How do I get my work mojo back for now and in the future?
January 4, 2011 2:10 PM   Subscribe

How to get confidence back at a job that killed it?

Hi. I don't know if it's burn out, lack of confidence, result of being in a toxic environment for so long or what.

I just feel totally unmotivated lately at this job but also unmotivated and scared to leave and look for a job.

A while back I posted this. Well there were many updates after this.

1. ex boss who I always had a fabulous relationship with got promoted. I thought good news.

2. It lead to crazy confrontational boss to leave.

3. It lead to an opening at the company which I told the middle boss I wanted. She said sure she would tell me when it was officially posted and would inform my ex boss who is now our director.

Now the backstory was me and the ex boss/director were together as boss/employee for 2 years. They gave me stellar reviews and told me I was getting a promotion. A former director didn't like me because I was up front with the way she verbally abused employees. That former director left, blocked my promotion, and thought well now that she's gone, NOW is my chance because there is an opening. Surely with 6 years of good reviews, 2 by the boss who is now our director and wanted to promote me gives me a fair shot.

Well, they didn't tell me about the posting. I stumbled on to it. I applied and the new director (ex boss) called me in a room with my temp boss and said "no way am I even interviewing you. You have zero qualifications for this job."

I was shocked. So I can do the job alone (creative team of min. 3 people is usually the standard) for 6 years, she can be my manager for 2 of them and tell me she wanted to promote me now I can't even get an interview because I'm not qualified????

I'm obviously upset but move on. Fine. My new boss (yes this is now the 4th boss in one year) does have some impressive experience. Move on, do my work, etc. Creative team from different parts merge together and we're told we're cross functional. Fine. Good people.

Then the snotty tone, double checking on my work emails come from my ex boss/director. I'm floored. They were never like this before and always told me they never had to worry about me. I was a go getter, did great work, etc. I finally asked in private email what was up that I think we shoudl talk it out. I feel that there is a lack of faith in my abilities. So we meet.

Holy cow the backlash from nowhere. I was asked why am I here. What is my value. The new boss said to them that they've seen problems (not once did ANYONE ever tell me of "problems") and now it's the end of the year and I've obviously done nothing all year. good mid year review that they approved was lies? What about 6 years of great reviews--including from them? If there are 'problems" shoudln't they tell me when the problems occur, not wait until the last week of the month?

I go to HR asking if this is the start of something more formal because I cannot lose this job. It pays really well. I like it (despite the craziness). And I am the benefit earner for our family. Our son who has on and off health problems needs this premo insurance. HR tells me that something is weird and unfair and to start documenting. But I also know that HR works for the company and you can't "fight the power".

I don't know where or why my ex boss flipped their tune. I don't know what 'problems' the new boss is talking about because when we talked their estimate of my experience was way off track. I proved to them my talents and all I got was an "oh. Yea well you DO know your stuff." Getting rid of you takes a while over here but still, the job market is tough. I look at jobs and either I don't fit the mold because quite frankly, this company held me back in progress of the latest and greatest trends, our product sucks, and if I show it in a portfolio what I do they'll go "wow. THat is just horrible." And it is horrible because that is what was approved by management. My proposals and ideas got squashed. When your product has a 99% negative customer rating,'s not good.

So now I just feel---depressed? Burned out? Unmotivated? No confidence. I feel like I'm always on edge going to get fired and never can please these people (the expectations, while good, are really high now and out of nowhere). But looking at other jobs, no one will match this salary/benefits or I'm not qualfied because my talents are stuck in 1998.

Do I "mooch" off the learnings from this new boss who is ramping up our experience?

Do I stay with it thinking well maybe the director was just in a bad mood because senior management made her life hell that day and she obviously blammed me for the crappy product instead of equal responsibility (I'm not a manager so how can this be my fault when they are the manager of this product and thought all was fine and dandy when for YEARS I told them we need to change XYZ by doing ABC)?

Do I slowly apply to other jobs? Everytime I look I just get scared/depressed. I feel like a talentless hack now from my former confident/enthused self. I know I will have to get a paycut. I will probably lose my work from home days. Flex hours? I have a child and want to start another one. I can't with new benefits (need to go through fertility treatments).

So lots to think about and every angle just makes me burned out/depressed.

I'm very confused how to move through this. It almost feels like well I'll put up with abuse, jerking around because hey my family needs xyz from me and this is as good as it will get (aka all jobs suck).
posted by stormpooper to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh and looking back it burned me when they asked me to write my duties, what I do all day, with whom (vendors), what they do, what the budget it, etc.

Why? Because it was used for the job position, educating my ex boss/director (even though this isn't new for them), and educated the new guy. I was doing the work for 2 high managers yet I wasn't "qualified" to be a manager. Odd.
posted by stormpooper at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2011

Don't slowly apply for other jobs. Apply fast. Suddenly pulling "problems" out of a hat and saying you've done "nothing all year" after 6 years of good reviews means they intend to fire you.

Take legal advice about securing references and viewing them before they're sent.

Take the emotion out of it now and stop wondering why. There is most likely either a budgetary reason or some petty personal gripe somewhere that you will never ever be able to trace to its source.

Keep offsite copies of every review and every bit of good feedback you've ever had. You are going to need them.
posted by tel3path at 2:29 PM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

You need to find a new job.

Reading you post (and your previous post) as an objective 3rd party -
it is pretty clear that the current situation is not, and will not, work for you
posted by Flood at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2011

Do I slowly apply to other jobs?

Yes. From your story, I couldn't discern where the sudden backlash came from, but when management is crazy like that, the project is bad (and you blame management for that), your skills are stagnating, and you aren't getting promoted -- you need to find a new job.

Do not just hang in there to support your family; you've already hung in at a bad place for too long. That path leads to depression, and if you're depressed, you won't be able to be a good spouse and parent.
posted by salvia at 2:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Run. Apply to lots of things, but pick something saner.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just want to point out one thing that leaps out at me that you probably can change once you decide what next steps you should take: “I look at jobs and either I don't fit the mold because quite frankly, this company held me back in progress of the latest and greatest trends, our product sucks, and if I show it in a portfolio what I do they'll go "wow. THat is just horrible." And it is horrible because that is what was approved by management. My proposals and ideas got squashed. When your product has a 99% negative customer rating,'s not good. your product”

What grab the oars in this situation...

If you are the self-described talented, creative type person, grab the books/take a class/whatever describing the hottest trends in your field. Now make a portfolio that demonstrates a good product and sample of your work.

Now shop that around until you find a workplace that fits with you. If you do currently have a portfolio that does not reflect the best in your field and poor quality work, then …the likely company that will hire you just churns out the same sort of work. You should decide what you want to learn, create, etc, not just your company. Do this and find a place that does similar work.

Shop this new portfolio around until you get the pay that you want and benefits that you want. You don’t have to work for a new company. You have the power to negotiate these conditions.

Also, do you do freelance type work? Reach out to companies who work with freelancers. Quite a few companies that do such work are understaffed and will try to persuade anyone that can meet a deadline and show 1/10th of the background needed a job…some of them try to offer “work from home,” etc., to sweeten the pot.

Tl;dr. Take control of what you want to learn. Create samples that you are proud of. Shop for a new job. By following these steps, you probably will feel better and see the end of the tunnel, and you will seize control and get what you want.
posted by Wolfster at 2:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry you're dealing with this.

>I have a child and want to start another one.

I hope this means your husband has been stepping up since your last post about this! It sounded like you were shouldering the burden alone. Also, fertility treatments will quadruple your stress. Hope you can find a better job, soon.
posted by cyndigo at 2:52 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just looked at this.

My intuition tells me quitting might be a good idea. I am not an employment lawyer, nor your financial advisor, nor your shrink.
posted by tel3path at 2:57 PM on January 4, 2011

This is a totally toxic work situation and it probably will get worse. Clearly, there is something that they are not telling you and it is to your detriment. It may not be at all because of you. Some manager may be covering for there insecurities and found you as a good target for no reason other than your salary.

Start cleaning out your desk like you are leaving tomorrow. Not literally, but the suggestion upthread about getting your work offsite in copy form is a good one as a next step they will try is to restrict you from your past work - even while you are working there. I had that happen and fortunately, I had the backups, but the idea that they would do it confounded me.
posted by lampshade at 3:00 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sucks, but you've gotta get your ducks in a row and start looking for a new job. It does sound like your position at this company is in jeopardy, and as the primary earner in your family, it would do you a world of good to at least be prepared when you are fired. Dust off the resume, gather your reviews, try to bring your skills more up-to-date either on your free time or on work time - preferably work time. Try not to fall into a "my skills are stuck in 1999 no one will hire meeeee" mindset, I've found that this is not necessarily true. Plenty of coders or graphic designers (not sure what you do, but it sounds like it could be one of these) have crappy work portfolios because that is the work their company dictates they must do. A good hiring manager/interviewer will be able to ascertain whether or not you are the type of person that can learn quickly. I've gotten 2 jobs in the past where I did not know the main coding language the company used, but I managed to convince them that I was a fast learner and would pick it up fast.
posted by coupdefoudre at 4:47 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

They are doing two things here...

1. Trying to get you to quit of your own volition (because its a lot cheaper than terminating you)

2. Trying to build a case against you, perhaps to try to prove an offense worthy of firing you (rather than simply terminating you) and thus avoiding having to pay unemployment

Document the hell out of everything. Got past performance reviews from them? Keep copies at home as another poster suggested. Have emails from them praising your good performance or showing them acknowledging you have the right skills, etc.? Print them and keep them at home.

Unfortunately for you, this is a toxic work situation and the only way it will get better is if you are no longer there. Despite your desire to keep the job, start looking as aggressively as you can and find something better or good enough and make the jump. You may not have much time left.

Also, it wasn't really clear from your post...did you confront them about the positive past performance reviews they have given you when they mentioned your lack of qualifications and quality of work? How (exactly) did they respond? That seems to be a fairly black and white thing, and I'm not sure how they would deny giving you a positive performance review in the past. If they claim you've worsened since then, ask why this is the first you are hearing of it. It won't do much to help your cause, but you can and should shift the onus to them for not letting you know so you could do something about it.
posted by Elminster24 at 7:55 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hi there. I'm sorry you are going through this. I completely sympathize. Yes, it sounds like the tide has turned and they're getting ready to do some "organizational rearranging". I've been in this situation and my managers acted like this right before they let me go. I'm not saying that's what's exactly happening here, but I think your gut is telling you that. I would call up a recruiter tomorrow. Take that class Wolfster was recommending, too. Get your resume ready. No one is safe in this day and age. My cousin just had to let go someone who worked at his company after 30 years. They were personal friends, too. They didn't think it would ever happen to them, but it did.

If you work in Advertising, email me, I can hook you up with a recruiter, no matter where the city is. I understand your predicament completely.
posted by boostershot at 8:32 PM on January 4, 2011

Response by poster: @Elminster. I did to my ex boss/manager because their behavior/attitude totally changed on me and I was shocked. I said "so why for 2 years did you give me stellar reviews and told me you wanted to promote me?" Their response was "well that was then. As of today you failed." So for 364 days I was fine and on 365th day I wasn't in their eyes. Seems fishy to me. I worked at a lot of places to know that a typical HR policy is that management is required to tell you of your progress good and bad as you go along. They are supposed to tell you ahead of time that things are slipping not one day spring b.s. "you suck" accusations out of the blue. My own HR told me the same thing including that if they gave me a good mid year review and I've had 4 managers and they can't even confirm direction on the project, how could I do what they're now accusing me of?

The more I think about it, this place is getting me ultra depressed.
posted by stormpooper at 5:52 AM on January 5, 2011

I wonder if someone higher up (possibly your ex-boss) let it slip to your new boss that you were gunning for the job, and new boss sees you as a threat and is spreading misinformation to higher-ups? Anything is possible.

Start looking, apply for everything.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2011

Very long - in a similar situation so it includes my person experience

I don't know if you can expect any reasoning for the whole "you suck" accusation now. Some people are just irrational. I'm working for a guy who initially wanted me to "amp up standards" and "hold the students to a higher level than Prof. -- does". He sits in on my class and writes a fantastic review. Some students fail (as freshmen do) and suddenly he tells me to water down the course and to stop teaching it like a graduate course and that he's never seen anyone teach as poorly as me. He says everyone else, including Prof. W, hates how I teach. I invite Prof. W to sit in on my class and evaluate me. I get a glowing review.

Bottom line? Some people are lying psychos. Don't wonder about why things are going wrong, don't worry about WHAT you've done wrong. If they just flip the switch on you then it's not you. I'm unfortunately working with a difficult employee under me right now and said plainly "I need X, Y, and Z done." then, the next day, "X was not done, please remember that for tomorrow's class" then the following day, "you forgot X AND Z today - please make sure all of them are set up for tomorrow, if not I will be forced to write you up." Then, "today you did not set up Y or Z. You were given instructions on - date, - date, and - date of the set up, and verbally warned about your mistakes on - and - dates, which is the reason for your write-up." Honestly that is what *I* would expect, and if you've gotten anything less it is not you. They haven't presented you with written, documented complaints because they know they're all pretend.

My job is awful and I think it's kind of wrecked me, too, but I think realizing the whole, "this isn't me" is a big deal. This last year a whole bunch of crap came down came down on me. I was so upset and nervous and it showed in class. This semester I just went "F this job, I'm applying for new ones in May" - I spent less time focusing on my job and more time working on me (yoga, art projects, comedy clubs) and I got glowing reviews from students and the Dean. I stopped worrying about trying to please my boss and registered complaints about him to several areas of the school (so at least if he pulls this stuff with the next person they might have some recourse).

So apply for new jobs, write your boss off as a psycho, and move on. If you can, use your "work at home" days to do things to beef up your resume (like freelance work) or something. I get a couple days off a week and I will be using them to take classes to put on my resume.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:41 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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