When I first started working for my current employer, I was a cash-poor young twentysomething who didn't know exactly what I wanted to do for work, but knew I needed an income of some sort. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to find a job with what I thought were a lot of positives: a decent starting salary, a respectable company on solid footing, and room for professional growth. The one negative: I chose to take on a 40-minute drive to and from the office each workday, which could be longer in bad traffic or bad weather.
After a couple of years of this, I decided I was tired of wasting so much of my life behind the wheel of the car, so I moved to within 5 miles of the office. This cut my commute down to under 10 minutes. After I met my wife and we got married, we bought a house in the same area. I can now drive to work in around 15 minutes, or preferably, spend a little extra time and enjoy a wonderful ride on my bicycle that lasts just over half an hour.
Unfortunately, my employer has multiple offices in the region. There is another office about 45 miles from my house which I occasionally must go to for project meetings. I try to minimize this as much as possible, because traffic during rush hour can make the 45-mile trip last up to two hours each way.
This morning I was summoned to the other office to help with a presentation. I got up early and caught a bus which crawled through traffic and deposited me near the office around 1 hour 40 minutes later. I walked a few blocks to the office and got set up and ready for the meeting. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time, I received an email stating "Sorry for the late notice, but today's meeting is canceled." Irritated, I caught a bus back home and worked the remainder of the day from my local office.
My manager had also made the trip this morning. He decided to drive and had left his house before 6 AM to avoid rush hour, getting to the other office around 7 AM. Another presenter in the meeting had flown in from another state. All of us had wasted our time and effort to get to this particular office from our remote locations. It seemed to us like the organizers of the meeting couldn't be bothered to cancel the meeting any earlier than 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.
This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. This is probably the worst example, but other meetings with this group in the same office have been previously canceled with less than 12 hours notice. Since the meeting organizers are higher-ups in the organization, I can't decide whether they simply don't respect our time, or are ignorant of the effort we put in to travel to other office locations for meetings.
Later in the day I received an invitation to the rescheduled meeting in a couple of days. Years ago I would have sucked it up and planned for another early morning on the bus. But given our current financial situation at home, I no longer feel any fear of sticking up for myself in situations like these. I told my manager I wouldn't be making another trip this week, and would attend the meeting remotely (conference call). After paying off the mortgage and developing a healthy cushion of savings and investments, I find it's much easier to say no to certain work requests which would make things harder on myself. Of course, it's wise to choose battles carefully, but since my goal is not to cling to a career any longer than I have to, I feel no obligation to suck up to the higher ups or avoid ruffling feathers. If nobody else is going to respect my time, my own self-respect is going to win out.
One somewhat surprising revelation is that by feeling free to speak my mind (instead of toeing the company line), I've actually gotten positive feedback for saying things that everyone else is thinking but hesitant to put in words. It's liberating in a way.