I have a friend who had been working for seven years at the same company. Actually, they are three, but they can all be introduced in the same way: A punchy woman in her mid-thirties, serious in her job, driven, fun, and balancing family life and work successfully as most people do.
Scenario 1: Having had children, things slowed down, and somehow she was side tracked and had the feeling that her input was not as appreciated as that of her thirty-or-so (male sales) colleagues. After having tried to move internally with the company to no avail, she felt she was stuck in the “Mummy Track”, and decided to move jobs to a more dynamic company. Her close colleagues threw her a goodbye party, as management didn’t want to spend any money on this; she was leaving anyway, wasn’t she? At least fifty people joined in to help with the event, and to show their appreciation. She left the company with no regrets, but everyone she worked with misses her today. The new job includes both challenges and interesting assignments, as well as being counted on fully as a team member.
Scenario 2: She’d come as an immigrant to the country, and had a hard time finding a permanent job. Finally she did, in a high-tech company with a lot of fun colleagues and a great work environment. She had had children, but kept getting interesting assignments at work, and was even pushed by her boss to be more of a “go getter” as she had the potential and her boss couldn’t see why she didn’t use it to a maximum. After seven years though, she and her husband decide to move closer to their families, as grandparents started to get old, and they wanted to come closer to “home”. So she announces to her boss that she will be leaving (with six month’s notice just in case). The boss is very understanding, and even agrees to put together a package so that the return back home will be smooth, as neither of the spouses moves back with a job waiting for them. I don’t need to tell you that the goodbye party was fully sponsored by the employer, and that my friend was sad to leave. The relationship between my friend and her ex boss is still great, and they stay in contact.
Scenario 3: After having had children, she started working 90%, leaving the office every day at around four or five o’clock. This worked well. Later, she moved outside town to “the House of her Dreams” and had to commute over one hour to work (one way) every day. She asked if she could get a more flexible work schedule, and distance work two days per week. This was not a problem to her employer. Then, she was offered the position of head of department, as she was the most competent person around and the one best suited for the job. She turned it down. When I asked why, she said it was because of the politics. She was already running the project that brought in the lion’s share of the department revenue, and enjoying it. So why take on the politics, which didn’t interest her at all, when she had all the responsibilities she wanted (or almost), and great flexibility? My friend is happy to stay on, at least for the time being.
These scenarios are three real stories, which three of my friends have recounted to me. It is possible that their experiences are in no way typical of the general corporate culture (if such a thing even exists) in the countries where they have unfolded. They most probably depend on a lot of individual factors which differ from one case to another. However, you might find it amusing that Scenario 1 is from France, Scenario 2 is from Australia, and Scenario 3 is from Sweden.