Is my job killing me?
December 1, 2010 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm pursuing a career, but is it at the cost of the rest of my life?

Ten months ago I transitioned from office work with light field duties to labor with the understanding that I would be trained for a specific technical position. New job in the field came with a spectacular increase in pay, good benefits, and approval from my family and my new superiors, as well as access to tinkering with machines that make me very happy.

All of this came at the cost of my personal life and emotional well-being. My current position is boring, physically exhausting, and time-consuming. Situations at work rendered my original promised training unfeasible, and it's unclear how long I would be expected to remain in my current position or when the opportunity for training would materialize. Currently I am not permitted to pursue the technical end of things at work because "I have to pay my dues."

Over the last ten months I have given up all of my hobbies and most of my friendships, and my significant other has stated that I have become unacceptably emotionally demanding, to the point where she is reconsidering being with me. Over the last two months I have been suffering from increasingly debilitating mood swings, and have had several anxiety attacks a week since November started. I was also injured and have been on light duty doing basically nothing for the last two weeks. I feel like my mental state has deteriorated -- I spend a lot of time after work (2+ hours) on the phone in hysterical tears about work, or in a sort of catatonic state. When I wake up in the morning I am flooded with unbearable anxiety about work.

Despite this, my performance at work has apparently not suffered.

My upbringing and the culture of my work make it very difficult for me to consider leaving. Also, the economy blows and I moved to a city where it will be difficult to find work if I quit. But it feels like being satisfactory at work is costing me everything else in my life. Please weigh in. I am already going to go see a therapist both on my own volition and as a condition of my girlfriend not leaving me. Any other advice would be really welcome right now. Thanks.
posted by beefetish to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From my own experience hating a job: I wasn't crazy, the job was really that bad for me. All the things promised me were never delivered. The company being forced to lay me off was the best thing that ever happened to me. Therapy will hopefully be very constructive for you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:44 AM on December 1, 2010

Yep, you need to get the job fixed or leave it before you end up emotionally dead and your support network in ruins. Force the issue with your boss - he may cave, you may be fired on the spot, either way be prepared to walk away that day if need be.

Note that even "in this economy" you are are not going to end up homeless or starve.

Good luck. I know exactly how this goes.
posted by MillMan at 10:06 AM on December 1, 2010

Best answer: If possible, maybe talk to one of the higher-ups about a timetable for the training. That degree of light at the end of the tunnel might ameliorate things. As it is, it sounds like you're being strung along. I mean they told you you'd be trained for tech work and did not train you for tech work, and that was ten months ago. Talk to them, and if they won't give you a straight answer then I'd say to use what available resources you have to find a new job before leaving this one.

I can imagine that this work culture might be one of stoicism so it may be difficult to find someone who can give you the answers you're looking for, but it's kind of shitty of them to say you have to pay your dues but not tell you what that will actually entail. Part of the problem is how demanding the job is and part of it is that you have the understanding that there's an end goal in mind but no idea as to the distance between here and there. I can imagine that would make one feel pretty hopeless. I did labor for about a week as a younger MONSTER - assembly-line stuff - and it was absolutely mind-destroying.

So, I don't know. It's a cliche but I'm of the mind that when you're on your deathbed you won't be thinking, "God, if only I'd spent more time working." Being satisfactory at work seems to be costing you everything that isn't being satisfactory at work; does that seem worth it to you? I mean, not everyone is going to love their job - more often than not, one doesn't - but there needs to be some sense of fulfillment beyond remuneration.

Despite any good which comes along with this, it's really sounding like a net loss, and a massive one. It may not be easy but the job can be replaced. If it results in your family's disapproval, they'll get over it, and if they have a problem with you not wanting to kill yourself for a job then I suspect the problem is not yours.

And what good are money, benefits or approval if there's nothing in your life at all besides your job?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2010

I've been in a very similar situation, and please listen when I say, that NO job is worth it. It slowly takes an unbelievable toll on you that takes years to come back from.

It's hard to look at it in this perspective from where you are now (believe me, I know), but it doesn't sound like the company or its managers have much loyalty to you, so why afford them the reciprocal? A job is just that, and unless your priorities are stacked in such a way that you can dedicate to your life to the work you (aka, a calling or a passion), you need to get away from it as soon as possible.
posted by ASoze at 10:15 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Second ThePinkSuperhero. When I was in college I had an outdoor labor job that was ridiculous. All I did was sleep after work and I was incredibly overwhelmed upon waking up to go to the job. I hated every second of it and it turned me into someone I wasn't happy being.

If you are financially able to quit your job (emergency fund with X_months of living expenses) then I would suggest you let your boss know immediately that you would like to move on to the job they promised you and explain why. Depending on your situation they either don't need you and will say tough luck. Or they do need you and will realize they have to fulfill your request or at least get you started in the process.

If their stance is that you have to put in your dues then maybe there is no speeding this process up. But you never get what you don't ask for so at least open the discussion back up about it and ask what exactly you have to do to get there. If this point is moot and you've already done that it looks like you may want to look for another job.

The only reason I suggest this in this economy is that having a job you hate and that changes you is just about the most overwhelming feeling since it's something that will always be on your mind. Try and look for another job without quitting your current one, even for less money if you can.

If you have money saved up, or even an IRA/401K (involves penalties) that you could withdraw from you can use that to lean on as you find new work. Find a part-time job, something easy that you won't hate (Delivery is great I hear), and work on finding something else. Regardless of your city get yourself out there and start making connections. Call people you think you'd like to work for, send out your resume etc.

Hope this helps! Good luck and remember to focus on what you can do to better your life and be happy again, hopefully that will drive you and provide you with some fresh energy and perspective.
posted by modoriculous at 10:16 AM on December 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all.

modoriculous - re: work turning you into someone you are not happy being - this is awfully familiar to me, and also a huge stressor. I am actively uninterested in being like the rest of the guys and spending my life mostly around the guys. It's turning me into the opposite of the kind of person I was [ludicrous, bohemian], which I had spent years of hard work becoming.

FAMOUS MONSTER: Two weeks ago the guy who hired me said point-blank that the training process hinged on the presence of someone who is no longer with the company. I am going to ask him what the plan is since that person has not been with us since March. And then I'm probably going to tender my resignation.

I have substantial savings and skills to fall back on, and I am sure my bosses here would give me good references in my future endeavors.

I think I may be overrepresenting any disappointment my parents would feel at my quitting; this job was kind of a weird lark anyway.
posted by beefetish at 10:31 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hooray! Glad to hear it. You'll be fine.

Better than fine, now. Best of luck to you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:39 AM on December 1, 2010

Best answer: Find a way to leave, whether or not you have another job lined up. While I agree with the conventional wisdom that it's optimal to wait until you've secured a new job before leaving, sometimes that's not possible for reasons of mental and physical well-being. My boss at my last job was hostile and unpredictable - screaming jags and threats blew in and out on a daily basis. She'd e-mail at midnight and threaten to fire me the next morning if I hadn't responded by 8 AM, and she regularly told all employees in our small office that no one else would ever hire them in this economy so they'd better submit to her unreasonable demands. By June, I was waking up with panic attacks on a near-daily basis, my blood pressure was through the roof, and I felt like I was halfway to an ulcer.

Just like you, it was affecting my relationship with my boyfriend and my friends - because I spent my hours outside of work dreading the next morning and the buzz of my Blackberry inbox, I couldn't relax and be present in my personal life in the evening and on the weekends. I'm really not trying to be melodramatic, but it reached the point where I felt constantly as though my life as it stood wasn't worth living.

I relay this story because it sounds like while the circumstances of the jobs in question are different, our reactions are similar. This job was affecting me physically and mentally, and it was NOT worth it. I stuck around for a year and even that was far too long. I quit in August without another job lined up and cobbled together savings and temp work during the job hunt until I found my current (better, saner, more appropriately managed) position. It was stressful. It was never, ever, ever - even at the lowest points - as stressful as going to the job had been.

Prevailing wisdom right now suggests that no one should leave any job that's putting food on the table, and I agree that right now it's wise to be cautious about job hopping for trivial reasons. However, I think some folks - online and otherwise - can take this caution to extremes. Your health is not trivial, and even in this economy you shouldn't compromise it to keep a job that isn't ideal for you. It doesn't sound like this job is taking you where you want to go. You're a human being, not a machine part - don't let the job pull you under and take you away from the people who love you. Your company hasn't earned that kind of sacrifice from you.

MeMail me if you want a sympathetic ear from someone who has been there.
posted by superfluousm at 10:58 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Took me so long to type I didn't see your response until after posting - go you!!! Sounds like you can extricate yourself gracefully. You'll be just fine. Congrats!
posted by superfluousm at 10:59 AM on December 1, 2010

Congratulations on beginning a plan to do something with the situation you're in. While I note your response above, I think it's worth putting a bit more thought into your plan before you execute.

First, you need to talk to your significant other and involve her in the planning process, especially if you live with her or your finances impact her, and more especially if you care about her. My experience with this kind of situation has taught me that threats to leave are no joke and the window of time in which to take action is small.

Second, the health thing totally justifies your attitude, but also consider that the job seemed bearable so long as you could see a light at the end of the tunnel and still believe it wasn't just a train heading your way. If that's the case, consider spending some time job hunting before you self-adjust your employment status.

Last, don't have regrets about leaving a job that is causing unbearable stress with serious physical symptoms. I had a job in the tech field that was so stressful that I developed a minor heart issue. When the company wouldn't adjust the circumstances that caused the stress, I bailed out. As luck would have it, they folded 6 months later, so the job security angle was really just an illusion. Walk away while you can. Your life is not a "due" to be paid to any employer, and any employer who thinks it is will not be worth working for. Since job security is an illusion (especially working for a bad employer), don't ever be convinced that bailing out is a bad idea when the alternative is to lose your health.

In a nutshell, I really hope you find the right balance.
posted by Hylas at 11:26 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

What you're experiencing is "good reasons to look for a new job." Always in hindsight I've realized that I left jobs way too late. Start looking at the first sign of trouble.
posted by rhizome at 12:23 PM on December 1, 2010

>Two weeks ago the guy who hired me said point-blank that the training process hinged on the presence of someone who is no longer with the company. I am going to ask him what the plan is since that person has not been with us since March.

They made you a promise that they can no longer keep? Sounds like even if you quit, it's one of those "work environment" type of things that you can get unemployment insurance for.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 12:27 PM on December 1, 2010

Best answer: I just gave notice at a job that was making me depressed. I don't know what I'm going to do next, but I know whatever it is will be better. I already feel worlds better than I did before giving notice, even though I'm terrified about what I'll do in the meantime. But no job is worth my mental health. I'd rather eat ramen noodles and sleep on a friend's couch for a couple of months, but I know that with temp work and odd jobs, it won't come to that.

So, obviously, I think you should get out if it's hitting you this hard. No matter what the economy is doing, your job should support your life, not destroy it.

Good luck!
posted by rosa at 1:37 PM on December 1, 2010

« Older sum group by in spreadsheet   |   What is this classical melody? Wagner? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.