I have a friend that has had a lot of success in technology. This person was a consultant when I met them, working hourly as I was. Over the last few decades, they have found new opportunities and joined a few large corporations. Eventually this person became a vice president, managing a division. It’s an impressive job, with a big salary, lots of travel and perks, and a lot of work.
I had dinner with this person recently and they lamented all the hours and stress that comes from a high profile job. Working lots of hours, constantly in touch with others, and pushed to do more. In some sense, this person felt their situation wasn’t that different than some IT jobs they’d had in the past, though with less pay but similar hours.
I thought about that for myself. I’ve certainly worked 100 hour weeks while on salary. I’ve slept with a beeper on my chest while on call because I knew it would go off multiple times at night and I’d shut it off quickly without waking my wife. I’ve had the stress and pressure of management pushing and pushing.
I’ve learned to say “no” quite well in my career. I’ve also learned to find another job when I felt abused. It’s worked well for me, and I think it’s the better way to handle things. That being said, I have never made a huge salary, certainly not anything close to what my friend makes. At the same time, I haven’t felt trapped in a long time, and when I did feel trapped in the past, it was my fault. Usually I learned to move on fairly quickly.
The thing to remember is that you have to ensure your work and your compensation make sense for you. The trade has to feel fair, because many organizations don’t care if you don’t. I’ve not met many companies that would let me work half as much for half pay, even if I cut some benefits. They aren’t set up to adapt there, and they usually have options.
For every great job, or at least any well paid job, there are often plenty of other people willing to do the job. For employers that don’t value individuals, either you deal with it, or they will remove you and pick someone else. The higher you go into the org chart, the more true this is, and often this is where the sociopathic tendencies of some executives take over.
I wouldn’t judge anyone else for choosing their situation, but I do caution you to think about what jobs you take and make the conscious decision to do them. Don’t let yourself get caught into a bad situation, which can sometimes be easy to do, especially when a larger paycheck is dangled. Pick the work that suits you and your family and that you enjoy doing each day.