Today at work I was confronted with a situation that confirmed my priorities in life. I was forced to decide whether I valued my job over my life outside of work. It turned out to be a pretty easy decision - as I've mentioned in the past, my job just isn't that important to me. I enjoy it, but it's not the focus of my life.
No, I didn't actually quit my job, or get fired, but some people in high places at the corporate headquarters most-likely aren't very pleased with me. Here's the story....
There's a project at work that is in danger of missing its completion deadline. It's not even a project that I am working on or am responsible for - it's someone else's project. But, because I have earned a reputation as a good problem solver, yesterday I was asked to help out with it. Today, I got a phone call from my boss as he was driving in to work and he told me that the VP of Engineering at the corporate HQ decided late last night that he wants (actually demands) the people working on the project come to the corporate headquarters immediately and stay until the project is complete. That would basically mean with no advance notice I'd be flying off a thousand miles away and living out of a hotel room for three or four weeks. It was such an absurd idea, I actually thought my boss must be joking. But, he was dead serious. I told my boss that it was best that I not tell him my gut reaction to the idea and I'd wait until he got into the office so we could talk about it. My gut reaction was I would quit before I agreed to such a ridiculous idea. Firstly, asking anyone at a days notice to just drop everything in their life and fly 1000 miles away and stay for several weeks is a bit much (yeah, like I might consider missing three weeks worth of karate classes for my employer). Secondly, there's no significant reason why we should have to even go to the corporate HQ. We can get all our work done in the local office. The only reason I can imagine they want us there is to basically hold us hostage and pressure us to work ridiculous hours since we don't have a home to return to each day.
Maybe if I was in my early twenties and was looking to make a good impression I might go for such an idea, but not now. I've already earned the good reputation. I've been in the software field for 17 years now and I'm very good at what I do. However, I'm not trying to climb the corporate ladder. My job is not my life. My job is 8 hours of my life each day. It is just a mechanism to provide enough money for me to do the things that are really important - like take karate classes. As one of my coworkers involved in this fiasco said, "I can have many jobs, but I only have one life." If the job starts to significantly detract from the rest of my life, it's time to think about whether it's really worth having. Granted, with any job there are going to be unexpected problems, overtime, and travel, but I felt this particular request was crossing a line. It showed a complete lack of respect for the people doing the work. I felt we were being treated like resources. And that's basically what I told my boss.
So, throughout the day today, there was meeting after meeting with my boss. We'd meet with him, then he'd call the VP at corporate HQ to relay the message that we still weren't receptive to going. I did not envy my boss. He is a very nice guy and I knew he was just doing what he was told by his boss, and he also thinks the trip is a bad idea. But he was still doing his best trying to convince us that we should go on the trip, while we were pushing back saying it was a stupid idea, listing personal reasons why we couldn't go, and if the issue is forced, we'll quit rather than go. At one point during one of these meetings I found myself staring out the window while calculating in my head how much money I'd get if I cashed in my stock options now and how long I could live on that money before finding another job. It might be fun to just take the whole summer off... (but it's probably not the most responsible use of that money.)
Eventually in these conversations with my boss, I realized I had crossed a line, too. I had made it quite clear to the VP at the corporate HQ that I am not a "dedicated employee". I had said in no uncertain terms that if the company had no problem uprooting people for signifcant amounts of time from their everyday lives with no advanced notice, then it wasn't a company that I wanted to work for. With all this refusing to bow to the VPs repeated demands, it dawned on me that regardless of how this current situation turned out, my days at the company are most-likely numbered. As it finally turned out at the end of the day, the VP decided that we would not have to travel, but this was after he said things like he felt we were "holding the project hostage" by refusing to go, that we weren't being team players, etc. I will now have a big black spot on my record. They may need me for this current project, but as soon as there is a lull, I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to find an excuse to get rid of me. No company likes to be held at the mercy of their employees.
So, what do you think? Was I being unreasonable in refusing to go?