Go where you're wanted

Once upon a time, my job decided to reorganize the department I was in. In fact, it reorganized me right out of my job. I went from having a team with a clear plan for the coming year to having no direct reports and poorly-defined "dotted line" relationships. 

I felt incredible shock when it happened (it was a sudden change, at least to me). More challenging was that my responsibilities were changing, but my title and pay were not. So I had to pretend I was still in management even though I wasn't.

I sat down with my new boss at the time and talked with him about the change. To be fair, he had heard about this change just two hours before I had, suggesting it was a poorly-designed decision. He was familiar with all of my work: building out a competency, setting personal and team goals, developing a UX roadmap, and helping create a product strategy. And then he said something profound, something that only solidified my already-present feelings on leaving.

He said, "It's great that you have all of these skills, but we just don't need them." 

A couple of things crystallized for me at that moment. One was that my job was no longer going to challenge me in any deep nor meaningful way. Two was that in his eyes, I was a resource - nothing more.  

The path

To be fair, the path to that moment was not completely unexpected. Tensions had run deep as I put forth my agenda and mission for my team and myself, as it made some people uncomfortable. "People are afraid UX is going to take over the company," my former boss had said to me. I told him, "I don't want to take over the company. I just want us to have that fabled seat at the table." (This was coded talk for, "Shit's fucked up , yo.")

As my team and I started questioning things, the questions started to grow in scale. We moved from, "Why is this page so shitty?" to, "Well, why do  we price products this way?" to, "Why are we making this product?" We asked more and more questions and faced more and more pushback (in part because some of the questions had no answers). People were uncomfortable.

This discomfort and fear was what followed me around every day, and I let it get to me. I had to fight and fight and fight. I had to fight for my team. I had to fight for my job. I had to fight for market pay. I had to fight for org structures that made sense. Hell, I had to fight to get a part-timer converted to full-time. But by the end of it I was truly tired of fighting. It took away much of my passion, much of my drive, and much of my energy.

And, well, being in that position and then having your boss say your skills aren't needed? A clarion call.

The exit

I was and am fortunate to be in a place where I can choose to leave a job and take a new one. I do have a family and financial responsibilities, and I wasn't in a position to go freelance nor do I feel that's right for me (even now). But the number of privileges I had was astounding: I didn't need that job; they needed me - until they truly didn't, anymore; I got to hire my replacement; I got to find a job where I was challenged. 

Most importantly though, I didn't need to fight those battles. I didn't need to fight for UX, my team, my respect, my pay, or anything like that. I was able to instead focus on my work, fight for way more interesting things, and help that company do its very best.

To me, that is extremely valuable. In that job, I was wanted - and it made a world of difference.