Loving and Leaving My Job

Author: Yugal SehgalOriginally published on October 31, 2020

Disclaimer: The following story is a unilateral telling of real-life events from the author's life and is not intended to discredit any person or company involved. All efforts have been made to keep sensitive details protected. The reader is advised to read it as such.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, leaving my job with just five days left in my notice period. That's rash, I know. You might call it stupid, too. Five days. I worked there for a hundred and four days, surely five more wouldn't have been too many.

This was my first job out of college, a support specialist role for a global online advertising platform—a sophisticated kind of customer service, if you may—and I loved it. I loved the global aspect of it. We were serving The Americas, you see. Unfortunately, this meant night work for me and that was the hardest part of the job for me.

A couple months in, night shift began affecting my health and well-being, and absorbing other parts of my life. My sleep and consumption cycles were disrupted, and it started to show on my face and body. I rarely saw any sun, and life outside work was primarily restricted to sleeping. I began to dread evenings, not because I didn’t want to go to work, but because I would see everyone leave office while I was on my way to it. That was a very unpleasant feeling.

But work was well. Each day I would help some 16 clients or so set up & improve their marketing campaigns, and learn a lot with—and from—them in the process, about all things business and otherwise. That made it all worth it to me.

Most of my calls were very constructive and would go on for a couple hours at least. I would try to educate my patron as much as I could, and they would try to make the most of our one chance at conversation—each call would connect them to a different representative. They would thank me generously afterwards, and I would thank them the same. Making their day would make my own.

Occasionally, someone would stretch the call unnecessarily long and test my patience, or call me “bonehead”—or something to that effect, or demand to talk to someone not Indian, or ask to be transferred to my supervisor, but that was infrequent. Just a normal day at work for a customer service rep. The many good calls would make up for the few bad ones. Always.

Illustration by the author. © Yugal Sehgal

Soon, however, the health detriments of work—or night job to be precise—began to outweigh the psychological pleasures and monetary benefits of it, and I decided it was time for change. I was still an on-job trainee at this point so I didn’t think leaving would be much of a problem. But…

As fate would have it, the day I chose to put in my notice coincided with the day I graduated from my on-job training; a very odd spot to be in if you’re considering leaving your job. I decided it was best to submit my notice first thing so that my new manager and teammates didn’t feel responsible for it. The prospect of doing so was very discomforting and it was the least enjoyable thing I did, but I had to do it.

My new manager was a nice guy, the fist-bumping-when-you-met-him kind of nice. We struck a nice conversation about my hometown in our first meeting—he surprisingly knew a lot about it—and it wasn’t as awkward to talk to him as I anticipated it to be. He wasn’t pleased, of course, to learn that I wanted to leave. He reasoned with me and asked me to reconsider, but then he understood my case and helped me with the proceedings.

My last month at work wasn’t bad either. I learned more in that short span than I did in the previous months, sometimes through bitter experience, but it made me a better performer every day. The calls were tougher, more complicated, but the challenges were just as exciting. The first half of the month went by quite smoothly. The second half, not so much.

Artwork by the author. © Yugal Sehgal

This was mid-fall, and I felt under the weather a little more than I would’ve liked to. I suffer from a nasal allergy, and let’s just say that winter (cold season) isn’t very kind to you if you have that. It affected my work, and admittedly, I wasn’t at my best. I had to take extra breaks on a couple occasions because of it, and that faltered my work. The call flow was also heavier around this time, with the holiday season approaching and what not. The 16 calls now averaged 19.

That, coupled with three bad calls one day, affected my performance, and more so my performance metrics. I wasn’t proud of it. And naturally, neither was my manager. On my hundred and third day, six days before my last one (would’ve been), he summoned me. Something told me it wasn’t going to be a pleasant meeting. And it wasn’t.

“You know, I can arrange for you to leave early without any recompense on your part,” my manager said to me, without looking away from his laptop.

“What?” I asked in shock, “What do you mean?”

“I can arrange an early exit for you, you wouldn’t have to pay anything. You can enjoy your last week off.”

“Why would you say that?” I was disheartened. “Is it because of my performance this week?”

“Yeah, that. And the breaks.”

“I am really sorry about my performance. This week has been very hard. I’ve been getting 19 calls in a day, and some really tough ones at that. But I don’t want to make any excuses, I’m open to your feedback and willing to improve. What can I do differently? It won’t happen again,” I said. “And I will take better care of the breaks,” I added.

“I don’t have time to give you feedback. Look, I have lost a lot of incentive money in the last few months, I don’t want to lose more,” he said, finally looking at me.

This ... left me speechless. Worse, this left me feeling unvalued. In a team of a dozen, of which I had been a part for scarcely a month, I found this unfairly accusatory. Surely there must’ve been a lot more to factor in for him to lose his incentive money, I thought, particularly if it had been happening for the last few months. I acknowledged my bad performance for that week, but I knew that it wasn’t bad enough to warrant THAT treatment. I slowly made my way back to my cubicle. This wasn’t right, I kept thinking.

I was restless for the hour that followed. So my boss would rather have me leave early than give me feedback to try to do better, I thought, even if only for a few more days. My boss would rather have me leave early than have a meeting with the team to analyse what could’ve been causing this problem for the last few months and what could be done to change that, I thought. My boss would rather have me leave early ... that was all I could think.

So I decided to give my boss just that and formally requested the next day (October 31, 2019) to be made my last—and agreed to pay the difference. That was the most I could do for my dignity. I understood his frustrations, even if I didn’t agree with them. He did, after all, manage more than 10 people, so I understood that I was just one problem on his mind, and probably an easier one to solve as he saw I was already on my way out, but that meeting, that last meeting, was an insinuating way to let someone know what you want from them.

Perhaps I had caught him in a bad moment because he later seemed a little contrite about it and asked me a fair few times if I was sure about my request. He even encountered me in the parking lot and asked me again if I was “really” sure about it. That restored some of his niceness in my mind.

My last day was as good as any, and the calls as pleasant as ever. I was granted an early logout by my manager so I could take my time in saying goodbye to my friends and colleagues. It was a bittersweet feeling but I was thankful to him for letting me have that.

Despite that last meeting, I have fond memories of my job and am very grateful to have had the experiences that I had there. Of the many lessons I learned during that time, the most profound and oddly curious one was that you can love the work that you do, but the circumstances surrounding it and the people that you do it with, can make just the difference in you wanting to keep doing it or not. It was a powerful lesson. It was a powerful experience.

Five days. I worked there for a hundred and four days, and surely five more wouldn't have been too many. But when your dignity is undermined and you’re made to feel unwelcome, no matter by whom and where, I think even five seconds is a little too many.

Yugal Sehgal writes about life, mindfulness, and people. He lives in India. Follow him and @drawcuments on Instagram.