Wednesday, July 10, 2019

My mini career break is coming ... and I'm anxious?

I've been busy the last few weeks. Wrapping up things at work. Battling the after effects of bad burnout. Booking holidays.

While battling up and down yoyo feelings, I've managed to book a 10-day holiday in Australia. A few years ago I had a life in Australia, working and living there. So I've got a tonne of friends there and I can't wait to meet them again. It's been years since I've seen them.

I'm excited. I can't wait to do all the fun things.

But this is the oddest thing. I am facing the prospect of a 5-week career break and I feel ANXIOUS about it.

You bet I'm really puzzled by this. Logically, I should be ecstatic, over-the-top happy. But instead I'm dealing with an undercurrent of anxiety and it's confusing the heck out of me.

I can't wait to do this. Yet I'm anxious to do this. Weird.

I mean, it's rather telling that I think a 10-day holiday in Australia feels long!

I think it's a blessing that I still have 2 weeks to go before leaving the corporate workday. Currently, as I'm wrapping things up at work, my workload has gotten considerably lighter. So much so that there's a strange sense of panic, a "surely I've missed something" state of being of not being so insanely busy as before.

Now that they've parceled out my responsibilities to three people (yes, three), my workload is more than manageable. It's, infact, rather relaxing. I mean, there are days where I can slack off and do nothing ... or am actually bored. I distinctly remember being so damn busy that I don't even have time to take toilet breaks or where I would eat lunch and tap on my laptop at the same time so that I could sleep at midnight instead of 2am that day.

Oh, I still have my share of difficult stakeholders to deal with and a meeting or two to attend that I wish I didn't have to attend, but I forsee the next two weeks will be a good segue to 5 weeks of do-nothingness.

Which brings me to the panic thing.

Then I stumbled on this thread at the Money Moustache community which gave me a little glimpse at what could possibly be happening:

I think I'm decompressing from my 2.5 years of toxic jobs, finally shedding and processing the negativity and toxicity I had to endure all those years.  

Also, after 2.5 years of relentless challenges at three jobs, my brain can't quite comprehend that I'm now free to relax ... and free to enjoy a different kind of life.

I have spent all these years just surviving, and being on constant work-work-work mode that I have frankly forgotten how to relax and to operate at a slower pace. I kid you not, my daily diary entries were filled with a todo list a page or two long. I didn't have "3 Most Important Things" to do - I had 10 to 15. Plus a dozen subtasks or more. 

Now that I actually have a normal to easy workload, I think my brain is confused.

Relax? How the hell do you do that again?

There must be something wrong, it thinks. I'm missing something!

Missing something meant inciting the wrath of my toxic ex-boss. It meant the loss of my job. It meant living under the bridge eating out of trash cans.

While the circumstances have changed, my brain has not. It's stuck in the old ways of being.

So it's always searching for signs of danger despite my more relaxed schedule. And, unfortunately, it has latched on to the idea that my new employer is tricking me by allowing me this mini-break.

"They're just buyin time to search for another candidate, then they'll fire your ass!" whispers the voice.

This, it says almost triumphantly, is the thing to worry about!

Welcome to the life of a chronic worrier.

Busy hustling. Busy moving. Busy surviving. Busy Busy Busy

This article, Done Detoxing by LivingaFI explains how I am currently so well:

When youíre ambitious, time is precious.  You must always be working toward your ultimate goal, whatever that may be.  When you idle, minutes slip away, and your dreams feel as though theyíre going up in smoke.  To push back against this feeling, you strain harder.

In other words, ambition created an urgency underlying the texture of my days.

But this urgency ó this feeling of continually pushing forwardñ  is a behavior, not a goal. Though Iíd reached the endgame, the TFB (Too Fucking Busy) behavior remained, the orphaned baby on the doorstep as ambition fled town.

I've technically reached my "endgame" for the season - getting out of my job and into a coveted mini break, and getting a job that I think will suit my personality and lifestyle better... but my old habits of striving and looking fearfully for dangers at the workplace (backstabbers, schemers, bully bosses, missed deadlines) still remain.

Can I throw away my TFB behaviour and transform it into something healthier in August?

Meanwhile, I've extended my 10-day holiday in Australia to 14 days. ;) A good sign, I guess!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How I negotiated a mini career break & how a Fuck Off fund made it possible

Well, I've been away! Partly because things at Crazy Co. was tense because I was negotiating for an early release from my 3-month notice period. It went easier than I thought - the resistance and pushback I expected was not as bad as I thought.

Step 1: Point out a clause in the contract
There's a clause in the contract that stated that if I wasn't confirmed, I could  be released in a month. All notices, stated the contract, had to be in writing, and this will include the notice of confirmation. Crazy Co never bothered to give me a confirmation letter. I pointed it out and HR basically laughed at my face. I expected that - they were the type to follow the clauses of the contract only when it suited them - so I wasn't crushed. A lawyer friend said that I could argue it out in the courts. However, who would want to do that? I'd rather save myself the time and money and heartache. At least I tried!

Step 2: Talk it out with relevant parties - have a good reason ready
This was tough for me as Crazy Co management can be downright mean. But a face-to-face chat is essential before sending out that email. Emails can be so terse and robotic; putting a face to the request helps soften things up. First, I approached the HR director and head of department and told them what I'm planning to do (apply for early release) and my reason for doing so (I had to sort out personal matters). Then I spoke to the CEO - whose moods are as unpredictable as the weather. I watched her carefully, making sure that she's in a good mood and pounced. It turned out to be a barely 5-min chat. She told me to send the email request.

Step 3: Send that email
Have it in black and white. Always!

Step 4: Negotiate
Confession - I totally flubbed this. I made a mistake in my email which alarmed the higher ups because I requested to have my notice period shortened to a month instead of 2 months! (I guess my subconscious REALLY wanted to leave ASAP.) They offered to release me in 1.5 months and I don't know why - call it a brain fart or total logical breakdown - I stuck to my original date. [FACEPALMS] I totally kicked myself for hours after that.

After a few days, I worked up the courage to re-negotiate with the head of my department (who was not pleased, obviously) and got my notice shortened a further one week.

Next time, I'll go in with a prepared script for different scenarios. It's just that I never expected them to give me an even earlier release - I was all prepared to accept a 2.1 month release! So my brain was fixated on that, I suppose!!

So with this early release, I got myself a month off before starting the new job. Woohoo!

All those steps above were important, but none were more important than this step:

Be financially prepared by having a FUCK OFF fund

I knew that if I got an early release, I'll be sacrificing my salary. In this case I'll be sacrificing a month's salary. However, I've spent years saving up for that day when I may not have that salary coming in.

Right now, my Fuck Off fund is enough to cover at least a year's expenses.

On top of that, I currently have a source of passive income via my rental home. That monthly income is enough to cover my monthly expenses.

I currently only spend 50% of my monthly income.  But in a crunch, I only need $2k a month to live on comfortably. This is because I have NO debt, live frugally (except for an expensive eating out habit I'm trying to tame) and don't have a pressing desire to spend money on stuff.

With the fund and frugal habits in place I didn't even blink at doing without a salary for a month.

Because, really, my mental health is so much more important, 'k?

Because, although things are much, much better in terms of workload, flexibility - the meanness that is at the centre of this company's way of being is still there. After nearly 10 months of this shit, I'M OVER IT.

I do not, I repeat, I do not want to bring this negativity unconsciously to the new workplace. Because currently, I look at people at work like they're a bunch of piranhas out to eat the flesh off my bones. I need to regain some faith in humanity first.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

5 lessons from 3 bad jobs


So now that I have officially resigned, it’s time to evaluate what went wrong with my career journey for the past 5+ years. No, it’s not a deliberate exercise in torture - I believe all jobs, good and bad, teach us something. If I don’t learn from my experience in Crazy Co and other companies, I’ll be doomed to repeat them.

After all, most project managers have a session at the end of each project to evaluate what went wrong in order to prevent such things from happening again.

It’s tempting, however, to lay the blame entirely at the employer’s feet. I DO have some responsibility over my situation as well.


Lesson 1: When the job changes on you, and you hate it, don’t stay too long

Ye Olde Company was my longest employer, and there’s a good reason why so many of us worked there for decades. However, over the years, the company morphed into something we could no longer recognise.

Many of us old timers hung on because we remembered how it was, and sometimes we relate to it as if it had not changed. It’s like having a second husband, but treating him like he was your first husband.

I returned to Ye Olde Company after years abroad. The job was something I swore to myself I would never do again, but I took it on because of practical reasons. I needed a job to get me back on my feet at home again and I needed stability. Ye Olde Company offered both. Besides, I could transfer out to another department in the future, I reasoned.

It turned out to be a great decision. At least for a year. I was recovering from bad burnout when I accepted the job and I knew I couldn’t handle a high-stress job. I could do the job’s tasks in my sleep and there were long down time periods during our 8-hour working period. Meaning, I could actually spend hours at work doing nothing! I was even encouraged to “read a book” during those times!

We could also shift around our off days, so sometimes I would work on public holidays, then use those off days to work 3 days a week and take the rest of the week off. It was a neat arrangement for most of us. I used this to take regular, 3 to 4-day mini holidays monthly without having to touch my leave entitlement.

Also, the unusual working hours (I worked the afternoon shift) enabled me to do chores in the morning and engage in my passion projects. I also paid off my biggest debt - my mortgage - during the stint at Ye Olde Company because the odd hours enabled me to run to banks and lawyers’ offices. Also, the steady income enabled me to handle the bills I had to pay.

Then, in Year 2, the job changed for the worse.

I was put on more and more night shifts. Being a morning lark, the night shifts were unbearable - I would take days to recover. Once a month night shifts became nearly every week. Then it became twice a week. My 3-4 day mini holidays became sleeping marathons.

My health deteriorated. I had gastrointestinal issues so severe that I could not eat anything other than soup. My weight actually plummeted. It’s actually very tough for me to lose weight!

I also had shooting chest pains. (It turned out to be muscle tension from bad posture at my work desk, fortunately!)

Don't wait till you lose it. Trust me.

As the company came under severe financial pressure, management became more and more callous and calculative. It’s famed empathy and compassion for its staff became a thing of the past. People were shamed for minor mistakes (we actually had a shame board where they showcased people’s errors!). Older, experienced staff were coldly let go and replaced by younger, cheaper staff.

My health issues and the company’s cultural shift made it difficult to keep my dissatisfaction with my job at bay. It was a job I didn’t enjoy doing - I found it uninteresting and repetitive - but I tolerated it due to the benefits of the job. However, with my health suffering, I knew that whatever benefits I had enjoyed was no longer enough.

I also knew that if I stayed longer, it would stunt my career prospects - I was learning no new skills that would make me more marketable.

There were so many strikes against the job by mid Year two, but I hung on because I loved Ye Olde Company. Or rather, what it used to be.

I stayed on until my body completely broke down. On hindsight, I should have left by mid Year-Two. I would have had more strength and energy to explore more job options and reflect what I really wanted in my day job.

Because I hung on until I couldn’t hang on anymore, I became desperate and took the first job that came along - Company A - despite it’s financial problems.

Lesson 2: Can you tolerate the risk that comes with the job? If not, don’t take the job!

While researching Company A, I discovered that it was in the process of being sold. That meant that if I did accept the job, there was no guarantee that the new owners would keep me around, especially since the job was an experimental, non-essential one - a “good to have”, not a “must have”. Most companies would outsource my job.

It would be a good job for someone who wanted to have a brief stint or who was willing to take on the risk of being jobless without warning.

But I wanted a steady, reliable job to depend on so I can work on other things the side.

So, naturally, my gut screamed, NOPE.

But I was desperate, burned out from Ye Olde Company. I reasoned that the worst case scenario won’t happen as it was said that the sale won’t happen for many years yet.

Unfortunately, it did - three months after I started the job! My department was restructured. My tasks were given to someone else and I ended up twiddling my thumbs for weeks. It was a matter of time before Company A retrenched me. I knew it was time to move on.

Lesson 3: Listen to your gut

After Ye Olde Company and Company A, I was determined to be more careful with my job search. I actually turned down a couple of jobs which I deemed an ill fit before Crazy Co came headhunting for me.

As a person whose emotions led me down a not-so-great path far too many times, I tend to not trust them too much. But after ending up in two back-to-back “bad” jobs, I’ve come to realise that the fear and anxiety I felt before accepting each job was valid. These emotions were telling me something.

None was clearer than with Crazy Co. I knew something was “off” when various managers regaled me with how bad the previous staff was and that the company lacked “mature” people. My gut clenched with distaste at what I was hearing.

If your gut is screaming, RUN FOR THE HILLS

Big lesson: How a person speaks of colleagues/staff is a big indicator of how they treat them. It was a huge clue that Crazy Co viewed their staff as children who needed to be disciplined and shepherded. That meant a top-down, do-as-I say style of management. It also highlighted the company’s culture of disrespect since they viewed adults as immature! Crazy Co felt that people should be honoured and lucky to even work with them.

My gut was telling me that I would not fit there, and I would probably be treated with disrespect.

My gut was 100% spot on.

Lesson 4: Do not be swayed by the company image or benefits

But I chose to ignore my gut because Crazy Co was prestigious, fought for a cause I believed in and I was entranced by the company benefits, which included remote working priveleges. There was a good chance that I could segue the job into part-time work.

A few people even came to me and told me not to accept Crazy Co’s job offer. “Everyone is trying to get out,” said a friend. “Don’t do it!”

But the Glassdoor reviews seemed largely positive, I thought.

I can handle it, I thought to myself after all. After all, no job was perfect.

I couldn’t, in the end - for very good reasons.

Lesson 5: Set firm boundaries

Because I had such a short stint at Company A, I felt really pressured to make Crazy Co work eventhough I knew by Week 2 I had landed in cray-cray land. I was determined to stay at least a year - the length of my contract. So this determination and the fear of losing my job before the term was up made me put up with things I shouldn’t.

As a result, I often avoided as much confrontation as I could.

What I realised now is that my ex-boss was testing my boundaries. X wanted to see how far she could go. A little cutting remark here, a put-down there. With each word, my self-confidence was chipped away. With each boundary breaking behaviour, she grew bolder.

Nowhere was my boundaries more broken than with my workload. I was given the work of 3 people - many of the tasks I was given were not the tasks I had agreed to do when signing the contract. Each time, I told myself, “I can handle it”. I said yes, when my mind screamed no. I didn’t tell her the truth. I didn’t set firm boundaries.

I also didn’t set boundaries for myself.

I allowed work to creep into my personal space. I worked on weekends just to catch up. I worked after hours. I checked my phone all the time. I ate crap food. I reasoned that these sacrifices were worth it as it will help me keep my job.

It wasn’t worth it, of course. I ended up with eczema, my IBS flared up and I became insomniac.

No job is worth your health. No job.

After my bad experiences, I decided to do things differently during my job hunt this time:

How I applied my lessons:

  • By month six, I knew Crazy Co was a lost cause. I didn’t wait too long and began applying for jobs. Six months was enough time to deem if it wasn’t for me.
  • A potential employer asked me if I would consider joining his company. I turned him down. Why? Because he told me his current employee was terrible and pointed her out with a sneer. His disrespect for her was a clear indication what kind of boss he would be. Bullet dodged. 
  • I turned down a job offer from a company because I discovered dodgy HR practices in its past. What befell these poor employees may not befall me, but I knew I wanted a more stable job after Crazy Co, so it was a no-go.
  • With my new co, GC, their structured, organised hiring practices gave me confidence. I liked that I got to hang out with the team twice during the interviews. To test if we were a personality fit, I created a light-hearted video during my presentation. They laughed. I knew then that these people understood my sense of humour and would appreciate my personality.

These lessons were very tough to learn, but necessary. As a result of these painful experiences, I’ve learned what's the bad I can live with at a job, and learned to recognise jobs that don't suit me.

Monday, June 3, 2019

What I’m planning to do while serving my notice

You bet I'll be doing more of this from now on.

I really envy Americans. They have 2-week notices. Two weeks! In my country, it’s months' long. Four or more if you’re incredibly unlucky or are a big shot in the company.

How I’m spending the notice period truly depends on how the company wants me to work during my “final days”.

From my observation, some colleagues are usually "put on ice" months before they leave. Meaning, they are not allowed to come near any project.

Gosh, I hope I’m as lucky.

But it would seem that there's no uniformity in this company. Some have absolutely nothing to do. Some run ragged till the very last day.

But, anyway, I had a chat with boss who says that I will be doing work while I'm serving notice.

Well, pooh.

I really hope I won't be in the run ragged group.

My heart sank at first, because honestly, I really CANT with this job anymore. 2.5 months feels like an eternity right now.

My only hope is that the work won't be as demanding as the last few months because I really need to rest from Crazy Co's insanity.

Still, this is what I'm going to do while serving my notice period.

1. Rest
I was tempted to fill my schedule with "things I must do to prepare for new job". Yes, that's important, but to be my best for the new job, I need to also recharge. I will be sleeping in longer and no more late nights or weekends doing work. And if they insist, what are they going to do, fire me? (evil laugh)

2. Reconnect with friends
Work took so much out of me that I barely had the strength to meet friends. I will be using this time to meet ex-colleagues, friends and have coffee with them.

Let's work from here, shall we?

3. Travel 
Thanks to my remote working days, I plan to work from different places in the city or from different states - and write about them of course!

4. Study up for the new job
I have asked the new boss what to do to prepare and he’s suggested I read up on the industries I will be writing about. It’s very high tech & brainy industries and I am frankly excited!

5. Take courses - ideal, but probably not possible
I plan to take a few online courses to "skill up" for the new job. This is something I longed to do during a career break, so this is as good a time as any!

6.  Handover. 

However, believe it or not, I'm more or less done.

One of the first things I did when I started this job was to create "guide books" for my duties.

Aside from sporadic verbal downloads from other colleagues here and there, I received nearly zero training at Crazy Co and was given tasks I was often not ready for.

I couldn't understand why nobody bothered to create a guidebook for the tasks, so I decided to create them to make sense of the scattered information I was receiving. Also, I didn't want newbies to suffer the same fate - also, won't it be easier to have a reference document, in general, anyway??

These guidebooks turned out to be the best handover documents EVER.

Also, the good news: I have only one project left to wrap up. You bet I created a project notebook - complete with task lists, progress reports and contact numbers.

It definitely pays to be anal about documenting every single shit that passes through your desk.

With this plan in place, I'm confident that my notice period would be less of a miserable experience. You can say I'm even looking forward to it!

Friday, May 31, 2019

The door opens: I got a new job - meet GC

I got the news on the best vacation I've had in a year. There I was in the hotel when I got the call from my recruiter: They are sending you the letter of offer today. Congratulations.

Elated. Happy. But I was mostly relieved.

It felt as if I've been holding my breath for months, and I could only now take a breath.

But whatever happiness I felt was blunted by a sense of caution in my spirit. After two bad jobs back-to-back, I've come to look at job opportunities with less naive joy. I'm now "cautiously hopeful".

Not my new office, but it looks like this, down to the beanie-T-shirt-wearing dude

Meet GC

I'll call my new company the GC. It's prestigious, with branches in the United States, UK, Asia - every continent you can imagine. Their benefits make my eyes pop. Their office is Google-lite, with pool tables, bean bags and coffee bars, and the contract explicitly states that I can start at whatever time I want as long as it's 8 hours a day. They were at the penthouse of the office building and one of the places to "hang out" was a massive courtyard garden with a killer city view. The place SCREAMED MONEY AND PRESTIGE. But what impressed me most about GC was it's thorough, meticulous hiring process.

You know what they say - if the hiring process is chaotic, watch out! That's a red flag. I can attest to that because that's ever so true with Crazy Co.

GC, however, was extremely meticulous and systematic. The first interview was with the hiring manager who lay out what exactly the job was about, what it's like working in the company etc. She took time to get to know me. She gave me homework to do - a proposal.

Second interview I met the team - the folks I'd be working with. They seem like a laidback, happy bunch. To be honest, I failed the second interview because I did the wrong type of proposal. Notably, she praised me first for preparing so throughly but told me that I didn't do what she wanted. The hiring manager decided to give me a second chance. This whole process made me feel that she was a fair person who didn't view failure as a catastrophe. She gave chances. She was kind and considerate because she didn't insist that I come for the third interview during working hours - she accommodated my time instead.

Third interview went much better. I realised, unlike the first proposal (which I hated to do), this one was totally in my league. I even had a blast doing it. So much so that I created a bonus concept video that made the entire team laugh.

I knew the interview went well, but I also knew I was up against stiff competition. This was a huge company with a huge pool of talent to pick from.

I didn't think they'd pick me.

But thank God they did.


You know what they say - that you should give your resignation in person? Well, I totally broke that. Since I was in another state, and since GC wanted me ASAP, I had to resign immediately. As I worked up the courage to quit by phone, work was calling me off and on. 
With each call, my compassion/guilt disappeared.

Here I was on my vacation and they would not fucking leave me alone.

So when I made the call, I couldn't do it fast enough. Boss and I discussed the various disasters that have befallen the company while I was away. I gave her a rundown of my tasks and then, casually said, "Oh by the way, I'm resigning."

A pause. Then, "Oh."

I wasn't as heroic as I sounded. I was frankly terrified. Terrified because I didn't want to give a single hint about where I was going next. I stammered out a vague reason for leaving which probably made the new boss wonder what I was drinking.

When I disconnected the call, I felt as if a million tonnes had fallen off my shoulders.

I sent the email, cced HR. And slept like a baby that night.

The news is out

News got out that I resigned.

One day, I gathered with a couple of colleagues who ranted and raved about how badly Crazy Co had treated them.

Listening to them grew depressing after a while. Sure, it was fun to rant along with them for a while, but it got old after half an hour. I listened to them for another hour and thought to myself, "Dear God, how do people allow themselves to become so bitter and jaded?"

One colleague remarked that while the other colleagues would be able to manage the insane shenanigans of Crazy Co, she knew that I never had it in me to manage.

"I knew you won't be able to handle it."

That stabbed me in the heart. I suppose she was explicitly saying that I was too weak for Crazy Co.

The whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. A toxic environment just twists people up. If I stayed any longer, I would be THEM.

Yes, I couldn't handle Crazy Co. I admit that.  

I had the fortune to work for a relatively healthy company for 10+ years. People stayed at that company for decades, and there's a very good reason why. So, perhaps I never really built the skills and muscles you need to navigate cut-throat corporate environments like Crazy Co, but my exposure to it has taught me how to protect myself and how to spot a toxic workplace immediately.

It also taught me what I liked or disliked when it came to work:
  • I don't do well in formal, heavily bureaucratic environments 
  • I don't like jobs where you have to be "on" 24/7
  • Micromanaging bosses ... no, just no.
  • I prefer a contributor role, not a managerial one
  • I don't do well in cut-throat environments
So thanks, Crazy Co. Although you are probably the WORST EVER COMPANY I've worked for, you've taught me a lot. You've taught me resilience, and you've taught me to forget you in the ashes of my resume history.

PS: This article has been edited. I just realise that I'm leaving far too many clues about my workplace and I can't be too careful right now!!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Waiting a toxic job out while you wait for the door to open

A Purple Life’s post, 16 Months to retirement: Discovering cracks in my favourite company, made me think about my current situation at Crazy Co.

Now, it seems almost “mean” to call my company that, but read on.

Long story short, I had a toxic boss who made my life utter hell.
But, me, being the stubborn mule that I am, refused to quit just because I’m bullied.

Fortunately, X just left the company.

Now that X is gone, things have improved quite a bit. 

I’m no longer having crying spells on the way to work or panic attacks in the toilet. I’m no longer hiding in corners of the office to avoid colleagues.

Some of the good changes:

1. Less stress 
It’s amazing what removing a bully boss can do for your mental health!! I’m myself again, able to laugh, joke and smile at work. Before, I was like a little frightened rabbit in my cubicle, trying my best to not “trigger” my boss who would get angry for the most random thing. I could  say more but I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Living with this form of … control? insanity? is not advisable to say the least!

2. I get to work from home once a week
After my boss left, I was promptly given the chance to work remotely and it has made my work life soooo much better. I work so much better from home (or at cafes!). It actually makes me more productive. Also, it’s so nice to be away from office politics.

3. My colleagues are much friendlier 
I suppose it’s what you call “guilt by association”. My boss imposed a way of working that placed our department at odds with other departments . X considered us the “watchdogs”. Naturally, this didn’t sit well with many. So most colleagues avoided me, was distant and aloof … but the moment I stood up to X, things changed. One of the ways I rebelled was to refuse to do things her way. Instead of just communicating and barking orders at people via email, I would walk to a person’s desk and talk to them about work. (Then email them, cos this office is mad about documentation lol.)

Also, I became my loud, vivacious self again.  

One of my personality type’s superpowers was that I am good with people and I am great at making people happy. Why not use it to get work done? I did, and it not only warmed me up to the other departments, it made things so much easier to do! Now I’m “part of the gang”. 

Bad things

While it’s so much better now that X is gone, things at the office are still a mess. I believe X was only a symptom of an endemic problem. To cut the story short, the company is very, very dysfunctional.

1. A culture of disrespect
Rude behaviour is tolerated and propagated by leadership. Managers are allowed to cut down and insult subordinates and other colleagues, and failure is NOT tolerated. It has created a culture of fear and wariness.

2. Reactive and chaotic
Projects are thrown on our laps at the last minute. “Scope creep” is almost always a guarantee as our leaders do not respect the parameters that were agreed upon, and keep changing their minds. Most departments don’t communicate with each other, and my department is often left picking up the pieces when things don’t work out - which means we are often scrambling to do work last minute and over the weekend.

3. Value clash

4. Oh, you’re a warm body - so do this.
At the interview, I was made to understand by X that I was being hired to do Job A. On my first day, I found out I was taking over not one, but two job scopes. The second of which I had no experience. Never mind, thought I, I’m happy to learn. Only this never stopped. Job C was added to me. Then Job D. Job E and so on. To make it all worse, no training or direction was given. 

Every task has been an exhausting, uphill battle because I had to learn how to do and execute them on my own without any help or guidance of any kind. In fact, asking for help or guidance was viewed as a weakness by my superiors, who think you should be able to “figure things out on your own because you’re a manager after all”. 

I’m the sort of person who needs to know how things are done before executing said task. Not doing it that way would be an exercise of futility as I’ll be wasting time bumbling around making mistake after mistake. Once I know the SOP, I would often tweak it to make it more efficient - that’s what i enjoy doing. But I certainly do NOT enjoy groping in the dark for answers while trying to complete something on a tight deadline.

All this is exhausting and nerve wrecking.

Still, the positive changes has bought me precious time to consider my next move. I’ve even found the strength to job search. (If my boss was still there trying her Machiavellian moves on me, you bet I’ll be out of there by yesterday.)

Many people have told me to quit without another job lined up - even my Boomer parents who worked in civil service and can’t comprehend quitting without another job. And I’m 80% in agreement with them.

But I don’t want to do that until I have exhausted all my options.

I have FI goals, and as silly as it sounds, I don’t feel it’s the right time for me to quit a job cold turkey.

My goal was to slow down my working life (Barista Fire, baby) at 45. I’m three years away, financially speaking. The goal is to work at a high-paying job for at least 3 years to sock away as much money as I can to make Barista Fire possible. I’m ALMOST there in terms of savings, but not quite there yet. If I slow down now, at my age, I’m not sure if I’ll ever meet the goal.

Also, maybe, I’m just too gritty for my own good.

But what I’m doing is this:

1. Wait for a job offer
I’ve been interviewing the last few months. NOT EASY when you are tired out from all the dysfunction and last-minute demands for deliverables. I’m currently waiting for a job offer from a company I’ve interviewed at. If this doesn’t come with a job offer, I will…

2. Stop applying for jobs and wait out until my contract ends.
Stealth job hunting is doing a number on my health. And since I am only three months away from the end of my contract, i’ll wait the contract out. I don’t plan to renew my contract. However, if things really improve, I may reconsider. (But I doubt it. I don’t think this level of dysfunction can be fixed in a couple of months.)

3. Meanwhile, take advantage of my remote working benefits
You bet I’ll be working more outside the office. The perks of my job is that it is “understood” that if you have to attend an event, you are not required to return to the office. So I’m going to take advantage of that and also work from home on my designated day.

4. The Whatever voice
I confess, I am a non-confrontational person and hate conflict. But after months of being under my toxic boss, I’ve lost the patience to put up with bad behaviour. I used to be afraid of asking for clarification or even permission to do stuff lest I trigger these folks - now I do both, expecting them to react with a tornado of cutting insults and with my inner voice going, “WHATEVER”. (That usually makes me grin, which makes some of them even madder lol)

5. Feel the fear and do it anyway
Now, when I get a task that is beyond my abilities or experience, I will shrug to myself and say, “Well, consider this an experiment. Here’s your chance to add a skillset to your resume. If you fail, so be it. You’re leaving in three months, anyway!” It has helped with my stress levels. But I suppose this is what you call “disengagement?” :P

All in all, having some financial independence has helped me cope with Crazy Co. I have funds for a year without a job, and while that’s not ideal, it’s still something for me to tide things by while I find a healthier place to work in. That keeps a bunch of stress away.

That's why I paid off all my debts and saved a bunch of money - to prepare for a day like this.

PS: This article has been edited.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Job Searching while Battling Burnout & Exhaustion

Was reading 76k Project's post, Coping with my job while I'm searching for my unicorn, and I'm thinking - wow, this is totally where I'm at right now.

I've been attending job interviews - some of them at prestigious companies that I never thought would look my way. I have had headhunters coming towards me offering me opportunities. Yesterday, I bumped into an old boss who offered me the chance to return to the Good Ol' Company part time.

I'm really blessed, honestly. But I'm finding it all very draining and exhausting.

In fact, when these HR folks/recruiters called me, my first reaction is often irritation.

Why are they calling me now? Why do they insist I can only interview on that day? Do they think i can just take leave like that? What? I have to do yet another proposal to show my worth and expertise? Don't they realise these proposals take two days to prepare, and I am doing this after my full-time, demanding job?

I'm exhausted.

Exhausted of Crazy Company's toxic dramas. Exhausted by the demands of these maybe-my-future-employers.

Fill 10000 forms. Send us your proposal. Make sure you're on time for your interview!

Meanwhile, Crazy Company is as disorganised and chaotic as ever. There's a new demand every day, another unclear, undefined project with an unrealistic timeline lobbed my way. What? You have no experience doing this and you need some guidance? Too bad. Figure it out. But we need it in two weeks, 'kay? No excuses. Or else.

I've tried meditating. Walks. Journalling. Saying no. Hiding in cafes to do my work. Working from home whenever I can.

But I still wake up exhausted and with an aching body. I still battle insomnia and anxiety attacks. I still cry on the way to work sometimes.

Truth is, I think I'm in full-scale burnout mode, and I need to leave this job 100% before I find another. I'm going for interviews with panda eyes for goodness sakes.

So, I've decided, no matter what the outcome of these jobs I'm applying for, I'm quitting my job at the end of the month.

Originally, I wanted to stay on until after June 18 because I'm being sent on a course that I really want to take, but my Mum is actually urging me to quit for my health.

My Baby Boomer mum who thinks it's unfathomable to quit without another job lined up.

"You have us, honey. What are you worried about? I'm worried for you - this job is so bad for your health!"

Having my parents validate me and say that they'll feed me when I'm jobless is validating and very reassuring, hah.

Thank God for my parents, really.

And oddly, my best friend resigned without a job last Thursday. Somehow her brave actions is making me bolder too.

So here's the date: Ideal date - June 18. But most probably I'll be resigning by end of the month.

With or without a job lined up.

Wish me luck.