Archive for June 25, 2007
My cubicle at work has been relocated quite a lot lately. While other coworkers pile all of their belongings into boxes, I’ve made a clear and conscious effort to downsize my clutter. I started cleaning out my desk long before the rumors of layoffs and pink slips started circling. The transition from there to here started slowly. On the first day I brought home old family photos. Over the course of a week I carried home old programming books, just two or three, a day at a time. By the second week I converted old papers to PDFs, and by the end of the month I recycled and shredded just about every paper in my cube. The remainder of my personal items: three or four programming books, a stapler, a couple of pens, plastic silverware and various odds and ends are small enough to fit in a small box that resides inside a cabinet in my cube.
The cubicles next to mine are filled with clutter. My company breeds a sense of loyalty that has kept fellow co-workers here for 10 to 20 years. As employees pin children’s art projects and family photos to makeshift walls their cubicles become a direct extension of their homes. I often wonder if it’s easier to devote yourself to work when you envision the faces of those you are working for or if it becomes more difficult to arrive early and stay late when you peer into the faces of those you love? I wonder how many of my co-workers take their work home with them. Are there as many reminders of work in their homes, as their are of home at their work? Spending more than eight hours at work each day it’s easy to see how the lines become blurred.
As rumors of pink slips whirl through the air I am saddened by the thought of loyal employees filling up their cardboard boxes. This time it won’t be to move to another office or cube. This time they’ll be pulling down artwork and family photos and shipping them home. I think about all of the long nights I have awarded my employer and imagine many employees beside me who have done the same. In relationships they say: “It is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.” I wonder if loyal employees will feel the same. In the end will they feel grateful for the good years they’ve had with the organization or simply bitterness at having been let go?
I have worked at the same job since I graduated from college. Most of my friends have had five or six jobs in that same period of time. A number of them have even had multiple career changes. When I tell people that I have been with the same employer since I graduated I am inevitably asked why I have never switched jobs. Interestingly, as time passes my answers have changed as has my relationship with my employer.
I interviewed in January of the year I graduated, and was sent an offer letter in March for a position starting in the summer. I was interning for a small company at the time who also offered me a job. The starting salary at the smaller organization was much larger, but I felt the overall opportunity for growth at a large company would be much higher. Although it’s true that young employees can make a larger impact in a small company, there is also a stifling feeling of low ceilings and little growth. After all, if there is only one person between you and the CEO how far up the chain can you travel?
The first few years with my employer gave me the butterflies of a new romance. I demonstrated a desire to learn and a drive to succeed right from the start. While other employees my age were performing meaningless and low level tasks, I was quickly moving into roles with greater responsibilities.
But as time ticked by I became bored with my employer, which is often the case when you find yourself performing similar tasks over and over. The itch to jump ship grew stronger, but not as strong as the desire to attain a second degree. Ultimately, company benefits paid for every penny of my advanced degree with the exception of the very paper it’s printed on. For only $100 of my own money and over $19,000 of the company’s I earned my Master’s.
With a new degree in hand the itch to leave continued to grow. By the summer of my fourth year with the company I was determined to set sail. I interviewed elsewhere and offer letters flowed in but the benefits just couldn’t compare. With each interview I convinced myself that the work elsewhere wouldn’t be better. If I had changed careers it would have been a different story, but sitting in front of a computer at Company A or Company B just didn’t seem to matter.
Another year passed and co-workers who brightened each work day began leaving. First it was just one or two, then there were many. I thought I’d give the company one last try and rotated into a few different internal positions. Something new was certainly better than the same old, same old, and for awhile it all seemed doable.
Then one day I fell unexpectedly ill. My company supported me through an often forgotten benefit… short-term disability. Many companies offer long-term disability but few will continue to pay you for months of extended leave. Not mine. The good old girl paid for an extended absence and my heart fell in love once again with the company.
As time passes this complicated relationship with my company has bred a strong loyalty. In good times and in bad it has been the solid rock that supports me. I am not certain how much longer I will stay, but I will always be grateful for all that she has given me.