked so hard to land me this job. After all, it's not her fault that the organization didn't tell her about current internal issues. I also feel sorry for my former team lead, because she's a nice lady who puts up with the sort of daily aggravation I simply have no time for. I don't know why she does it.

I wish more senior executives would heed the lessons of Escape from Cubicle Nation. Life in the corporate world could be so much better.
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