Wisdom of Knowing How and When to Quit (A Personal Reflection)

Sometimes one just has to go with the flow, right?

I don’t know why people get upset. Nowadays it seems as if we’re competing against one another to see who can stay the angriest the longest.

Whenever someone (or something) upsets me, I stop what I’m doing and take a deep breath. Afterward, I exhale slowly.

“Look around,” I tell myself, “I’m fine. These negative feeling are just thoughts inside my head. If the world around me is calm, then I can be too.” Moments later, I’m able to go about my business.

I also like to remind myself that nothing’s actually changed. I contemplate whether my environment has been disturbed or just me. 75 percent of the time it’s just me; other times it’s actually the environment.

However, even when the environment is chaotic, I force myself to see the bigger picture.

  • Why get upset over spilled milk?
  • Why get angry at someone who’s frustrated by his or her inability to do something right?
  • If people are late, why waste energy reprimanding them?

If I’m late for an appointment, why bother trying to still make it? Just cancel and be honest. Opportunities come and go. There’s no point in risking other people’s lives by swerving in and out of traffic.

Swerving Through Traffic
I don’t condone the name-calling in this image.

Anyway, in other news, I’ve recently been going through job interviews. So far everyone has offered me a position. Great, right? Well, it was in the beginning. Companies initially treated me well, but toward the end, our rapport changed. They became more apathetic, as if they had succeeded in ensnaring me in their web and could finally relax.

I started seeing typos in their e-mails. One interviewer’s voice was noticeably forced. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the company had sanctioned the use of hooks to force its employees to smile while speaking with applicants over the phone.

Smile Brace

He couldn’t have possibly sounded any happier. I thought about asking him whether he needed rescuing: “Cough twice if you want me to call the FBI!”

I wonder: Did they think I was desperate for a job?

I’m not. I know my worth. If the company pretends not to need a position filled, then I’ll gladly withdraw my application from further consideration. And that’s what I did. I politely declined several job offers and ignored the rest on account of their lack of professionalism.

My philosophy is this: If a company doesn’t respect your time nor reciprocates your level of professionalism, forget ’em.

Just recently I had a recruiter cancel an interview one hour before it was supposed to happen. Did it bother me? No, because I was going to ignore her call anyway. Still, canceling on such short notice couldn’t have been a coincidence. Out of principle, I had to reciprocate that behavior.

She asked in an e-mail, “When would you like to reschedule? I can do tomorrow, Tuesday of next week, or Wednesday of next week.”

I chose the latest date she offered, and when that day finally came, I was nowhere to be found. Although she wrote a follow-up e-mail voicing her concerns as well as a desire to reschedule, she also noted her doubts about why I may not have shown up. She offered a possible explanation followed by a hyphen and “perhaps.” Ha!

“I am not sure whether you had a family emergency – perhaps.”

On some level, I wanted work for that company, but the behavior of its employees signaled too many potential conflicts.

I must admit, though: I am lucky. I can decline as many jobs as I want.

I know there are people in this world who can’t do that, and deep down I feel guilty for having this highly sought after ability.

Hmm. Guilty is an interesting word. Why should I feel guilty? Perhaps what I’m feeling is empathy, not guilt. Or maybe it’s both.

If I were to rationalize this from a singular point of view (i.e., my own), then of course I can reject and accept as many jobs as I want. I’m financially secure. My work ethic is phenomenal (not bragging). I’m willing to work extra hours without pay, and I’m deeply committed to the people I work with.

Yes, these employers didn’t inherently know the type of person I am, but the interview process should’ve given them a good idea. Nonetheless, if they can succeed without me, then we both win.

 


 

I remember when I got my first job in college. It was at a lab beneath the Department of Foreign Languages.

I had a boss and three co-workers, two females and one male. I befriended one of the females early on. She trained me on how to check people in, organize the cassettes, and so on.

However, a few weeks into my new job, my boss started to assign me with more work. In addition to what I had already been trained to do, he wanted me to fix the classroom projectors and reprogram the televisions. None of my co-workers had been asked to do these things.

In hindsight, I see how naive I was. I just assumed that these additional responsibilities were compliments, a sign of my boss’s approval. But I should have listened to my female co-worker’s implicit warnings, “Hey, you know, we just need to do what we need to do.”

One day my boss invited me into his office. After I sat down, he began discussing his plans for the language school.

“I want you to help me.” He finished.

I didn’t know what else to say except, “Thank you.” While my co-workers quietly sat in the back, he continued to praise my work ethic.

Admittedly, I was proud. I also enjoyed most of the previous work I had done. On top of the 24 credit hours I was taking each semester, this job gave me something else to do in my free time.

“So what do you think? Are you up for it?” He asked.

I agreed, and the next day, he had me working on a new set of more laborious tasks.

I’ll try this out for a day or two.

Days later I had the night shift. I walked in and greeted my male co-worker with whom I had been getting to know over the past two weeks.

“Hi, how’s it going?”

He shrugged and said, “Meh.”

Shrugging

Weird, I thought. He’s not usually this unfriendly. 

He took out a book and started reading it.

Evidently, the whole “friendly co-worker” was just a ruse.

As closing time approached, he casually went into the back. He returned with a bottle of disinfectant in one hand and a cloth in the other, gesturing them toward me.

“What do you want me to do with those?” I asked.

“You haven’t been here that long, but every night the listening cubicles on the main floor need to be wiped down. I’ll show you how to do it.”

I followed him into one of the cubicles. He sprayed the table and began wiping it in a clockwise motion. Then he cleaned the headphones.

“Okay,” he said, putting down the bottle and cloth, “I’ll leave the rest to you.”

I analyzed the situation. Since I had no prior experience doing this task, I didn’t have a bonafide reason to object (at least for the time being).

During the next night shift’s closing, he again handed me the cloth and bottle.

“It’d be best for us to take turns, don’t you think?” I said.

His eyes widened. “Oh, yeah, man, whatever. I’ll do it this time.” He got up and proceeded down to the main floor.

For the next several night shifts, we took turns cleaning the cubicles; that is, until one night, he wanted me to wipe the cubicles despite my having already done so the night before.

I raised an eyebrow at him.

This was the first time he’s done something like this, so I chose to overlook it. On the plus side, he verified his true colors. He was one of those individuals who displaced their own unhappiness onto others.

Knowing this, I vowed not to let it happen a third time.

The next day my boss invited me into his office. He lauded me for my hard work and told me what else he’d like me to do. Note that this time my boss didn’t ask me whether I could help. He simply told me.

He then led me out of the lab toward an abandoned classroom.

“Come in, come in.” He said.

I walked in and to my surprise, it was a room filled with junk as far as the eye can see. I saw old projectors, broken shelves, old books, and outdated machinery stacked on top of one another.

Casually he said, “I want you to clean this area first, and then gradually move your way toward the back.”

I looked at him and said, “Sir, I quit.”

I QUIT.png

 


 

I had thought about quitting ever since my co-worker made me clean the cubicles twice in a row. And, truthfully, if he had forced me to do it a third time, I would’ve walked out while still clocked in.

But since my boss was right here, I decided now was a good time as ever.

“Uh, um…when would you like to quit?” He asked.

“Now.” I replied.

He tilted his head to the side, staring at the junk behind me.

“All right. I see. Um, well, I’m sorry to see you go.”

I nodded, walked out, and never turned back.

Several hours later my female co-worker called me, “What happened?! I saw you leave, and then I heard that you quit. I can’t believe it. Why?”

“Too many responsibilities,” I said, “It didn’t feel right.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. “Yeah, I understand. Well, I’m going to miss you. Let’s keep in touch!”

Later that evening we added each other on Facebook.

I wonder how my male co-worker felt after finding out about my abrupt resignation. Was he happy to have all those cubicles to himself? Perhaps my quitting didn’t really change anything. I suspect he was doing that long before my arrival. On the other hand, he could have realized the error of his ways. Who knows. I didn’t need the job, but he did. I could quit; he couldn’t.

Lesson: If you’re unhappy with your job for whatever reason (e.g., boss, co-workers) and you can survive without it, QUIT. Don’t tolerate disrespect. Because the sooner you move on with your life, the sooner you can find better employment elsewhere.

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