I was working at a faced-paced start-up in Austin, Texas, in the e-commerce industry. I had made the switch from teaching just two years prior but ranked consistently in the top four in sales at the company. The company had great values, it was a fun place to work, and it placed a lot of importance on culture building. But as it grew, so did the number of questionable decisions. What started out as a tight knit culture increasingly took an "are you in or are you out" attitude. Participating in culture-building events and giving high fives began to be the keys to moving up. Pretty soon, I saw that my excellent performance didn't matter as much as I had thought.
I decided to lean back because I knew that even though I outperformed in my job, I was not all-in from the company's perspective. The company wanted our jobs to be our identity, and I learned a very important lesson: Not everyone views his or her work/life balance the same way. I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was family-oriented and had my priorities organized a certain way: God first, family second, career third. Contrary to popular belief, I don't think you can make your career number one and still maintain the most important relationships: your friends and your family. You need to take care of yourself, stay true to your beliefs, and in the end it will all work out. As a mother and hopefully someday someone's wife, I prefer a more traditional working environment that doesn't force my job to be my identity.
To me, family time is sacred. It's a special part of me that I don't want to share with everyone, even my fellow coworkers. I won't add everyone as friends on Facebook. In any relationship, especially one in which you have children, there should be an unbreakable bond of trust. But how can you have trust when regularly over-sharing with coworkers, and when work and life become one thing? While I love the paintball trips, fun events and volunteerism, I choose not to make that my identity. I choose to put my family first, and save most of myself for that.
It played out better than I imagined. I believed in myself and in everything I had to offer, and I spoke up. I addressed my concerns with management and human resources, and we parted ways. What?! You might say. But to me, this was the most important decision. Even though I loved the company and believed in the product, it did not respect my values.
When I left the company, I had the full support of human resources and the CEO. They understood what they were creating: a company family. And while I fully support their mission, I believe there is a boundary line and that the meaning of work was overlooked: performing with integrity, consistency and most importantly, customer satisfaction.
It hurt temporarily, yes. But in the long run, I know that my priorities matter to me more than anything. And if you make it to the top at the sacrifice of your friends and family, who will be left to celebrate with you?
I had a choice: a) change my value system and stay or b) hold true to myself and leave. I chose option b and now I am happier than ever in a role that is even more challenging and allows me to grow professionally while having a work/life balance that works best for me.
I realized that as our work cultures grow and as we collectively gain more social media tools to help us over-share, we should ask ourselves, what am I saving for my family? Am I saving any part of myself at all? For me, compartmentalization works very well and I'm sticking to that. More companies should be willing to accept employees whose definition of "family" is more traditional. Until then, I'll keep climbing up the ladder and hoping to encourage others who feel the same way.