The coffee should have been my first clue.

I’ve long suspected that my happiness life expectancy at a job is somewhere around four years, and after that point the little things that aren’t right with an employer, or the management style, or the benefits, or the office politics become impossible to ignore. I was hoping this wasn’t the case at SmallAgency.

I was mistaken.

The annual review I had last week crystalized some things I’ve been feeling for a while now, chief among them that I just do not fit in where I work. Much of the criticism I got was totally valid – I do need to up my skill level in certain areas; I have not been moving forward developmentally in my field; and yes, I am probably slower than I should be – but some of it was, to put it mildly, complete and utter horse shit.

We are wrapping up a shit show of a project which is, ironically enough, my second stab at helping Floundering Non-Profit launch a new website. This project is now two weeks overdue. During my review last Thursday I was told that my “slowness is becoming a problem with project timelines.” I responded by saying I know that shit show project was, in fact, a mess and that I bear some of the responsibility for that but besides this particular project were there any other examples of my pace being a problem with a project coming in on time?

Nope. There were no other examples. There was also no recognition from my boss that anyone besides me – like say the project manager who only gave about 60% attention to the project, or my boss himself who completely ignored the project on the grounds that I was the lead developer while simultaneously refusing to let me set any kind of development direction only to deliver everything to me to do my part at the last minute – bears any responsibility for the state of this project. We discussed it further and I mentioned a second time that I realized I was partly responsible for the way the project has been going…and again nothing. No recognition whatsoever.

Smell the bullshit yet?

When I asked how I could speed up we discussed some strategies for dealing with design files with my boss telling me that he never uses all of the shades of gray, and there are often dozens, that our designer puts into a design because there are just too many. Which got me to thinking: if the files our designer produces are too detailed to use all the details why not tell him that, make the color palettes simpler and save our clients some design money while simultaneously giving people who have to work with these files a more clear directive on what to do with them? And how have my bosses not thought of this 10+ years into running their own firm? These are smart people. Surely this can’t be an idea I’m just having now?

How about now? Smell the bullshit?

Or maybe this bullshit should have been my first clue. The replacement rolls are less than four feet away. You have to pass them as you leave the bathroom.

Or maybe this bullshit should have been my first clue. The replacement rolls are less than four feet away. You have to pass them as you leave the bathroom.

The thing is, the bullshit has indicators. For almost four years I’ve been doing office-manager type duties – keeping track of whether or not we have paper products, making sure the water gets delivered in the right quantities, making the coffee every morning (even though I don’t drink coffee) and keeping track of beans and making sure the coffeemaker actually gets maintained – in addition to my actual job, and how we deal with coffee should have been my first clue.

These people like expensive coffee beans. We’re talking $75 for a five pound bag, and we have a gorgeous, burr grinder coffeemaker, that will make as few as two cups of coffee, in which to make it. Routinely my office makes a second pot, 12 cups, of coffee during the day, and just as routinely I throw out 6 to 8 cups of coffee the next morning to make a new batch. Why? Because they won’t drink anything other that freshly brewed coffee.

Now, since I’m not a coffee drinker I can’t really criticize the choice to not drink day-old coffee. What I can criticize is the ridiculous waste of one person brewing an entire pot then drinking less than a quarter of it.

And it’s this ridiculous waste that is really the indicator of the underlying problems.

Yes, it is time to formulate an exit strategy, and while I do, just nod and smile and remember the rules I have forgotten:

  1. I go there for money; it is an exchange of skills and time for salary.
  2. We are not friends. This is business.

Oh, and one more thing: Working remotely is a trap.

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