Why I don’t care about you: An open letter to my employer

It’s lunch time and I’m the only one remaining in the training room. Of course, I’m not training, I’m writing a blog entry. Everyone else went out in a group to Korean food. I like Korean food, so had it not been for the ambivalence about whether or not I want to keep this job I think I would have gone with them. However, this morning when I arrived a fellow employee told me how excited he was to have a new motorcycle, but how annoying it is that the insurance rates are so high. I smiled and nodded, completely uninterested and completely not understanding the finer points of motorcycle insurance rates I think he was trying to explain to me.

That’s the problem with this place. I just don’t care. I don’t care about your motorcycle, just as I don’t care about your software. I don’t care about your network, or your IT projects, or your deadlines. I just don’t care.

And why should I? No, really, why should I? Don’t tell me that I should because it’s my job because the question I’m asking you is why should I care about this job. You already know I care about doing a good job. Don’t tell me I should care because you care, because I don’t care about you (same question: why should I?). And don’t tell me I should care because caring about it is more than caring about a job, as I know you truly feel (you’re missing the point again, I am thinking about more than just my job).

Why do you even care the way you do? Don’t worry, that’s a rhetorical question because I already know the answer. It’s the same reason why I cared about my job at Apple; because I felt good about what I was doing. I didn’t care about Apple, the company, I cared about the people I was working with (or some of them, anyway), and I cared about making the lives of my customers better. Apple as a company could live or die and I would really not care one way or another, but if that sweet mother didn’t get her iPod nano fixed and it made her son sad, I would care. I still care more about that boy’s happiness than I do about whether or not we close that several million dollar deal you want to fly me out to that suburb of Seattle to work on.

Do you know why that is? Because I’m not going to see any bit of that million-dollar deal, nor am I going to improve people’s lives because of it, regardless of how hard I work. What’s going to happen is that, if we get that deal closed, some sales person who sold that prospect our software gets a relatively minor commission (his incentive, not mine), the customer increases the efficiency of their IT processes (their incentive, not mine) which is just business-speak for making management feel better about laying people off (the customer’s CEO incentive, the greedy bastard) and never will my action actually have a benefit for this prospect’s customers, who in some altruistic sense I care about in much the same way as that boy and his mother who wanted their iPod fixed.

So why should I work here? Should I keep prostituting my values and my sense of fulfillment just to satisfy my curiosity with high-technology? Obviously not, though that’s what I’ve been doing since I realized I was unhappy here. You don’t want me to do that because it makes me a bad employee, unable to be optimally effective. I don’t want it because it’s making me miserable and makes me feel like I’m wasting a huge part of my life. It would have been easier if I got more of the perks I was expecting (more training and learning opportunities, more personal time, follow-through on promises like having a day off to make up for the holiday I worked, working with people I like, and so on), but seeing as how these don’t seem to be happening I see no reason not to accelerate my alternative plans (of which I have plenty).

So unless you see a possibility for this to change, it’s not a matter of if I’m going to quit but when, and the countdown to a decision ends this Friday at noon.

7 replies on “Why I don’t care about you: An open letter to my employer”

  1. I don’t know about how to make the judgment of whether or not they deserve me, but that is also not something I’m really concerned about. I really don’t care what they deserve, after all.

    Also, thanks. :)

  2. Damned…I sure sympathize with you. The last software company I worked for about ground me into dust. Never, never, never will I go back to work for someone ever again. Of course, the student loan folks are out to get me and I have holes in my clothes but I have plenty of time to garden and paint now…

  3. “Should I keep prostituting my values and my sense of fulfilment just to satisfy my curiosity with high-technology?”

    After reading this and ‘I Quit, Because Capitalism’, I must confess to finding some comfort in your writing. There’s something to be said for discovering that other people have similar thoughts when you were beginning to feel somewhat isolated.

    If you’ll indulge me;
    I was employed as a senior network engineer, in the industry over 15 years. I found it exciting, rewarding, and challenging… at first. As time went on I began to feel most of what you describe – to the point that I could no longer bear it.

    Getting a job ‘doing what you love’ is always a so highly touted goal in life. I think in truth, a job will suck the love out of your dream – and it will do so in a slow persistent methodical fashion – at such a glacial pace that you don’t even notice it happening.

    My epiphany came to me at a low point – I had failed to pass an exam by the narrowest of margins.
    Reflecting afterward, I felt that the test in general was skewed toward memorization of facts, rather than actual grasp of the technology or problem solving ability. Indeed the inclusion of a lab section which was quite ‘this is broken, make it work’ was probably the only reason that I came close to passing at all.

    I had successfully sat other exams in the same vein, and though I was a little bummed out by it, something began to dawn on me. It wasn’t about proving my capability, it wasn’t about progressing my skills, it wasn’t in any way related to anything beneficial for me at all. It was, in all actuality, a quiz on want THEY wanted from me. On the knowledge THEY deemed necessary and appropriate for me to have.

    Little by little I began to realize that the whole industry in which my career was built relied upon this premise.
    That I should continue to press on, learning what was asked of me: relevant to my interests or not, relevant to my ability to do my job… or not.

    I had the usual carrots dangled in front of me – more perks, higher pay given the meeting of certain milestones, etc.

    As my enthusiasm began to falter so too did the quality of my work. How could it not?
    When higher-ups started offering ‘X’ as long as they could see I was doing ‘Y’, All I could think was ‘F’ and ‘U’.
    After everything, all an employer ever wants is more from you, for the least they can get away with.

    So I walked away.

    I still have a job, as much as I dislike it, but I am self employed. I do what work I want to, when I want, for the amount I consider appropriate to compensate me for the inconvenience of having to do so.
    I no longer work in the IT industry save for the occasional bit of consultancy for a former colleague – I keep it largely to myself nowadays… trying to keep the love alive ;)

    I envy your apparent absence of materialism – it’s a certain flaw of mine, I also have a couple of small responsibilities that depend on me having a somewhat stable income.
    One’s 4 years old the other 1 and a bit ;)

    My new job isn’t something that I love, exactly.
    It’s a job, after all.
    However at least I get to do it on my own terms. It pays well, the hours are low and erratic which suits me well, but above all I have nobody to answer to – and nothing to worry about at home when I’ve finished for the day.
    When I look back at how I used to live, it puts a smile on my face.

    I know now that whatever happens in the future, I will never again have to twist my own interests into some perversion designed to benefit somebody else.

    I’m free.
    I thank you profusely for the part your words had to play in my escape.

  4. Interesting read. I can relate to caring about the mother with the i-Pod, but not the company that makes the product. I’m in state government helping to run a program that provides a real valued service to families that makes a difference in their lives. I care about the families and feel a responsibility to make sure that we give them our best. But I could care less about my employer, my boss and a number of my co-workers. They’re not my friends, they’re not my family, and if I didn’t work with them, I wouldn’t associate with most them because I don’t trust them. I don’t care about our department, or our reputation or about making us look good by bringing in millions in grant funds. I get the connection between the politics and the money that enables me to keep serving families; and that’s why I continue to do it. I’ve got five years until I retire. I’ve put in a lot of years where the people I worked with were honest, real, and focused on the what our purpose was. Those days seem to be gone now and replaced with people jockeying for position, concerned with bolstering their resume and promoting their reputation. Maybe my approach to why I do what I do for a living has always been the exception and I’m just now cluing into what’s been going on around me all along. Anyway, I appreciate your honesty and glad I stumbled onto your blog entry.

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