Do I fight or cut my losses and try to start over?
I'm currently experiencing the full force of powerful, vindictive executive leaders of a major company because I dared to consider leaving for a new competitor that is opening.
A few weeks ago I was approached by a competitor and ultimately offered a great position with a significant increase in compensation. I wasn't sure if it was something I could even consider because I was under contract with my current company and I wasn't necessarily unhappy where I was, I was just worried about my long-term employment given that we were anticipating another round of layoffs after the new year so I decided to look into my options of possibly getting released from my contract.
I was fully transparent with my boss as he's always been a mentor whom I could trust for advice and support. He ultimately agreed to help me approach the executive leadership to let them know that I was offered but haven't accepted yet and see what my options are in regards to my contract. We thought it would go one of 2 ways; they would either be open to it given the upcoming layoffs (save from having to pay me severance and/or unemployment) or they would say that I couldn't go because my contract is still active. Unfortunately, we did not forsee how bad it would actually go and the ultimate aftermath I'm dealing with now.
When my boss went to his boss about it they immediately started and investigation and decided to interrogate me regarding my access to files on my flash drive that I had access to use since I got there over a year ago. They questioned my motives and claim that I could have stolen company documents to take to this competitor like I was actively committing corporate espionage. I volunteered to provide my flash drive and explained that everything I had on there were specific to my job duties only and items thats I created or was actively working on. Either way I did not have any malicious intent, especially because I hadn't decided to accept the position and would have been content staying if I knew my job was secure. I was suspended and then fired less than 48hrs later and informed in my termination that I would be held to the full terms of my contract including non-compete for almost 2 years! My company even went above and beyond to send a threat to the competitor that if they hire me in anyway they would pursue legal action. I just don't understand why they would do all of this for a mid-level manager, it's not like I had executive knowledge of the company's strategy or access to financial plans. Ultimately the competitor decided to do what was in their best interest and move on and referred me to attorneys so I can try to fight back on my own.
I absolutely couldn't believe that in just a few short weeks I was approached, to offered, to fired, to banned from working in my field for 2 years. I felt totally blindsided, confused, scared and most importantly heartbroken. I've been working full time plus for almost 20 years (since I was 15 years old) and have been very fortunate over the years to never have experienced the fears of being unemployed. I've always played it safe to protect myself from the uncertainty of risk and have tried to keep my head down and just work hard to make it through. The one time I finally considered doing something for me I got totally burned and buried by corporate tactics that totally eliminated the facts of the person I am (great leader, hard worker with nothing but positive vibes) and made me into this strategic criminal that thought she could get away with stealing all of their trade secrets. It's just insane!
Now I'm deciding what to do next. I have attorneys that offered to help me fight this but it's going to cost most of my savings to just retain them, not to mention that there's no guarantee that I could win. I would love to fight because I can't let them get away with destroying my livelihood and career but if they end up bleeding me dry in the process without any assurances then was it worth it? I'm also doing all I can to find ANY employment that doesn't violate my non-compete but given that were in the middle of a pandemic with millions of people out of work, my chances of finding anything that's full time are very slim.
I just feel so lost right now because my work was a big part of my purpose. I don't have kids or any hobbies, I truly got most of my fulfillment from my work and my team. I would appreciate any advice or insight that anyone can provide. Should I spend most (if not all) of my savings to fight, or use it to sustain my bills until I can hopefully find employment outside of my career?