My cursor hovered over the send button. I was one click away from sending the email we have all fantasized about, telling your boss how you really feel, lighting the dynamite and quitting your job on your own terms. I reread my resignation letter one more time then took a deep breath. Time to make a decision. Send or delete?
The company I worked for had just been sold and dismantled and I had accepted a temporary position working for our parent company. It was clear after the first meeting with the new crew that I would not have a future there. It was a den of zombies where creative thought was the enemy. My plan for rebranding, the reason I was kept around in the first place, scared the crap out of management. Creativity requires leaders who can champion new ideas and navigate the politics that so easily capsize original thought. In the absence of that leadership, my design strategy was doomed. I had to decide whether to resign or swallow my pride and complete my contract knowing my work would never see the light of day. What would you have done? Here’s the letter I was preparing to send to the company president.
Dear [President’s name removed],
It is with disappointment that I give you an update on my previous weeks working for [company name removed].
I humbly believe that I have earned a reputation for producing high quality design. My secret is simple, I refuse to create garbage. The consequence of this rebellion is that I cause friction because nobody likes to be told “no.” I cause friction because I don’t take shortcuts and people hate the delays associated with excellence. I was able to overcome this friction at [company name removed] by building relationships of trust as well as being empowered by a Creative Director role that gave me the authority to do things without compromise. Without those assets, I have failed at [company name removed].
The hard part of my job is not the creativity, it is maintaining an uncompromising mindset. The pressure is rarely to produce great things, the pressure is always to accept mediocrity and just crank out what people ask for. I have no intention of buckling under this pressure. You aren’t a stranger to friction, and I hope you can relate to my stubborn refusal to sacrifice my integrity by doing less than my best work.
A resignation is pointless for a person in my position, so I will just propose that until July I will no longer bring my “friction” to the job. I will do what I am asked and support [company name removed] by doing whatever is requested of me. There are many “order taker” designers who are cheaper than me, so I understand if it makes financial sense for you to cancel my employment sooner.
I sincerely thank you for your effort to make my post-[company name removed] transition a soft landing and I wish it could have ended differently.
The strongest ideals tend to soften in the face of unemployment. Instead of sending the message I bit my tongue, punched the clock, and completed my contract knowing my design efforts had no chance of surviving the zombie culture. The culmination of my work can be summed up by the company’s CEO when she said,
“The alternatives you designed were very elegant and conveyed a favorable, strong, positive image. At this time however — we are seeking continuity and minimized disruption so we are staying with the look and feel of the existing [company name removed] logo.”
Failure complete. The checks cleared and I was off to my next adventure. Perhaps you will find yourself in my situation, a click away from torching your relationship with your employer. I didn’t have the courage to send that letter but I do not regret the decision. In the heat of that moment the urge to hit send can feel irresistible. My only advice is to pause. When we feel the most passionate about our words, that is the time to exercise restraint. Take a walk. Sleep on it. Ask a friend to read your message and give their opinion about blowback your words might invoke. If you have any hesitation, do not send the message. If on the other hand you have the luxury of not needing your job, send away. As you watch the bridges burn, write me a note describing how amazing it feels. I wouldn’t know.