So, exciting news: Frank quit his job. Hooray. After a long search process he finally found something that is going to be really awesome, I think: a great boss who he knows from his old job, lots more money, subject matter that is more up his alley. A mere two weeks from today he will no longer have the job he’s been unhappy at for the last three years.
Obviously, this is great. What’s not to like? At the same time though, when a person quits their job it sets of a weird ripple effect of uncertainty in the people around them. Like all of a sudden people look up and realize hey, I’m not going to be doing this same job forever. Maybe I should find something new.
It’s even worse when it’s someone you work with. Frank’s co-workers—the ones that were his friends and knew he was unhappy—were surprisingly surprised to hear the news. At first, a few of them were even angry with him. I think this is normal. After he went out to drinks and told them more about why he was leaving and what the new opportunity was about they, of course, were happy and congratulatory. It’s just strange that no matter how much you like someone at your work and want what’s best for them, your first reaction to hearing they’ve quit is a weird kind of anger and betrayal.
I experienced this first-hand on Friday hearing through the grapevine about a co-worker who is thinking about looking for something else. I know this person would probably be happier doing something else, and that they (no gendered pronouns—I don’t think anyone from my office reads this but just in case) have good reasons for wanting to leave. And it’s not even like they resigned or even accepted another offer. They just indicated that they wanted to go and were going to start looking.
The feeling is akin to being at a party and your friend saying they’re going home when you’re having a good time. The friend could have a million really good reasons for leaving—early meeting the next day, booty call, tiredness, dinner date, whatever. And there’s no reason that you need to leave just because your friend is. But still you worry: am I a loser? Should I have something better to do? Am I overstaying my welcome? Is it lame that I like this place so much?
The news of my co-worker rattled another work friend and I enough that we got in this weird fight on the way home from the after-work drinks thing we’d been at. The crux of the argument was whether it was better to resign yourself to a day job if it meant having lots of time to work on the “real” stuff you care about, or whether it was smarter to try and find a job closer to your actual interests.
Before we’d found out about the possibly departing colleague, neither of us had had any plans to leave any time soon anyway, and here we were hashing out some dumb hypothetical scenario about where we’d go if we ever left.
A person quitting just sends out a pulse of strange energy, is what I’m saying. I don’t know why many people’s first reactions are so selfish and insecure. I suppose it has something to do with age—none of my friends are at the age where we feel settled into a career exactly, and the possibility of something better is always over the horizon.
That’s why quitting is doubly hard, because when your friends should be really happy for you, instead they’re secretly sort of mad at you for rocking the boat. Those last two weeks at any job are always so passive-aggressive, your office both celebrating your great news and begrudging you leaving for greener pastures (and often sticking them with your work until someone can be hired.)
The weirdness is temporary, though. People get over that pretty quickly, and then they’re just happy for you and sad to see you go. Frank-wise, I’m just really excited that he might possibly finally be doing something that doesn’t make him angry all the time. As far as the stuff at my office goes, it can just be hard to remember that though you can and should love certain people at work and be emotionally invested in their lives, it’s important to remember not to get too invested in the group psyche at the office, or you’ll end up getting upset to hear your friends are moving on instead of being proud of them.
Hopefully that’s something I can get better at as I age. As I told my work friend, barring some kind of major luck, I plan to have to have a day job for a good long time. I don’t want to spend it being bitter about my lot.