Lunaya Pravda

10 August 2007

Rumpled spirit

Internal conflict seems to be the order of the day, lately.

On the one hand, I have an incredibly lucrative job offer from a reputable firm, a firm that sought me out to recruit. On the other, I have my current employer who is putting up a fight for me to remain. I am now, unhappily, the rope in a difficult, tense game of tug-o-war.

The new offer with Company A comes with a greater salary (and future salary potential) and more paid time off. It's in a field I'm slightly less enthusiastic about, but I'm giving it serious consideration because of the doors it would open for me financially. I'd be able to work from home more often, and in the next year would be moving to an office that would give me a third of the commute I have now.

But (again, you knew that was coming), there are potential pitfalls, too. The EFC is the one offering the job and under whom I'd be working, which is sending up "too good to be true" flags. She is the glass ceiling staring me in the face: I'll never get above her while we're at the same company. I have less of a feel for their workload, both current and future, and its swings, which worries me--I get bored and start hating my job when I'm not busy. Though my last job change was for several very specific reasons and goals, I've been something of a drifter, and it's starting to get dangerous to put that all on my resume. It makes me look flaky. And finally, it might be unwise to start over with no seniority and no one who can verify the value and quality of my work with the economy in such a questionable state of flux.

And then there's Company B. Company B is by far the best place I've ever worked. I like most of the people, the work is challenging and interesting, and they've really worked to preserve a great atmosphere despite a recent spate of somewhat alarming growth. My manager is by far the best person I've ever reported to. He's straight up and honest, and a fierce advocate for those of us under him. Were it not for the money, I'd never have even considered leaving.

When I dropped the bomb on my manager, the shock on his face was so palpable I couldn't stop shaking--not from fear, but from guilt. I don't handle confrontation particularly well (that secondary Amiable characteristic coming out), and I actually broke into tears when I returned to the blissful sanctuary of my cubicle (at least I held it together until I could retreat). I've spent the last 36 hours beating and berating myself for both what feels like a betrayal and for crying at all. Why does emotion, having nowhere else to go, leak out my eyes instead?

It was painfully clear that he never, not for one instant, saw this coming. After a stunned silence and some regrouping, he leveled with me that wheels were in motion to adjust my salary upwards, even before my news hit. And then he asked if I'd be willing to entertain a counteroffer. He then emailed the internal management team, the partners, and any project managers with whom I work regularly who weren't already on either of the first two lists--basically an all-hands alert to the powers within the company.

Later, one of the partners with whom I work regularly came up and said he'd heard a rumor that I was leaving. I eventually told him yes, but I think my countenance betrayed me even before I said it. He, too, expressed shock, and said they were working on a counteroffer because they'd hate to lose me. Funny how advocates can crawl out of the woodwork, smoked out by the pheromones of crisis...

Today, they countered, and it's sadly not what I was really hoping for. In truth, it was like pleading with a lover you hope is going to give you a reason to stay, only to have them dash your hopes by telling you that they can't mount a decent fight for you. They've thrown money at me, sure, but only about half the raise from Company A. (Company B's salary offer is more than my manager makes now.) And more vacation is politically sticky. But they've given me a generously wide range of career options that are worth considering, all of which involve advancement and more authority. And all this at a company whose future and workload in which I have more trust... they're the devil I know.

Part of their fear--justifiably, if I look at this from their position--is that they don't want to give me too much of a raise BEFORE I take on all these additional responsibilities. And I think that's fair. My mom had the brilliant idea of staying on with the provision that after a year, we renegotiate my salary based on performance, and they're open to that.

So, is money everything, or does happiness count even though it doesn't pay the bills? If I have to slow headway on my financial goals in order to stay where I am, is that foolish? If I stay, will they think me a pushover who can't pull the trigger on an opportunity? If I leave, will I constantly be looking back to see if I made the wrong choice? Do I take the means to an end, or the thing that makes me happier?

My head is swirling with an interminable sea of questions, none of which have answers. I can't eat, and sleep comes only in 2-hour windows. I feel like every corner of my brain is stuck in endless compute cycles of agony over having to make a choice I never had really mentally prepared to face. Nothing else matters right now.

My manager knows how tough this is on me, and I think he regrets that. When we talked this evening, he asked if I needed anything else, and I jokingly said I needed someone to make the decision for me. He, without any hesitation, responded "I'll do it!" Grateful for even a little humor, I laughed and said that no, I need someone impartial and that he doesn't qualify.

What do you guys think? Money first, happiness second, or vice versa? What would you do?

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