Thursday, November 18, 2010

No-Brainer

Last week I was watching a special report on the transformation of Ford Motor Company. It focused on their new CEO and how he has taken the organization from the depths of recession and financial despair and brought it to the brink of success again. I was touched by the strong sense of pride and loyalty demonstrated by the employees at Ford. And now they have a dynamic leader who gives them a reason to be optimistic about their future.

That special took on particular significance because my sister has worked at Ford for over 12 years. I had to stop for a moment to count how many different jobs I have had in the past 12 years. The answer is five. And I am currently searching for job number six.

I have always had a strong sense of self preservation in my career choices. When things start to change within an organization, I pull the handle on the emergency exit door and never look back. There is no sense in sticking it out to see if things get better. I would rather move on to the next place and try my luck there.

Last week I went to my second interview for the strategic planning job. I met with one of the other directors that I would be working closely with and then I was supposed to meet with my Potential Future Boss one last time. When I got up to her office, her secretary asked me to wait because she was in a meeting with someone else. I sat in a chair at the end of the hallway for about 15 minutes. Finally I saw a young woman walk out of her office. The woman turned her head and stared me down with a combination of suspicion and utter disdain. Then she stormed off toward the elevators.

When I finally spoke with my Potential Future Boss, she was even more rude than when I met her the first time. The way she talked to me was like a homicide detective interviewing a murder suspect. Every question she asked me was in the form of an accusation. I have never felt so unwelcome by a potential employer. Then she happened to mention that the woman who just left her office was actually one of the project managers that would be reporting to me.

Well, I thought to myself. That certainly explains the death stare that the woman gave me as she walked by.
We wrapped up our meeting and her secretary escorted me out to the lobby. As I drove home in the car, I thought more about the interview. The job itself would be perfect for me, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right. Despite my obvious qualifications for the job, it seemed like my Potential Future Boss just didn't like me.

At first when I was waiting to meet with her, I assumed that she was in the middle of an important meeting. But when I figured out that she was just talking with one of her staff, I wondered why she had made me sit there for so long. If I were in the same situation, I would have wrapped up the meeting with my subordinate and stopped to introduce her to me on the way out. Its not like I was one of twenty applicants for the job. I was one of two candidates who were invited back for a second interview. At that point it would seem perfectly reasonable to make a quick introduction.

I set my thoughts aside and tried to enjoy the rest of my afternoon off from work. The next day, I got an e-mail asking me to send in a list of references. I guess the meeting with my Potential Future Boss did not go as badly as I thought. I went home that night and pulled up my standard list of names and phone numbers. Then I sent e-mails to my references to let them know that I was interviewing for this job and someone might be calling them in the next few days.

The process was moving along exactly on schedule, but somehow I didn't feel the sense of excitement that you might expect. It's hard to think about taking a new job when you know going into it that there could be problems. When I was younger, it seems like choices were easier. It was obvious which path to take. When I was accepted to graduate school in Minnesota, there was no question in my mind that I would move there. And when I got my first job offer after graduation I was so estactic that I jumped at the opportunity.

Now that I am older, I know that there is no perfect job. There are no easy answers. Life is a series of compromises where you try to make the best decision you can based on the information presented to you at the time. And in the end you have to just go with your instincts.

Each day as I drive to work I have been playing out various scenarios in my mind. If I stay at the Company through the end of the year, I will qualify for a management bonus. After all of the hard work and suffering, it seems like I should stick around for the big payout. Plus my Boss is getting another job and I am going to be assigned to a new project, so maybe things will get better. Or at least more tolerable.

On the other hand, there is a part of me that just wishes I could walk away from it all and start over. But I really worry that I could be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. There are so many unknowns about this new position.

As my sister reminded me this weekend, "You hate your job now. If you are going to take a new job it should be a no-brainer. If you have to think this hard about it, then it is probably not the right move for you."

Yesterday, I got a note from the secretary asking about my references. Apparently my Potential Future Boss was questioning why I did not use my boss from my last job as a reference. The secretary asked me to provide the name and phone number of my former boss. So I guess the interrogation continues.

There is a very good reason why I do not use my former boss as a reference. That story is worthy of its own blog entry someday. But for now let's just say that I had a problem with sexual harassment within a very small family-owned business and when I made the decision to leave it was not on the best of terms. All of which is completely inconsequential to my job performance.

I responded to the secretary and explained that my former employer has a neutral reference policy, which means that they will only provide my title, salary and the dates that I worked there. But I also gave her the name and number of my former boss, in case she wanted to call and verify the information.

At this point I realized that there was no way I could possibly take this job. After all the time I spent contemplating this decision, my Potential Future Boss made it really easy for me.

I never thought I would hear myself say this, but I am going to stick it out at the Company for a little while longer. The Company may be the devil, but at least its the devil I know. Regardless of how much I dislike their corporate philosophy, they pay me a fair salary and I have some flexibility to work at home. And now there is the potential for me to finally get away from my Boss and do something that I might actually enjoy.

Compared to the alternative, it really is a no-brainer.

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