I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My best bud at work – Sebastian – was leaving. I knew he wasn’t happy, but I thought he just liked to grouse. Some people are like that – they aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy.
“I’ve been thinking about the old Bible verse ‘God helps them who helps themselves’ and decided to be a man of action,” he said.
He knows I’m a Christian, so he sprinkles Christian wisdom into our conversations, most of it harmless if theologically iffy. Sorta like if you were friends with Oprah. Lots of progressive new-agey ‘spiritualism’ that is more focused on self-improvement rather than Jesus.
“Ah yes, that nugget from the 67th book of the Bible, Paul’s Letter to the Fictitions, right?” I say.
“It’s not an actual Bible verse? Well, it should be. I think some people can get caught up in praying and waiting on God, and the next thing you know 10 years have passed. And then it can be difficult to find a new job because you’ve been doing the same thing for so long that everyone thinks that’s all you can do.”
Sebastian should talk – he was one of the more senior employees there. Just over 10 years. He started in an entry-level position, then, through smarts and hard work, had moved up to a good middle-management role.
His outward success hid the occasional flare up of anxiety and depression. I thought our therapy sessions would get him through. He’d call them coffee and cigarette runs, but they gave him a chance to unload, and me a chance to be a friend. And, if I’m being honest, a chance to feel superior because I didn’t have quite as many personal problems. The same reason I read ‘Ask Amy’ every morning in the newspaper: “Nora, this is rich, get a load of this guy…”
I was going to miss Sebastian. Besides our friendship, I respected how much he cared – really cared – about his work and our employer. I found it refreshing, a real anachronism.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he told me he wanted to give a long resignation notice. Probing, I ask, “You thinking 4 weeks?”
“Nahh, more like 6 months.”
“Whaaa? You sure about that?”
“Yeah, this is an important role and I want to give the company sufficient time to find a replacement. Besides, it will give me plenty of time to find a new gig. And I won’t have to feel like a cheating husband the whole time, hiding the fact that I’m looking.”
It seemed like the generous thing to do, a payback of sorts for years of promotions, steady paychecks, and holiday parties. But I didn’t feel good about it.
I had done the same thing years before when I worked for my Dad’s company, for similar reasons. I didn’t want to leave my Dad in the lurch, and, honestly, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do, so I thought a long notice would give me time to find something. And my knowledge of the looming deadline would give me the kick in the pants that I needed to get working on my next career step.
For me, 6 months came and went, and I still didn’t know what I was doing. No consequences really, except for a little embarrassment. A way too weak kick in the pants, as it turned out! My Dad was happy to have me stay on, and, at the time, I was grateful I had this safety net to fall into.
But that was the safe, cloistered world of a family business. Would Sebastian’s gesture be appreciated?
It didn’t take long to find out. Two weeks after he submitted his 6-month notice, Sebastian was called into the President’s office of our 300-employee company. This is how he told me it went down:
President: “Sebastian, we’ve really appreciated your loyalty and hard work over the years, really appreciate it…You won’t believe what happened yesterday. Simon came by my office…You know Simon, right?”
Sebastian: “Yeah, of course, he works for me.”
President: “Yes, of course. A real talent…hardworking…diligent…good attitude…the future of this company. Anyway, he heard you were leaving and said he was leaving too unless he could have your job.”
Sebastian: “That’s your call I guess…I can train him over the next few months and…”
President: “Right, my call, so Simon will transition into your role over the next two weeks.”
Sebastian: [Stunned silence]
President: “Sebastian, sometimes we tell people who resign to clear out their desks that very day. We don’t feel very good about the commitment level of employees who unhitch their wagon from our star, if you know what I mean. I’ll give you two more weeks here. Thank you and good afternoon.”
“How could they do that to me?” Sebastian moaned to me. “My wife is going to kill me – this is our primary income.”
“I think Fictitions 12:34 says it best: ‘No good deed goes unpunished,'” I reply.
“Can you be serious for once? This is my life we’re talking about.”
Amazingly, Sebastian was able to salvage his sinking ship. Through the grapevine he heard about an opening in another department, applied for it, and got it. He obviously knew the business, and was known to be a good cultural fit. And effective diplomacy and regular displays of fealty were enough to erase the perception that he wasn’t a committed team player.
A happy ending after all! Well, as happy as Sebastian gets, anyway.