Three months into my first IT consulting job out of college, I was certain I was going to be fired. It was a Saturday in October. I was on-call that weekend. And I was somewhere inside a haunted house.
A client’s network server died and was resurrected by my valiant coworkers within an hour. Naturally, I was enjoying teenagers in zombie costumes attempting to scare me.
I didn’t respond that night and I didn’t respond until after a soccer game the next day. I really hated that job: Long hours, lousy management, and working in the basements of corporate buildings for 12+ hours at a time. Was it woth forgoing a social life and sunshine? No, thanks.
Monday morning arrived, and I walked into the weekly team meeting with high hopes. I was certain that my wish would be granted: Please fire me and allow me to leave this miserable sweat shop.
I was expecting to leave the office unemployed, and was excited about it.
The meeting went on with typical business jargon and updates. I sat comfortably in an office chair, leaned back and delivered my positive update. The tension in the room tasted like tequila: take a sip to get excited, drink too much and you’re taking off your clothes.
Directly across from me sat the office manager. He was also the president’s minion.
Have you ever met a minion? They worship the owner of a business. They copy the boss’s language, are glued to his side, always on call, and at night pray to their God of Understanding: their Boss.
If you meet a minion, watch what you say around them. They are a direct link to their master and will share everything. Think Wormtongue.
The meeting adjourned, and the moment arrived: “Timo, come into my office.”
It’s about more than money
The president of the business and his boy minion sat across the desk from me wearing sarcastic smirks. They followed an industrial age philosophy that overtly wished employees would sleep under their desks and forgo a life outside the office.
It was game time.
“Timo, you’re a few days away from being eligible for bonus.”
“I’m not motivated by money.”
“This is just business. No hard feelings. You can go if you want to.”
I sat in silence and watched in a detached fascination as the two laughed and turned their attention from me to internet memes. Conversation over. Amazing.
Into Microsoft Word I typed a one sentence resignation, printed it, signed it, and handed over the 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper. Peace.
Not Fated to Pretend
Entering my car, I felt in a daze. It felt like I had just vomited the last of the tequila after a night of binge drinking. A nauseated survivor. MGMT’s ‘Time to Pretend’ was the theme song to my life at that time, singing:
We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end.
We were fated to pretend.
The vomit had been spewed, and I didn’t have to choke on it. Relieved, I went home and bought two tickets: One ticket to DJ Tiesto who was playing that same night in Cleveland, and a one way ticket from Washington DC to Lima, Peru.
While the boss and his minion were jack asses for human beings, they were also wonderful teachers. The first lesson I learned in that office was:
Take nothing personal.
Separate your personal self, from the business self. Let no attack on you affect your personal being. Once they ignored me and went to the memes, I realized that these guys didn’t particularly care about me as a person.
Unfortunately, that’s business in general.
Business people will smile in your face Thursday afternoon, then cooly fire you on Friday morning. Treat yourself as a seperate representative of yourself when dealing with the law or business.
That is, cut the emotional dialougue and get to the point when dealing with sharks, or heartless business-minded humans. They may try to bait you into an emotional war, but don’t allow it.
Hit them right between the eyes, because there’s typically nothing in the chest.
When your personal feelings are off the table, what do you have to lose?