Friday, October 31, 2008

Now May Be a Good Time to Quit Your Job

Quitting your job in this kind of dismal hiring environment seems like a horrible career move at best and as an irresponsible financial move at worst. Nevertheless, about a month ago, just before the worst of the financial meltdown hit the fan, my wife and I decided that it was time for her to do just that, and without having a back-up job offer on the table either. Why would we ever do such a thing?

We had multiple reasons, but the biggest of these was that my wife was simply unhappy with the long hours she needed to work. We have three boys, and I am an executive in a technology company and my job too requires me to work long hours. This meant that to get her job done, my wife had to fire up her computer every night after the kids went to sleep and had to regularly work several hours every weekend, just to get by. After working about 60 hours a week, my wife's boss had nothing but complaints about the fact that my wife wasn't working enough. While the company my wife worked for has amazing prospects and is bound for greatness (once the economy turns around), they demand 100% of their employees' time. Here's an interesting example: once a month my wife was required to join an internal sales call which started at 5:00 AM pacific - the goal was to allow the East Coast sales folks a full day of work. A worthy goal, but an example of the single minded focus on work hours and productivity at this company.

The way we saw it there were really only two options: (i) work even longer hours, jeopardizing my ability to do my job, sacrificing more time with the kids and continuing to be exhausted and unhappy; or (ii) quitting. In my opinion keeping the status quo was not an option. My estimate is that the 60 hour work week was not sufficient to allow my wife to keep her job, and ultimately she would have been let go.

If you realize that you will not be able to excel in your position and attain your life goals at the same time, you must accept the logical conclusion that the position is not for you. At that point it is time to think about a graceful exit strategy.

The end of the story (or at least the story so far) has been better than expected. When my wife resigned, she gave the company an open ended advance notice, telling them that she will be glad to stay until they found a replacement. The company decided that a three week advance notice would be sufficient to find a replacement and my wife's final day at work was set for October 7th. However, when that day arrived, the company asked to extend her employment until the end of the week, and when that new date arrived, my wife agreed with her boss that she will remain at the company as a part time consultant, indefinitely.

What does this mean? About half the pay for about half the work, but with no benefits and no stock options. All in all, this is a fine arrangement for us for now. In this current economic environment finding another job is not a simple thing to do and it is likely to take many months. With this part time consulting, my wife has more time to be with the kids. She is also much more relaxed and happier, and now that her work is paid on an hourly basis, her relationship with her boss, and her boss's expectations have improved dramatically. All in all, this has probably been the right thing for us to do, and my wife's happiness is more important to me than anything else.

This has certainly been a difficult, and somewhat scary decision, but it was the right decision to make. In the long run, I am guessing that my wife's position is not secure. It is entirely possible that she would lose her consulting gig upon a day's notice. But for now, this gives us more economic flexibility and at least a little more security.


The Digerati Life said...

This is quite interesting Shadox! I am now wondering which companies you are referring to. It sounds very similar to experiences I've had in companies I've worked for around here (I recall you're from the East Bay?). I had to quit for almost the same reasons -- I wasn't "working hard enough" and I wasn't feeling comfortable about it; and the technology job itself was getting stale and boring.

The flipside of course is that we're living on much less money, and in this climate, it's a little scary I must admit.

Shadox said...

Living on the Peninsula actually, and I can't give out more info without revealing my wife's identity. It is a pretty prominent company in its field, backed by a major VC.

Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck said...

Great stuff Shadox. When you take the time to think about all that is involved in your job - including the non-financial aspects - you may determine your overall life satisfaction increases, even with less pay.

One thing I'd add is that you and your wife clearly had some financial breathing room in order to able to do this. Yet another advantage of living beyond paycheck to paycheck.

Bret Frohlich said...

This story is very similar to what I just went through. I took a huge risk in quitting my job but was very glad that I did.

I think the 60 hour work week is a scam. I did it for many years and it was never fully appreciated. Employers just expect it, with no consideration for family and other responsibilities. If employers were loyal to their employees then it may be worth it. But, they often throw people away like garbage.

I wish your wife good luck in finding a new job. Hopefully, they will appreciate her talents and dedication at the next place.


Shadox said...

Beyond Paycheck - I absolutely agree that we could not have taken this step had we been living paycheck to paycheck. I will say this though - there are a few details, which I am not yet at liberty to discuss - which make our decision a substantially riskier one. Still - the reason we were able to take this level of risk is that we have a sound financial foundation.

Bret - I agree that many employers do not appreciate the work that employees put into the company and exhibit zero loyalty in return. I wouldn't quite generalize this to the entire business community, but your point is well taken. Now is a great example: companies are slashing jobs left and right at the first sign of trouble. Loyalty in the workplace is - generally speaking - a one way street. Employers demand it from their employees, but rarely offer it back.

Lise said...

"If you realize that you will not be able to excel in your position and attain your life goals at the same time, you must accept the logical conclusion that the position is not for you."

I think you're right on target. I struggle with this decision daily. My job doesn't require 60 hour weeks, but I can barely summon up enough interest in it to get through the day, and my boss is a crazymaker who constantly wastes my time.

But I don't feel comfortable leaving without more of a cushion in my emergency fund... or another job lined up... *sigh* Realistically I just cannot let myself say "jump, and the net will appear" right now.

Shadox said...

Lise, you are of course exactly right and I am not advocating jumping ship without a plan.

When I am suggesting is that if you realize that your life goals are not compatible with success in your job, you need to come to this realization and start planning a graceful exit. Planning being the operative word.

In our case, luckily, we had the financial cushion to make the jump almost immediately. I would certainly not suggest jumping into the cold, cold water of the current job market without a decent emergency cash fund or another job lined up.

Studenomist said...

My personal opinion is that everyone needs some sort of position in a company, whether it be part time or full time. This is to ensure to you have a diverse source of income (online, rental property, 9-5. Many people are tiressly looking for jobs these days, so if you have one that took you awhile to obtain there is no reason to quit until you have another one.

Anonymous said...

I guess it all depends on where you sit. I was married for 14 years then divorced and have been raising my 3 children for the last 10 years on a single income (30K per year)with no child support(blood from a stone thing). I worked for 19 years for a major industrial supply company before suffering some disability. The company does not want to provide me with a position that I can survive on . The disability insurance will soon end and if I can't find a job that will allow me to pay bills me and my kids will be out on the street in a one to two months. You can serve your country in the military, work hard all your life, try to do all the right things and still end up on the trash heap. One thing people may not realize is that many people in such situations as mine are stuck working in positions without promotional opportunities because the company realizes they have you by the balls. You have to feed your kids etc so you just have to take it. Good luck to you all, god bless and consider all things. I hope you find this world a better place than I do at the moment.

Shadox said...

Anonymous - your comment is both poignant and humbling for me. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I know that I am blessed and that there are others out there who have much tougher, stressful and financially difficult lives.

The situation you described is a really hard one, and I wish I had any easy answers for you (or even ANY answers at all), but I don't pretend to know all the details. All I can say is that I empathize and I will dedicate a post to your comment this weekend. Hopefully one of my readers will have a useful or insightful idea or suggestion for you.

I wish you the very best of good luck and fortitude.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words Shadox. I will do the best I can as always and hope for the best. I just wanted to give a little different perspective on things. I wish I had been able to finish my degree and been in better position during these hard financial times but you sacrifice things for your children's welfare. When insurance companies are slow to pay on disability you get forced to draw on your profit sharing (what is left of it after devaluation)to pay bills. When that is all gone and you still can't find a job that will let you survive your done. I don't want to appear to be crying about things, I just want to present how some sets of circumstances can move one from the ranks of a productive member of society to ruin. Once again thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous - thank you for your post. I too am humbled by your post. I have been thinking (esp. this week) about resigning from my job. I have 2 kids and work in technology. I feel like I am not as successful as I would like to be at juggling a full-time job and also being a mom. But I also make good money ($150K) with full benefits and profit sharing. My family tells me that it would be crazy for me to leave. But I feel like I am missing out on my children't childhood. Shadox, your wife is very lucky to have a part-time position. I think that's a ideal if you have kids. But I am also afraid to take the leap and lose the independent financial security. Lots for me to think about this weekend. Thank you all.