The Break UpPosted: February 28, 2013
Last week, I broke up with my electrical contractor. I need to see what other contractors offer and I want to look out for my best training interests.
My manager was pissed: I was punished for being the rat fleeing a sinking ship; or I was some kind of traitor because I wasn’t blithely waiting around. He called at the end of the day last Friday said, “I had work for you on Monday, but I heard you want to go to another shop. Which is it?” It felt like it was too late for me to accept bona fide electrical work from him. If he truly had a work assignment for me, I would have happily taken it. However, just the day before, he told me: 1) there wasn’t much on the horizon, but he’d let me know as soon as there was; 2) three other company apprentices were sitting out and waiting for work to pick up; 3) there were over 60 apprentices waiting for work through the training center; 4) the field is flooded with electricians right now because travelers are clamoring for a huge project in our area. He made it sound like I had no other choice but to stay loyal and wait.
I tried the old, “It’s not you, it’s me…” and started to explain how appreciative I was of all I had learned while working there…BUT I couldn’t afford to keep investing time in the warehouse. “Your apprenticeship is five years!” he replied – exasperated. Then he warned me that if I wound up at the big regional project, I would be stuck as a material handler (gopher!) for at least a couple years. He launched into a spiel: he had been nothing less than honest and forthright with me – and I agreed with him. This seemed to diffuse his anger a little bit. I still agree with him: he is an honest man, and as a manager, he always had an open-door policy; yet I don’t see myself as a traitor due to my unwillingness to stay on the hook.
He was disappointed (and angry) that I hadn’t talked with him on a more heart-to-heart level about my desires to get out of the warehouse and into the field. And here is where I feel embarrassed and mildly ashamed. I was trying to handle the situation as diplomatically as possible and I made some assumptions:
– I assumed the company was placing me the best they could with the jobs they had available at the time. Therefore, I was letting the data speak for itself.
– Every single time I have been honest with a manager and have expressed my hopes and desires, it has bitten me in the ass. I assumed a similar conversation would take the same arc, and that was a mistake on my part.
– Some of the informal advice I’ve received from other electricians is to not be afraid to rotate to other contractors. I hoped “rotation” rather than “I’m leaving” would be met with more understanding and support.
If I could do it over, I would have talked to him in more detail about the worries I had in my training trajectory. Live and learn – right? I told him I hoped I had the chance to work with his company again sometime in the future. He grunted, which gave me hope that I hadn’t been blacklisted.
Next week, I start work for a different company and it will be at the big regional project. I’ve heard from other apprentices that there is plenty to learn. I’ll let the experiences speak for themselves and remember my lessons in direct communication. Let the different chapter (and actual field work) begin!