Something broke in me, sometimes in the past few months or years.
I used to genuinely enjoy the work I was doing at my company, and now, I have to admit, I really couldn’t care less about it.
A perfect corporate drone
I used to be the perfect corporate drone. Working extra hours, entering my “goals” diligently in the goals tool, and making sure I would follow up on these goals weekly with my manager. In the early years, one of the goals had to be for “personal growth”. I remember putting something along the lines of “learn more Japanese”. How foolish of me. My manager was quick to correct me, and explain to me that personal growth still had to be relevant for the company. That goal was swiftly replaced with something along the lines of “participate in more interview loops”. And I felt good about it.
I was passionate about the code my team produced, the quality of it, the products we delivered. I enjoyed the inspirational speeches from executives. “You’ve helped this section of the company generate bazillions of dollars, you should be proud of yourselves”. And I was. There was nothing better in the world than this job, the pretty good pay, and the products we were making. On the way home, I would discuss with colleagues on the train, about improving this or that process. I couldn’t get enough of it, I had to talk about it even as I was out of the office. The job was pretty much one of the things that mattered the most in my life.
Removing the pink-colored glasses
Then things started to not go so well. I don’t really remember what started the whole thing, but I slowly realized that things were not as awesome as I though they was. If I had to pinpoint it, I think at some point I realized I had been “promised” a promotion every single year since I joined the company, and the promotion wasn’t coming.
I started to see cracks in the perfect picture. Just like any other job, despite the appearances of “performance-based” evaluation, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter if you did your job right. What mattered was the corporate politics. Getting visibility from the right people, being lucky, taking credit for other people’s work, threatening to quit. Those were the ways to get promoted.
I started to look at my colleagues in a different way. The “clueless” were a bit like me in my early years in the company: working hard on very important stuff, but not the stuff that would ever get them a promotion. And everybody else was pretty much playing the corporate game: working extra hours on “high visibility” stuff. Dropping the crappy, low visibility tasks to underlings or “enemies”.
This is now the only thing I can see whenever I’m at the office. Not people working passionately on a common goal, but people trying to get promoted.
I don’t think most people actually play company politics, but I’ve replaced my pink-colored glasses for something much, much darker. I analyze people’s action and try to understand how this fits in their strategy to climb the corporate ladder. Even if they’re one of the “clueless”.
This has made me very cynical, and, to be honest, pretty much disgusted at work.
Boring Presentation — Image by © Corbis
The whole effect is dramatically multiplied by the fact that I’m close to Financial independence, with a goal to retire soon. There is no reason for me, at this point, to try and get a promotion. Why would I work harder for the company, when I know that I will be leaving it in a few years? This kind of mindset makes me question every single task assigned to me or my team: “Do I really need to work on this, or is it just something my manager wants us to do to show he’s actively caring about the project. Looks like a lot of effort for little to no benefit”.
Other personal finance bloggers have written that FI has let them become better employees, because they’re not afraid to tell the truth about a bad project or decision. My problem is that through my new FI glasses, everything is bullshit. “Let’s be honest for a few minutes, people, we’re not trying to cure cancer here, and what we’re working on, in the grand scheme of things, is a huge waste of human energy”. Let me tell you, this kind of thinking does not make me the employee of the month.
The corporate drone that I was is just broken. Several cogs are apparently missing, or I gained a new kind of consciousness, I’ll let you pick. Whichever it is, I’m not functioning properly in a corporate environment anymore. Which is why when people suggest I change companies if my job isn’t working for me, I think this is not going to fix things for me. My problem isn’t my job, my problem is corporate jobs as a whole. My problem is that 99% of corporate jobs on this planet pretty much don’t matter.
Maybe I’m reacting to the whole Early Retirement goal vastly differently from others, but let me tell you a secret, from a corporate drone to another: if you have the same mindset as me, then aiming to retire early has probably broken you as well.