Is This Job Worth It?
This post technically isn't about me. It's about a friend, a lousy job situation, and soliciting feedback from our readers for a friend of mine.
Tiffany is an engineer who works for a small start-up. She makes a very good salary, has benefits, and doesn't have a particularly heavy workload at the moment (her company is building a product, so the work comes in fits and starts, so she's been chilling for a couple of months while the hardware is being built). Anyway, Tiff is kind of bored right now, but otherwise OK. She's the only female in her office, and works with about 12 men who are much older than she is (she's 27, they're all about 45-57).
She feels well-respected and knows that she has plenty to offer the company. The CEO seems to like her, she gets long well with everyone.
Tiff recently became close with a coworker named Mike. Not close-close in a here-comes-the-lawsuit kind of way, but so that they discussed their lives with each other. Mike could complain about his college-age daughters to Tiffany, and she would assure him that they would turn out fine. They both discussed their concerns over the direction of their company, which was erratic, to say the least.
Mike's job was to coordinate several engineering projects, although he wasn't technically a manager. Mike got along well with the CEO, and idea-man who is big on vision and short on business plans. He was one of the few people who could tell the CEO when he was getting off-track.
A few weeks back, the company almost went under. Funding wasn't coming in as expected, and paychecks were delayed. Tiffany and everyone else started sending their resumes out to old coworkers and recruiters, but kept working for the company with the CEO's reassurance that the checks were in the mail.
When Tiff and Mike were having lunch one day, and talking about where they were going, Tiff expressed some of her concerns about the proprietary nature of the job. Because everything that they are developing is very hush-hush, Tiff isn't able to say much on her resume beyond "I coded some things that I have to kill you over if you knew about them." She told Mike that she was worried about continuing to work for a company that wouldn't put a product out for two years, and she'd have nothing to show for it on her resume in the meantime, should she need to find a new job.
Mike started discussing the company's non-compete contract, something that all employees are required to sign. The non-compete had been written and rewritten, with several rounds being rejected by the employees because they were far too strict. The final had not yet been drafted, and thus, no one had signed it. Mike stressed that if Tiffany were to leave, she would need to sign it.
"Mike," said Tiffany, "I'm not signing that. I'd never get hired anywhere else if they knew I signed that thing. You know that. I know that. That's why no one signed it."
Mike shrugged and kept eating his hotdog. He later said something about wanting to ensure that Tiffany stayed onboard, which Tiff thought was nice. Then they discussed his job prospects at his old employer, and the positions that Tiffany was interviewing for, just in case the company went under.
A couple of days later, Tiffany was called into the CEO's office. The CEO, Jim, was red in the face. He told Tiffany not to take what he was about to say in the wrong way, and then launched into a rambling lecture about the importance of focusing on one's job. When Tiffany tried to assess what he was talking about, he said something like "I can't have you looking sideways, looking for other jobs, always looking around for a better position." Tiffany explained that she wasn't always looking around, but that she had sent out her resume like everyone else when the paychecks stopped coming.
Tiffany was understandably upset, realizing that Mike had ratted her out. Technically, she hadn't done anything wrong, and since everyone, including Mike, was putting out employment feelers, she didn't see the need for all the blustering. The CEO then said, "Now, going forward, this isn't going to affect your job here at all. We like you, and we want you here," which Tiffany immediately realized was code for "This is definitely something that we will hold against you for a long time." When she got up to leave, feeling like she would either cry or scream at any minute, Jim added, "We need to you to be 100% on-board. We need enthusiasm. We can't have anyone half-assing this."
Now, engineers are not an enthusiastic bunch. Tiffany felt like she was being given the "You need to wear more flair" speech. Half-ass? She worked as hard as anyone else at the company.
That's when Mike came to her desk and asked if he could talk to her. Slightly pissed at him, she followed him to the conference room, where Mike proceeded to explain that not only had he told the CEO that Tiff was looking for a new job, but that she was refusing to sign the non-compete. Basically, Mike had told her boss that she was leaving the company, and was taking the technology with her.
Tiffany didn't know what to say, so she got up and left.
An hour and a half later, a company meeting was called, and it was announced that Mike was now in charge of Tiff's projects. Basically, Tiffany was demoted, and Mike was put in charge of her.
Now, Tiffany is in a rough place. She hates Mike with all of her heart, and knows that what he did, he did for the purposes of climbing the corporate ladder, which is kind of odd in an office of less than 15 people. Although she has since clarified her position and intentions to the CEO, and signed the new non-compete along with the rest of her coworkers, she can't help but want to stab Mike through the eyeball with a sharpened #2 pencil.
I've listened to Tiff's woes over a beer or two, and I can't think of a single good bit of advice to give her. She could retaliate against Mike and casually mention the times that he commented on the CEO's wife's ass. She could quit and do some contracting, because permanent jobs are hard to come by. Or she could just suck it up and work with Mike, reporting to Mike, and simply never speak to him about anything personal again.
What would you do in this situation? Me, all I can think of is a good punch to the jaw, but Tiff isn't known for her skills left hook. Also, I'm not sure I'd even be in the same position, because I prefer to hold my cards close to my chest and discuss next to nothing with coworkers. So I'm stuck between telling her that it's her fault for being so trusting, and helping her let the air out of the guy's tires.