I nearly quit: My work called my bluff, and I called back
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A few days ago I got a call from my boss. He knows my last work day is December 23rd and that I refuse to travel 100% of the time between now and then. I will continue to do good work, but I can't travel full-time. I can't just leave for weeks at a time.
To his credit, my boss has been very accommodating over the last several months. He managed to find remote work for me a great majority of the time, and I appreciate that. I harbor absolutely no ill will towards him in any way. All in all, he's been a great guy to work for.
Then, the hammer dropped. He told me over the phone that I will either need to accept 100% travel, or I'll have to push my retirement date up and call it quits now. He called my bluff over the phone. "Either travel or quit" (my words, not his). Looks like I have a decision to make, and fast.
I hate work travel - hate it with a passion. I don't find getting up at 4am to catch a flight, attend meeting after meeting and crash at some hotel to be glamorous. Frankly, it's a pain in the ass. The flights are long and uncomfortable. Flight delays screw with my blood pressure. The rental car. Finding my way through an unfamiliar city. The shaking of hands. The long hours. The need to depend on everybody else to get things done when on their turf.
Work travel is not for me. I don't have a problem with traveling every once in a while (actually, I DO have a problem with that too, but I'm willing to accept occasional travel), but I am not cut out to travel the majority of the time. I have great admiration for those who can (Our Next Life), but I just can't do it.
I made that clear to my boss.
I have two months left of full-time work. We are financially independent, but quitting early will prevent us from hitting our money goals we set for the end of 2016. But still, full-time travel is downright awful.
Before ending the conversation with my boss, I told him that I would need to talk to my wife. And it's true - I did need to talk with her. She ran some numbers. Could I just quit now? The short answer was "Yes". We'd fail to hit our money goals, but such is life. Full-time travel was the bigger evil.
That evening, I sent my boss an email (and no, not this one). I told him that my wife and I are not comfortable with me traveling full-time. I'm not doing it. If the only work left requires travel, I respectfully resign my position.
Later that evening, he did finally email me back. Lo and behold, things changed! As it turns out, there may be an opportunity to work on a project that only requires two weeks of travel between now and the end of December - with the entire week of Thanksgiving off (previously requested).
Note: This was the same project that - before my email - had "required" full-time travel.
Funny how that happens. My boss called my bluff, and with the support of my wife and F-U Money, I called right back. They gave in because I was prepared to quit my job on the spot. When you give your organization an ultimatum, things tend to happen. Miraculous things. Things that were not possible before threatening to quit. Upper hand: YOU.
While I do believe that each and every one of us are expendable (fire-able at a moment's notice), organizations need a productive work force. Replacing current staff with new hires takes massive resources. The on-boarding. The ramping up. The training. It isn't fast. Most organizations know this. Most of the time, it's more economical to keep your staff than replace them. Replacement should be the last resort.
Especially in my line of work. I work for a product vendor of a very specialized software product. There aren't many product experts out there outside of the company itself.
Yes, I know. I know that not everybody has the flexibility to threaten to quit their jobs. This definitely isn't the right path for everyone; this isn't a How-To blog post, but merely an observation of what can happen when you're in that gooey gray area after reaching financial independence but before retiring early.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've used FU money before to refuse jobs that required full-time travel. A couple times, in fact. Now, I just used it by threatening to quit, and now the working conditions are more welcome. They have encouraged me to stick it out to the end.
...while doing the best job that I possibly can for the company, because that's what they pay me for.