I’ve known a particular coworker of mine for nearly ten years, long before they came to work at my current firm. While we rarely hang out beyond the workplace—aside from regularly having lunch away from the office—I trust their judgment, appreciate their outlook, and occasionally laugh at their puns. Frequently we will gripe about our respective jobs, serving in the same department at the same company.
While my primary complaint is too little management—and no job satisfaction—theirs is too much management; with a direct manager and two dotted-line supervisors, they’re pulled in all number of directions at once. A communal complaint we have is the apparent lack of meaningful change in the face of opportunity, attention, or need.
I fully recognize that I have an objectively privileged position at my company; I make fair money for arguably little work, and if my primary complaint is that I have too little to do, I know many who would trade jobs in a second. That said, I’ve become more and more vocal with this coworker that I have stopped passively looking for a new employer and have instead started actively sending out resumes. It’s an unfortunate situation, but I’m trying to be proactive about changing my situation rather than throwing up my hands and accepting being miserable.
During lunch today, each of us enjoying al pastor burritos from a local tacoreria we recently discovered, I sighed and complained that, of the few things on my plate, none were exciting or intellectually stimulating. My coworker looked at me, and though they prefaced the statement with an apology for “how it might sound,” they hit me with a solid dose of reality directly to my solar plexus:
I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.
Even though I don’t jump for joy at the thought of going to the office every morning, every time my boss calls me over, I worry about losing my job. Every time he asks for a status update on a client matter, even if I have a ready answer, I fear that I’ll be let go. It’s a near-constant worry that somewhere along the way a shoe dropped and the other is hovering tenuously right over my head. Does that fear motivate me to put in more effort at work however? No, it is instead overruled by my professional complaints.
My coworker’s statement absolutely cut to the heart of my fears about being inadequate and ill-suited for my role—thank you imposter syndrome. I began thinking, and ended up ruminating on the topic for the rest of the afternoon, about what, if any, value I actually did bring to the company. My brain and self-confidence being what they are, the thoughts weren’t particularly pleasant.
The best I could come up with was the more than $300,000 in annual revenue I bring in to the business, on top of project labor and hardware sales. That and the fear that I largely exist as a collection of historic information—the what, how, and why of our decision largely rests in my head since I’m the only one who has been here from the beginning; in fact I was the first-ever employee hired into this department. Our company prides itself on the longevity of its employees; surely they wouldn’t be paying my salary just to have a 5+ year employee on the books?
I sent a text to my coworker this evening, after several hours of chewing on their comment, and told them that their words stung far more than perhaps either of us realized over the lunch table, but that they had spurred me to action, so hopefully some good could come out of the situation. They expressed that their statement came from a place of bitterness at my position and frustration with how the department was being managed, both of which I wholly understood.
This past weekend was Thanksgiving at my parents’ house and one late-night conversation centered on my current workplace experience and frustration. They tried to helpfully suggest that, for some, sending out five resumes a week wasn’t getting much done. On the back of that conversation and the talk with my coworker, I sat down and sent out more than 14 applications tonight, with the hope that I’ll get at least 10 more done tomorrow.
If nothing else, at least now I have a bit more fire in my belly to see things change; not at my current job, for I’ve all but given up on making positive progress there, but in a new position, with a new management structure, and maybe even an entirely new geographical region.