Deciding against Career – Reloaded.

Come on you temptations of the rat race! I'll shoot you all... (Photo: Bretagne, France)

Come on you temptations of the rat race! I’ll shoot you all…!! (Photo: Bretagne, France)

Exactly one year ago, Woodpecker had a fair chance to take over a leadership position and decided against it (see here).

Two weeks ago now, another almost similar opportunity arose in Woodpecker’s job (Fate seems to have decided to deal out these dangerous career temptations to me in an annual rhythm 😉 ).

Again, after some thoughts, Woodpecker decided not to go for the promotion.

No why is that? I mean getting promoted, climb the ladder as quick as possible, maximizing income, status and POWER are the main goals of our lives, are they not?!

Well, not quite in my humble opinion…

Let me explain:

Obviously all the thoughts in the post last year are still valid.
But this time I digged a bit deeper and tried to find out if there is another reason that makes me back away from this kind of promotion in an almost intuitive way. I asked myself:

Are my intuition and my reasoning really reliable?

Or is there another reason that makes me so indifferent against “climbing up”? Maybe I only avoid the responsibility, or am I too coward to take the job?

So I took some hours out on the bike to ponder on that question (the bike seems to be the best place to think for Woodpecker).

And I came to the following:

I very much like my company.
They are a great employer.
They (in general) care for their employees, they pay well, they offer at least some flexibility and above average holidays and social benefits.
Business there is done with high ethical standards towards business partners, towards society and towards the environment.
As every company they are looking for profit, but fortunately not in a too greedy and short-sighted way. I really bow to some board members who stood their ground on various occasions where outside pressure was high to get “more efficient”, “more modern”, “more ambitious”, “more hungry”. They did right to stay stubborn, as many competitors virtually broke their necks while getting ambitious, modern and hungry going forward.

I like all of that very much about my company and it played an important part why I decided to join them and will probably stay loyal to them for quite some time to come.

But then unfortunately there is the other side of modern work life:

While being above average attractive, my company still is a 21st century corporate with most of the CRAZY stuff going on that you will see in any larger companies.
They have most of the usual dull bullshit bingo and internal propaganda crap going on, all the stupid slogans, the “corporate mindset”.
Many people (and the higher up you go the more) are somehow narrow-minded and take themselves, the company, their business and their little games far to serious.
Loads of political energy is wasted in small and big battles over POWER every day. Some decisions (although fortunately much less than I have seen in other firms) seem hectic, aloof, inconsequent or driven by consultant style theoretical insights far away from real practical relevance.

All of this being very much normal things in a bigger company, and luckily easy to ignore if you are working at an operative level.

All of you working in a similar company know:
You take all this crap as some kind of force of nature, you make your jokes about it, you mock and laugh, or you let it pass by behind you.
And often enough, you, along with almost all other colleagues, simply ignore all the fancy new, groundbreaking orders, swings and flavours of the month that are dripping down to your level as soon as a new big guy comes in and wants to leave his divine footprint.

You simply continue to do your work in a professional way, generate some income for the firm (hopefully enough to make you valuable), and apart from that you can enjoy your salary and family and max out your free time. Truth be told, in the end no one really expects that you wholeheartedly and 120% sign up to the newest company slogans. Because only some ambitious strange nerds in the strategy department or other ivory tower levels do.

And as long as results are fine and you don’t switch to open rebellion, no one will care what you think.

But all of this changes when you go into management:

If you get a manager, I’d expect that you DO sign up more or less fully to your companies values. You DO have to live them and to stand up for them. And you DO have to promote them inside and outside the company.

Nothing as pathetic as a boss who behaves as if he was still a normal employee.

Yes, I DO want that my boss explains me the new slogan and crazy strategy of my company such that I can have a fight with him if I don’t like what I hear. I DO want that he takes my complains and carries them upward, but also I would consider him weak if he continues to mock about company decisions as if he was one of the common pack. Because a manager is part of the company (…yes, yes, yes, don’t bully me, I know, I know, we are ALL part of the company (slogan 4211). But there IS a difference in committment, or at least there should be).

When signing up to a leadership position, you DO change side (only a slight switch on lower management level of course, but a switch anyway).

And I would expect a manager to make company business a clear top priority in his life, and not continue to focus on his private stuff (as I do).

A manager has to be reachable by blackberry, he cannot be away on Sabbatical all the time, he does have to attend the important exec-meeting at 6 p.m. (poor him).

Because that’s his job. That’s the deal:
He does not have to do the dirty tasks anymore, he can delegate and order, he is entitled to the bigger bonus and salary, a larger desk and a more shiny business card. But in return he has to take the responsibility, he has to show passion, he has to go the extra mile while we unimportant employees enjoy some time off loafing in the afternoon sunshine at the local lake.
And he does have to sign up to corporate identity and at least has to try to believe the flavour of the month.
That’s what good managers have to do – simply as this.

But then, personally, I really do not want that deal, I do not want to switch sides.

I love the mental independence of the side I’m on.
I love to have the freedom to say: “Sorry, but that is not my task as a simple employee, we need some management fire power here”. I am happy with the income I can generate from my expert role, I am happy with my tasks and the level of control I already have now and I love to put full weight on private things like travelling, maximizing holidays, having a good time with family and friends and keeping work second priority most of the time.

So I either would make a poor manager or I’d have to sell out part of my identity to become a good one (see my interview with a board member).

And I don’t want to sell out anything of my identity and my life – because, guess what – I came to like it over the years!

Plan is to downshift, and much of this is fighting back the role the job plays in life, instead of boosting it!

So, goodbye shiny business card and large desk – may you serve someone else and fill him/her with pride and POWER – I would not have appraised you sufficiently anyway…

Probably to be continued in one year… 😉 😉



5 comments on “Deciding against Career – Reloaded.

  1. Pribi says:


  2. Doris says:

    Greetings from Hong Kong. I came across your articles when I was looking for beach to go around Hamburg 🙂 I really like your writing and so decided to drop a line. Being a worker in one of the most stressful cities on earth and having just read 273 emails this morning upon my holidays, I have to say that I so agree with what you wrote. Work can’t be our first priority nor can it occupy most of our time as well as thoughts. There are much more things in life which are way more important. Sadly this is the way most people are here – working overtime everyday, attaining self-identity and self-satisfaction through work. I will try my best to defend my principles 🙂 Please keep on writing. Thanks for the inspiring words.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      You’re welcome and thanks for your feedback.
      I’ve never been to Hongkong but it sounds like people bow to much to the “work-is-great-and-will-make-you-happy” propaganda that is distributed by many interested groups today.

      Any chance to excape the rat-race there or should you consider moving away? Life feels much better if one is not fighting alone against an overwhelming majority…

  3. […] stress level was quite ok, around summer I made the mistake to think about promotion , which immediately brought the typical rat-race unrest into my mental state, but this fortunately […]

  4. […] you might have noticed, I de facto decided for the second. I would obviously love all the freedom PLUS a career, simply to max out Woodpecker family income […]

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