This post was written by Paula Kiger and originally shared on LinkedIn. You can find her professional profile there and writing regularly on her blog, Perspicacity.
Two years ago, on May 2, 2014, I worked my last day at the organization where I had worked for almost 20 years.
Except for this piece I shared on leaving my job, I have never written a post that pulled together all the components of the decision to leave and my actual departure.
This isn’t that post, either. I’m not sure if I will ever write the BIG post.
But as I look back on the decision, two sentiments are poking at my consciousness.
“I Worked So Hard”
I had one employee at Healthy Kids who I supervised for quite some time. She was responsible for researching and preparing responses to enrollee grievances. We were talking one day about our organization’s stagnant salaries, and a little bit about her future plans. She wanted more money. I was not in a position to approve more money. She began crying and said, “but I’ve worked so hard.”
The mystery was that although I was extremely happy with her work, and grievances is a tough area, especially when you are on the front lines, I was completely and utterly surprised that she felt she had worked “so hard.” I felt she had done her job, certainly adequately and possibly even excellently, but not so hard.
I scratched my head about that one interaction for years afterwards. I asked myself what it was she could have done that would have lead me to think she had worked that hard.
Takeaway Number 1: I felt terrible that she was so distraught, and I felt at loose ends for how to resolve the situation. If we had had a more comprehensive evaluation system, with defined performance objectives and measures, we would have had a quantifiable baseline from which to talk and define so hard.
Takeaway Number 2: One of the acknowledgements that it is difficult for me to make regarding the last few years at my organization is that I was not working so hard. I’m sure I fit the classical definition of presenteeism, and that simply was not okay because it was a complete disconnect with my work ethic.
“I Love It So Much”
I loved my organization ferociously. My connection with it began in the early 90s, when it was just a great idea, through 1992 when I worked there for a few weeks when I moved back to Florida, though the period that started in August 1994 and continued until May 2014.
In the last 5 years or so, when something began shifting in my outlook, the increase in snarky responses from people I reported to (and peers) increased and I found it very difficult to respond in a productive way. Although I tend to view the world from a fairly sarcastic angle, at my core I simply want the places, things, and people I care about to thrive. My constant inner monologue — as I tried to cope with the snarkiness, the disrespectful tone, and the insinuation that my commitment to my family couldn’t co-exist with my commitment to my job — was “but I love this place so much.”
Takeaway Number 3: Loving an organization does not always equate to excellent performance. Another area where a comprehensive evaluation system would have given us all a clear window into organizational expectations. “But I love it so much” doesn’t get more kids insured, more mutually beneficial health plan contracts executed, or more evaluation results published.
Within four weeks of leaving my job, my intention to find my bliss took an extreme turn when my father-in-law moved in with us due to health issues. I am grateful to be able to work from home for 15-20 hours a week, but still face some really hard questions regarding how I am going to carry my weight in family finances and establish myself professionally now that I have left the non-profit health insurance world.
But I know that:
a. The absence of that pit in my stomach and tightness in my chest every Sunday night as I face the week ahead is absolutely liberating.
b. Although I regret my lack of productivity the last few years, I know there was no workable turnaround at that organization, so it’s for the best that I moved on.
c. Despite the frustrations of caregiving while working and the time management mishmash that creates, I am having opportunities to explore directions that make my heart happier. Trying to do that by working on side projects until 2 am, then getting up at 5 am to run and then get to work by 8:30 am was dangerous to my health and psyche.
I am not sure how the road ahead is going to unfold for the Big Green Pen, but I know that I could not have started down that road had I not ultimately chosen to be finished.
Thursday 12th of May 2016
Change is hard even if it is good. And good for you. Who knows what is in the future for any of us but what you are doing right now is good for you!
Thursday 12th of May 2016
This is true, Haralee. It does amaze me how long closure takes, especially regarding the relationships! Thx for your comment.