Sunday, June 16, 2024

Over the Edge: Quitting with panache

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Illustration by Daniel Guidera

If you’re an average IT pro, you’ll switch jobs six times in your career. This is according to Leo DeVoe, who is not an industry analyst, but he’s written a nice freeware random number generator.

And you don’t need a Magic 8 Ball to tell you that the times, they are a changin’. Our industry has never had as many employment opportunities as it does now. But while most of the media focus has been on how you can secure a new, more lucrative position, little ink has been devoted to quitting your old job. “Indeed,” DeVoe says, “six out of five people don’t know how to quit effectively.”

While DeVoe’s statistical generator may not be ready for prime time, his message is: “Your termination should speak for you,” he says. “It should be your magnum opus.”

Here, then, is your guide to a purposeful resignation.

Don’t burn bridges

“Leave on good terms” has always been the mantra, the rationale being that you may need a good reference or want to come back some day. DeVoe says that’s all bunk. “In these litigious times, old employers are limited in what they can divulge,” he says. “If you need good references, use friends and colleagues.” And as far as coming back, DeVoe says, “rehire status” is HR propaganda–only two of 1,000 employees boomerang back to their old jobs.

Unless parting isn’t such sweet sorrow

You typically take a new job because you don’t like the old one. Maybe it doesn’t pay what you think you’re worth, your department was inequitably funded, or management didn’t know its cache from its elbow. Whatever the reason, you need to get it off your chest at the exit interview so you’ll be able to start your next job trek with a clean mental slate.

But maybe you’re a bit intimidated. Maybe you think that during your exit interview, HR will desperately promise you things will change. They will point out how just recently the company breakroom was stocked with those cool colored flex-straws and a countertop reverse osmosis drinking water spigot. Or, more likely, maybe you just can’t find the words to express your contempt.

That’s where we come in. We can’t liberate you from the gulag, but we can help you make them sorry they soured you.

So take a deep breath, and find some glasses like Michael Douglas wore in the movie Falling Down because you’re about to make the Reservoir Dogs look like 101 Dalmations; you’re a volcano about to go Pompeii on the place. By the time you’re done getting your message across, a WWF Smackdown is going to look like a quilting bee. But enough with the analogies. You have a few critical assignments to complete before you’re escorted out.

Illustration by Daniel Guidera

Let’s start with Krazy Glue, which, next to onion-flavored chewing gum, is probably the most useful tool for exacting revenge. Put a dab on:

  • the ENTER key of any target workstation so it can’t be pressed.

  • all the current workstation network cards just before the scheduled hardware upgrade.

  • the server backup tapes, so they won’t spin when a restore is necessary.

  • the videoconference camera focus knob, set to “infinity.”

  • the CD-ROM tray of the AS/400 that runs mission critical applications, so when emergency maintenance needs to be applied, they’ll all share a hearty laugh.

and whatever else you think will have them remembering you fondly.

Huh? You still have some Krazy Glue left? Boy, they sure get a lot into those little tubes, don’t they? And it would just be a damn shame for it to go to waste. Well, why not take it down to the corporate fitness room and apply it sparingly to the bottom of the ten-pound barbells your favorite manager uses to impress the administrative help.

If you’re into sophomoric office pranks (and it’s not a prerequisite, by the way) you can take the hinge pins off the lunchroom fridge. Move the condiment bottles to the door shelves first for added impact. It’s a merry half-hour clean up. Or at least normally it would be a half-hour, but you’ve taken care to slash the bottoms of all the lunchroom trash bags. Sure it’s shameful, but you’re making a statement here, so who has time for guilt. Oh, and poke a few holes in the coffee filters. It adds texture to the morning brew.

On your way out of the lunchroom, stop by the mailroom, drop a dead fish in an interoffice envelope (mullet–if you can get it) and address it to some imaginary person in a department that was eliminated in the last reorg. By the time the envelope gets passed around a few times, it’ll take on a personality of its own, albeit a foul one. It’s hard to imagine you started your career there as a happy cog in the wheel, isn’t it?

And don’t limit your tirade to just one person or department. You can change system messages and expound your political views to the entire organization. For example, “Management’s move to deny domestic partner benefits to Palm Pilots is but a further oppression of the proletarian technical staff…Welcome to OS/400 V4R2.” Of course, if you have access to source code, you can do even more damage.

They’ve probably grown accustomed to bugs in the software. But what about bugs in the hardware? With the aid of a mail-order scientific supply company that doesn’t ask too many questions, you can dump a pack of dung beetle larvae, maggots, or cicada eggs (the latter, a seventeen year “time release” type) inside a warm RS/6000 and then read about it in the trade magazines long after you’ve left.

As a final act of impudence, open a standard diskette, replace the magnetic disk inside with 600-grit sandpaper, reseal it, and label it “Head Cleaner.” Leave it on your superior’s desk. That’s what he gets for promising you a six-figure salary and not telling you about the leading zero.

The point of all this isn’t to launch your own personal jihad. In fact, there’s nothing nefarious at all about it. You owe it to those colleagues left behind to leave an accurate account of why you’re leaving. In time, if enough people, er, “express” their discontent, things may change for the better. But even if they don’t, for you, it’s cathartic. And if your old management can’t appreciate that, there’s always //

Important disclaimer: This column is for entertainment purposes only. When necessary, someone should tell inept management that the emperor has no clothes–and that opportunities and morale have sunk to an intolerable low–but we don’t really advocate destructive practices like the ones described here in order to make the point. You have to admit, though, it’s fun to think of the mayhem that would raise your rather uneventful tenure to legendary status.

Chris Miksanek is the editor of MISinformation and may be reached at

Crystal-clear exit interview ambiguity

Exit interviews are rife with noncritical, noncommittal non sequitur. Most are also noneffective nonsense.

This is your one time to lay it all on the line and possibly effect change for your former colleagues. But what do you typically do? Speak in code. Too often, though, that “code” is misinterpreted and you’re tagged as just another malcontent.

Here are some examples of the crucial need to clearly articulate your reasons for leaving.

What you say: “I’m leaving to pursue a new opportunity.”
What they hear: “Jumping for the money. This employee can’t be pleased.”
What you really mean: “The new opportunity I’m leaving to pursue is the reclamation of my dignity, which you’ve slowly stripped me of over these past twelve years of loyal service. It was either that or open a vein.”

What you say: “I’m starting my own business.”
What they hear: “This employee has delusions of grandeur, and wants to be CEO of our company. This employee can’t be pleased.”
What you really mean: “There was time when this organization operated as an esprit de corps. There was synergy, and we were each able to make an impact. But we’ve grown into a corporation replete with overhead. Process and administration have taken precedence over innovation, and if you all don’t see that, you must be on glue!”

What you say: “My spouse has been transferred out of town so we need to relocate.”
What they hear: “Counter-offer of colorful flex-straws and a countertop reverse-osmosis drinking water spigot was rebuffed. This employee can’t be pleased.”
What you really mean: “My wifeI think I’ll keep her. She empowers me to tell you all to take the pipe!”

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