Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Didn't Leave X, X Left Me

I wonder how many folks have had this feeling. 

A company I worked for, once upon a time, was by-far the absolute best company I worked for when I started there.  It was still the best company I worked for five (5) years in.  By 8 or 9 years in, it was certainly a really good place to work. 

By the time I left, I dreaded going to work.  Not just the "I kinda wish I could stay home and lounge for a day" kind of thing, but really, REALLY not wanting to face the morning and the drive down the highway and walking in the front door and walking to my desk and... yeah.

For a long time, I wondered if what had changes was, well, me.  I wondered if I was seeing things that had always been there from a new angle, based on my change in responsibilities, job function and the like, or if the organization really had changed around me.

Part of me, the part that wanted to convince myself I was not a jerk, was absolutely certain that the company had changed.  Another part of me, which tended to think I was/am a jerk, was pretty certain that the fault lay with me.

In the end, I left.  There was a downward spiral in atmosphere and relationships, as in how communication happened between peers and bosses and others I needed to be able to work with.  Well, to be fair, most of the people I worked with thought (I think) I was ok to work with - users, developers, even some BAs and PMs acted as if I was an "OK" kind of guy.

Some development bosses, not so much.  My boss resigned (the day after my performance review) and I found myself with a new boss. Things spiraled faster and I left.

A few months ago, I was reading an article about a fellow who had been very active in a major political party here in the US.  The interviewer asked him why he "left the party he had been a member of for his entire career."  His response made me blink. 

He said (paraphrasing) "I did not leave them.  I still have the same core values I always had.  I still believe the same things I always have when it comes to national domestic policy and international relations.  The party left me.  I found myself in a position where my core values, which had been right in the center of the party's position for years, were suddenly on the fringe because the party had shifted so far."

I got to thinking about both of these stories again today when I read two articles.  One, a post by James Whittaker (softer testing high lord) and another by an executive leaving a large multi-national bank.

Whittaker recently left a position with Google - you remember them?  The company with the "Don't be evil" thing?  His post (here) includes one really telling passage - two sentences:
The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

The other post was from a fellow named Greg Smith who was leaving Goldman Sachs.  He did not post his musings in a blog, he posted them as an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (here).

One sentence stood out for me in this letter:

I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
I think what is perhaps as interesting to me in both of these instances are the reactions/comments given in response.  Mr. Whittaker's is posted in a spot where most of the people who read it will be technical professional-types (developers, testers, designers, etc.,)  Mr. Smith's has been plastered over news sites, LinkedIn, Yahoo! and who knows where else.

I think it interesting that people will so publicly stand and explain why they have had enough.  Would there be more people willing to take a stand where they are not willing to sully themselves with the moral and ethical decline they see - the shift away from the lofty goals and ideals they once held and appreciated in the company they worked for.

In the end, for me, the question over whether the company I worked for changed, or my realization of the nature of the company I worked for changed, does not really matter.  I saw the change, perceived it as not good for me, and left. 

It was the right thing for me to do and I have not regretted it since.  While I am not a "famous somebody" like Mr. Whittaker, or an instant celebrety like Mr. Smith, I wish them both well and peace with their decision. 

Pax vobiscum.


  1. Umm - No, I have not resigned my current position... just to make it clear. :)


  2. You might be interested in a post a friend of mine did on culture change and is it the company or the person that really changes ?