My Job Is Killing Me
April 20, 2005 10:31 AM   Subscribe

So, a co-worker situation has reached the point that it's giving me dyspepsia, and management isn't going to do anything about it.

Without going into bloody details, suffice to say that I work at a place that would rather cut its hand off than fire someone, evidenced by the only-recent firing of a person who came to work and slept under her desk for four years. I've probably needed to leave this place for a while, but life gets in the way of a job hunt, and until recently the situation was at least tenable. Not anymore, though, and the constant strain is killing me. Therefore, I go to look for jobs. I need advice about how to get out of here quickly -- places you've gone or things you've done that helped you land a job fast, and also how to deal with the inevitable questions concerning why I want to leave my current job. (Somehow, I think telling the truth about that might be not-so-good.) Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
They won't do anything? You've answered your question. You have three choices:

1. Put up with it
2. Leave
3. Sue
posted by geoff. at 10:39 AM on April 20, 2005

How quickly you can land a new job depends on your field, and your desperation. Are you willing to do some temp work for a month or two while you look for a good position in your field?

Would telling the truth about why you want to leave be not-so-good because you are somehow at fault here? More detail are needed before you're going to get practical advice. However, if you truly believe you can't tell your boss why you're leaving, don't. Just give your notice and get out.
posted by Specklet at 10:40 AM on April 20, 2005

I'm sorry -- this doesn't exactly answer your question, but I have a friend who can't handle confrontation in the workplace. If even the smallest thing goes wrong, something that could be easily taken care of with communication, he represses his feelings until he can't take it any more and he feels he has to leave. And fast. So, he does, but he often quickly hops to a situation which isn't ideal (because he didn't research or look for a good fit) and the cycle starts over again.
Please, take your time looking.
Could you possibly take personal leave for a bit while you try to sort all of this out?
posted by j at 10:40 AM on April 20, 2005

I've probably needed to leave this place for a while, but life gets in the way of a job hunt

When you spend 40-60hrs a week at work, suddenly life IS your job. Apply to all the popular online job sites and set them up so they email you all relevant job opportunities on a daily basis. Network with people that you know to see if they know of any positions opening up (these are more likely to succeed than anything else), finally, if you're desperate and willing to give a cut of your salary to someone else, hook up with a head hunting/placement agency and have them do the leg work for you.

Going business to business with your CV rarely leads to much more than a callback four months later.
posted by furtive at 10:43 AM on April 20, 2005

While you look for work, you can use the fact that they're reluctant to fire people to your advantage in reworking your environment to make it more tolerable. If there are any empty desks or offices in your workplace, for example, you could move yourself as far away from your intolerable co-worker as possible. You can feel free to retaliate for any annoyances done to you by this co-worker, since if they won't fire him/her they surely won't fire you. You could just stop showing up for work and see how long they keep paying you... maybe it'll be four years, like the woman who slept under her desk.

I don't necessarily recommend this, as there is a certain risk (not only of getting fired, but of discovering you like being an asshole), but it's a strategy you could look at.
posted by kindall at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2005

Telling the truth doesn't mean every gory detail. This reminds me of the guy who was "recently divorced," worrying about how to express that at a reunion, and didn't think of just saying "single."

It's a huge deal to you, but other people don't care all that much, so no need to invite further questions. Just like "recently divorced" invites questions like "oh are you okay?" saying "there's this terrible coworker" isn't so good.

I'm thinking you can say "personal differences/reasons" or that you've become interested in focusing on a new direction professionally (i.e. away from the psycho, but you don't need to say that!). Depending on the job, you could say you want your weekends free, a more stimulating (and less aggravating) environment, you've heard that all the employees at ____ company just love working there (this is flattery so may work well), etc.

As far as finding a job fast I'm not sure, but if your current employer is okay with you leaving they may give you a kick-ass recommendation which always helps.
posted by lorrer at 12:42 PM on April 20, 2005

"I'm looking for new challenges."
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2005

As someone who was in a similar situation, I really feel for you. I stuck it out and found another job, but I have to say, I deeply regret hanging in there. The job took such a toll on me; I wish I had just quit and patched some temp jobs and freelance assignments together to keep me afloat until I found something new.

Perhaps you can't do this--you have someone dependant on you, need the benefits, or it's bad but not quite that bad yet. But if your job is making you physically ill, I'd really consider lining up some contract work and leaving.

But if you need to stick around until you find another job, here are my suggestions. Call every single person you've ever worked with (so long as you got along well with them) and tell them you're on the hunt for a new job. Ask them if there are any openings where they work or if they know one anyone who is hiring. Be very persistent.

Could you go back to an old employer? I know many folks who have done this in a time of crisis?

Do you have a list of companies you'd like to work for? Start calling them to see if you can get some informational interviews. The only problem with this route is, of course, that it has a longer lead time.

Just be careful about seeming desperate. As in the dating world, nothing is more unappealing.

Have you gone over your finances to see what the minimum amount of money you need to live? Maybe there would be more opportunities available if you could handle a short-term reduction in salary.

I would also suggest checking out What Color Is Your Parachute? Yes, it can be hokey and the grammar is atrocious, but it has some good ideas for conducting a job search.

Good luck.
posted by Sully6 at 12:57 PM on April 20, 2005

It also sounds like going out for interviews daily won't be noticed for about 4 years. That gives you a lot of time to feel out jobs.

That said, if they're asking for reasons you're leaving always state it in a positive. You could try "I'm looking for a collegial, dynamic workplace." or "I want to add my strengths and experience to a strong team." Both of those are positive answers to the question that make you sound like the dynamo you want to be. Think about it this way, if you're going out on a first date, you don't talk about what a drag your last/current partner is. Sell yourself and what you want to do.

I was talking to an old boss of mine who offered this piece of advice: he found that most of people who ended up on the high end of consideration for a job were the ones who appeared passionate about what they do.
posted by plinth at 1:29 PM on April 20, 2005

Yeah, kindall's got the right idea. If one can get away with sleeping under a desk at work, why don't you bring in a video game system or something else to waste your time with?

Just get the office-standard mediocre level of work done, and if you find the strain is going away, move from playing video games to mailing out resumes from work.

But, if you manage to get rid of the stress, why would you want to leave what *I* would call such a SWEET job? You can't beat working for a company so stupid they'll pay you to sleep!
posted by shepd at 1:52 PM on April 20, 2005

I agree with others that you should use the lax supervision at your office to your advantage and use job time to job hunt.

Also, if your job was great except for a personal conflict, you probably would find a way to stay, so I suggest that you focus on the aspects of the job that are professionally unsatisfying and emphasize those (in a positive way) when you're interviewing. It is never, never, never a good idea to give a prospective employer the idea that you have trouble getting along with people. You should emphasize your desire for additional challenge, responsibility, etc. Then, after they're interested in you, you start to, politely, ask questions about the personal situation at the job. You do this by asking about the professional ramifications of uncomfortable personal situations: e.g., you ask about employee turnover.

You can and should ask to interview not merely your prospective bosses but also prospective co-workers, and you can (again politely) ask them a little bit more directly about the work environment. They will be more likely to know if there are problems and also more likely to tell you or to not tell you in a way that will make it obvious to you that there are problems they're not comfortable discussing. When you're an experienced person looking for a job, you have a lot more leverage than someone at the entry level. Don't forget that.

Finally, if everything looks promising, do some due diligence on the company. Ask around with other people in the industry. If a company has a bad reputation, someone else will have heard about it and will be willing to tell you. This is another good reason to network, so that you always have people around to tell you about the dirt.
posted by anapestic at 2:38 PM on April 20, 2005

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