Working with my father is killing me. What can I do?
June 5, 2008 10:27 AM Subscribe
Working with my father is a nightmare. Should I quit? How do I deal with the repercussions?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Potentially related information: I'm 23, female, atypical depression since I was 13-ish and it is mostly controlled with medication. I live in a great home with my fiance and I think I'm ruining our relationship with my job misery. My mother is depressed and no one acknowledges it; she has a long-standing history of not caring about my relationship with my father. My father is 64 and everyone who knows him loves him. He does not believe in counseling and does not believe that mood disorders exist.
My father and I have never really gotten along (wasn't around much when I was a kid, refused to let me get mental health treatment when I was a minor, threw money at me and called it parenting). We both have thin skin, and we're both really stubborn. He's a yeller, and since his hearing is really bad, I have to be a yeller. To make a long, mostly unrelated story short, I moved back to my home state last year and he offered me a job. I started working for him about four months ago. I'm thinking accepting was a huge mistake.
The job consists of menial duties like answering a phone, writing up some documents, doing some minor marketing work and being my father's metaphorical punching bag. We're a staff of two (we're a satellite office for a nationwide company) in an incredibly small office. One of my biggest problems right now is that my father is incapable of treating me like an employee - he treats me like I'm still living in his house (I'm not). He yells at me for things that are really obviously not my fault and says really hurtful things when he's angry.
For example, today one of our 15-year-old phones broke and I was treated as though it was my fault. First, he demanded that I fix it, and I tried to calmly explain that I have no idea how to fix a multi-line phone system. I offered to read the manual and try to find some troubleshooting information. I came up with nothing helpful and offered to call the phone company. This resulted in more yelling and me being called "a mental defective." I pulled out my memorized speech for these situations and said, "I don't appreciate being spoken to like that. You wouldn't yell at a random employee like that. When I am here, I am your employee, not your daughter" as calmly as I possibly could. As usual, this resulted in, "You're an employee? Yeah, well, you're incompetent." I think I'm making this out to be more than it is or I'm overreacting or something -- my father isn't an ogre or anything, he just doesn't acknowledge any feelings whatsoever and since he never thinks he's doing anything wrong, he never apologizes when he hurts someone. Like I said, I have thin skin, and I've never had a job that didn't make me cry at least once.
Situations this intense usually pop up once a week, with scattered, minor misdirected yelling pretty much every day. I know I'm not a perfect employee. In fact, one of the major reasons why I took the job in the first place is because I am depressed and I feel like I am totally unemployable as a result (I was laid off from a previous job and it appeared to me that they thought I was incompetent but didn't want to hurt my feelings). I have no "marketable" skills - I have experience as a secretary and a BFA in writing/literature. I get distracted a lot and I never go "above and beyond" what's written in my job description, though I do get all vital work done in a timely manner. I'm trying my hardest to not screw this job up. My father constantly brags to his colleagues that I was the only sucker willing to take this job for such a pathetic salary, which pretty much cements my assumption that I'm worth next-to-nothing.
The yelling plus a hellish 90+ minute commute are making me seriously consider quitting. Is there some magical phrase I can utter that will somehow make my father have empathy (or at least have another emotion besides "angry" and "pre-angry"), or is this as much of a lost cause as I think it is? Right now the only things keeping me here are the money, not wanting to completely ruin any relationship I have with my parents (and to a lesser extent, some colleagues I really like), and not knowing if I'm overreacting. I'm also afraid of never getting another job ever again, and I don't want to strand my father with all my work along with his own -- we do more work than any two people should be burdened with.
Okay, so my two questions are: Should I quit? How do I deal with the inevitable shitstorm that comes with my resignation if I do quit? Or what can I do to make my life livable again and/or stop overreacting? I'm supposed to be getting married about a year from now -- a wedding my father wants to pay for, but I don't want to make my entire family hate me and I don't want to feel even more awful for accepting my father's money. I'm pretty sure that my entire family will be disgusted with me if I leave my dad out in the cold. I just can't see how I can possibly quit without causing more problems for myself.
If anyone needs clarification on my novel, I'm the girl that sucks, firstname.lastname@example.org