Throughout my career, I’ve worked for a variety of organizations. Fresh out of college as an eager young lad, I started in a huge 70,000+ person multi-national corporation.
I then worked for a small, 30-ish person startup before quitting and joining a not-for-profit organization in the healthcare industry. And today, I work for a startup-turned-big-boy-company who considers itself a prestigious place to work, hiring only the “best of the best”.
It’s funny to me the perception that some organizations have of themselves, and as the years trickle by, I am left with a very profound realization about work. This realization is without regard to the type of company you’re working for, its industry, size, scope or influence.
No grass is truly green. Instead, it’s nearly always a shade of brown.
The truth is a “job” is something that we tend to simply tolerate. Some are easier to tolerate than others, but in the end, we view our jobs as a necessary part of life. We need money, and jobs provide that money. Very few of us get up each day and rush through our morning activities so we can get to work because we absolutely love to work.
Even if you like your job, I’ve never met someone who’d rather be at work than home, or on the ski slopes, or on the basketball court, or in the gym, or…
Each company has its own perks and drawbacks, good managers and downright pitiful ones, exciting work and gouge-your-eyes-out boring/frustrating projects that make you wish that this isn’t, in fact, your life.
In my view, and with very few exceptions, it makes very little difference what company sends your W2 every year. In the end, it’s all the same stuff.
Every company is susceptible to the same pitfalls, like managers promoted well beyond their capabilities, or projects unequipped or unable to handle an increase in warm bodies even though the work volume is extremely high. Whether the company views itself as prestigious or not, I have never seen a business avoid either of these corporate phenomena – and so many more.
Stuck in the wheel of bullshit
Speaking of managers, I’m sure that we’ve all run into what I like to call “buzzword managers“, or suit-wearing cogs who are stuck in the wheel of bullshit, repeatedly regurgitating business and technical jargon in place of genuine intelligence and experience.
I used to work for one of these managers. He particularly loved the terms “cloud” and “big data”, which are two highly technical terms that describe, in general, the Internet and large volumes of [not necessarily structured] information. Ask this guy to define the term “cloud”, and you’d think that you’re watching a comedy act in Vegas – but not the real Vegas where the talented performers are. This would be on Fremont St.
Or how about the sheer volume of meetings during the day? These life-draining, time-wasting endeavors are everywhere, though some places are definitely worse than others. My favorite are pre-meeting meetings, where a group of unfortunate cogs – myself included at times – get together to talk about what we will talk about again later on.
Or training – not on the job training…that might actually be useful. I’m talking about the cover-your-liable-ass training that companies require their employees to sit through on their first week on the job. Think “information security awareness”, or “business integrity” training – the stuff that we go through every damn time that we take a new job. The training that tells us not to pass around sensitive company information on the Internet, so when that does inevitably happen by some disgruntled (or just downright idiotic) employee, the company can protect itself from “but you didn’t say they couldn’t invade our privacy!” lawsuits.
Largely, it doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, it’s almost always the same.
My point is not to depress you with this article. Quite the contrary, it’s to bring a big, giant smile to your face. Whatever problems that you’re facing at work – I guarantee that you’re not alone. We all go through the same cycles of excitement and frustration, of never-ending work and relentless boredom, of totally kicking ass and getting our ass beat.
Been there, done that and have the t-shirt.
Are there reasons to leave jobs?
Make no mistake, there are legitimate reasons to bail on a company to join another. Maybe your manager is certifiably crazy at your current gig and you want out, bad. Or, maybe the perfect opportunity became available in the city in which you have always wanted to live. And of course, maybe it’s about money. Or respect. Or influence.
Whatever the reason is, only the people truly change. In the end, work is work. Schedules will still be there. Meetings will still happen. Your manager might be better, and that might just be enough to change your work experience from just “okay” into a genuinely productive experience.
And in many ways, I’ve come to realize that by changing companies, what you’re really doing is changing managers. Sure, your commute might be shorter. The work might be different. The hours might also change. That’s cool, but even the most bad-ass work can quickly become crappy with a terrible manager.
In most companies, your manager (or set of managers) can either make it super cool to work for the company or a giant pain in the butt. Even if the company itself is just one big bureaucratic mess of an organization, with an effective and competent manager, your experience at an organization will probably be significantly more positive.
This article is about managing expectations. When you grow tired or frustrated with a company, look to your management and consider how influential they have been in your overall level of satisfaction. If management sucks, it might very well be time to leave. If it’s another issue, it may still be time to leave, but consider the problem more carefully. If it’s a common issue, your next company may be struggling with the same problem.
I like moving around from company to company, but not because I believe the next company to necessarily be superior to the one that I am currently working for. Instead, I move around because the next company is, simply, different. I like seeing new things, experiencing new work, working with a variety of people and trying new tools to get my job done.
When I quit working for a company, I quit on my own terms, not because I view something within the organization as a problem and the only way to remedy that problem is to leave. When you try to escape a problem, you’re more likely to take a job – any job – that might not be the best fit. After all, you’re attempting to get away from a perceived negative, and almost anything that’s different might inappropriately be viewed as “better”.
For me, work is work – and whether I work for Company A or Company B does not make a whole lot of difference. My goal is to retire by the end of 2016, and the company that I work for is nothing but a means to an end. I keep myself happy and positive during the day, which helps me to deliver high quality work. People are happy. My managers are happy.
(Icon courtesy of Lokas Software)
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.