Monday, July 8, 2013

Freedom from Fear (at work)

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.

25 comments:

  1. That is a big positive side effect from being financially independent. You don't have to worry about the "proper" thing in work situations. Granted you can't always go against them or they're just going to feel that you are being argumentative just for the sake of being argumentative. But I imagine it allows you much more freedom to speak your mind and take more chances with your career knowing that if it doesn't work out you'll still be okay financially and still have a roof over your head.

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    1. Well, my wife and I aren't FI yet, but we're on our way. I guess a better term to describe us is "not financially desperate". We would live indefinitely in our current lifestyles on only one of our salaries and still have some left over for saving. So losing one of our two incomes would only impact our long-term savings goals at this point.

      And I definitely agree with you about not being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. No need to make time spent at work more unenjoyable than it has to be.

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  2. Awesome experience, especially your response to the rescheduled meeting. I was waiting for you to say you hit "Reply All" so that the others that were put out could see you weren't taking the BS. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Reply All would have been a bit extreme. I might save that sort of thing for the day when I can no longer take it and expect to be shown the door. That day isn't here yet...

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  3. good for you! Options. My friends complain about their jobs; the grilling schedules, lousy bosses etc yet the only plan they make, is the next big spending event which will only keep them tied to their lousy jobs for longer periods of time. None of that for you, more power to you.

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    1. I know a few people like that as well. I'm glad to have a plan of escape, even if it will take a few more years to complete.

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  4. Haha I love it! The day you reach FI is going to be even better.

    Cheers

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  5. Inconsiderate people really bother me. I've been in meetings where the decision maker doesn't show - but everyone still sits around and discusses the pros and cons anyway . . ummm why? Waste of time!

    Glad you stood up for yourself :)

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    1. Of course the rescheduled meeting (the one I attended remotely) happened as planned. I'm glad I didn't have to travel a second day this week. In the end nobody even seemed to care that I wasn't there in person.

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  6. Nice. It feels great to not have to worry so much about doing the company thing and being able to question practices and decisions where appropriate.

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    1. Yes, very empowering. Would be nice to be free of the company entirely, but one step at a time...

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  7. Nice move. Bravo!!

    I'm still toeing that line, as much as I hate to do so. I envy you, and I do quite look forward to the day when I can start to slowly back off that line...all the way to the door! :)

    Best wishes.

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    1. That day can't come soon enough, can it?

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  8. This is a great example for being financially independent. It's nice to say no or work only because you want not because you have to (although you might not be there yet, but very close to it). And I bet this will gain you a lot more respect and professional look in the high ups eyes, so unless they are complete jerks, you actually will benefit from this.

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    1. I like your optimism. I tend to try to minimize interaction with the higher ups, since they rarely directly influence my own responsibilities at work.

      Although we're not FI yet, we do have a large buffer built into our financial situation, so we could ride out the loss of one of our incomes for a very long time, or both of them for a reasonably long stretch (at least two years). It definitely helps me envision a stretch of unemployment without any hint of panic.

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  9. Holy cow........you sound JUST LIKE my husband.............before he retired! Once we got to the point of financial independence, and he was set to receive his full pension (for 40 years of work), he was pretty much done with all the bullsh*t that was going on. He knew when he got really fed up, he could just say "bye-bye!" Funny that several of the big-wigs tried to dangle "carrots" in front of him to stay on longer! How about more stock? How 'bout more money? He said "thanks, but no thanks! 40 years of my life is all you're getting!" We are now loving retirement! He retired at 58, me 48. Life is SO SO SO good!

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  10. Way to go! We're in a similar place, not quite FI, but in a very good place financially. It's a great feeling!

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    1. It certainly is a good feeling. There is a big area on the scale between "paycheck to paycheck" and "financially independent". Anything above the midpoint of that scale is a nice place to be.

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  11. My boss knows that I don't "need" my job because my bills are paid and I am saving money. He tells me that I am needed and a good employee and that I can't leave until he retires because he doesn't want to have to break-in a new person. I told him that he better retire soon!

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    1. Sounds like you may have some bargaining chips under your belt. Don't hesitate to use them if you ever need them.

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  12. Having become mortgage free in August (at age 44) following a similar course to yourself, I can really identify with your blog. It's going to take a while to get used to but standing up against workplace injustices hasn't harmed my standing one bit and seems to have got certain managers to take back tasks that they'd passed to me. It's extremely liberating knowing that they no longer have me over a barrel! More power to your elbow. :)

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    1. Nice story. Glad to hear from someone else on a similar path.

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  13. This post and all the comments really made me smile. While just starting to reserch this whole FI lifestlye ive been having a hard time placing myself but this post helped. Id say im somewhere between too close to paycheck to paycheck but within reach of that middle ground where things start to look brighter :)

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