I received the news this week that a big change was imminent in my work organization: my current manager will be moving to another role. I’m normally not that worried about changes happening at work yet this one is different.
During these last few years on our journey to reach financial independence, I’ve been focusing a lot on increasing my happiness at work. It’s important for me that working towards accomplishing this long-term goal of financial independence, which I believe will allow me to reach a generally more satisfying lifestyle, be accomplished in such a way for me to still find satisfaction in how I live everyday.
I’ve been in positions in the past under less than qualified managers and can say from experience that the lack of a good manager can quickly make even the most interesting job feel dreadful. A micromanager can easily turn a satisfying way of working up on its head. A manager that doesn’t have a good understanding of the amount of work their employees are dealing with can fail to stand up for them when other teams or upper management asks for volunteers to take on more tasks.
This post will dig into the reasons behind the knot left in my stomach after learning this news and explore some sort of an action plan in order to hopefully prepare for the changes ahead at my work.
Loss of control
A huge part behind my pursuit of financial independence revolves around desiring a little more control over my life. I don’t mean to come off as a control freak, yet some of the things I look forward to the most when I hit FI likely fall behind a sense of greater control.
Things like : decide what I want to dedicate my energy to on a specific day, choose to suddenly head out on a hike on a surprisingly warm and sunny day of Fall, be able to be present for one of our kids when they are sick without having the background stress of figuring out if I can work remotely that day or which meetings I may need to cancel. These all stem from the fact that how I spend my days will be in larger part controlled by me.
Although I knew my manager would retire within the next 5 years, I was aware that she was planning to stay in her current role until that moment. It gave me some confidence that I would be able to report to her at least very near to when I plan to leave work.
This made me happy since firstly, I really like this manager and we get along well, but also because she has a good understanding of how an employee can perform better when they are happy and satisfied with their working conditions. As such, she has allowed me plenty of autonomy in my work and has been receptive and helpful when I communicated how I prefer to work. This announcement therefore gave me a sense of a loss of control in the future of my work.
In my trajectory towards financial independence, I’ve intended to start taking some unpaid leave during summers starting in 2021 and I knew I could have some support from my manager with this idea. This change now adds some uncertainty to how this will go down and a bit of a sense of vulnerability.
Will this new manager trust me enough to know that if I leave for a lengthy period I would prepare my substitute accordingly and also put in the effort necessary to catch up on any delays in my work upon my return?
Furthermore, my current manager has an excellent understanding of the volume of work I deal with and is very efficient at communicating the needs of her team when necessary. Can I trust this new manager to stand up for me if I let her know that I have too much on my plate to take on a new project?
What I want to feel
Looking at the above, there are some negative cognitions showing up in how I am perceiving the changes that are ahead in my work.
Basically, these thoughts revolve around feeling not in control, powerless and unable to get what I want in my job. There’s also some vulnerability aspects of being scared to trust a new manager or of not being trusted by that person and being unable to protect how I perform my work.
Through therapy, I’ve learned that it’s important to recognize these negative cognitions and then to reflect on how I actually want to feel. It helps me to look through a list of positive cognitions in order to achieve this step.
In this case, what I would rather feel is that I do have some control over how I perform my work, that I can make my needs known, get what I want in my work, choose to trust others and that I have some choices available.
By means of simplifying all these desires, basically, I want to maintain my autonomy in my work and if that isn’t possible, I want to feel that I have other choices available.
Here’s how I plan to prepare for the changes ahead at work in a way that will increase these feelings:
Communication of expectations
Communicating expectations clearly is essential in so many aspects of life, and a very important part of an efficient manager-employee relationship. Being able to communicate my optimal working conditions is what led me to negotiate my remote working arrangement with my employer.
As such, I’ve planned to write up a short one pager of the current way I perform my work and what processes have been in place with my manager in order to keep her up to date with my files. I’ll include any useful information from when we meet, to when I escalade cases her way and what the most efficient processes have been in our working relationship.
I’ve already discussed the preparation of this document with my manager who greatly appreciated this idea in order to help her replacement with the transition. I’ve also asked her to review it once it is complete and provide any input she sees fit.
Upon my first meeting with the new manager, I’ll be able to discuss this document with her and clarify her expectations going forward.
These first steps make me feel that I do have some control over how I perform my work, or that at least I can make my needs known and potentially get what I want in my work. This may also increase the chances of developing healthy mutual trust between my new manager and myself.
Continuous exploration of choices
While I may not have full control over how the transition evolves and if the communication of expectations will allow me to maintain my current autonomy, I can confidently remind myself that I have choices available to me. Moreover, the pursuit of financial independence has allowed me even greater flexibility in the choices I can take for my future.
Although I would prefer to stick to the current plan, should my working conditions become less enjoyable to me, I know that I could leave my current job and think up a new plan to fund our current cost of living while letting our investments continue to grow.
One post that greatly hits on this point is Financial Independence Milestones that Actually Motivate by Jessica from The Fioneers that focuses on milestones based on the amount of active income one would need to generate per year.
With our last updated investment value of $643,362, we are way past the level of Coast FI. For those unfamiliar with this term, Jessica explains it well in her post : “when you have enough money currently invested in the market that if you left it to grow, you could retire at a traditional age financially independent.” .
In fact, aiming for about $50,000 of expenses, even with a safe withdrawal rate of 3.5%, we would only need to generate a little under $30,000 of active income or $15,000 for my share. Seeing this amount in terms of active income sure opens up plenty of ideas of choices available to me.
It also helps that I’ve been meeting once a month with my virtual book club surrounding the book Designing your Life where we’ve recently explored different types of lives we could all be living. The exercises in the book lead you to reflect and concretely take steps to explore those options.
The “different lives” I’ve been exploring have all included some aspects of freedom I want to maintain on our path to financial independence. Things like spending less time working during the summer in order to spend the school break with our kids as well as working remotely most of the time.
I’m fairly certain that all the options I’ve looked at so far have earning potential far greater than $15,000/year which means that I could continue to grow my investment value to reach financial independence before traditional retirement age.
Knowing that I am continuing to explore these concrete and viable options increases my feeling of having plenty of choices available to me. It’s basically the concrete way of seeing how the power of F-You money can be put into practice and feeling empowered by it.
While my manager’s departure still makes me sad, this action plan has allowed me to gain a better feeling of control with regards to the situation. I feel a bit more confident that I can have my say through the transition and that I have concrete steps to continue opening up and exploring other options should my work conditions change unfavorably.
Have you ever dealt with a change at work that caused some anxiety for you? Any tips or suggestions that could help me with this upcoming change in my work?