My first job after college was supposed to be a dream job. I was leading research and innovation at one of the largest holding companies in Asia, and I was getting paid in excess of what many of my peers were making. Everyone thought I had “made it.” Except for me.
When I was offered the role, I jumped at it. I had brilliant coworkers, and our job was to develop ways for our company to become more adaptable to modern technology. The reality was different. Our ideas were never greenlit, and it took me too long to realize that our work was just for show.
“We see no reason why it’s worth spending so much on a product that seems to be working fine,” I was told. But that was my job: to innovate, introduce new ideas, and make products better and more affordable. I realized the company only wanted to create the appearance of an active research and development team but didn’t want to spend the money to innovate on anything. I considered quitting, but since my teammates were looking to me for leadership, I felt I couldn’t let them down. I stayed on.
Then one day, the printer broke.
The printer was old, and we quickly realized it would cost more to fix it than buy a new one. The cost of a new printer was only $150. I put in a request to buy it. That request shouldn’t have been controversial, but it set off a shock wave. I started receiving emails about unfathomable departmental waste and disrespect for office equipment. Not only were the emails outlandish, they were coming straight from the CEO. I was called into his office to meet with him and a representative from HR to justify the $150 printer.
I could have spent my days pretending to do work while actually watching movies and taking unlimited cigarette breaks.
At this point, I’d had enough of the bullshit. I asked the CEO how he justifies paying me if he never wants me or my team to do any real work. He replied that people were “dying” to fill my position.
“Well, let’s put those people out of their misery,” I said. “Because I’m resigning.”
Sure, I could have embraced the ridiculousness of the company and started coasting through my days. I could have spent my days pretending to do work while actually watching movies and taking unlimited cigarette breaks. But that wasn’t my dream. So I quit. And as a parting gift, I bought my team a new printer.
Today I’m now the CEO of a research and consulting firm. I listen to my employees and focus on what’s actually important: innovation, work ethic, and functioning office equipment.
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