18 April 2001

"Life is real!  Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal: ..."
     - H.W. Longfellow

I've been thinking about one of my dear friends. She and I recently had a conversation over coffee during which she groaned about her position, one that I had myself occupied several years ago. She has incentive options from her company, and she's praying for an IPO before she's burned to a crisp. She's been dealing with hundred-hour work weeks, sunrise to well past midnight most days, trying to make the IPO happen so she can cash in and go off to have the collapse she feels she earned. Now she says she's debating whether it's worthwhile for her to remain with the company, with the downturn in the general economy.

I asked, "What is it you want from a job?" She told me what she likes most is when she's allowed to "build something." She loves being able to bring people together in a team, but what excites her most is the potential for success. She said her ennui in a job begins to surface after the team moves into a performant state, and she itches for something new. She also said she no longer reports to the company founder, who recruited her.

There is a new vice-president on her horizon, who has half the company reporting to him. My friend commented that this new executive has introduced an unhealthy competitiveness into the company, pitting people against one another, rather than helping them team together. The executive has even made his presence known in the intramural volleyball league, a group that has been meeting for over a year for friendly fun after work. The new guy has so negatively affected the atmosphere, and ruined the sense of fun, that nobody enjoys the games, and actively look for reasons to not participate.

Her concern is that this executive brings a really cut-throat attitude into the company, a sort of "win at all costs" mentality. Her feelings toward this man are not good, because she's mistrustful of his motives and ethics. She says when things go wrong, he goes hunting for people to blame, and when things go right, he takes all the credit. She says her stomach hurts when she thinks about working with him, and accepting direction from him.

I think she needs to do is figure out why she's willing to remain. If it's because there is an enormous financial gain for her, then wonderful. If it's because she's getting extremely valuable career experience, wonderful. If it's because she wants to outlast a strong-willed predatory executive, terrible.

We drank our coffee, commiserated a bit, and in the end, I told her I hoped she'd be able to make a decision she can not only live with, but one that won't jeopardize her health, mental or physical. She thanked me for the advice, and then it was time to go. Nothing changed.

Excuse me. I need to find myself another cup of coffee.


No comments: