Should I quit now or quit later?
March 29, 2011 7:03 AM   Subscribe

The environment at my office is toxic and barely tolerable these days. I'd like to leave sooner than I had planned, but I'm unsure if it's wise. I could use some outside perspective.

I've worked for the same small company for about seven years. I've been there longer than almost anyone, including my supervisor, and almost as long as the company's even been around. When I started, it was the perfect place to work. I could have been paid better elsewhere, but we all cared very much about the company and our jobs, and it made it all worth it. Our boss at the time was a genuinely caring man, and a joy to work for. As a company grows, things will naturally change, but seven years later, this company has become hell. The examples of this are too numerous to mention, but it involves inexperienced and unpredictable management, one somewhat violently unstable director (the man throws things when he's angry. He could hurt someone), blatant nepotism, reduction of benefits to the bare minimum, unreasonable policy changes and some new policies of questionable legality. People are quitting in droves. Over the past six months, we've lost seven people (we only ever have 20-something employees at any time as it is). There are more who've told me they're looking, including our one sane director. I'd like to leave too.

But here's the thing. I got a fairly nice multi-book deal last year. My first book is due out later this year. I have to start working on the second, and there's a certain amount of promotion I'll be expected to do for the first. Even though things are pretty crappy at work right now, I do still have SOME perks for seniority and the importance of my role there. For instance, I will probably be allowed to telecommute while I travel, and my boss knows to expect this.

What no one knows is that I'm also planning on quitting at the end of the year anyway, supporting myself on freelance work and savings for a year while I focus on my writing. I'm keeping my expectations low for the success of these books, so I can't just say "to hell with it!" and quit without any sort of plan.

So, what to do?

A) Quit my hellish job and start over somewhere else until the end of the year for guaranteed income and some benefits in the mean time. This way, I could increase my savings even more.

B) Quit my hellish job and risk it with freelancing and what savings I have now. This would probably be a serious pay cut for me.

C) Grin, bear it, and keep low for a few more months. I've got seniority, a decent salary (though it's unlikely to increase as long as the boss keeps hiring his friends), and at least some semblance of medical insurance.

D) Bear it and fight to improve things as much as I can while I'm still there so that I don't feel like I'm passively drowning in a cesspool.

E) Something I haven't thought of.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

(tolerate it as long as you possibly can. The more money you have right now, the more you can save up and keep when you do quit and go freelancing and writing. It's already (nearly) April and 2011 just started not that long ago!)
posted by royalsong at 7:16 AM on March 29, 2011

C and B: Life is too short to live with a boss who throws things. Don't underestimate how much living with a toxic work environment will deteriorate your mental health.

Start looking for work elsewhere. Will your boss give you a decent reference?
posted by JimmyJames at 7:21 AM on March 29, 2011

Can you telecommute more often? Start your book tour early? Anything that allows you to stay employed while being in the office as little as possible seems like the best balance. Besides, telecommuting is the best arrangement if you're looking for another job, because you don't have to explain where you're going if you're not there.
posted by juniperesque at 7:42 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

My boss threw things. He shrieked obscenities at his wife (and others) over the phone. He was frightening, capricious, bullying and on a good day, merely unpleasant. Our support staff turned over on a monthly basis. I put up with it for nearly four years. I also lost about 40 pounds, stopped sleeping and randomly burst into tears on the bus. I still wake up in the middle of the night relieved I never have to go back to that office or hear his fucking voice ever again.

So,in my opinion, you need to leave. You need to leave as soon as you can and as smoothly as you can. Start working your network--you will probably be surprised by how many people in your professional network know just what a madman your boss is. Polish your resume. Set up a professional webpage, or linked-in page, or start a relationship with a recruiter. Save your pennies as much as you can. Give yourself a drop-dead date. If you don't have a new job by your Drop-Dead date, risk it with your freelancing and your savings.

I set my Drop-Dead on the schedule of an appeal I was writing, but I got lucky and found another job first. The whole time I was networking, I was terrified that Crazy Boss Man would find out and fire me. I had already cleaned everything personal (except a coffee mug and photo which fit in my handbag) out of my office and off my computer.

In addition to drawing up and following your escape plan, find some way to shake off the toxic environment at the end of the day. Or in the middle of the day. Working from home really helps. But can you get permission to work a pro bono project during work hours? Or go to professional conferences or seminars? Working with not-crazy people in your field (even for only a few hours a month) will help reset the tone your work environment is creating with regard to work and your profession. Take walks during the day. Find a puppy to pet. Focus on the good things you have on the horizon.

Good luck!
posted by crush-onastick at 8:01 AM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Document every detail. Lawyer up, possibly leave with some severance, due to abuse.
Or stay, but walk out of any room in which a person is behaving abusively. If you get fired, you can probably still collect unemployment due to the unreasonable working conditions.

It's legal to cut benefits, cut pay, and it's generally legal to be a jerk(all this stuff is shitty and not recommended). It's not legal to be abusive or violent.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on March 29, 2011

I've worked at that same place (or so it seemed). And, like crush-onastick I used to have nightmares about it and I still tense up if I think that might be my old boss walking up the sidewalk (I currently work in the same downtown area).

I would prepare as if each day could be your last day at work. Then when one of those things happens, calmly say, "I am not going to work here any more. Would you like me to work out a 2-week notice or not?" If you want you can call your boss a "soul-less bastard" which is what one of my coworkers did on the day he quit (I quit an hour later, it was sweet).

That was 10 years ago. I had an interview the other day and the interviewer laughed when he saw the place on my resume. He said, "I can't believe you were able to stay that long".

good luck, it'll be so much better when you're out of there. And congrats on the book deal!
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2011

It seems to me that most of your description of the hellish job is not the same as the other commenters who are referring to their hellish jobs, so maybe there are 2 answers to your question.

If your hell is really just a lot of unfairness (reduced benefits, hiring relatives, unreasonable policy, etc), then try to reframe it in your mind and stay as long as you can. Reframe: No matter what policy they implement this time, it doesn't really affect you because you are LEAVING on [dropdead date] anyway (Yay!) And adding to your savings account (Yay!). That'll teach 'em what to do with unfairness(Ha!)!

But if the violent boss is the issue, or if there is yelling, shouting, emotional abuse, etc, then get out as soon as possible. No need to put up with that and you will be better off in a less toxic environment.
posted by CathyG at 9:21 AM on March 29, 2011

Option A sounds good to me, but B at the very least!

I had a similar situation once: a great place when I started there, but over the years it turned into total hell on earth. I could (and did!) put up with lowered benefits and a pay scale that kept dropping lower and lower compared to other companies' equivilent positions; but finally I realised that the place was physically killing me, too: nightmares, tightness in my chest and throat..... I went home yet another Friday in tears, typed up a resignation on Saturday, thought it over all day Sunday, and --- after seventeen years there --- handed in that resignation Monday morning, effective that day.

I woke up Tuesday morning broke and unemployed, but feeling alive.
posted by easily confused at 10:40 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

C, then A. Take advantage of the telecommuting offer's value to your writing career until A is completely lined up and in the bag. Then leave and put this song on repeat while you drive home.
posted by willpie at 11:45 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I quit my toxic job at the beginning of the year, and the stress of being unemployed and fretting about money is a HUGE improvement over the stress of the bad job. So, I encourage you to get out if you can find a way to do it that works for you.
posted by rosa at 10:14 AM on March 30, 2011

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