Reflections on corporate resignations

I have a question:

Do demanding corporate jobs take toll on your life and family?

Don’t misunderstand – I am not at all against corporates nor do I see them as evils! I know that it would be almost impossible to execute some herculean projects without them. Moreover, I also believe that with some insightful and thoughtful HR practices, it is possible to assign work aligned with skills and aspirations of an individual within an organization. Likewise, there are few thoughtful individuals who take up a corporate job only when they know that job-profile is aligned with their own purpose, aspirations and the organizational work-culture suits their preferred work style as well. Let’s acknowledge these minorities, but exclude them for the rest of this article. My friend and business coach/mentor Sachin Chavan is doing excellent work aligning individual’s core purpose with suitable work within organizations. May the tribe grow! 🙂

However corporates also exist to maximize profits through their work. Often bottom-line and maximizing productivity result in pushing individuals in work-schedule that makes their life incredibly hectic leaving little time for their family or other interests. Unless the key stake-holders firmly believe in providing meaningful work and offering better work-life balance to their employees, individual corporate workers have little control over the work that they do and how they do it.

Many individuals carry on with their soul-sapping yet demanding jobs, but few individuals realize what is missing in their life and decide to act on it. I had written about Ellen Huerta and her famous article: Why I Left Google on this website earlier. It is not just about Ellen, there are many such examples. Here is an interesting resignation letter from illustrious Google CFO Patrick Pichette where he says he is resigning to spend more time with his family. Here are some excerpts from his resignation letter –

We give a lot to our jobs. I certainly did. And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.
I remember telling Tamar a typical prudent CFO type response I would love to keep going, but we have to go back. It’s not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us – Boards, Non Profits, etc

But then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air.

A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going?

~ Excerpts from Patrick Pichette’s resignation letter

You can read his complete resignation letter here:  After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google.

Patrick Pichette was Senior Vice President and CFO of Google Inc. During his time at Google, the company grew into a large multinational company but was accused of avoiding paying tens of billions of dollars of taxes on profits it would have owed through a convoluted scheme of inter-company licensing agreements and transfers to tax havens.

It is interesting to note the tax avoidance accusations from a corporate legend and you may want to search more information about the controversial tax avoidance mechanism (you may want to use another search engine though! :P).  Talking about the corporate greed, recently Free Basics proposed by Facebook has become quite controversial in India.

But let’s leave that aside, it is worthwhile to ponder that though Pichette loved his job immensely and gave a lot to it, he felt that he needed to quit to spend more time with his family. That’s the point I was trying to elaborate in Rethinking busy life.

This is another resignation letter written in 2012 by a Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith after his 12 year stint: Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

 I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

~ Excerpts from Greg Smith’s resignation letter

Though Greg Smith’s reasons for public outrage remain controversial, it cannot be ignored that Goldman Sachs was dragged most publicly through Congressional inquiries over its role in the financial crisis, and it paid $550 million in a settlement with regulators. And when he talks about “Hunting Elephants” it does not seem far fetched either. In this letter, he is not talking about missing out on personal life or different personal goals/aspirations – but he has not minced words while expressing his perspective about the corporate work culture at Goldman Sachs.

The third interesting resignation letter is from Max Schireson, former CEO of MongoDB, he decided to step down because of the toll imposed on him by constant travel. A tipping point for Schireson came on a long-delayed overnight flight to Austin. The CEO woke up in Tuscon to discover his flight had gone through an emergency landing and needed to replace some crew members traumatized by the experience–all while he slept, desperately trying to catch up on rest. “In that moment, I realized, ‘What am I doing?’” – Schireson recalls. He resigned as a CEO to spend more time with his family.

Here are some excerpts from his resignation letter published on his blog: Why I am leaving the best job I ever had:

As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.

While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:

* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.

* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.
A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job.
I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have a meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so.

~ Excerpts from Max Schireson’s resignation letter

Max Schireson seems to have quite some good insights about himself & his working style, his blog post The Challenge of Being an Introverted CEO is an interesting read as well. It is heartening to see how he contemplates feedback on glassdoor about engaging with employees and his honesty about discussing his challenges as an introvert. He took a sabbatical last year and his blog post about it is interesting as well: A year off.

So there are three interesting resignations, two of which are from high-level executives and one from a senior employee at a financial giant. Let’s leave out the controversial part from some of these resignations and think about the individuals. You can easily see a pattern in resignations from the top officials at Google and MongoDB. The job does not remain demanding only at the top; as many of us have experienced it first-hand, the hectic work schedule and associated stress are propagated throughout. It has become culture of many aggressively growing organizations.

I am wondering if it is appropriate if I say:

(1) Though you may immensely enjoy your job and find work purposeful for you aspirations, if it gets too demanding and time-consuming – most probably it would affect your personal life adversely.

(2) Corporate vision, goals and/or practices may change over time and they may not remain in line with your own interests and aspirations at a particular stage of your life and career.

In either case, I think it is important to really know, or rather figure out who you really are and what do you want from your life and career.

I won’t be repeating what I have already written in ‘Rethinking busy life‘ and I understand that quitting a soul-sapping but well-paying job is not something most of us can do easily given the liabilities we have. Moreover, it is inappropriate to generalize that all corporate jobs affect life and family adversely, many of them are fulfilling as well.

However, it is important that we spend some time to reflect and seek honest answer to a more personal question:

Is my job taking toll on my values, life and family?

3 thoughts on “Reflections on corporate resignations

  1. Yet another news of suicide and corporate resignation, SAD!!!! 🙁

    The head of the Japanese advertising giant Dentsu has resigned after the suicide of a junior employee was linked to a company culture that required staffers to work huge amounts of overtime.

    “We deeply regret failing to prevent the overwork of our new recruit,” Ishii said at a press conference. “I offer a sincere apology to the bereaved family and everyone in society.”

    Japan is known for the brutal work hours demanded of its “salarymen,” or office workers. Considered by many to be the backbone of Japan’s economy, these employees are expected to always put the company first. Working days are often followed by marathon drinking sessions with colleagues and clients.

    Read here:

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