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The IC view on Shields Down

In the course of leaving Meta this week, I’ve been answering a bunch of questions about why—the pay is good, the problems are good, the Meta Boston people are fantastic. And yet I’m out. Why?

Well, the Gallup answer is certainly part of it: I saw a manager cheat to win a scavenger hunt contest against his own team, and I started putting out feelers that night. I was instantly shields down. What’s that mean? Rands says it better than I can. And, since I last read and thought about this, there is shields merch.

Rands intends his article for managers, and I’ve benefited hugely from thinking about things that way. But I want to translate it for individual contributors: it is helpful to be mindful of your own attachment to your employer. The abhuman consciousness at the heart of the corporation would sever your employment without a second thought—just look what happens with layoffs. Your boss might regret laying you off, but they wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

To try to find some kind of justice in that employment relationship, you should do two things:

  1. Be aware of your market value. This means regularly interviewing, getting offers. The company pays for Radford surveys; you should do your own version.
  2. Maintain your network. The company wouldn’t cry to see you go; it has no tear ducts. You should similarly be willing to walk away for an excellent offer. This doesn’t mean you should flit off for an extra 1% of pay, but it does mean you should know what your threshold to leave is (mine is about 50% of pay at most gigs) and be ready to take it. Meanwhile, help other people and ask for help and introductions from them.
  3. Know your own “shield” state. If your shields are partially are fully down, you should know before others do. This lets you present it properly and well.

The specific colleague who prompted this is clearly shields down and knows it. Good! But they don’t know their network—despite having a library of stories of colleagues who left and who probably (based on symmetry) think well of them—and they have no idea of their market value. It’s time for them to get some interviews and figure out what’s possible out there, and they know that. What they didn’t know, and I’m not sure I communicated, is that they would also benefit from mindfulness work on exactly why their shields are down. That will provide a path to fix it in a future engagement.