Good people get into bad situations. Over at Hacker News, a storm of insight is abrewing over the travails of a pseudonymed engineer who's gotten mired in a toxic organization.
How toxic? Leadership has made bad decisions; any efforts of change are met with waves of opposition. From what the poster says, it's time to leave.
- "I have lost confidence in our leads, business or otherwise. It seems that severe lack of competence is to blame on both sides. It is vented in boardrooms albeit politely and it's probably even worse behind closed doors. I don't feel comfortable bringing suggestions up as I was instructed that I'm not the source of change. I should privately let my superiors know so that they in turn could bring it up. I did, it went nowhere."
So it's time for our frustrated dev to backflip out of the mess. The question, then, is when and how to leave. Three lines of advice emerged:
- "Take the time to book an appointment with your employer to resign in person," she writes. "While an official resignation letter might be necessary based on your employment contract, you can hand this in to your boss during your meeting instead of emailing it to him or her before your discussion."
What can you learn from being in a toxic workplace? How not to do things.
- "Start studying the people who are dysfunctional," he writes. "Find how how complete idiots maintain a lock on their power base, what techniques do they use if it is clearly not skill in their job."
This works in positive cases, too: Study the people that do well and try to understand the functions of their high-functioning.
Another option, perhaps for people with hearty psychological resilience, is to expend the minimum amount of energy at your crap job and bootstrap something awesome on the side.
For creative folks, the stability of the stuck workplace can be an asset: It allows you to create something volatile on the side. The enthusiastically contrarian Nassim Taleb said as much in his Antifragile and his correpondence with us.
- "Never go for medium profession," he wrote to us. "Literary writers should have a menial job or (if possible) a sinecure, and write on the side. Otherwise writing for a living under other people's standards debases their literature. The same for artists. The best philosophers were not academics, but had another job, so their philosophy was not corrupted by careerism."
So, in a weird way, a stifling job can actually make you more free.
[Image: Flickr user Thomas Bresson]