I had a series of posts in the queue about my timeline for downshifting in my current role, on my current team. As you may be able to infer from the lack of posts here, things did not go according to plan. Seemingly in response to my previous post about how the constant shuffling of resources and goals in large technology companies works against job satisfaction, my current team was broken apart, reassembled, and given a wholly new charter.
Following the laws of physics, this post contains my thoughts on my (equal and opposite) reaction to this force.
The Original Plan (formerly known as The Plan)
After assessing my finances, contemplating options for downshifting, and homing in on a solution, my plan was to go on a long vacation this summer, return to the office, and let my team know that I would be decreasing my hours (ideally while staying on the same team, if we could come to a mutual agreement). This was a bold and scary plan that I had been actively avoiding putting together for months, and it was a relief to finally have a timeline.
As teams gain experience, they naturally improve their ability to handle their charter. As a member of the team, this is satisfying because all of the initial uncertainty and associated flagellation fades away, even while more difficult tasks are thrown your way, because you are mastering your little slice of the world.
Technology management teams sense this increasing team confidence and morale, and even take notice of how the team is no longer griping about unrealistic expectations and schedules. Naturally, management’s response is to spread that morale around by splitting the successful team apart and distributing its constituents across various underwater teams (or entirely new teams with murky goals).
The above is a general observation of technology management practices, and also what happened to my most recent team (which I liked well enough that I didn’t want to leave it, even for a sabbatical).
The learning curve, again
After being shuffled onto a new team, the typical crisis of team identity and purpose followed, leading into a shortened but, maddeningly, still immovable schedule. I worked evenings and weekends for the first time since my previous team got our (now former) project under control.
In general, I enjoy learning new skills. But when schedules are made with no affordance for initially ramping up on a new area, I get annoyed because the end result is always unpaid work for the people who, you know, actually get things done. Combine that with my original plan to coast into a new downshifted reality, and I was highly perturbed.
In retrospect, this unexpected shift has actually increased the number of options readily available to me. On my previous team, I would have felt bad leaving a team that had been very good to me; now, not so much.
I could continue with my original plan (although, given I’m less essential to this new team, getting management to agree to me going part-time might be a challenge), seek out a new part-time role within the company, pursue a sabbatical, or just outright quit and find a new, more agreeable (and ideally part-time) job elsewhere.
Honestly, I’m not sure which path I’ll take. Now that my work responsibilities are just getting back under control, though, I have a lot of time to come up with Plan B.