Well, now I’ve gone and done it! I gave my two weeks notice to my manager last Monday. I’ve been with my current employer for 16 years, but it was an easy decision to make. You’ll see why as I tell you what happened over the first six months of 2012. I haven’t shared much of the story here because I think many people expect me to “retire” in 2013 when I turn 40. I wasn’t sure if I would actually do it this year and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone if I couldn’t do it in 2012.
Now that I have taken concrete action, I feel free to share more. I’m sure long time readers could tell something was in the air because I wrote quite a few passionate posts recently.
So here is the whole tale. First of all, I got a bad annual review for the first time in 16 years this April. This wasn’t entirely unexpected because I really did not perform well in 2011. My motivation was gone and I was dragging. The bad review wasn’t unexpected, but it was tough to swallow. Who wants to hear that they got a D in class? This bad review set off a chain of events that led to the resignation letter I handed in last week.
Before we continue, let’s talk about how my health was doing in early 2012. The truth is I have been feeling terrible for a long time and I place the blame squarely on the job. Here are the problems I was dealing with in April.
- Shoulders. My shoulders were always painfully tight. This was due to sitting in front of the computer for 8-12 hours per day. I consulted with the ergonomic department and they came out to adjust my chair and workstation. However, that really didn’t help much so I sought additional health care. I went to see my doctor and got a referral for physical therapy. I had about 15 PT sessions which really helped and my shoulders are feeling almost normal now.
- Eyes. Over the last year or so, my right eye had been blurry and fatigued after a long day in front of the computer monitor. By the end of the day, it became difficult for me to read documents and emails on the monitor. I have pretty bad myopia and I have been putting a lot of strain on my eyes for years. I saw several optometrists about this, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. However, I know that my eyes feel better when I spend less time on the computer.
- Headache. I was having headaches all the time and it sucked to be feeling that way so often.
- Back. I’m sure all office workers have to deal with lower back pain at some point. I don’t like it.
- Depression. Here is the big one. I was feeling really stressed out due to the performance issue and increasing pressure at work. Here are some symptoms that I had – insomnia, chronic fatigue, short temper, weight loss, and problems with concentration. Normally, I am a very easy going guy and I rarely lose my temper and I didn’t like how I was behaving. Thankfully, I’ve never had any thoughts about death or suicide.
Medical Leave of absence
OK, where were we? I got a bad review, I was pissed off and talked to HR about my options. I asked if it is possible to get a severance package and go our separate ways with the bad annual review. The HR told me that they only consider that option if an employee had multiple bad reviews. I work in the highly profitable core area of my company and there is no layoff on the horizon for my group. Think of it this way — if I worked for Microsoft, I would be in the Windows operating system department.
I also talked to my manager and asked him to look into a severance package, but he was not helpful. I think he’d rather keep me working even at the lower performance than trying to find a replacement. It is difficult to find an employee with the right experience for this job. I also think he liked having a scapegoat around so he can use up the bad review quota for his group. The perfect annual review should have 5% superstars, 5-10% dead weights, and the rest can be in the middle of the pack.
Anyway, since I have been a long time employee and have been a good performer previously, the HR suggested a Leave of absence instead. At this point, I was feeling very crappy and went to see my doctor. He gave me two weeks off initially, but I was able to obtain 10 weeks of medical leave. Fortunately, I was smart enough to buy Short Term Disability insurance which replaced my paychecks during that time.
Warning: The official cause of the medical leave was depression. If you are tempted to fake depression, I wouldn’t do it. This will go on your medical record and it might affect your health care options later on.
Handed in my two weeks notice
During the time off, I talked to a psychiatrist and continued my physical therapy. The talk therapy actually helped solidify my decision to quit and begin a new chapter. The only deterrence I potentially had was my finances. Anyway, my return to work date was last Monday and I decided to hand in my 2 week notice on that day.
You know the old story about the frog and a pot. If you turn up the temperature a little at a time, the frog won’t notice it. That’s what it was like for me. The pot was getting too hot and I was malfunctioning for a while now. After 10 weeks off, I won’t jump back into that pot of boiling water. If I didn’t get the extended time off, I probably could have ground it out until next year. Financially, we would be more ready next year, but I honestly think we’ll be fine.
The job was no longer a good fit for me. The expectation for a senior engineer is different than for a new hire. The manager expected a lot from me and I just wasn’t able to deliver. At this point in my career, I needed to be a multiplier and work through others. Unfortunately, that’s not my talent. I am good at my own job and enjoy being an individual contributor and I am terrible at the whole multiplier BS. Feeling gradually forced into becoming a “leader”, I was just not motivated anymore and the only reason I went to work was for the paycheck. I hated going into work in the morning and that’s not sustainable.
The only thing I regret was that I couldn’t get any severance pay. Financial Samurai released his book, How to Engineer Your Layoff, two days after I handed in my notice. If I didn’t take the medical leave, his book would have helped me with the severance package. I think I would have a good chance of getting a decent severance package if I grind the rest of this year out and get another bad review. However it is 10 more months until next April and that’s a really long time to be stressed out and depressed. This would in turn, cause Mrs. RB40 to be stressed as well.
Anyway, I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I am quite euphoric since I handed in my resignation letter. I have a spring in my step again and I’m getting my confidence back. The job is actually a great job, but it’s no longer a good fit for me. The worst case is that I’ll have to go back to work once baby RB40 starts school. On the other hand, if I can be build up some income from this site and perhaps pursue other self employment opportunities, I’ll have the freedom that I always craved.
This one was pretty long, but I hope you understand where I am coming from and had a good read. It’s surprisingly cathartic to write this post down. Now I’m really ready for the new chapter in my life. Thanks everyone for the support!
How we’re doing?
It’s been about 6 months since I quit my engineering career and I couldn’t be happier. Life is great and I’m enjoying being a stay at home dad blogger. We did OK financially in 2012, but 2013 will determine if I can really avoid going back to work for a corporation. If we can keep increasing our net worth while avoid withdrawing from our retirement funds, we should be fine for the long run. Our net worth increased 25% in 2012, but my goal for 2013 is much more modest at 7%. Have a prosperous 2013!
Follow up – How Is Life One Year Into Retirement?
How’s life 2 years after retirement? – Pretty darn good. 🙂
3 years after retirement and still living the dream.
4 years after early retirement and I feel really good about my life.