After relocating to Alabama I embarked on a long and involved job hunt. It was drawn out in part due to the fanciful desire to work for a company that I could latch onto for the long-term and a desire to find a position that suited my strengths.
Eleven months into my job search, I managed to land a promising corporate position for a local company with big dreams and impressive goals. My job description seemed to suit my strengths in both writing and administration and upon entry, I was ready to set up camp and stay awhile!
It wasn’t long, mere weeks in fact, before I felt like I had made a poor decision. Something was off about the company’s culture but I wasn’t entirely sure what I meant by “off.”
I battled an increasing level of anxiety and thought perhaps the trouble was solely with me. “Maybe I don’t handle my workload as efficiently as all my coworkers seem to,” was the reigning thought in my mind. To increase my efficiency and to ensure that I checked all the boxes on my daily to-do list I began to assiduously track my time against projects to minimize waste. I worked through lunch, brought my laptop home in the evenings, and I dedicated a few hours each Sunday afternoon to getting a jump-start on my weekly workload.
It didn’t help at all. The more time I dedicated to work the more I felt that the workload increased and the management team’s expectations were swallowing me whole.
Which is why I began to seek change. Using the data I’d collected about my time management and the fact that my boss could clearly see that some things were routinely slipping despite additional time I dedicated to my tasks each week, I asked for something to change. I pointed out the tasks that had been added to my regular workload, proved that I wasn’t one to squander time, and was met with these really awesome response: “work harder.” “Work Faster.””We all have unreasonable workloads, what makes you special?”
So I went home, complained to my husband, gathered my resolve and went back at it. This was the cycle: increase work hours to meet deadlines, recognize unsustainability, reach near-burn-out, appeal for change, deal with the same responses as above, repeat.
Along the way, I realized that I was one of many dealing with the same sense of overworked powerlessness. At least two coworkers (in a corporate office of fewer than fifteen) had been driven to take anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication to cope with the workplace. Many felt stuck in their position for financial reasons and envied my ability to finally say “enough.” Which is what I did.
After only five months, I committed “career suicide” by leaving a company because their culture was poisonous to my well-being and my relationships. The choice was agonizing to make because I didn’t want to be defeated by a corporation. I didn’t want to have to explain why I chose to leave gainful employment to my community. Most of all, I didn’t want to deal with a sense of failure or weakness that would come from resignation. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would face those feelings whether I left or not because everything about this company made me feel weak and small.
It’s been almost a month and a half since I left the company. I can see the experience a little more clearly now that I’m not squinting through the haze of present anxiety. I am grateful for my freedom to leave an unhealthy situation and even more grateful that I took advantage of this freedom.
Committing “career suicide” (as one of my previous coworkers called it) may have just saved me from a career full of regret.