On Quitting My Job

 

“What makes you think you were doing bad work?” Asks the psychologist. Not a real one, just the call-and-response in my cranium.

“Well, there’s only so many hours a workday you can spend on Ricochet when you ought to be doing other things and still think you’re a good worker. I’m not going to sit here taking their coin forever when I’m not providing commensurate services in exchange. It’s dishonest.”

“Has your boss talked to you about this?” Pretty much the first check to perform when someone talks this way. It goes this way with depression; the disease feeds and grows off of lies you tell yourself. Maybe I’m doing bad work, maybe I’m only depressed and think they’re doing bad work.

“No, last annual review the boss man said he was pretty happy with the work I’ve been providing. Frankly, that was a surprise to me. I wasn’t happy with the value I’d been adding at that point.” The hope here is obviously that I’m lying to myself about my poor job performance. If that’s a lie then as soon as I disbelieve I can stop worrying about it, be a little happier about life, and importantly, not have to quit my job. But is it a lie?

“And your coworkers? Have they noticed anything?” Gathering more evidence.

“Noticed? Can’t say that they’ve noticed. Can’t say that they haven’t, either. Hasn’t gone far enough that anyone’s said anything, at least in my hearing. Still, I’ve left them plenty to notice.” I expect people to notice a great deal more than they let on. I assume no one’s spoken up out of a certain amount of politeness or unwillingness to stir up trouble. Or maybe they haven’t noticed; people really don’t think much about other people. Not something I’d like to presume on, however.

“So if the ‘boss man’ hasn’t told you you need to shape up, and none of your coworkers have complained about the quality of your work, what makes you think you’re doing a poor job?” And that’s the meat of the question. If I’m lying to myself then quitting the job is a large scale act of self-sabotage. If I’m not then… well, as long as we’re being honest it’s not a great scenario. You want to quit a job when you’ve got another one lined up already.

“I can measure, can’t I? This isn’t a case of ‘I feel like I’m worthless.’ This is me calculating time spent on the internet versus time spent doing something productive. This is me measuring my rate of progress on projects versus similar projects a couple of years ago, and coming up short. This is me counting the times I’ve switched from working on necessary projects to working on fun projects because at least that way I might get something done. Look, one of my assets, I’ve got an extremely logical, scientific mind. I trust my own ability to objectively evaluate these things more than anyone else’s, and that’s even taking the crazy into account.” Perhaps a touch arrogant, but I’ve been measuring my mind for years.

“Let’s take it as read that you’re right about that. What makes you think about jumping ship to any other job is going to give you better results?” A fair question. If your problem is in your head you can’t walk away from it.

“Because my job is in Industrial Engineering. Nothing against the discipline, but it ain’t me.” I may hold some things against the discipline, but nothing personal.

“When you say ‘it ain’t me…” Ah yes, the old ‘repeat the last three words back to him’ school of psychoanalysis. Hmm…

“Have you ever studied economics?” Being an inhabitant of my skull I’m going to assume she has at least a passing familiarity with the subject. “F. A. Hayek: ‘It’s the curious task of economics to show man how little he knows about what he imagines he can design.’ I believe that wholeheartedly. Industrial engineering is… not that. Working on a factory to make it more efficient, yeah, that’s great. No problem there. Modeling a factory ever more accurately in order to make predictions about the future? I don’t really believe that’s possible past a certain point, and I think our department passed that point a long time ago. Centralizing decision making around product flow in order to maximize output? Practically gives me hives thinking about it. What you’re doing is you’re assuming your model is more accurate than the real world out there, and asking people to dance to it. Just a bad idea.”

“So you have philosophical objections to the work, and that’s enough for you to quit?” Might be?

“Well, that’s not all. The other thing is I like a bit of chaos in my life. Okay, more than a bit. I’m more comfortable with disruptions to a daily routine than having a daily routine in the first place. I like unusual circumstances, I appreciate having to think on my feet and having to adapt the plan. I’m all about building capability for dealing with unforeseen circumstances. All this? Anathema to the Industrial Engineering mindset. It’s inefficient. I’m not knocking that way of thinking; it’s very useful when you’re looking to maximize a factory. I’m just built wrong for it.”

“When you say you’re built wrong—“

“Not in a ‘woe is me, why did God make me broken like this?’ sense. The Good Lord built me the way I am for a purpose. That purpose doesn’t seem to be Industrial Engineering. I’m just slotted into the wrong category in the working world.” Honest truth. I try very hard to understand the different ways people’s minds work, what motivates them, what they enjoy, how they play the game. I should have a decent idea of how my motivations work by now.

“Okay, okay. You’re set on quitting your job. Why not wait a bit, find a different, a better job on the side, and only make your jump when you know you’ll stick the landing?”

“Because I have been waiting a bit. I’ve been waiting too long already. I’ve weighed and dissected the question. And the longer I stay at this job the worse I do. Job-hunting without already being employed makes that game harder. But job-hunting, while employed, is proving impossible. I’ve spent so much of my energy by the end of the workday, by the end of the workweek, that I just can’t handle the emotional Hindenburg that’s the job hunt.”

“Okay, let’s say you get another job. What does it look like?” Now there’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question.


Just a quick note: This is, as they say, based on a true story. I quit my job, I don’t have another one lined up yet. While the long term prospects of shiftless bumming are sour, in the meantime I’ve got plenty of seed corn to eat. I’m confident that I’ll be able to get a better job, just as soon as I figure out what that better job is. Is highwayman still a valid profession?

Published in Economics
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There are 176 comments.

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  1. dnewlander Member

    I feel pretty much the same way.

    I’m talking to a guy about a job in Vegas tomorrow.

    Good luck, man.

    • #1
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:54 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq: Is highwayman still a valid profession?

    I couldn’t tell you, but at least it comes with a song, which AFAIK isn’t the case with industrial engineering.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFkcAH-m9W0

    • #2
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:55 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    • #3
    • August 6, 2019, at 12:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Find a rich woman and become a gigolo.

    • #4
    • August 6, 2019, at 1:05 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. dnewlander Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Find a rich woman and become a gigolo.

    • #5
    • August 6, 2019, at 1:08 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. Gary McVey Contributor

    The geniuses are inexplicably just walking away. Didn’t some dame write a talkative novel about that in the Fifties?

    • #6
    • August 6, 2019, at 1:51 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  7. Jimmy Carter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Find a rich woman and become a gigolo.

    • #7
    • August 6, 2019, at 2:06 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. dnewlander Member

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Find a rich woman and become a gigolo.

    I’ve always liked that video.

    But not as much as his California Girls video. Of course.

    • #8
    • August 6, 2019, at 2:10 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Judge Mental Member

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq:

    “Let’s take it as read that you’re right about that. What makes you think jumping ship to any other job is going to give you better results?” A fair question. If your problem is in your head you can’t walk away from it.

     

    Have you tried running?

    I expect this will work out for you. I did the same thing more than once. In fact, pretty much every job change through most of my career. Good luck on the hunt!

    • #9
    • August 6, 2019, at 2:41 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. Gary McVey Contributor

    This is a good economy to be changing jobs in, for the first time in about a trillion years (don’t hold me to that estimate), and given the fact that your virtues are so self-evident they probably set off virtue detectors at airports, I’m sure you know what you’re doing and it will work out great. I won’t even say “good luck”, because I’m sure you’ll make your own luck. But man, people keep making wrenching changes around here. I guess by here, I mean “planet Earth”. 

    I am hoping this means more Rhody video, before your next gig monopolizes your time. 

    One serious note: There’s such a thing as being overly self-critical. Have you calibrated your equipment?

    One unserious note: Do Seymour Cray’s grand daughters still live in the area? Think of the genetic possibilities! Or think of it as “How to Make a Living Computer, Part 1”. 

    • #10
    • August 6, 2019, at 2:49 AM PDT
    • 18 likes
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I can’t imagine doing that on purpose.

     

    • #11
    • August 6, 2019, at 4:09 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Amy Schley Moderator

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine doing that on purpose.

     

     You also have a wife, kids, and a house. In those circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend it either. 

    • #12
    • August 6, 2019, at 5:15 AM PDT
    • 16 likes
  13. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    While searching your soul (and the marketplace) for a job that fits, consider selling access to your skill set in small doses. AKA consulting. You may find that selling yourself piece by piece, and therefore not billing the time spent on Ricochet (or whatever distractions you find), fits your personality better that being anyone’s employee.

    Works for me. Related field, too (industrial systems integration). (:

    • #13
    • August 6, 2019, at 5:39 AM PDT
    • 16 likes
  14. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member

    This hit painfully close to home this morning.

    (EDIT: No, I’m not quitting my job. No seed corn. But your thoughts echo mine.)

    • #14
    • August 6, 2019, at 6:04 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  15. SkipSul Moderator

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    While searching your soul (and the marketplace) for a job that fits, consider selling access to your skill set in small doses. AKA consulting. You may find that selling yourself piece by piece, and therefore not billing the time spent on Ricochet (or whatever distractions you find), fits your personality better that being anyone’s employee.

    Works for me. Related field, too (industrial systems integration). (:

    And you get to learn all the best consultant jokes too!

    (My wife is a lawyer and collects lawyer jokes).

    • #15
    • August 6, 2019, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. SkipSul Moderator

    It’s easier to quit a job when it’s just you to worry about. Harder when you have a family to support. Harder still when you actually own the business – then you have to worry about your employees and whether they’ll be taken care of. There have been times I’d gladly hand over the keys here, but I’ve never trusted any interested party – too many buyers want the brand and the designs, but don’t want the flesh and bones of the place (or worse yet, they want to own everything, but keep me on as some sort of indentured servant for 5+ years still doing the same work – that’s purgatory).

    Best of luck in the job hunt.

    • #16
    • August 6, 2019, at 6:28 AM PDT
    • 20 likes
  17. WillowSpring Member

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    While searching your soul (and the marketplace) for a job that fits, consider selling access to your skill set in small doses. AKA consulting. You may find that selling yourself piece by piece, and therefore not billing the time spent on Ricochet (or whatever distractions you find), fits your personality better that being anyone’s employee.

    Works for me. Related field, too (industrial systems integration). (:

    I agree with this. I did consulting off and on for years and if chaos is what you want, its easy to find. 

    One example : the customer wanted some minor changes to the software that controlled a photogrammetry system.

    Me: Do you have a working system?

    Customer: Yes, several. One was even in one of the Tom Clancy movies.

    Me: Fine – do you have the source code for the original software?

    Customer : Yes, lots of it. We aren’t sure which one is the ‘real’ set.

    Me: Can I talk to the original programmer to sort that out ?

    Customer: No, we don’t know where he is and our guy that knew him has died. We do have the original “EEPROMS” (for the young folk, that’s the chip that held the software)

    Me: Oh, O.K. I’ll do it.

    Let the chaos begin.

    Good luck.

     

    • #17
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:07 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I’m very impressed with how you’ve analyzed yourself and your situation. This wasn’t a haphazard decision, but based on a lot of self-knowledge and a desire to do what you love. Good for you, Hank. Best of luck!

    • #18
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:19 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. SkipSul Moderator

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Customer: No, we don’t know where he is and our guy that knew him has died. We do have the original “EEPROMS” (for the young folk, that’s the chip that held the software)

     

    I’m already having nightmares…

    • #19
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:22 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    The geniuses are inexplicably just walking away. Didn’t some dame write a talkative novel about that in the Fifties?

    Talkative? You just broke the understatement meter.

    • #20
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:25 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  21. Arahant Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    And you get to learn all the best consultant jokes too!

    Is that an invitation? I’ve been a consultant for decades.

    • #21
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Percival Thatcher

    The guy who knew the guy who wrote the software is dead? 

    The documentation for the driver software will be in a 3 ring binder and will start with “Chapter 7.”

    Been there, done that.

    • #22
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  23. SkipSul Moderator

    Percival (View Comment):

    The guy who knew the guy who wrote the software is dead?

    The documentation for the driver software will be in a 3 ring binder and will start with “Chapter 7.”

    Been there, done that.

    A binder is at least immune to magnets.

    The source code is on ZIP disks in some file boxes at the back of an unheated garage at the end of a gravel road in a field. We’re not sure which box is the right box, but it’s somewhere in back corner behind the tiller and the gas cans, and probably (since the reorganization ten years ago) under the blue tarp. But the blue tarp is currently itself underneath several boxes of old invoices since the shelving collapsed. But you can get to the shelving by crawling over the skid of old transformer coils…

    • #23
    • August 6, 2019, at 7:52 AM PDT
    • 17 likes
  24. Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq Contributor

    Thanks y’all, for the expressions of support. I’ll have more to say, but later, when I have the time.

    • #24
    • August 6, 2019, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  25. WillowSpring Member

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq (View Comment):

    Thanks y’all, for the expressions of support. I’ll have more to say, but later, when I have the time.

    One other thought if you consider consulting. Are any of the suppliers or vendors to your prior employer in need of a reduction in chaos? That would give you a head-start in dealing with them.

    • #25
    • August 6, 2019, at 9:50 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. thelonious Member

    The post office always seems to be hiring.

    • #26
    • August 6, 2019, at 10:09 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Songwriter Member

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq: I like a bit of chaos in my life. Okay, more than a bit. I’m more comfortable with disruptions to a daily routine than having a daily routine in the first place. I like unusual circumstances, I appreciate having to think on my feet and having to adapt the plan. I’m all about building capability for dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

    You might wanna consider songwriting. Not that there is any sort of future in it. there isn’t. But it checks all your boxes.

    • #27
    • August 6, 2019, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  28. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq: “Have you ever studied economics?” Being an inhabitant of my skull I’m going to assume she has at least a passing familiarity with the subject. “F. A. Hayek: ‘It’s the curious task of economics to show man how little he knows about what he imagines he can design.’ I believe that wholeheartedly.

    That way lies madness.

    • #28
    • August 6, 2019, at 10:48 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  29. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    So I can no longer brag to people that I have a friend in the hard drive component manufacturing business? That seems like a major loss of status for me.

    • #29
    • August 6, 2019, at 11:00 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  30. SkipSul Moderator

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    So I can no longer brag to people that I have a friend in the hard drive component manufacturing business? That seems like a major loss of status for me.

    You might say it is fragmenting your connections and heading you off from sectors you might have found worth interrogating. We can only hope Hank doesn’t crash, and that someone hands him a great new job on a platter. A magnetic personality will help.

    Hank, have you considered weaving? I think you already know plenty about spindles.

    • #30
    • August 6, 2019, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
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