Sunday, 11 December 2016

Why I left my previous job

I don't think I have ever wrote about why I left my previous job. I mean, I had a post about changing jobs and why I was moving to a job in a bank. But I never went into the triggers at my previous workplace (an accounting firm) that made me decide to search for a new role in the first place.

There were personal as well as professional reasons but they interacted with each other to ultimately result in me resigning. Only my wife is acutely aware of how significant the personal reasons were and I never spoke to anyone about this in detail.

After moving back to Singapore from Australia in 2014, I joined a small tax advisory team in an accounting firm. The team grew in size over time but all of us worked well together. It was a difficult time for me nevertheless because I had to adjust to longer work hours, more demanding bosses and a different work culture.

In early 2016, my tax manager went on maternity leave and I stepped up to cover her responsibilities for several months. Almost burnt myself out in the process but was rewarded with a decent bonus at the annual performance review. However, I wasn't promoted but I was fine with that since my manager had just returned and I had assumed she will resume her responsibilities.

It's tough being a working mum in Singapore and I was fully prepared to support her transition back to the workplace. What I was not prepared for was how the relationship between my tax partner and my tax manager will deteriorate to the point where they could no longer work with each other directly.

There were many reasons - mismatched expectations, lack of communication, poor conflict resolution etc. All resulting in a vicious cycle where my tax manager became demotivated, disinterested & resentful and my tax partner became distrustful, small-minded & absent to avoid conflict. Want to guess what happened to me?
It's easy. I got stuck in the middle and I was frustrated & angry that a previously good working relationship was destroyed simply because we couldn't resolve what I thought was not a hard problem. It's like watching a train wreck about to happen and you can't seem to stop it no matter how hard you try.

And that's what happened. I watched two people that I respected and looked up to become the worst versions of themselves. As a result, we couldn't win any new client work and our existing client work suffered. So I left. I refused to be a part of a non-functional team where I could no longer learn and felt trapped.

I caught up with an ex-colleague recently over dinner and drinks. Apparently, the situation has worsened and the most likely outcome is that my tax manager will leave at the start of the new year 2017. I was mostly sad at how things turned out but I was a little relieved that I dodged a bullet.

The most important lesson I learned from the whole situation is how essential conflict resolution and communication is to a workplace. It doesn't matter how technically brilliant, hardworking or even of a teamplayer the people are if they don't resolve conflicts and communicate effectively.

On a side note, I did consider writing a post about how I could leave my previous job. But I suspected it would end up being about having an emergency fund, cash savings, investments and keeping expenses low. Honestly, it wouldn't have been true in this case. I already got my current job before resigning from my previous job. It was just a matter of aligning my last day and first day so I got a few weeks of holiday in between.

I didn't even need to tap into my emergency fund, cash savings and investments. Or even bothered to lower my expenses. One day, I might get retrenched or forced to resign unexpectedly without a job waiting for me. Maybe then will I write a more personal post about the importance of all those things during such an event.

For now, as long as I'm capable and willing to work, my main focus continues to be keeping myself relevant in my industry by being proactive. This allows me to walk away from toxic work environments and that is my best defense against having to tolerate similar unreasonable & negative situations in the future.


  1. I like how you mention keeping yourself proactive to keep yourself away from toxic work environments.

  2. The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.