Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Real Life Walkaway Power

I’m not one to utilize this blog space to gripe about the challenges and struggles that face the everyday adventure known as the workplace. However recent turn of events have alerted me to ongoing trends in my work environment and I have recently found it particularly fitting to take an honest look at my walkaway power in the workplace.

To summarize a previously related post on this, my wife and I are 100% completely debt free. We run a household cost of living that runs under $25,000 a year. It has been my belief that one of the reasons we worked our tails off to be in the financial position that we are in today is to get our time back and shift the perception that we are at work because we want to be there, not because we have to be. Enter my recent challenges, and I will do my best to keep it concise and not gripe.

The overall environment is similar to this baseball analogy: every time I hit a deep shot to the warning tracks, the outfield wall gets pushed back, robbing me of a home run. In the financial area that I work in, investment management, there’s a minefield of competing and conflicting deadlines, ad hoc requests that are supposed to trump everything else and an ongoing work load that in its current delegated state finds the team I am on falling behind just a little more each day.

My role and individual expectations within this environment were clearly defined earlier this year when I transitioned to my new role and I have met and exceeded these expectations, according to my management team. So what’s the problem? Most would say that our problem lies in not having enough bodies on the floor to do the work. If you ask me, I say that between our global team the daily work flows are not delegated in an efficient manner to meet team expectations. The result is that the last few holidays have not exactly been holidays and there is an increasing demand from our management team to make 50+ hour weeks the norm.

I am no slacker though. From the moment I walk through my employer’s doors at 6am I am all business and get through my day as efficiently and as effectively as possible. I work my tail off from wire to wire until I log off my PC. But losing holidays? Getting into the office early and losing morning and evening time with my wife? And consistently being asked to work beyond my fair share? In essence, at this time in my life it just doesn’t flow with me.

So when asked this past weekend to come in over the Memorial Day weekend I placed boundaries between myself and my employer, I said no. And I have to be honest; it felt really….REALLY good! The 3 day holiday was exactly what I needed. My wife and I stayed here in Chicago and caught up on some great R&R. We caught up on some much needed reading, spent just about every second together and felt like we were getting to know each other all over again.

And through it I’m calling myself on my own assertion. If my work environment is causing me stress and conflicting with time to spend with my loved ones, then I need to change my situation. Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m an advocate of hard work and gazelle intensity as much as the next Ramsey follower. If work seasonally gets busy or there’s a genuine influx of activity that is wreaking havoc on my team, then hell yes I’m going to get after it and put in the extra hours. But extra hours due to bad planning and lack of foresight in task delegation? As one of my favorite actors sang, “I can’t get behind that.”

So I’ve been in touch with a recruiter and have a temp agency on file and I’m keeping an eye out for new roles and adventures that will allow me the freedom, flexibility and work environment that I’m after. Talking it through with my wife, we got on the same page with our financial plan to help make it happen.

To do this we are planning to add a few more thousand dollars to the emergency fund. This is a one-two punch: (1) If the environment becomes way too toxic for me to handle I can walk out, and (2) If I transition to a lower paying job, we’ll have a beef upped emergency fund to help alleviate what could be next year’s costs of having a child. We also want to have our annual travel plans for the rest of the year covered in cash. So between travelling and beefing up our emergency fund our end date will be right around the end of August.

And it’s actually kind of funny. Once we put this plan together and I reassessed my current work situation, the built in and self-made stress seemed a lot less stressful. I feel like we have a solid plan in place, and I’m actually excited to see what kind of opportunities might await me between now and the fall.

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