I nearly quit: My work called my bluff, and I called back

Published November 21, 2016   Posted in Having some fun

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.

Pinterest: I threatened to quit, and they gave inTo 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 calledΒ 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 flightsΒ 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 needΒ 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.

No response.

Later that evening, he didΒ 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.

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78 responses to “I nearly quit: My work called my bluff, and I called back”

  1. Sandipan says:

    Salute to you. 100% boldness and 0% weakness.

  2. Great job Steve! What’s the point of having F-U money if you don’t use it? It’s nice that they backed down, even though you were prepared to walk away.

    Looks like it will be a happy Thanksgiving after all – congrats!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Jon! Exactly – and I sure have used that F-U money…a lot. And yep, a Happy Thanksgiving indeed, though it’s spent in a very cold, very rainy part of the country. More on that on Wednesday. πŸ™‚

  3. So glad it worked out! I would be steamed if I couldn’t meet my year-end goals… especially the very last ones! And no argument here — nothing glamorous about work travel. I’m just used to it, I guess! πŸ˜‰

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Ms. ONL! Yeah, the year-end goals are what is propelling us through to the end. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t meet them, but yeah, it is nice to accomplish what we set out to do anyway.

      I’m sure that at this point, you’re pretty much just going through the motions with air travel and flying. You don’t even think about it any longer. And hey, all those airline miles that you’ve racked up will definitely come in very, very handy in the future!

  4. Good for you! They called your bluff and you did it right back to them. Perhaps you should take up poker πŸ™‚

    I used to travel quite a bit for work. Not 100%, but I had years where I traveled September through December with being in town only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That gets old real fast. It sounds cool when you’re young, but it eventually becomes more of a hassle. Weekends are tough as you only get a full day at home on Saturday.

    So what happens at the end of December? Back to the standoff between you and your boss?

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Go F Yourself! At the end of the December, I retire. My boss knows that my last working day is December 23rd, so he’s trying to hold me over until then. And I agree…work travel? Highly overrated! πŸ™‚

  5. Congrats, I say as i recover Fromm jet lag from a work trip to Shanghai last week. I actually do like work travel, but the whole point of being financially independent is working at your own whim in my honest opinion. So if it’s not your thing then your financial position is doing exactly what it should.

    • Steve says:

      Hehe, thanks FTF! Wow, Shanghai…quite a trip! Yup, definitely not my thing. Just…a hassle for me, and I hate giving up a weekend day when I travel, too. πŸ™‚

  6. Marc says:

    Well played, sir. Well played!

  7. Steve, a friend of mine recently did the same thing, with same results. In the past 3 years, I’ve had 3 friends all forced into a corner. Like you, they all were able to “counter-call” the bluff, and each time they “won”. Dangerous game, only play if you’re truly able to walk away (they may say “Fine, see ya!)”, but most times it shows that we have more (short term) leverage than we realize.

    • Steve says:

      I agree, Fritz – only use this ploy if you truly can walk away (or are incredibly balsy). But it is interesting how much leverage we have when push comes to shove. If you’re a good worker, companies will *usually* play ball.

  8. Nicely done. The power of not being completely dependent on your paycheck cannot be overstated. I haven’t had anything as hardcore as this (it’s pretty awesome to say “I work on my terms or not at all”) but I have been able to turn down higher paying jobs that wouldn’t be a good fit. It feels good and it leads to a happier life.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Matt. “The power of not being completely dependent on your paycheck cannot be overstated.” I completely agree – while it can’t be over-stated, it needs to be “re-stated”. πŸ™‚

      It definitely leads to a happier life…not just by refusing to take a position that you are not comfortable with, but just the knowledge of knowing that you *CAN* refuse those types of jobs. It’s a very wonderful position.

  9. Good for you, Steve, way to hold firm! And glad it worked, having a couple more paychecks and sticking it out to the end is obviously ideal. Low and behold, the power of FU money!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Green Swan. The power of FU money indeed! And yep, never hurts to have a few more paychecks, especially with the huge expense that we’re undertaking this week. πŸ™‚

  10. Haha, loved the story. Are you familiar with BATNA? It’s the “Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement” that’s taught in business schools as a way to succeed in negotiation. Always know the BATNA of the other party. In your case, I think your boss’s BATNA was to find someone else to do the work, which he/she may not have had lying around. So in essence he had no alternative. On the other hand, your BATNA was two additional months off and yeah, you miss your 2016 financial goals, but so what. You’re going to win every time in that scenario!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Biglaw – I wasn’t familiar with the acronym BATNA before this, no. But that concept is sound, and it goes to motivation. I was deeply motivated to quit even earlier, but eh…additional money is cool too! πŸ˜€

    • I negotiate for a living (really. I’m a commodity trader), and we constantly ask ourselves “What’s Their Next Best Option?” when negotiating. It really helps frame your position, and avoids you going “too far” in an “ask” and losing the game.

  11. What an empowering story! So glad that they came around and you’ll be able to hit those year-end goals without making yourself miserable!

  12. Using that F-U money–love it! It’s amazing what a boss with say to try to get people to do what they want. Just recently my sister-in-law asked to work remotely (she was getting married and moving). They said no. She told them she’d be resigning, and now they’ve got her working remotely for the rest of the semester. Like you said, not everyone can put their foot down and risk unemployment, but I think taking charge as much as possible is really beneficial. I’m glad you did that–we’re not a huge fans of extended work travel either.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Kalie! Cool story about working remote – I’ve definitely heard of that happening too when you give your company and ultimatum. Sometimes, companies legitimately can’t support remote work, but more probably can than we think. πŸ™‚

  13. Love it! It’s a great feeling to know you can walk away! From my experience the last few months, no one believes you actually can walk away and when you say it – they have no idea what to do (other than figure out how to keep you!!)

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Vicki, it truly is a great feeling. And it’s true, I’ve experienced the same thing. People don’t really accept the fact that you can just…suddenly go for weeks, months (or years) without a full-time paycheck. πŸ™‚

  14. Apathy Ends says:

    Showing the power of that FU Money and sticking to your beliefs – love it.

    December 23…… that is coming fast!!!! Happy for you 2.

  15. Roadrunner says:

    Great story. And yes, not everyone has the flexibility to threaten to quit the job, but such stories do inspire people to pursue their goals towards financial independence. I’m definitely not there yet, but I know that in a few years I will. On the way there it’s good to read articles like this from the other side of the tunnel!

    • Steve says:

      Why thank you, Roadrunner. I hope that this story is inspiring to someone out there to take more control over their working situation. Of course, there are risks with every situation that we encounter, so we need to be absolutely sure that we’re able to accept them.

  16. Love this, Steve. Goes to show the power of having FU money! Though we aren’t FI, we have enough that my husband feels comfortable keeping his work week to a manageable 45-50 hours/week, even when they want more. So far, it’s worked well.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Amanda. Good for your husband for not allowing his company to demand 60 hour work weeks out of him. Time, after all, is our most precious commodity. That’s something that we just can’t ever get back! πŸ™‚

  17. Maarten says:

    Wow, you and I are likeminded (and like-lived). I too used to travel and my case case as well accommodations were made to keep it to a minimum. When I quit (I wasn’t asked) every department lead called offering me a position. I like to think because I was that great but I also realize the time of my departure was inconvenient to the project and being able to keep me a few weeks longer would have helped.

    As for meeting your numbers, when I quit the stock market spiked and I actually exceeded my numbers early. The same could happen to you but since you’re probably invested in the market, so can the opposite. The market can crash and it may be years before you reach them.

    Hang in there , these must be exciting times. The best feeling I remember about it is that no matter what I did we would financially good either way. You’re already free!!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Maarteen! There will always be ways to make more money, especially when out there on the road. We will be okay regardless of what happens because we also happen to be flexible and willing to adjust.

  18. Ahhh, the beautiful power of F-U Money. It’s funny how it suddenly only required 2 weeks of travel instead of full-time!

    Although two weeks still sucks too, especially around the holidays. It’s tough not to hit your money goals, but it’s also tough to have to continue doing something you loathe in the name of saving a buck. I think I would have liked to quit on the spot, even with 2 weeks of travel, but I also REALLY hate business travel. πŸ™‚

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mrs. Picky Pincher! Agree on all counts – it would suck not hitting our money goal, but it would also suck to have to travel. I guess I picked the lesser of two evils. And yeah, it’s never a bad thing to enjoy an extra paycheck or two. Or three!

  19. This is awesome. Really goes to show the negotiating power you have when you don’t need to work. We’ve been taught most of our lives to just follow directions. At least I know I have. But when you don’t need to worry about the consequences (i.e. getting fired). then it’s a whole different ball game. It’s nice to learn the ways from you!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Financial Panther! It’s true, FU money gives us incredible negotiating power. Not having to worry about the consequences has profound bargaining power! πŸ™‚

  20. TJ says:

    Well done, Steve!

    I think this story and your history of similar stories is a great example of how valuable FU money is. Even if you’re not financially independent, you still don’t have to put up with that BS. Not everyone is going to “win” the bluff-exchange, but if you’re in the financial position where it doesn’t matter, who cares?

    • Steve says:

      Thanks TJ! I agree, it doesn’t necessarily take complete financial independence in order to take a risk like this, but of course, it greatly depends on your situation at the time. But I agree, when it doesn’t really matter if you lose, it gets much, much easier to stomach! πŸ™‚

  21. Justin says:

    Very awesome position to be in. Congrats! One of the huge benefits of reaching FI is being able to name your terms of employment and walk away when the work no longer suits you.

  22. Congrats, man! Now you also have the benefit of quitting and thinking: “I got to do all of this on MY terms!” which will mean you get to keep the upper hand as you walk out. The early retirement version of having the last word? πŸ™‚

  23. Mrs Groovy says:

    I was riveted to your story and hoped you “quit”. Gotta love a story where the bluffee forced the bluffer to re-bluff his bluff!

    When I gave notice I was waiting for my boss to say I needed to travel to the NY office for a meeting but I have a feeling she knew my answer would be “Thanks for asking, but, no thanks”.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! I’m sure that was a great feeling to be able to say no to that travel “experience”. You’re right, your boss pretty much knew what your response would have been to that suggestion. πŸ˜‰

  24. Mr. SSC says:

    Nice one! Way to use the F U money to your advantage!

    Around here when people give notice, they’re usually offered the world. As long as they’re not going to a competitor, anyway. I’m tempted to try that around Summer 2018 if I stay OMY and see if I can negotiate a shorter week or something to offset the one more year.

    We’ll see!

    • Steve says:

      That would be awesome, Mr. SSC – if there’s a pattern of your company doing that, might as well give it a try for the last year just to see what you can get. At the very least, you might be able to work out a layoff, which could mean that you aren’t losing much money at all!

  25. Stay strong! Great example for other people who find themselves in a tough situation.

  26. BTW, maybe consider adding “via @thinksaveretire” to your social share buttons – so you get some props when we share your posts.

  27. I love these kinds of stories…I just wish they happened for everyone.

    I also love that you came out and said you hate work travel. I hate it too! At many jobs I’ve had, they treat it like some kind of reward…but it’s anything but a reward!

    Good for you for sticking it to the man!

    • Steve says:

      Amen to that, Mr. Tako. I’ve never enjoyed work travel, even as a “youngin” right out of college when free travel might seem appealing. When there’s basically a full day of work involved, and I don’t especially enjoy the work, travel doesn’t exactly sweeten the deal for me. πŸ™‚

  28. Mrs. BITA says:

    Well played, Steve. Having FU money isn’t enough, you actually have to be able to use it, and that requires your brain to have that “oh right, I can actually do this” epiphany. You’ve clearly had yours!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Mrs. BITA. It’s true, you gotta be able to back up your bluff or you might find yourself at a distinct disadvantage in the future. Weakness is never a good thing.

  29. Matt Spillar says:

    Love it, awesome story Steve! Never gets old to hear about the power and flexibility that F-U Money can have in our lives!

  30. Jason says:

    Woo hoo to you and only one more month and the work journey is over (at least the slavery part of it)!

  31. Very cool story, Steve! I’m glad that it worked out and you were in a strong position with FU money in hand. πŸ˜‰ It’s always fascinating to call a “bluff” of at least what you think is one. That’s why I love poker…heh.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Michael. I enjoy poker too, and occasionally I’ll bluff. Usually, though, I’m focused on trying to figure out when everybody else is bluffing! πŸ˜‰

  32. Dominique says:

    Great post! The way to had the upper hand in this situation put a smile on my face.

  33. Dee says:

    For all of those out there that think that work travel may be cool. It isn’t. Working for a Big 4, I was on the road 95% of the time. After 4 years, my physical nervous system was destroyed, and so was my marriage. It took 5 years to recover from the physical issues and panic attacks. And now, I am in financial recovery. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. It is a much larger beast than you are.

  34. Mariana says:

    This is what it is all about.
    Saving and investing money to retire early is one thing, but saving and investing money to have the ability and freedom to have confidence and stand up for yourself is another. This is my ultimate goal, not even quitting the job, but doing it on my terms.

  35. Myles says:

    If only more people did what you did. Then we could regain some level of power in the employee. This is why trade unions were created – despite your positive statements about your boss, the actions they portrayed are no different than enslavement. They are threatening you from a position of power that they didn’t think you had. Good for you that you are FI and can dictate terms. The more of us that do that, the more likely we’ll find reasonable working conditions, decent wages and a shift of wealth away from the top management to the workers. I might sound socialist with this, but considering that the total gross income of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 corps today is about $41 billion and the total income of all people living at or below the poverty line in the USA is $28 billion…. Well there you go. I’ve said enough.

    The fact is that our future is to be displaced with automation, AI and robots, so we will lose our power position at some point. The only people who will survive this onslaught will be those that were smart enough to become FI and my hat’s off to you for doing it.

    Well done.

    • Steve says:

      Thank you, good sir, for your kind words of encouragement. I absolutely agree – the very best way to stand strong at work and dictate your own terms, at least to a degree, is to be as financially independent as possible. If you’re a slave to your job, your company will probably recognize that. They will ask you to do more and more because they know you’ll probably accept. We’ve all been there, me included. The goal: Escape that cycle and start calling your own shots. Slowly but surely, the large majority of us can make it there…if we want it bad enough.

  36. Welp, it’s official – I just moved your blog link from my “Getting FI” folder to my “Being FI” folder!

    I hope your last bits of work travel are safe, productive, and smooth.

  37. Good for you! I’m with you in disliking work travel, especially long trips and have consciously traveled less than my boss thinks I should. But FI gives you some options. I’ve also significantly cut back on late night conference calls with Asia. It’s amazingly nice to reduce the parts of your job you dislike and do more of the parts that you like. I’m sure my career has suffered (so I wouldn’t have done this if I really needed the job) but the slight negative is far outweighed by the positive at this point. Now it’s hard to image questioning whether it’s worth it to save so aggressively at points along the journey πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the reminder of job elements I won’t miss.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment! And I am with you regarding your desire to improve the working conditions rather than advance your career. Money is great, but your time is even greater. No amount of money is worth huge quantities of stress – in my humble opinion! πŸ™‚

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