Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How I Should Have Quit My Job: Case Studies on the American Workplace

I hate to be jaded (who am I kidding - I relish a good critique of capitalism at its worst), but based on six years of quiet observation at a small, successful financial investment company, it really doesn't pay to be the responsible employee. 

Without further ado, I present, case studies on quitting your job: 

Case #1: Getting Fired

My coworker doesn't get along with the boss. One day she's pushed over the edge, and loses it. When she comes in the next day, she's fired. For signing an agreement not to sue the company, she leaves with: 

- 2 months' pay 
- 2 months' family health insurance 
- 401(k) intact 
- a guarantee that her unemployment insurance application will be approved

It's worth it to the company to avoid any litigation or bad publicity.
Case #2: Leaving Without Notice

My coworker isn't a good fit for the office. She gets stressed easily, which causes her to get sick and miss work. The office doesn't have paid sick leave, but on the good faith that she's going to make up weeks of time missed, her paychecks continue as usual. One day, she picks up her paycheck and just doesn't come back. She leaves with: 

- 2 weeks' advance pay (due to the company's payroll system) 
- 4 weeks' paid sick time (which technically doesn't exist)  
- a year's worth of paid vacation, despite only working half a year 

It's not worth it to the company to pursue the 8 weeks of overpaid wages.

Case #3: On-Call Unpaid Maternity Leave With 7 Months' Notice

Four years ago, with my last pregnancy, I gave 7 months' notice of maternity leave. I prepared a manual for the position, trained my temporary replacement, worked until my due date, and then spent six weeks of unpaid maternity leave constantly coaching the temp through basic job duties via my personal phone and email. When I returned, my benefits were cut, as was my year-end bonus, since I was only on-call (daily) and not in the office during maternity leave. At the end of the year, all of my comp time was cut without notice. 

Picture Source

Case #4: Resignation with 4 Months' Notice and Replacement Training 

Seven months ago, I found out I was pregnant with twins. I gave four months' notice at work that I wouldn't be returning after the babies are born, provided referrals for potential replacements, put together a manual for the position, and offered to simultaneously train an additional position that was unexpectedly vacated (see Case #2). There is no paid maternity leave, no paid sick time or vacation days, no unemployment insurance. There's usually a generous year-end bonus, and I think perhaps, I'll receive a portion of it, since I've been a responsible, over-achieving employee for more than half the year. No bonus is given. My replacement is hired at 160% my wage. 

But, see, I was thinking...
It would seem meritocracies are only for Silicon Valley and cock-eyed optimists. Nonetheless, at least I collected many stories for future telling, and some great blog material while on the job!

"But I'm only a cock-eyed OP-ti-mist, 
and I can't get it intoooo my heeeeeeeaad..."

Post-script: I have a couple of coping mechanisms: laughing awkwardly, detachment and introspection, and if all else fails, a good cry session. I tried to make light of this situation -- my leaving a job to which I really felt committed and accountable for many years -- but the truth is, I'm disappointed and perhaps unreasonably disappointed that a good job with good colleagues and friends with whom I genuinely enjoyed working, seemed to come down to capitalism and the bottom line in the end, more than the people that make it successful.

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