It was July and I was in Berlin for the WooTrip, an annual gathering of all my coworkers working on WooCommerce. I was meeting new people, I was learning… and I was also planning on leaving.
That week, I had a choice to make. One option was a rock and the other a hard place.
Paranoid About Money
First, it's important to understand my mental state at the time.
I wasn't just planning to leave my job – I was planning to strike out on my own.
And I was completely paranoid about money. It was also only a few months after I bought a condo. I had been planning that for a few years and it still drained my savings account.
I had no proof that I knew how to make any money on my own.
I would likely be throwing away the best job I ever had. I didn't know if I could handle being jobless, either financially or emotionally.
I was planning on working for another 6 weeks and I wanted to give Automattic a 2 week notice. The wrinkle is that the grand meetup was coming up. And everyone had to book airfare. Someone from HR already pinged me asking why I hadn't booked my airfare and I had a decision to make.
- Tell them I want to leave now, 4 weeks earlier than I'd planned, and face the consequences
- Book airfare I'll never use to avoid the conversation
Consequences vs Appropriateness
Here's where being a logical human being is a bad thing.
When you think about consequences you act conservatively. When you look at a situation and say, “I can do the right thing or I can do the thing without risk,” it's hard to pick the right thing.
Now you might think that me giving a slightly longer notice isn't that big of a deal. Let me set the scene.
When I left my first job out of college. I gave them a 4-week notice because I was so grateful. They fired me the next day and I was unemployed between Thanksgiving & Xmas.
The week before WooTrip, a coworker left and he was removed from Slack so fast I didn't have a chance to say good bye.
So I was scared.
I wanted to do the right thing but given my past experiences I didn't really see any upside. Automattic is a billion dollar company. They can afford a couple hundred on a flight right?
If I had relied on logic alone I would have bought the plane ticket and avoided the conversation with HR.
But there's another way to think about your actions – the logic of appropriateness. Instead of asking, “What could go wrong if I choose A?”. You ask, “What does a person like me do in a situation like this?”.
I consider myself a good worker. My grandpa always said, “if a job is worth doing it's worth doing well”. And I appreciate my midwestern work ethic. So I asked, “What does a person with a strong work ethic do in a situation like this?”
So I used the logic of appropriateness and I decided to tell them. Sure I could instantly be fired and I'd lose out of 6 weeks of pay. But I didn't want to screw Automattic because I was scared. I wanted to do the right thing and hope that they did the right thing in return.
And guess what? I was totally right. They understood and appreciated my forwardness. I finished my 6 weeks and both of us went on our merry way.
I'd like to think that the people at Automattic think I have integrity. That I am that hard worker I say I am.
A few months after I left they reached out to me and wanted to know if I'd help them with a project.
They wanted to know if I could use my e-commerce expertise and help them plan the content for WooConf.
And I said yes.
WooConf will be this fall, probably in Seattle.
See you there – and in the meantime when you face a decision don't just ask what could go wrong. You'll always act conservatively. Also ask what a person like you does in a situation like that.