I really wish the title of this post ended after the first three words. Instead, I got screwed in a different way. Turns out that both types of experiences are pretty similar. They yield a weird mix of sadness and excitement, they involve a mess to clean up, and they leave you questioning life choices.
It went down like this: Two weeks ago my boss called me. “Would you mind coming up to our HR rep’s office?”
Of course I mind! Those words can only mean that I was being called into the principal’s office and about to get expelled. But then, I thought: Hmm…maybe they want to give me the raise and promotion I requested a week prior. (I cringed just typing that last sentence.)
So I stepped into the principal’s office and said, “OK guys, this is going to go one of two ways.”
My boss replied, “Well—”
“And there you have it,” I said.
And there I have it. But what do I have? I’m still not sure. It sucks getting laid off, and I’m sure you’re thinking, “Vadim, how can a company be so stupid to get rid of you. You’re so brilliant, intelligent, creative, funny, attractive. You have such a great fashion sense too!”
I know! I thought the same thing!
On the other hand, I feel enthusiastic and optimistic about my future, even if I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Actually, it’s not that I have no idea—it’s that I have too many ideas. I just need to grow up.
That’s why I’m rebooting this blog. More than two years ago, I launched Ethical Escalator, a blog about ethics (you can still view its posts, dated before this one). But I got lazy. I’m also a great liar, so what do I know about ethics? Besides, I’d found a job in HR that I let take over my life, so I let the blog die.
Today, I’m breathing life back into it. A new title, a new focus, a new me! It’s a Weight Watchers commercial!
I’ll be writing about workplace issues. Because I know about workplace issues. Because I’d written about them for 14 years at a magazine where I was a senior editor (see how I snuck in a credential to give the illusion of authority). Because I recently worked at a Fortune 100 company (I did it again!) managing talent engagement and doing internal communications focusing on leadership, learning, development, performance management, and more. Because I care about creating better workplaces. Because I work.
We all work. We all have all sorts of feelings about our jobs, our managers, our companies, our careers, our lives. I want to share mine with you because…why the hell not? I love challenging the status quo and provoking thought. And this is a better outlet than Facebook, where no one cares what anyone says anyway.
I hope you’ll join me for this ride. I also hope you’ll comment publicly or send me your thoughts. I especially love when someone challenges my own thinking, so tell me when you think I’m right, but also tell me when you think I need a lobotomy. I love praise as much as hate mail. (Actually, I enjoy one of them more. Guess.)
In the meantime, below is the farewell letter I wrote to my work colleagues. It best explains how I feel and offers some thoughts on workplace culture.
As you may be aware, I’m leaving the company, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you as I plunge into my next adventure.
When I was initially offered a job at this company, I thought of every reason not to take it. Me? Work outside of Manhattan? That’s every Manhattanite’s dream! And in financial services? OMG, am I going to have to, you know, like, wear a tie? Or, like, an actual, you know, suit? Oh, and no way am I going to spend my days suffering alongside people who work in finance. They’re all a bunch of (use your imagination here). I was thisclose to turning down the offer—until I realized there was only one reason not to come here. I was scared. I was scared of the unknown. I was scared of what we’re all often scared of—change. I also realized that that was no reason to reject a potentially great opportunity. It was probably a reason to embrace it. (Well, that and I needed a job!)
After starting work, I knew I made the right choice.
OK, that’s a lie—because none of us really knows if we made a mistake until some time has passed, or at least until we’ve tried the cafeteria salad. Well, two years later, I know that my only regret was buying a new suit jacket that I wore just two times and don’t even fit into today! More importantly, I’m so happy to say how wrong I was about working here before I was actually working here.
Getting to do great work has been the best part of my experience here.
Yet another lie. Sure, I’m proud of my accomplishments, but writing intranet articles about feedback, sending emails about classes, and working on a wide range of other projects—as interesting and impactful as some of them were—are hardly things I’m passionate about. What matters most to me in life are people and ideas. And so what mattered most to me at this place was you.
I never imagined I’d meet so many smart, talented, kind people, many of whom I now call my friends. Working alongside you has been an incredible experience. And that is not a lie. I learned so much from you, and I hope you took away some nuggets from me too—because like I said, I’m also passionate about ideas. How lucky was I to have innumerable chances to conceive, explore, and discuss myriad talent-management concepts with you all? (You know, when I wasn’t talking about the Real Housewives of You-Name-It City.)
But notably, it wasn’t the work that underpinned our relationships. As I always say, no one ever bonds over an Excel spreadsheet. Rather, it was our willingness to share our personal stories, support each other, celebrate each other, and laugh with (and yes, sometimes at!) each other. We are people before we are coworkers, and I can’t express enough how thankful I am to have had you in my life and be part of yours. Turns out, financial-services professionals can be a bunch of—no need to fill in the blank here—amazing people.
Which leads me to a final thought, one last nugget to share. Something that often gets discussed at at any organization is culture. What sort of culture do you have at work? What kind do you want? And how do you go about creating it? The answer is actually pretty simple: You show up. That is, your mere presence influences culture.
You are not part of the company. You are the company.
Everything you say and do—intentionally and otherwise—shapes the culture. Whether by challenging the status quo or embracing it, we all have the power to build more phenomenal workplaces. The most and least we can all do is bring our best selves to work and try to improve everything we touch. That’s exactly what I’ve done for the past two years. Many of you have too. And I will miss that.
Back off my soapbox, thank you all again for an amazing ride. Thank you especially to Julie. It takes a brilliant person to recognize the brilliance of others (see what I just did there!). I would never have taken a chance at this company had Julie not taken a chance on me. And a special thank you also to my twinn: That typo was for you!
I am excited for my next adventure, and I wish you spectacular greatness as you continue embarking on yours.