Unfortunately, this is the reality of the modern era. Well, at least in the United States. Employment at will is almost everywhere, and it means they can fire you. Probably when you're the most vulnerable.
Your title, contribution, company - it all doesn't matter. I've been employed by Atlassian, which has 6000+ employees worldwide. They have enough resources to cover my sick leave. My contributions at the moment of event were at least 10x ROI. I had "senior" title, circumstances that should be respectful. I even had a good manager who tried to help me and finally admitted "Atlassian talk the talk, but don't walk the walk". They can brainwash you, like Atlassian did. But remember one very important thing:
You are on your own
Yes, no matter what they claim. And you have to be prepared. I was lucky I had some assets, and some job prospects at the time of termination. So I was able to sell some of my assets to afford $1873/month COBRA. Because at the time of termination I had to pay for very expensive surgeries, it was about ~$100K for a single surgery. So if you don't buy COBRA you either pay $100K, or get no surgery, or just sell your house, or just go bankrupt.
This information is crucial. I can't emphasize it more, termination can destroy you, your child, your family, your health, your life if you don't take steps in advance. And please don't listen to your employer about the support. They will not do that.
Atlassian didn't and I don't understand why there was a need to be so inhumane when pretty much every other company is ready to go an extra mile for their employees. It's impossible to identify if a company is ready to support you. There are many folks working in Atlassian right now, and they're sure that they're safe in Atlassian. Don't be foolish, get yourself ready today:
- Have your emergency fund. You should have at least $2K for a health insurance (one month of COBRA). It's the minimum that should be kept aside for a family. The better emergency fund is your monthly expenses multiplied by 6. For God's sake, not in Robinhood or Bitcoin. Cash.
- Don't put a notice. If you put a notice you won't be eligible for unemployment and probably COBRA.
- Got employed? Start looking for new jobs. It's the sad reality. If you don't want to deal with such amount of stress constantly looking, start looking for jobs when things go off the rail: * Your manager is making a comments about your productivity? Start looking. * Got sick? Start looking. * Family member got seek and needs attention? Start looking. * They don't approve PTO? Start looking. * You have a feeling that something goes not quite right? Start looking. * They're planning a meeting but nobody tells you what it is? Start looking. * Got PIPed? Start looking. You have to start looking right away. Even if you're skilled engineer, looking for a new job takes months. Process is slow by itself even when market is hot.
- Cut your expenses and live below your means. The modern society tells us to consume. Mortgage, credit, cars, vacation. Nope. Emergency fund first. Imagine yourself dealing with cancer. It's a serious disease, and for us the entire treatment took 9+ months (without recovery time). If you have children and a sick spouse, you'll find yourself fighting with exhaustion and fatigue very soon. You will have to handle everything: * Children * Home stuff: cooking, cleaning, paying bills * Grocery shopping * Helping your spouse with getting to and from hospital * Going to pharmacies and spending hours in lines to get what the doctor prescribed (yes, hello Walgreens!) * At the top of that you'll have to work * At the top of that you're the last frontier who must share the optimism and provide moral support * At the top of that you'll probably pay for a therapist who'll help you fighting with your own struggles along the way
Oh gosh, I can write a book about that. It's not easy, if your company doesn't support you, they will make it worse for you. Atlassian turned my hard times dealing with cancer into terrible, terrible experience. I was on the brink of existence, and one of the things I can recommend for sure is a religion.
Go to church. There is definitely unchurching trend going throughout the nation, and you're about exact science, but folks who go to church will help you. There is moral support, there is monetary support. There are people who are willing to help, at least you'll be able to afford COBRA. It's the church who is gonna help you and pay for your COBRA, not Atlassian or other shitty company out there.
Get yourself candles powered by CR232 batteries and images of God at home. You probably think I am kidding, but this stuff is no joke. It's going to be your last frontier before going crazy.
For me it was about 3-5 times when I felt totally helpless. I mean like totally. Helpless, and scary. I didn't know what to do. It feels like you did everything, you put your best effort and you got no results. It's demoralizing. Be sure your toxic manager or company will contribute to that.
So better have these candles and rituals rather than dealing with stroke or severe damage to your mental and/or physical health.
Important step is to identify tricks that managers and companies use to manipulate you:
- Guilt-tripping. They will blame you and use your guilt to manipulate you. In Atlassian I got this a lot. Even the manager that I said was "good" (comparing to others - yes), said things like "It's not fair you taking vacation [to take care of your spouse] while everyone else is working hard before the deadline".
- Gaslighting. Oh yea, they will do this as well. For example, I was once said "what was your plan to become Senior engineer on the team again?" I still had "senior" title, nobody demoted me, I was dealing with life and death issues daily, and they told me this 🤮
- Deadlines at work. Remember, these deadlines were made by capitalists who don't feel hungry or are in distress, the only purpose is probably to earn more money, buy larger houses, afford better cars, and increase the numbers in their bank accounts. So don't take them seriously when you have your own deadline. Funny part is that in Atlassian my manager was quite forceful about deadlines we had, "as a team". At the time I had my own deadlines, literally dead-lines, dealing with dead-ly disease. So don't let them fool you, their deadlines are artificial and often set by greedy people who don't care about others, and who are focused only on earning money. There is a high chance you won't understand each other if there is someone who is ignoring your reality and trying to enforce work deadlines.
Be sure that if there is even a small pressure, one day they will decide to go all in. I missed that part in Atlassian. They were playing nice until some point. And at some point they said "where it's all going?". It was in the middle of the treatment. After chemo and before the radiation.
Once you see a small signs of misunderstanding, that's pretty much it. You can't win this battle, because they're attacking you from their stronger and healthier position. And you're weak and vulnerable. You can give'em a [virtual] punch once it's all over. You can share you word and "thank" them.
One thing you have to know is that managers will cover up each other. I told my "good" manager that C. (my old manager) said that people with children are less likely to get promoted in Atlassian. He didn't report it.
The bottom line is that once work goes off the rail, it pours. There is no way to go back, so I hope you'll get prepared.