I recently changed jobs right around the one-year anniversary of separating. The offer seemed almost too good to be true; a program management position at an engineering consulting company in a great industry in the town where I already live. It was, in my mind, a 5-year career accelerator compared to the timeline at my old company (which had great work life balance, good benefits, but slow career progression and an unclear growth path).
A month into the new position I find myself unclear on the objectives, and am in charge of both producing work for and managing a program for a client who is temperamental at best. The thought of running this program and dealing with this client who challenges and questions nearly everything I or my team says, who has taken an interest in passively-aggressively giving me extra administrative tasks as punishments, and who refuses to share helpful information with my team, is an oppressive thought.
I am considering throwing in the towel and asking for my old job back. When I left my old position, several of the managers told me I'd be "welcome back anytime," and my mentor told me she was very sincere in that - if I ever wanted to come back she'd try to help me do that. Frankly, I want to go back. Or go back to the Navy. It is frustrating and in my mind degrading to be belittled by a client, and having spent the past year questioning my own worth (but feeling as though I've found it again), not something I want to tolerate.
My question is: how do you know when it's time to throw in the towel and try to go back?
Francis, Susana and Katie,
Thanks so much for your replies and advice. The patience and optimism with people in light of the current crisis really resonated with me and I will keep that in mind.
For the general audience, to shade in a few details and provide an update, my boss is also the owner of the company. I've requested time with him for onboarding/expectations setting/discussion and review of my plan and work to date since I've been with the company but he's been exceptionally busy and I haven't gotten much (probably 3-4 hours of time over the past 4 weeks).
I have also discovered since my last post that my old company has instituted a hiring freeze indefinitely (although I can see my old position is posted on their job board).
In the past few days things with the client at my new job have deteriorated considerably; the client (who is mercurial to say the least) cursed at me, told me that my management was unacceptable and called a meeting with my boss and his partner to demand something be done. I was not in attendance but the debrief I got from that meeting was that my boss feels the client's expectations were unreasonable and is appalled at how I was treated. He's inserted himself as the go-between for the time being while we get things moving forward, and we had a discussion about my concerns and what I've seen to date. I was very clear with him that I understand and acknowledge how busy things have been, but that I needed some sort of guidance on what our standard and his expectations were in terms of the product to give the customer, some oversight as I prepare deliverables for the first time in this environment and for this company, and that I was willing to give this program/client a second chance but if he started abusing me again that I would politely excuse myself, call my boss, and demand to be removed from the program (regardless of the consequences).
I want to take a moment to stress to this board that I have a very thick skin. 10 years of work in a maintenance/production environment will build that in anyone. I have never had someone belittle me so cruelly and unnecessarily as this client. The details of how/what would take a whole separate thread to describe but take my word for it - I've worked for and with some very demanding and unpleasant people before and this one in only a month has made the top of my list.
My boss was totally receptive and sided with me on everything. He acknowledged that he needed to provide more oversight, guidance, and mentorship to me (as well as some assistance dealing with the client). I verified his expectations of my technical knowledge and he stated that in his opinion I'm doing great. With all that said, things here are off to a very bad start, which I think may be indicative of things to come. The fact that I was put in this position and sort of "left out to dry" to begin with bespeaks a disappointing attitude and I have some very strong concerns about the company's strategy and intent in how to handle this contract (the general attitude is "we'll figure out the plan as we go") I am about 51% willing to continue trying here but given the hiring freeze at the old company it seems I don't have much of a choice. I am considering calling my old manager directly and starting to work options to come back ASAP as soon as the hiring freeze is revoked.
Personally, I would recommend waiting at least six months until you go back into discussions with your previous employer. It seems like this might be a little bit of a case of the "grass is always greener." Clearly, there were reasons that you left the other employer and that you were even willing to look at this other offer.
And with the turbulence of the last few weeks, I would consider giving everyone a little extra breathing space and optimism. People may not have been on their best given external factors.
I could not agree with Jasper more.
Be sure you have that open door with your old employer, be candid and let your new employer know why you are planning to leave.
I'm sure you will make the best decision.
I am not certain that "going back" is always a good decision. "Going back" sometimes may :"lock you in" and may damage your future decision making opportunities. While we all make mis steps, it seems that if conditions are right, you might have a face to face meeting in your present company with not only your boss but his /her boss and lay out the situation. I would be quite clear that the present situation is unacceptable and if they do not agree to prompt changes, then I would leave.
Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking words. I think you are right that I may have figured the answer out. This is a tough spot to be in: my boss (the owner of the company) is a compassionate and gifted leader and besides the career boost, the opportunity to work for him was a major driver in my decision to join the company. But the lack of time available to onboard me and the assignment to this frighteningly difficult client without much support has me torn between my faith and confidence in him versus my doubt on his bandwidth to lead and manage me the way I'd like. Very tough as I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and really want to learn from and work for him but feel like given the client situation and how it was handled that it just may not be a good fit.
After reading your question, I think you already have the answer figured out. If your old employer will have you back and you left on good terms, I don't see any reason to tough it out if the current client is making the job something you dread doing.
I have hired back people who have left previously, and the one thing they all had in common was they were honest about the reasons they wanted to leave in the first place and the reasons they wanted to come back. They were sincere and understood what they had walked away from. I think it is appropriate to admit you made a mistake to move to the other company.
Life is too short to work at something you dread. If this was a 2-3 month temporary assignment, my advice might be different and I would tell you to "take one for the team" and get the job done, but what you described seems like a longer term project.
This reminds me of some coaching I have given people when they decide to leave a company - Do your best to leave on good terms, create and follow through on effective transition strategies, and maintain relationships with the people that were important to you - You never know who will want/have to work with the future. Sounds like you set yourself up well to return and maybe a call to your mentor is in order. Good Luck.
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