I hate my job, but will I hate myself if I quit it?
February 12, 2009 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I hate hate hate hate my job. It's killing me, every day, to know that I work for people who have no interest in my well-being while I create utter, meaningless drivel. I don't think I can do this anymore. But I might have an escape. Is it reasonable to quit in light of the economy and the inevitable instability of switching to freelance writing and babysitting?

I've been the editor-in-chief of a small nightlife magazine for almost a year. As I have no other staff aside from two part-time interns, I'm also the fact-checker, editorial assistant, managing editor, and online publisher. The "magazine" is owned by a nightlife marketing company, so I'm basically writing long, mindless copy for their sponsored parties. I used to think this was a great opportunity, or something that at least looked good on my resume, but recently I've realized that I hate editing, hate my job, and don't really care to succeed in this industry. I'm going back to school to get a PhD in English so I can write and teach. I figured I'd continue this job to pay the bills until grad school plans coalesced later in the year, but things have taken a turn for the worse and I'm literally struggling to not cry in the bathroom every hour.

The company is struggling, like many, but their recent "adjustments" to save money have made my life hell. They cut down on my already barely-livable wage, have patently refused to insure me or put me on the payroll, and are counting me as a "freelancer" for tax purposes even though I have no freelancing rights and would be fired if I ever decided to not come into work in order to take another freelancing gig. They've cut down my hours to 10-4 but have saddled me with an unfeasible amount of work to complete in the allotted time. While they refuse to hire any help on my end, they've just hired an assistant for the boss's son who makes twice my salary. As they slashed their freelance budget, I'm expected to write, edit and publish at least 4 500-word articles a day, and my brain is fried. The articles are terrible, and I've taken my name off the bylines so no one can trace them back to me. I'm trying to study for the GRE and have been forced to freelance and babysit on the side to make ends meet, but I'm so drained from the ridiculous work load that I can barely stay awake at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, I have an extensive background in nannying, which pays better than my current job, though switching over might be less stable in the beginning. I really enjoy nannying and feel energized at the end of the day, not homicidal. I also enjoy freelance writing, because I get to write well and on my own terms rather than shoveling the palaver of my company into a terrible website that no one even reads. I already have a lot of babysitting contacts and freelance writing gigs to carry me over until the GRE in March, and quitting now would allow me the mental resources to actually study.

Today I opened up my calendar and realized there was just no way I could complete my huge work load in the amount of time I am paid to be here, that I cannot stay late to finish my work due to my other jobs, and that I am going to have a mental breakdown if I am expected to continue at this pace, on this salary, hating my job and hating 5 out of every 7 days a week while ruining my ability to adequately prepare for grad school applications. This feeling has only intensified after realizing that an editorial job isn't going to further my career plans.

I'm going to redress this specific instance of tax evasion on my own so I'm not shouldering all my taxes plus the added freelancer's tax. And sure, it's just a job, and lots of people will argue that jobs aren't supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy. That's fair. But I hate my life. I see a possible escape. I want to quit, tomorrow, and start over. I already have babysitting jobs and a couple freelance pieces lined up. Maybe the reason this all looks so feasible is because I want so badly for a way out, and can't tell if I'm being ungrateful and unrealistic. I would have quit already, but the guilt of quitting an editorial job when they are so rare and coveted (even though my job degrades the concept of "editorial") in the midst of The Second Great Depression seems stupid.

So, is it insane to quit a job in the middle of economic ruin just because you hate it? Because I feel like I literally won't be able to come into work tomorrow unless I know it's my last day, but maybe I just need to saddle up and recognize that I'm just lucky to have a paycheck. I really don't anymore. Sorry for the long rant and thanks so much in advance.

And sorry for the length and rantiness of this post. I wrote this last night at midnight after babysitting and today I'm too busy to actually edit its Joyceian train of thought.
posted by Viola to Work & Money (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Absolutely you need to get out of there. You're working too hard, you're being treated unfairly, and you're underpaid for your work. Get out!

BUT...there's the question of timing. The "economic ruin" for the country is a bad sign but economic ruin for the country does not mean economic ruin for YOU.

The standard question is: do you have 6 mos of your salary in readily accessible savings? If so, you can probably quit today, keep working on your other things, get the nannying gig going, and do that.

If you don't have the savings to live off of, then things get harder. But with all the editing experience you've done, depending where you live perhaps you could transition to a less hell-ish editorial role for a newspaper or magazine in your area. Even if the salary is less, if you can live off of it you could very well be happier, and just work it until your savings are up or your nannying business can get off the ground.

Are their nanny services in your area where you could be a salaried employee vs. self-employed?

You need to get out, but more info is needed on your current financial circumstances versus just how bad the job is.

And as for the economy, there are still jobs out there, there are still people making money. It's harder but it's not impossible.
posted by arniec at 11:54 AM on February 12, 2009

I think you should not only quit, but also take a week's vacation some place far away.
posted by 517 at 11:55 AM on February 12, 2009

Well, yeah, that job sucks all right.

There's no way for us to predict whether you'll be able to find another job or to support yourself by freelancing -- you're a better judge than we are of how experienced you are, what freelance opportunities exist in your area, how much of a financial cushion you have, etc etc. But if you're looking for validation on the "holy crap does this job suck" part, yeah, I'm with you; I'd quit too.
posted by ook at 11:57 AM on February 12, 2009

Life is short.
Since you can make enough to keep body and soul together doing something you don't hate, do that. Quit. It may not make you happy, but you'll surely be less miserable.
posted by Floydd at 11:58 AM on February 12, 2009

I know it's just anecdotal, but I and many friends have had this problem before, and not a single one of us has ever regretted the decision to quit. Once you feel that first spark of 'i do have a choice,' it is incredibly liberating.
posted by troybob at 12:01 PM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Definitely quit. Or threaten to quit unless they give you a large pay increase. Explain your rationale like you did here, and when they say you're crazy for asking for a pay bump in the midst of "rough times" point to the assistant and say "well, he can edit your shitty magazine, I'm out motherfuckers."

(You'll want to make sure your shit is packed already so you can make a grand exit. It's awkward to collect all of your stuff in a box right after you've called everyone a motherfucker. But definitely call them motherfuckers, because it will make you feel so much better and you're not looking for references from them anyway--you'll have your writing as your portfolio.)

Go for broke when dealing with them--if you're leaving anyway, you can play hardball, and then leave if you don't get what you want. If they recognize your value, they'll do what they can to make things less miserable. And if they don't, well, adios motherfuckers.
posted by disillusioned at 12:03 PM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: Quit.
Sound like you have put a lot of good thought into your alternatives and new ways of making money and what you'd get out of it by quitting vs. what you'd give up by staying.

If you can make it on savings til March after your GREs, you'll probably have gained enough nannying gigs by then to make it.
So the question isn't whether you have 6 months savings but more like 1 or 2.

Your future is obviously elsewhere (grad school, etc) so stop suffering needlessly and get ready for it as best you can.

Anecdotally, I had a friend who was working in a terrible job she hated, and as soon as she knew for sure that she was going to grad school, she quit, babysat, and just didn't go out as much. She lived like that for almost 7 months and she was so so much happier.

You'll be able to get by with nannying, and if you aren't and have to start temping, it probably won't be much worse than your current job. It doesn't sound like you are giving up very much by leaving.
posted by rmless at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2009

If all that matters to you is the money, you wouldn't be asking this question. You should quit. You are resilient and it's in our constitution that you have the right to pursue happiness.
posted by mattbucher at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2009

This is the plight of many abused people: "How can I leave, when things may be worse out there?"

Stop putting up with it! You may have a difficult financial time ahead, but whatever you end up doing, you absolutely should not allow yourself another moment of abuse and soul killing, in my opinion.
posted by jasper411 at 12:26 PM on February 12, 2009

I believe that if they are your sole or primary employer, they can be held responsible for your withholding if you are a freelancer. Check with an accountant or tax preparer.

Quietly plan your exit strategy, gradually bring your things home, and don't call them motherfuckers.

Taking the high road and living well are the best revenge.
posted by jgirl at 12:26 PM on February 12, 2009

I heard on the radio today something like "only 40% of employees who left their jobs in January quit," which they mentioned because it was down from 60% two years ago. I thought "40% quit!?" So, awesome. Just tell yourself that even in these times, nearly half of job seekers quit themselves. I could imagine that with your evident resourcefulness, you'll shortly end up making more money than you do now.
posted by salvia at 12:42 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Leave and don't look back. Use your upcoming babysitting jobs to network. Let your new clients know that you are focusing on babysitting and nannying, that you now have plenty of availability and ask them to tell their friends, friends of friends, etc.
posted by studentbaker at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2009

I say never quit a job unless you have something else lined up.
posted by sswiller at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2009

Speaking as someone who just quit her vile-but-stable job for a wonderful-but-risky freelance opportunity a month ago, I can say I haven't regretted a moment of it. I'm making half of what I did (but only at half-time right now) and money is tight, life is uncertain, but life is /life/ again. Having those five days a week back in your control...it's a wonderful thing and worth every risk, pitfall, challenge, or added stress I've encountered. Cliche as it is, I'm poor but I'm happy. :)
posted by ninjakins at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: @Viola,

Please walk out, it is not worth your soul.

Also, if this provides any perspective, I left my job in late December - I couldn't take cubeville anymore and had enough $ saved up for a few months. I really do feel free in comparison -- I make my own schedule and don't work as hard (and so far, knock on wood, make the same amt of $).

I would suggest you contact all and any contacts you have over the next day or two and tell them you are looking for freelance work/planning to leave -- they may be able to line up work for you (that is what a contact did for me and the second I quit a project appeared). You would also be surprised-- despite the economy, some companies have increased opportunities for freelancers because of hiring freezes, increased workloads, and a screaming client.

Also, I think the freelance plus nanny/babysitting combo is perfect -- I've noticed with freelancing, there is a lag in pay (net 30 after you finish a job)--so with your other gigs, you can get paid almost immediately. You also may want to consider tutoring (I've gotten $50 to $60 plus in NYC before, easy work if you enjoy the subject).

Jump the net will appear. I really think we are more afraid of the unknown than some of the horrible conditions at a workplace. Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 1:10 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quit, but quit smart. OK, they're jerks, and yes, they've taken advantage of you, but they still will be a reference for you if you decide to work outside grad school... or change your mind and go back to jobs in editing.

Just start looking for something, shift things out of your office after hours, and give them adequate notice. You don't owe them any more than that, aside from you trying to maintain some level of professionalism while you're leaving. It will help your self esteem once you finally do go, to do the right thing. Karma points count, particularly in this economy.

All the chatter about the horrible economy aside, I and friends (and former staff) of mine have had absolutely no trouble finding work. As in, two weeks searching, max. If you're skilled, intelligent, educated and hardworking (and have decent references), you shouldn't have any trouble finding something to pay your bills. It may not be the most brilliant job, ever, but it'll be something better than what you have now. Crying at work is a sign that it's time to go.

And yes, take a couple of weeks if you can. Where are you? Regardless of your loosey-goosey contractor status with them, my understanding is that if you've been treated as an employee (i.e. can't choose your working hours the way a contractor could) you are defacto an employee under CA law. It might be worth checking out if that's also true for your state.

Best of luck!
posted by Grrlscout at 1:14 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks so much for everyone's input. I feel a little saner knowing that leaving this debilitating job isn't a sign of ingratitude or irrationality.

I won't give them my two weeks' notice, mainly because the GRE is coming up and need my brain in full form, and the idea of drifting another 10 days into corporate senility just gives me the hives. I'm in New York City, so jobs of the freelancing and nannying persuasion are plentiful. I don't know about collecting unemployment, but I've never once been on their payroll. I have a lot of money saved, but I'm still figuring out how much I'll have to pay in taxes, as I understand that even if I report the company for tax evasion, I'll probably have to pay all the taxes by April 1st and then wait for later reimbursement if it's proved that I wasn't a "consultant."

What tipped me over the edge was when IT told me there was no way I could publish articles from home. My unaffiliated programmer friend took a look at our website and said they were bullshitting me because they didn't want to make a rich text editor for firefox, but no one else at work listened. I realized there was no way to take a vacation or even stay home sick without stopping the entire website until I came back in the office. No one else can publish articles but me, so any time off would be for emergency purposes and deeply resented among my superiors.

The anecdotes and words of encouragement are, as always, immensely helpful.
posted by Viola at 1:43 PM on February 12, 2009

Oh definately quit. You didn't mention kids or a mortagae or a disabled SO that needs supporting. So your responsibilities are minimal right now. I have quit several jobs and loved the feeling of freedom. I've ended up in a job I love, earning more than at any other job and with much more interesting and challenging (without being defeatedly challenging) tasks. You want to be in a good space for the GRE right. Wow, you sound completely irreplacable at your work - they will definately be missing you!
posted by saucysault at 2:36 PM on February 12, 2009

Quit Quit Quit!

You can always temp for extra cash (sounds like you are way underpaid to begin with). Don't stay somewhere that's making you miserable any longer than absolutely necessary.
posted by emd3737 at 3:04 PM on February 12, 2009

I really do think "talk is cheap," and the fact that quitting may have been someone else's greatest-decision-ever doesn't mean that it won't be the start of economic ruin for you.

But as a data point, every time I quit a job it turned out to be a damned good thing.
posted by jayder at 4:04 PM on February 12, 2009

These days, the only time I say anyone should quit their job is if they are about to have a meltdown any second now. You are clearly there. You get the free pass to leave.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2009

Quitting sounds like a fine idea in this case. But if you hate being stressed out, disrespected, pressured, underpaid, and set up for failure, I strongly, strongly advise you to reconsider your grad school plan. Why jump from this frying pan into that fire?
posted by agent99 at 5:41 PM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: Uf. So sorry to hear about your predicament. I, too, hate my job and can barely find the motivation to get myself out of bed in the morning. My mom says all I have to do is get on my knees and appeal to God for help, but for this atheist that advice isn't gonna cut it. I find myself hating every moment of almost every day. I dread waking up because I know I have to spend the next 12 hours at a place I detest, where the stress sometimes paralyzes me, and where the only thing saving me from hurling myself out the window is the little window stopper that keeps it from opening more than six inches wide. I dread the morning and early afternoon because I feel trapped in a tornado of chaos. I dread the late afternoon because I know I'll have to catch up on paperwork and planning. I dread going home at night because I know I'll have fight the urge to be a normal person who reads the paper and stuffs my face with bonbons because I still have hours of work to complete. I dread going to bed because I know the whole cycle will begin once the alarm sounds. I dread the weekends because I know that's when I have to buckle down and do the big projects I'm too tired to do during the week. My boss is a horror, I have to spend thousands of dollars on materials I can't afford in a city I can't afford, and, to top it all off, I'm terrified to admit that all the time, effort, and money I've invested in preparing myself for this career was wasted. All of this has caused me emotionally eat and I feel like I might soon resemble a big, gross, greasy doughnut hole. Woe. Is. Me. Hold me.

The good news is that I can probably try working somewhere else next fall before I decide toss this career in the bucket. I'm also relatively young, I can go back to school again if I need to, I don't have a family to support, I have great friends, believe it or not I'm a jolly and positive person, and I can move back home if things get too dire--and things would have to be pretty damn bad for me to get to that point.

Somehow my comment ended up being all about me. Sorry. Venting.

There is nothing wrong with going back to school to pursue something you really want. Doesn't sound like you're doing it to avoid making difficult decisions, so I say can your job, apply to grad school, nanny like hell until you get accepted into a program, and start enjoying your life as much as you can. Do what I don't have the courage to do (yet). I'm sure I'll be posting an SOS message on the Green at some point in the coming months and you'll have to encourage me by telling me that you didn't have to resort to turning tricks on the street to make ends meet after you left your job. Best of luck.

Now go have a drink. Cheers to your new life and a big leap into the Unknown.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't know, some people don't have the right mindset to do this, but I wouldn't quit. I would keep turning up and stop working. They're paying you hourly? Work those hours, at a reasonable pace, then go home. Maybe you'll only get one article done instead of four. You don't care about references from here anyway, and you're not going to collect employment, so does it really bother you if they fire you? And then you get to collect pay between now and then. You could even use the time in their office to research the freelancer tax issue.
posted by jacalata at 9:26 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

HotPattata: I hope you'll take the jump soon. All that you have invested is not wasted if you learn, in the process, what it is you don't want.

I worked at a job I hated until one day I walked into a Jamba Juice and realized that I would be happier working behind that counter. Whatever you do for work has as much dignity as you invest it with.
posted by troybob at 9:59 PM on February 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone. I just quit. They're very upset, but maybe they've realized the ramifications of treating employees like shit without preparing an alternative if one of them wriggles free. There was a boot crunching down on my spine and I just bucked it. Three co-workers have come up to me privately and told me that they're now considering quitting as well. I know it's a bad time to cast myself off into the uncertain waters of freelancing and odd jobs, but if the alternative is dwindling into the shriveled raisin of a dream deferred or whatever, then I'll take my chances with poverty any day. Life is good, and I will never again sit at this fucking desk wondering what I'd be doing if I had the guts to leave.
posted by Viola at 11:40 AM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Right on!
posted by salvia at 1:12 PM on February 13, 2009

Good for you! Time to gloat!
posted by saucysault at 4:05 PM on February 13, 2009

Hurray for the happy news! You'll be OK, ya hear!?
posted by HotPatatta at 6:26 PM on February 13, 2009

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