When Things Fall Apart… They REALLY Fall Apart.

February 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Posted in Career angst | 17 Comments

So turns out Deborah’s question about if work was okay was a good one.

Ultimately, the auditors classified the Friday afternoon issue as “noise.” But. My boss was angry that he had to have the conversation with them on Friday afternoon without me there. For that? Honestly, I can’t blame him. He was blindsided. I was too.

But until yesterday, I had no idea how angry he was.

I may have mentioned that before Christmas he sat me down and told me that I didn’t work enough hours. And when I mentioned in our meeting yesterday that I actually changed my hours so that I am now working 10 hour days here when Charlie Brown started his new job?

His answer? Not good enough.

You see, it’s a FLEXIBILITY thing. If something blows up at 5pm, I need to be here, fixing it. Not leaving to pick up Lucky from daycare because my husband now commutes to Rhode Island and just can’t make it in time.

So last week, when I had to split days at home because Lucky was sick… and I got on a plane for a planned (and approved trip) to New Orleans… well, that didn’t sit well with him.

And he took it as confirmation that I don’t care about my work. And the issues came up isn’t human error, it’s because I don’t spend enough TIME on work.

Now, see – from my perspective, the issues that came up are a result of a new system and trying to build a new process around this new system.

I own my mistakes. I know that when I am balancing a lot of work and under a LOT of deadlines, I sometimes miss details. I have a MUCH stronger big picture orientation than I have in the details.

I get around that particular character flaw by auditing EVERYTHING; doing something, putting it down, and then auditing it later.

And for this area? It was new. I SHOULD have built a more rigorous self-review process into this area from the very get go. I didn’t.

Mea culpa.

So I went into my meeting yesterday with what I thought was a very objective view of the issue. I had the root cause and a plan to improve it. Bad process. Get better. Get help reviewing. Move forward.

And instead, we went right back into the discussion of the fact that I don’t work enough hours. And that I’m lucky that this isn’t my annual review. He asked me straight out why he shouldn’t put me on a performance plan* right now. And that I need to spend the next three months working hard to gain back his confidence.

I was honest. I told him that I haven’t felt this inadequate at a job in a really, really long time.

Thing is. I don’t HAVE the flexibility for work. I can’t just drop my family obligations to stay late when something like this crops up. I need to get my work done within the hours that I can devote to work and move on. I have a husband with a busy career too, we are trying to juggle the needs of our family and son with the resources we have.

But there’s more to it, too. I was a GOOD auditor. I never once questioned my knowledge or ability to do my job. I hated the hours, and the demands, and always having more work than I knew what to do with. I hated the compliance aspect of a lot of my job.

At my current job? I question my ability.

And I told him that. I told him that I spent a lot of time in the quarter trying to fix issues, and I went into it feeling pretty good about the work I had put into the area, and was frustrated because it ends up always being something I didn’t expect would pop up.

And I told him that I had no idea that our auditors felt the way they did, I had no inkling they were going to sit him down on Friday, and if I had known I would have made sure he was more prepared.

Mea culpa.

And somehow, it was surprising to him that I felt this way. Like he had drawn some conclusion that I didn’t care about doing a good job and let him clean up my mess because, well, it’s easier, right?

Even though I spent Saturday working and emailing both he and a coworker, putting in work on fixing the process so we can move forward.

At the end of the day, it’s clear to me that in order to meet the criteria to succeed at this company, I need to be more flexibile with my work hours. And make sure he KNOWS that I’m here, fighting fires when they crop up.

And you know something?

I don’t want to.

I suppose I could hire a nanny to pick Lucky up from work, or have an emergency backup plan with my next door neighbor or SIL in case this happens again.

But I don’t have the desire, the drive to do that. I don’t want to live to work. I want to work to live.

I’ve been exploring going out on my own; cobbling together consulting arrangements with two people I know who have their own accounting business. Working 3-4 days a week at different clients. Self-employment.

Nothing’s set in stone, but there is opportunity out there.

And what I’m sitting with right now, is giving my notice next week when we file our financials, finishing my employment out here and THEN focusing on starting something on my own.

I just need to get past the voice in my head that’s saying: You Fail.

*performance plan = plan for improving performance. In my company, it’s the kiss of death, a tool used really for micromanaging, inflexibility, and building a story about how an employee just can’t meet expectations.



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  1. Take the leap! You’ll be so gladyou did! W Charlie commuting you’ll needeven more flexibility at work which.doesn’t sound possible. Lucky will only be young once and you’ll never get these precious years back. I just left a job after 15 years and albeit sad it was best decision for my family…who cares if we have ramen noodles for dinner. We can have the filets when they’re old and grown.

  2. I’m really sorry. I f*cked up a big project at my former company, and it had a lot to do with my quitting to freelance, although I had wanted to do that for awhile. It was worse than I wanted to think at the time. I wish I had handled things differently, but being self-employed agrees with me and it definitely agrees with our family’s schedule.

    If you failed, you were also failed by many other factors well beyond your control. For example, a work environment that presumes every employee has 80 hours/week at the company’s disposal and a wife at home to take care of all those pesky domestic details. Why do so many female lawyers switch to nonprofits after a few years with big firms? (See Ann Crittenden, “The Price of Motherhood,” which is so awesome and full of similar pushing-out examples.)

  3. Good luck!! Xoxo

  4. Quitting on your own terms and starting your own business is most definitely NOT failing. It would be an incredily brave, exciting, and -yes- scary move. My guess is that you will plan your next decisions carefully and that a more flexible life will be a happier life. For myself, having a flexible schedule that allows time for family life has been THE key to staying sane. Best of luck, whatever you do.

  5. Argh!! I think I have PTSD from my previous job (not the one I just left, the one before that) and apparently those words “performance plan” still have the ability to strike fear in my heart, 1.5 years later. When I was there, I internalized it all and believed what my boss said: I wasn’t experienced enough, I was arrogant & didn’t realize how much I had to learn, I was weak in xyz areas. The more time I spend away from that job, though, the more I realize: my boss was abusive and awful. I worked my butt off, with little support from her.
    I think when it gets to the point that you’re thinking of leaving before you work out the details of where you’re going next, things are pretty bad. Kelly has a point about the ramen noodles – better a little financial insecurity (hopefully short-lived) and a sane wife/mother than a family that’s financially stable but totally crazed.
    Your situation sounds awful. I hope you can get out soon.

  6. I think you have this one Serenity. Honestly, I have only stayed at this job this long not because I love the work, I DON’T! but because the hours work for me, I can commute with John, and we leave at 4pm..and I am not important here. I have some “later days” but all in all, I can email you, I can do my work, take customers phone calls and even get lunch most days…if the boys are sick, I can work from home, if I want to take next Tuesday off I can…and normally it’s just not an issue at all…and I like that. I like being a worker bee and if I could do this from home while the boys went to daycare it would be even better.

    Either way I think a happy momma is much important than a happy worker and you’re right..why should you put in more hours and be away from LUCKY anymore than you are? If that is your choice, I’d choose more time with Charlie and Lucky too.


  7. I really do believe in universal forces that converge upon us for the expressed reason to get our attention and to bring about change. I know you have been dissatisfied with your job for a long time and perhaps that was the universe whispering to you that it was time for a change. This most recent snafu is the universe trying harder to get your attention.

    It infuriates me how parent-biased against mothers some professions/companies are. You deserve to have job satisfaction with a company that understands that being a good mother, tending to your child, and being a competent, successful employee are NOT mutually exclusive.

    Pay attention to your instincts, you have them for a reason. It is high time you leave this company and find something that better meshes with your whole person–mother and professional.

  8. You DO deserve better, and it doesn’t sound like that job or company can provide that work/life balance that all working parents deserve.

  9. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like your boss is willing to compromise at all. And if you and Charlie Brown had an agreement that you needed to be more flexible for the next little while as he gets used to his new job, and you both agreed that his new job was the focus of your current work energies, then your current job doesn’t sound like a good fit.

    I also think your boss has unreasonable expectations (i.e. that he can just demand you be present at any point and you will be), but that is the challenge for our society, isn’t it- the work/family balance.

    I’m sure going freelance sounds scary as anything, but you are so determined, I’m sure you could make it work.


    PS. Have read “The Price of Motherhood”. Resonated a LOT.

  10. Before this job – which I have been at for 10 yrs now – I worked for a big international auction company where my every second was monitored. It didn’t matter how much I gave, it was NEVER enough and when I quit, I gave them an earful. I know I never would have been able to do even a fraction of what I did for ART or the adoption had I stayed there.
    Now I have a job that has morphed with me as my life has changed. I am important here and they would prefer not to lose me and because of that, I get an incredible amount of flexibility, second only to being self employed. I highly doubt I would have found another job quite like it and I truly am lucky. I know first hand what it means to have the ability to stay home if my child is sick, come in late because I drop her off at school every morning and to have the ability to leave during the day to see a concert or help out at a school function.
    I say do whatever it is you need to in order to get that same flexibility. It makes the time at work that much more enjoyable when you know you have options to how you go about getting the necessary work done.

  11. I know you have been considering this work change for a while, but I’m sorry the situation has become so untenable at your current job. A lot of things you’ve written about your boss have sounded totally unreasonable to me, but the total lack of flexibility is just unbelievable. In this day and age, there are so many families with two working parents; I’m always stunned at how many unflexible jobs there are. I hope you will make the switch to consulting because I think you will love the reduced work hours and increased time with Lucky. But of course, it’s all easier said than done and I know there are a lot of considerations.

  12. I have to think that good things are around the corner for you. I just HAVE to think that. I’m sorry things seem to keep piling up on you, but I hope there’s a break in the clouds soon. It sounds like this may be just that.

  13. Please excuse my language. That is corporate bullshit. That is what “they” do to women who choose to have a family. They make it as hard as possible. Intentionally. I am so happy to hear that you are smart enough to know what’s important. You can work a thousand jobs like this one for the rest of your life, but you will never get your time back with Lucky. Ever. And for the record, I too came to realization that I have been lied to since kindergarten. I’m 30 and was pumped full of the “you can be a mom and an astronaut” crap. We (women) may be able to be both, but we won’t be great at both. You’re not a failure. You’re a mother, a decision maker, the COO of your home, a wife, and the only person with your perspective to know what’s most important. Typically there is always risk involved with reward.

  14. I can relate. My boss tells me the same thing al the time, that I don’t give enough hours, that its is too bad that I have to leave at 5 pm to pick up my daughter, that I will not make it if I cant be more flexible… I have never felt that inadequate and it the pressure comes from everywhere. The work culture and ethics in this country are unreal!!!!!!!!!! I come from a culture family and personal life comes first. We take holidays off and go on vacations without any guilt. I am glad that you have options. HUGS

  15. As a perfectionist…and someone that doesn’t like to fail…feeling like a failure is THE WORST. You are not the only smart, capable person that has hit a rough patch at work (myself included). I am a big believer is not trying to overcome your weaknesses, but rather build on your strength in finding your career. And, self knowledge about said strengths and weaknesses is hard…but your life will change and you follow your strengths. You will be happier. You will be more successful. I am not sure if the part-time work will be the solution to following your strengths, though. It will be a step toward the life you want to live and a better reflection of your values…but I wonder if maybe you still have more work to do to get into a career and position that would allow you to use your big picture strength….I have a book about career transitions that I am reading that I want to recommend (can’t remember the name of the book with my middle of the night adled brain!). Hugs.

  16. When you are 80 years old in a rocking chair on your front porch, you will not say, “I wish I had spent more time at work.” You deserve to take the time you need for your family now. I strongly encourage you to make the leap to consulting and let yourself be happy.

  17. Your boss is an asshole. Yeah, I get it that he was blindsided but he obviously has no grasp on the realities of life. It sounds to me like this place has become toxic to you. It is eventually going to catch up with you and I am afraid you are going to look back and say “why didn’t I leave”. It IS scary to start over but I can tell you first hand it is so worth your mental health (say nothing of what the stress is doing to your physical self) to find something that is a better fit for your entire life, not just your work life.
    Some people (like your boss) only have work focus. Do you know if he has a wife, kids? Does he put everything ahead of them? Noelle is right…you will never regret spending time with family but you will look back and regret the time you were away from them.
    Crunch the numbers and see where you can let something go in order to allow yourself the freedom and enjoyment of a job you love.

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