I have been in the recruiting software and HR technology industry for about 14 years and have seen some of the best and worst in most any company and any company’s personnel. I myself have been in a few very bad situations with my job on the line and have handled things both very well and very badly, which is what this article is about. I guess it was about 8 years ago now that I almost ended my career with what we will call blame-a-nitis. I was a senior manager within a top recruiting software vendor and I had grown very resentful because several team members that had begun with the company around the same time I had were being promoted and I wasn’t. In my frustration, I was very vocal and an all around angry person to be around. After all, I was putting in more hours than anyone else, I was on call 24/7, and I was the go to guy for almost anything when it came to getting the job done and turning it around on a dime. I thrived on the challenge and knew the company couldn’t afford to lose me. Herein lies the problem and illusion that I think many top people in companies live under. I thought I was irreplaceable and that the angrier I got and the harder I pushed, the company would eventually give in. Boy was I wrong.
In comes Poker time – the big bet.
I guess for about a year, I had become increasingly bitter and it all came to a line in the sand one day when I didn’t get up in the middle of the night to handle a support call. I had actually thought it was handled and had gone back to bed but none the less, there were still problems the next morning. I was called into the CTO’s office and was asked why I didn’t help out. I explained I thought it was handled and then the CTO hit just the right button. I, like many of you, was and am prideful and put a lot of sweat equity into my work. The CTO told me that the team thought I had let them down and abandoned them when they needed me. Upon hearing that, I walked out of the room, stewed for a while, walked back in and told him I didn’t want the role anymore and that I wanted to take a different role on the sales team that the VP of Sales had offered me. I told him the money wasn’t worth the stress and the role wasn’t going anywhere. I basically put him to a decision and backed him into a corner. He had two choices in my eyes, make me happy or I am out of here.
Here Comes the Moral of The Story
I didn’t get any response from him immediately and it wasn’t until about 2 days later when I found out my fate. Instead of getting the role on the sales team or getting anything additionally, I was given a 40% cut in pay and told I would be going back to a programming role. Now you might think that was harsh but it was one of the best lessons I could ever have learned and it is the exact reason I am writing this article now during these tough times. I really only gave him one choice that day and that was to cut out the cancer. The cancer was me and my bad attitude. I was miserable to work with and I had just removed the one leverage I had. I let him know I was ready to quit. By doing that and despite my contributions, I let him know it was only a matter of time before he had to replace me. In one meeting, backed by a history of unhappiness and blaming other people, I nearly destroyed the career I had been working 80 hours a week to build.
REALITY CHECK FOR US ALL!!!!
Here is a fact that every person looking for a job right now should accept and build on. Everyone remembers the people who are negative and positive. If you work hard on your social network of colleagues and pound the pavement, you will more than likely have more doors open than most. All that complaining and blaming does it guarantee you will not move find a job and your industry colleagues won’t want to help or work with you. I don’t care if they are nice to you or are your friends; they won’t put their reputations on the line if they think you are going to botch up a role by blaming everyone when things don’t go your way.
What happened after that?
After about a day or so I came to grips with what happened and changed everything about how I looked at my work. I stopped putting so much mental equity into my job title and career progression and just focused on being the best at any role I was given. I CANNOT stress how much more successful and happier I have been. After 2 months of programming again and with my new attitude, I was given the role on the sales team. Since that time I have moved into executive roles in leading industry companies. I also have an incredible network of friends and former colleagues that have helped me out because of my new found outlook on life. I pay it forward which makes me feel better and only builds on my reputation. I try to help friends and colleagues in every way I can. Some have reciprocated some haven’t but it is because of that work that when tough times come, I always have a network that is willing to help me.
I have developed a list of things I live by that have made a huge difference in my success:
- I am replaceable; there is always someone who will step up.
- I will never get promoted or move up in the world by complaining or blaming. So what if someone did me wrong. It happens to us all.
- Anger is a guaranteed way to destroy your career
- I can recover from anything; work harder than anyone else around you
- Be the role model not that person everyone talks about
- Never blame anyone for where I am in my career. Top people don’t expect life to come to them. They seize every opportunity.
I know it is hard to get over losing a job or a role. If you have to vent, vent in private and come out swinging. Hit your social network and pay it forward.
Michael G. Brandt