Some of you may already know that I’ve been looking for a new job, or that I’ve even already gotten a job offer if you’ve been following along on certain other platforms. If not, well I am switching jobs. Originally, I was with the company I chose to be at a few years ago, after quitting another undesirable employment situation (but for slightly different reasons than this one). But because of their decision to go in a different direction, I was just given over to one of our clients. So essentially, I still had a job, but it turned out not to be the kind of job I wanted to have for the next five years.
I originally took that job because it was the easy way out. Instead of having to spend evenings pouring over writing cover letters for several different companies, I’d already have a job at a stable* company. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things I didn’t know going into that job about working there, and the Kununu reviews weren’t all that stellar. On retrospect, I probably should have seen some of the signs much earlier from when my previous company shielded me from the management chaos and technical incompetence happening on their side. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have been sending out job applications a lot earlier. I considered it, but at the time, the things that bothered me were too minor or inconsistent to be worth the hassle of looking for another job.
A few things made me eventually seriously consider hunting for another job. Essentially, that I was still in Probezeit**, and didn’t have to wait too long to quit if I found another job, and my doubts about this job were confirmed by other people who felt the same way I did about working at that company.
Now if you are good at what you do, you have a lot of job mobility. If you don’t like your job, you can always look for another job elsewhere with a company that has a better cultural fit or does things the way you prefer. Of course, you can try to change your current company by offering them advice and just helping them out the best you can, but as a new employee, you don’t get much leverage if your position isn’t high up in the company, and if your higher ups don’t listen to you, there’s not really much you can do.
When I started job hunting, I didn’t know what other companies would think of me. I didn’t know if I would have any success at all. All I knew was that I didn’t like the job I had currently, and if I didn’t start looking, I would never even have a chance at a better job. It may well be that no one wants to hire me (for whatever reason), but you’ll never know unless you try.
Additionally, this comes at a much lower cost to me than someone else looking for a job. My supervisor has children, and no time to go job hunting. One of my co-workers is extremely occupied with his pets on his free time as well, and also likewise has no time for it either. I don’t have these restrictions. The only thing it costs me is an evening writing cover letters and having to schedule interview appointments around my work schedule, but it’s a lot less complicated than someone who has to drive children to school and other after school activities or has to occupy their pets’ attention. I didn’t simply decide on whim to go job hunting because of minor issues like I’m too lazy to make lunch myself instead of depending on restaurants or cantines to be nearby or because my job has a longer and busier commute or even that I’m stuck using Windows***. There were far more serious issues I had working at this company, and that was exactly what motivated me to begin job hunting and not simply contemplating the idea of doing it.
I was picky this time and selected companies that specifically did not have the problems from the first and current companies I worked at before, and was a bit worried that I wouldn’t get many responses. Another thing that put me at a disadvantage was not being sure if my level of German would be good enough for the job. This job gave me a pretty good idea that it might be possible to apply for jobs that require you to speak German, but previously, I applied to a lot fewer places because of the German requirement, and I didn’t want to misunderstand my employer if my understanding of German wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wonder if my efforts were going to waste. I was getting tons of responses and having to schedule interviews every week. Somehow, I was either lucky that the companies I picked wanted to expand, and were looking for software developers like me or I was just simply the right fit for many of those companies I was applying for.
While all this was happening, there was a thought I had at the back of my head. I very briefly mentioned being disatisfied about having to use Windows to my supervisor once. It wasn’t even a serious comment, and was made half heartedly. I have no idea if he picked up on that, because it appears he reacted to that badly and launched into a whole spiel about how I should be grateful to have a job. And yet here I was, hunting for jobs in spite of being told I have to be happy with the job I have.
My knee jerk thought to this was that my supervisor probably believes himself that he is grateful to have his job. I don’t believe gratitude must necessarily apply to ever other employee either, as the circumstances for their employment varies, but it was very obvious that he was grateful to have his job. So long as we exclude being hired by friends, my supervisor has no formal training, has no time to go on a job hunt because he has children, didn’t want to learn new technologies****, and didn’t follow the best practices used by most modern software developers–of course he is grateful to have his job because he would have a hard time finding another one in the same field if he was forced to look!
I remember reading about how Judge Judy managed to negotiate with the company that does her show and how she was able to convince them to pay her more to keep her. Essentially, she claims she was able to do it because they really depended on her to keep their TV ratings, and there weren’t a lot of other people who could do her job. She had written in a letter that if they didn’t agree to the pay she wanted, she would go to a different company. And she was confident about this because she knew her worth. She knew that any other company would be happy to have her and pay her what she wanted. She didn’t let the company decide for her what she was worth. Was she grateful to have a job? I can’t read her mind, but the fact she had such leverage and she knew it tells me whatever gratitude she had or didn’t have didn’t stop her from getting the job conditions she wanted. She could afford to do it because she and the other potential employers knew how valuable she would have been if she were hired.
If my supervisor decides I have to be grateful just to have a job, I’ll never know my true worth if I believe him. If I am just happy to have a job, how would I know that there might be a better job elsewhere with a company that recognizes my real worth better, pays me more and that there are many other companies willing to do all the things I expect from any company that my supervisor at this company won’t? Just applying for all these jobs and the responses I got was the evidence that this was the case for me. I don’t have to be grateful for a job I don’t like when any other company would be happy to have me. And now that I know plenty of other companies would like to have me, it’s more likely my employer should have been grateful I was around. Particularly if I had chosen to stay.
Another related reason employees should be grateful for their best employees is because they depend on them. I knew my employer depended on me because when I told my employer I was quitting, they sat me down and tried to convince me to stay. I felt they had not taken any of my concerns nor the concerns of my other colleagues seriously until I had clearly told them I was leaving. I apparently held enough weight at that company that they didn’t want me to just leave. If your employees are easy to replace, then there is no gratitude lost on them, but when you have star employees that you find difficult to replace, and they, for whatever reason, choose to stay even if they could easily land a better job elsewhere, you need to be grateful.
But telling your employees they need to be grateful to have a job is insulting. I received plenty of other hints from my supervisor that he was trying to convince me and my co-workers that we were doing well and that we were doing “great” things, but I don’t wear the rose-colored glasses and can tell if things are going south. I get the impression that other than throwing the occasional compliments (which he probably believes anyways), telling his employees they should be grateful is a last ditch attempt to shut down any efforts to hunt for other jobs because it’s like saying, why bother looking, you’re already happy here. Probably, my supervisor is unaware that this is what he is doing, and isn’t aware his situation doesn’t reflect mine or some of my other co-workers’, but when you have nothing else with which to convince employees to stay, and don’t have real good reasons to convince employees you are worth working for, it does sound like trying to convince people they should be grateful is the only other recourse they have for making people stay. It’s sadly not a good one, and I can see that bullshit for what it’s worth.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not ungrateful when I have a job. I didn’t quit this job until I had another job offer lined up. But you can be grateful and at the same time, admit that your current job is not where you want to be for the next five years at least, and that there is a chance you can work at a better job that fits you better. If you have job mobility, gratitude is not required, and it should not be considered strange that you can pick the company you work for (provided they’re happy to have you of course). The only time you have to be grateful to have a job is if your job prospects completely suck and you can’t get a job anywhere else. Or if you haven’t worked hard for it, and you are easy to replace. It is true that you may have to invest effort in job hunting and tying up loose ends with the current company and any other co-workers there you might still like, but having a job at a company is not the same relationship as a relationship with a friend. Working for a company is a business relationship, and in a business relationship, there is no room for loyalty. You may worry about whether or not the company will get through without you, but in most cases, they will do fine without you, and even if they didn’t, it is not something to get upset about.
*After being at that company for a few months, I soon learned that the company isn’t actually as stable as they make themselves out to be but manage to stay afloat from a combination of sheer luck and previous customers being accustomed to higher prices.
**Probezeit is German for the initial trial period you spend at a company for the first 6 months. During this time, your vacation hours are less and your quitting terms are shorter. Probezeit for new jobs in Germany are entirely normal, and for regular kinds of employment, required. Hire and fire is not a typical employment model in Germany.
***I hate Windows. It appears to be a modern idea that employees should be allowed to pick the OS they use at work, and there are some studies that show that employees who get this choice are more motivated.
****Learning new technologies is expected if you are working as a software developer.