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I actually wished he would fire me!
September 28, 2011 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I just snapped at my boss, but it doesn't matter. He can't fire me. Where do I go from here?

I am a licensed professional; my normally hands-off boss wanted some revisions to some drawings that made no sense to me. I've finished the revisions now. But my reaction to his requests really surprised me. I totally snapped at him, and that is completely out of character for me. I briefly thought after the exchange, "What if he fires me?" But that idea made me laugh out loud. My employment is completely secure because of my knowledge, experience, and technical skills. It would take a year or so to get someone up to speed, and meanwhile major contracts would be lost. My work is virtually supporting the entire 3-person company.

Why am I so bitter? Our office has been on a reduced work week/salary since November of 2009. I have been without benefits since 2010. I know that we are making lots of money now on projects because I have so much work to do. I am swamped and stressed out continuously. I come in at 6 am; I work late; I work on the weekends. I gladly make time for my boss's personal projects. I love my work, and I am generally the cheeriest person at the office. But it doesn't feel like its enough anymore. (I also have graduate degrees in my field and specialized certifications--the only one in my office with either.) Meanwhile, my boss has alluded to making me a partner...that's the carrot I've been chasing. I'm starting to realize it's just a figment of my imagination.

Have you been in this situation? How did you resolve it? Did you speak to your boss, buckle down harder, quit? My co-worker said that my boss will never bring us back to full salary because I work late to get the projects done at part time. (That feels true to me.) But if I don't work late, projects wouldn't get done. And that's irresponsible to our clients & projects. (And in the back of my mind is the someecards i saw yesterday--"Having a job is the new raise.")
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (37 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Find a new job. Why not? You haven't given a single reason to stay in your position. There's nothing stopping you from looking for a new job while working at your current job. Based on your description, the situation is hopeless at your current position.
posted by saeculorum at 9:11 AM on September 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


You have been dangled. Your boss is alluding to things, but not promising you anything. Best idea for you? Probably to turn in your resignation and watch them scramble to retain you.
posted by bfranklin at 9:12 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've got time. Look for another job. Then turn in your resignation. Or let your boss know you're looking and discuss your career growth for real.
posted by kalessin at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2011


If he can't fire you, then give him an ultimatum — tell him you're going to quit, unless he satisfies (list of amazing conditions that would entire you to stay). If he really wants you to stay, he'll have to make you an offer so good that you can't refuse.
posted by FrereKhan at 9:16 AM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


My co-worker said that my boss will never bring us back to full salary because I work late to get the projects done at part time. (That feels true to me.) But if I don't work late, projects wouldn't get done. And that's irresponsible to our clients & projects. (And in the back of my mind is the someecards i saw yesterday--"Having a job is the new raise.")

Congratulations to this realisation. Also, you need to realise that you are totally replaceable. I opted to do an overseas assignment last autumn and my portfolio was reallocated by lunch time that day...I was working long hrs etc so that doesn't mean anything.

Talk to some recruitment agents about the market in your field and what sort of packages people are able to achieve at the moment in the role you do. Consider what the answers tell you about your current position.

Evaluate the situation based on that. But do not delude yourself that you are irreplaceable or that anybody is going to thank you for working all hrs to finish projects because you are and they won't.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2011 [19 favorites]


*you are = you are replaceable
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:19 AM on September 28, 2011


You're not irreplaceable, but you're valuable because your boss is getting away with paying you less than you're worth and took away your benefits. Snapping at your boss is something that is forgivable, considering you do extra work for no pay and are really good at your job.

If your attitude gets more cumbersome than the bargain-basement price at which you're being paid, you'll be let go.

I think it's better for you to look for work elsewhere.
posted by xingcat at 9:22 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yea, there's no "can't be fired." Really, there isn't. It doesn't matter how hard it would be to train someone else, or if your files or a mess, or if that one client really likes you, or whatever. But it sounds like you're really unhappy and if your skills are strong enough that you can carry your team, they'll be marketable elsewhere.
posted by sweetkid at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2011


My employment is completely secure because of my knowledge, experience, and technical skills.

I lolled.

Why am I so bitter? Our office has been on a reduced work week/salary since November of 2009. I have been without benefits since 2010. I know that we are making lots of money now on projects because I have so much work to do. I am swamped and stressed out continuously. I come in at 6 am; I work late; I work on the weekends. I gladly make time for my boss's personal projects. I love my work, and I am generally the cheeriest person at the office. But it doesn't feel like its enough anymore.

You're getting used. And you're about to get fired. What you can do now amounts to "start polishing your resume."
posted by mhoye at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


If your employment is 100% secure, then why are you working late to get the jobs done? You're just an employee, if the projects your boss is bringing can't get done during your paid hours, that isn't your problem or your fault (unless you're slacking off). If you continue to work for free, he has no incentive to reinstate full-time hours and benefits, and that's something that not only affects you, it affects your co-worker(s) as well.

I would apologise to your boss for snapping but explain that you're under a lot of stress and the current workload isn't sustainable on part-time hours (or possibly, at all - it sounds like you're working way more than full-time hours). I'd also be looking for a new job.
posted by missmagenta at 9:28 AM on September 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


I've been there. Accept that you have taken a paycut. Even if they tell you your hours have been reduced accordingly, you've now seen that really, they have not.

Start looking for a new job. It's much easier to get a job when you already have one. If you still want to work for your current company, wait until you have a better offer in hand and see if they will match/improve on it, but you have to be really, truly, ready to walk. And do walk, if your current boss can't/won't meet your needs.
posted by cgg at 9:34 AM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm confused: If you're so incredibly well qualified, why do you care?

Simply get another job. Problem solved.

Otherwise, don't be surprised if your boss continues on the path he's already carved out, with respect to your employment.
posted by PsuDab93 at 9:45 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your story sounds eerily familiar to ... a friend I know pretty well. However, this friend opted down the path missmagenta suggested and scaled his work *down* to match the compensation. He's still employed, and seems to be just as valuable as before.
posted by forforf at 9:49 AM on September 28, 2011


They fired Charlie Sheen and paid him eight figures just so they wouldn't have to deal with him anymore. And he was the star of the show. Never, ever underestimate the willingness of people with lots of money to do spend their money to get rid of or hurt people they don't like. And never overestimate the value of an underpaid professional. If you're underappreciated, then that means they do not appreciate the value that you assume you bring to the table.
posted by The World Famous at 9:55 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


You are in a sick system.

Setting boundaries might help a bit, and I think you'd be amazed at how fast they can scramble to cover the workload with outside contractors etc. if you were to leave or set very specific hours and limits. As it is, there's absolutely no reason for them to change things -- you're picking up all the slack, and you're being cheerful about it.

I agree with everyone above that your best choice is to find another job.
posted by pie ninja at 9:58 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


no one is irreplaceable
posted by Flood at 10:10 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where do I go from here?

Step one is you start working strictly part time, in line with your compensation. You spend half your new free time chilling and recharging, and the other half talking to recruiters, polishing the resume, etc.

Stop giving a fuck about your greedy vampire boss' contract deadlines. You will find this a liberating feeling.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


For such a small operation - I personally don't thnk there's the need for so much confrontation - but for you to reach out and to have some honest communication. I am sure your boss is just as suprised that you are as upset as you are - since you have said that you have always kept a really cheerful demeanor. Believe or not - your boss can't read your mind (and it sounds like you did not see the depth of your unhappiness).

Approach your boss, and let him/her know your concerns and how you'd like to move forward. This means that you really need to sit down and figure out, realistically, what would make you happy at your job. If partnership is what you want - then discuss what that roadmap looks like for you. Let your boss know that your outburst was a one off - and you would never behave that way with your clients. It's a sign that there needs to be better communication all around.

It sounds like there needs to be some boundary setting regarding personal projects and hours, and you need to get that chip off your shoulder about your employment invinciblity (believe me - no matter how well someone performs - they will be canned if they are not good to work with).

If none of that works - then it may be time to go. But you owe it to yourself and the people you work with to at least try to move forward in a rational way.
posted by helmutdog at 10:14 AM on September 28, 2011


And BTW - you need to manage the situation to make sure you get a good reference out of your boss no matter what. It may feel awesome to give him/her some sort of "fuck-off" but you'll end up fucking up yourself and brand yourself a bad person to work with.

Believe me - your next employer is going to want to chat with your current boss about what kind of performer you are. So be strategic about how you move forward.
posted by helmutdog at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


First, you apologize for being unprofessional. Explain your frustrations to your boss and be an adult about things. Express your issues with being overworked. Perhaps there's something there that can be worked out.

If you're as irreplacable as you say you are, then you should be able to put out your own shingle and drum up your own business through your reputation. But I think that's an illusion. Everyone can be replaced.
posted by inturnaround at 10:38 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'd polish the resume and start looking for another job*. But also, in the short term, do an "apology, but." E.g., "Sorry I snapped at you, but it's been very stressful working early mornings and nights and weekends, especially given that we're on a 'reduced work week' and I'm only supposed to be working N hours a week. We need to find some way to ensure I'm only working N hours per week."

Hopefully he'll be amenable to coming to a mutual agreement. If not, move up to the ultimatum: "Effective immediately, I will be working in line with the official company expectations, N hours a week." Maybe wait a few days before moving up to the ultimatum so it doesn't come across as if you'd planned it all along.

But if I don't work late, projects wouldn't get done.

Then they don't get done.

And that's irresponsible to our clients & projects.

That's irresponsible of your company to its clients.

Your responsibility to your company is to work in line with the official agreement, whether that's 40 hours per week or a "reduced work week" of 32 hours per week or whatever.

Your company's responsibility to its clients is to meet whatever obligations it has contracted with its clients.

You do not have direct responsibility to your company's clients.

(Thought experiment: if your boss told you to quit work on X contract, because your company was dropping it, even though you knew that would leave the client in a bind, you'd quit work on it, right? Thus, your personal responsibility is only to your company, not to your company's clients.)

It's important to keep a clear mental distinction between your personal responsibility and your company's responsibility. Failure to deliver as promised isn your company's failure, not your personal failure, so long as you are doing your appropriate share of the work (which does not include early mornings and late nights and weekends).

*Another thought: maybe think about striking out on your own, setting up shop yourself. You say your work is virtually supporting the entire three-person company. Ask yourself, what do boss and third person do that you couldn't do on your own (or hire someone else to do)?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It doesn't matter because he can't fire me." is a bit of a tell to me that signals that you're working in the wrong place anyway. That's really the only possible downside you could think of? You hate your job enough that your only worry about being rude and/or hostile is losing your job? Bad, bad sign.

Whether the company brought it on or not, whether you are "justified" or not, right now you're clearly unhappy with your job, and as others have said, you're almost certainly much more replaceable than you think you are. This is like straight out of the Big Book of Classic Employee Misconceptions*.

So you need to get looking for new work. Nicely. And try not to burn every bridge on your way out, okay?

(* Another might be "I know that we are making lots of money now on projects because I have so much work to do." Unless you're intimate with the business's expenses, overhead and debt, not to mention how leveraged that new work might be, you cannot possibly say that with any confidence at all. Idle businesses can be profitable. Busy ones collapse. Every day.)
posted by rokusan at 10:41 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If there is plenty of work, and you have a good relationship with the clients, why don't you start your own business? Quit for this boss, leave to work for yourself, and take the clients with you. It's the shortcut around being made partner.

Also, bring your other coworker on full time once you get established.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:15 AM on September 28, 2011


To answer your questions, I have been in your position and have taken all three approaches. First, always keep an updated resume and always look at the opportunities that are out there even when you are happy in your current position.

I would have a serious discussion with your boss. I would apologize for snapping and explain it's not normally how you react. If it's true, he'll already know this. Then I would explain it's a result of the current workload with no end in sight. If you like the work you are doing and want to continue to work there then ask if you can map out TOGETHER a timeline for improvement and rewards (can be life balance related, promotion or money) with agreed upon times for re-visiting to make sure you aren't given false promises. If you ask for these things, you might be told "no". If you don't ask, you'll never be told "yes". You're also giving them a chance to turn the situation around.

You're burnt out. Your boss probably knows this as well, but you have to say something and ask for change. They need to give you something to work towards or you're out of there. If they are 'meh' about it, then turn the new job search into high gear. You owe it to yourself. When you die, no one is going to say, "but s/he worked so hard at that job!!"
posted by getmetoSF at 12:01 PM on September 28, 2011


First, apologize to Boss "I'm really stressed, and I kind of snapped at you today. I'm sorry" because you sound like a really nice person, and I think you'll feel better. Then, make an appt. with Boss to discuss your future w/ the company, maybe next week.

Spend significant time researching your value to the company. Hours you work are somewhat important, income you produce for company is most important, cost of replacing you, difficulty of replacing you, comparable pay for similar jobs in your area. How much do you want to work? Would you be happier working 35 hours/week, and having an assistant? Are you really willing to keep working 50 hours/week, when it's clearly burning you out. Know what you want before you go into the meeting, and ask for it. You are unlikely to get everything you want, but if you make a good case, you are likely to get a lot of what you want, and can show that you are worth, including, but not limited to, partner.
posted by theora55 at 12:04 PM on September 28, 2011


Just to add:

Our office has been on a reduced work week/salary since November of 2009. I have been without benefits since 2010.

And you probably more hours than you did before. For a lot less money.

You're telegraphing the real value of yourself and your work by doing that, even if you're not willing to admit that to yourself. If you think you can't be fired, when you don't even value your own work or time, then you're about to learn a few things about life the hard way.
posted by mhoye at 12:27 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is kind of the microcosm of what is going on in the economy. Productivity is up, company profits are good, but unemployment is high because companies have figured out people are desperate for employment meaning they can hire fewer people, pay them less, compensate them less and get near the same level of product out of them.

-Either work your reduced week, or demand to be fairly compensated for full time work.
-Start looking for a better situation, or create one.
-You may really love your work, but the company you work for is engaging in borderline exploitative behavior. If your credentials are as strong as you say find the strongest competitors to this company and apply to them
posted by edgeways at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apologize and then quit if you're unhappy with dangling carrots. Trust me, I hate false promises too.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 2:50 PM on September 28, 2011


Okay, I had your exact situation about 7 years after I joined an Internet startup business my friends owned and I too was offered a partnership.

I once had 20 employees; by the time I left the company, there were four of us left. I was getting paid less at the end than I was at the beginning... and I never made partner. But I was stuck there for longer than I should've been by conflating the company's needs with mine; I thought that if I left, everything would go straight to hell, and my partnership/security would never materialize. I thought I was irreplaceable, too, as I was handling all the billing hours for the business. Not to mention I was very close with the two founders; we went to school together and had even lived in the same house.

At one point I got yelled at for choosing to leave after 25 hours of working without a break instead of 36 (that is, until literally the moment the presentation was delivered to the company's client by my two very ripe and hallucinating coworkers at the conference in our city). That's when I lost it.

I did what you did - snapped at my boss, punctuated by slamming a door so hard I almost broke the glass - and they let me go shortly after that; maybe 10 days later? Then the CEO re-hired me as a contractor 3 months later when I hadn't found another full-time job. And when I did get another job with benefits and regular work hours, I put in my notice and left with no regrets.

Here's hoping you can find a way out as soon as possible, for your sanity's sake.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:15 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I personally think it's unacceptable and abusive to hire people full-time without benefits. (or not at full salary if the company can afford to pay full salary). But unfortunately, unless you are in a union, no one is going to stand up for you except for you. Go and speak with your boss. Tell him that you've done an excellent job, you're supporting the whole company and you want a raise and benefits. If he says yes, great. If he says no, start looking for another job.
posted by bananafish at 3:45 PM on September 28, 2011


I just snapped at my boss, but it doesn't matter. He can't fire me.

Ooooooo. It does matter. Snapping at people is not cool; they probably could fire you; snapping isn't going to address the real problems here. My recc is you should apologise, explain how you're feeling to your boss and ask boss if you two can work on some ways to make things better for you.

Or quit.
posted by smoke at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Believe me - your next employer is going to want to chat with your current boss about what kind of performer you are.

Well, maybe; in some states, they can't really say much other than "I would/would not hire this person again."

But yes, you are being used; you might be able to negotiate better, or it might be too crappy to try. Look elsewhere.
posted by emjaybee at 4:41 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, my boss has alluded to making me a partner...that's the carrot I've been chasing. I'm starting to realize it's just a figment of my imagination.

Let's say he does make you a partner. Do you really want to own part of the company, and be responsible (maybe even legally liable) for its actions? Would you have to buy into the partnership? Business doesn't sound so good despite the fact that they have enough to keep you swamped, staff has taken a 50% pay cut (because that's what you did when you work overtime, nights, and weekends and part-time pay) and have no benefits, and the owner is a jerk.

I recommend starting with an apology to the boss. Be excessive in the apology -- you take full responsibility, but the problem is that you are just over-stressed and tired right now. (The apology is to keep you from being fired, so you can have a paycheck while finding something else.) In the same conversation with the apology, say you need to scale back your hours for a while. Immediately after, start working a truly part-time schedule. Use your free time to find another job.

When you have another job lined up and you are giving your notice, he will probably mention the carrot/partnership again. Please don't take it.
posted by Houstonian at 4:53 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Be excessive in the apology

Never, ever be excessive in an apology. Over-admissions of fault (and even accurate ones) come back to bite you. (I am not your lawyer, and none of what I have said or will say here is legal advice.)
posted by The World Famous at 5:03 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, maybe; in some states, they can't really say much other than "I would/would not hire this person again."

Citation? I'm aware many companies have this as an internal policy (and many are even more limiting than that, only verifying dates of employment) but I wasn't aware it was law anywhere in the US.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:20 AM on September 29, 2011


I did this once. Totally uncharaceteristic of me. So, I went back and apologized and said I felt it was totally out of character for me, and that in my defense may have been due to workload, etc.
My boss was used to me being friendly and cooperative, and when this happened, and when I apologized, he took steps to fix the workload and conditions, etc. He just hadn't seen the problem from the side of those who worked for him, but when he did, he fixed it.
So, it isn't necessarily a totally bad thing.
However, I needed to apologize whatever the outcome - it made me feel better, and put me back where I needed to be emotionally.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 11:43 AM on September 29, 2011


Citation? I'm aware many companies have this as an internal policy (and many are even more limiting than that, only verifying dates of employment) but I wasn't aware it was law anywhere in the US.

I can't speak for the U.S., but in Canada "I would not hire this person again" is HR liability-avoidant shorthand for "you should not hire this person."
posted by mhoye at 12:14 PM on September 30, 2011


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