How can I encourage my brother to leave his extremely toxic workplace?
May 20, 2012 7:09 AM   Subscribe

How can I encourage my brother to leave his extremely toxic workplace?

My brother has worked for 20 years at the same job; he's reached the level of manager and makes $15 an hour. This job was his first out of high school and it consumes a great deal of his life as well as his soul.

I can't give you a reason why he stays. It's very unpleasant. This job brings him very little joy. I would even say he is suffering from burn-out. He is single.

It's relatively easy to find a job in his industry or sales where we live. Heck, some of his customers have even offered him jobs and he won't take them up on it. I know he could find a much better job for a much better wage, maybe even a salary.

I don't know why he stays. It has become such a verboten topic because all he does is get mad whenever someone suggests that he leave, even if the suggestion is a gentle one. No one can talk to him about it anymore. This isn't the life that anyone wants for him. He won't go for career counselling or regular counselling. I have offered to take a second look at his resume, but that was a dead end as well.

How can I persuade him that he deserves a better job and a better life?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total)
It's not clear why you or anyone else is fussing over this. Does he irritate you by complaining a lot, or does his choice of employer cause you some other problem? Because it kinda sounds like he's been clear that he doesn't want to change jobs, and doesn't want your help. If it's not causing you a problem, you should probably butt out.
posted by jon1270 at 7:17 AM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, you can't. The place he is at may have promised him job security. Anywhere he goes now, he will be the last one in, first one out. He may be afraid of trying something new for fear of failure.

It is kind of you to be concerned for your brother. All you can really do is let him know that you are there to support him in a non-judgmental way, no matter what he does in life.

It may help to get him dating. Men sometimes let go of boyish ideas when a woman enters the picture. If he meets the right lady, he may start thinking about making more money and having more free time for house and kids. Yes, I know that sounds old fashioned but it still holds true.
posted by myselfasme at 7:21 AM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

You can't persuade him and you shouldn't. He clearly has his own reasons for staying where he is. He's a grown-up and you should respect that.

What you can do is tell him you're not going to discuss his job with him anymore because you find it too upsetting that he's in a toxic situation and doesn't do anything to change it. Don't get in a fight with him about it, just let him know you aren't going to talk about it anymore, and change the subject. You can only control your level of exposure to the problem; you can't control his decisions.
posted by something something at 7:51 AM on May 20, 2012

Unless you're promising financial security, I'd hardly say it is right for you to coax him into leaving a job.
posted by discopolo at 7:52 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know why he stays.

What does he say when you ask?

All you can do is set boundaries. If he's complaining about something all the time, tell him you don't want to hear it unless he's taking concrete steps to change it.
posted by desjardins at 7:53 AM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

He might have grown up with the mentality that the worst thing to be was a quitter. Quitting my first job (with a very toxic boss) was really hard for me because of this. I kept thinking I would be such a disappointment to my parents, even though I was grown and out of the house.

The next time he complains about it, it might be worth opening a conversation with something like "you know, you and I grew up with the idea that it's bad to be a quitter.....but the working world has changed and people change jobs all the time...." or something like that, and see what he says.

You're in a tricky place because it sounds like he complains to you about it but it unwilling to do anything about it. You will go nowhere like this and it's frustrating for you. You might have to say "When you're ready to make steps towards leaving, I'll help you in any way I can. But until then, let's not talk about it because you know how I feel and it seems you're unwilling to do anything about it."
posted by Pademelon at 8:02 AM on May 20, 2012

[This is a followup from the asker.]
I apologize for being torn between providing too much detail and providing too little detail.

It's not clear why you or anyone else is fussing over this. Does he irritate you by complaining a lot, or does his choice of employer cause you some other problem?

Actually, it is not irritation on my part. If anything, we are all so sad and despairing because this is a very toxic workplace. One of his co-workers physically attacked him last year.

When I say the job consumes him, I mean it literally. He is tired, worn out, has health problems related to stress and something Very Bad happened last year. He has never taken a vacation longer than two days at a time in 20 years. We love him so much and only want to see him happy, but we don't know how.

There are numerous other workplaces within his industry that are healthy workplaces to be at. The choice of employer or industry is not a problem.

What does he say when you ask?

To be honest, it's been so long that I can't remember. When I say he gets mad, I mean it, so I have stopped asking, other than a recent offer to revise his resume.

Pademelon, the quitter angle is interesting. I haven't considered that before. Thank you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:40 AM on May 20, 2012

Does your brother suffer from social anxiety by any chance? There are few things more anxiety producing than job interviews and the first day at a new job. Maybe the devil he knows seems safer than the devil he doesn't?
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:21 AM on May 20, 2012

This sounds like a retail job to me, somehow, if he's been doing it since high school.

Does he have any education or any advantages going on that would facilitate him being able to do something else? It sounds like he doesn't, or at least may not be able to make this kind of money/have job security if he leaves for another sort of the same job.

Let's face it, sometimes it's not worth it to people to give up a bird in the hand. Especially in this economy, and if you don't have anything beyond a high school degree. He might feel worse if he was unemployed and living in fear of not having any money. Plus the quitter thing.

I'd just leave it alone. It's his life and he'd rather suffer than quit--so be it. Hell, these days he might get laid off anyway and then you'll see what happens.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd say this toxic workplace is has completely eaten away at his sense of control, so he'd never want to change jobs in response to anyone's suggestion, but instead want to choose when/if to leave so as to have some control over the timing at least, so he could feel like it was his initiative to get out of there. I would think he wants to avoid all the "I told you so!" statements he'll get once he changes to somewhere that is so much better and everyone can see he is so much happier.

I think you are right to give up asking him about it and instead just support him whatever his decision - he is an adult and needs to take charge of his life, learn to act in his own best interests - even if that means learning the hard way sometimes.
posted by EatMyHat at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give him a safe place to vent, which he surely needs. Tell him what a great job he does, and that his employer is lucky to have him. Build up his confidence. If you can find a quiet time to tell him "Jack, I worry about how much stress your job causes. I love you, and if I can help you in any way, I'd be happy to." That's it; that's all you can do. He has to make his own choices, but you can give him a safe haven, and emotional support.
posted by theora55 at 12:35 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would not focus on getting him out of that job, rather, if he is depressed, tired, etc. help him with that. Once he feels better about himself then I think the rest of his life will fall in place to reflect that. Right now the sad job sounds like a reflection of his sad life, not the other way around.
posted by Vaike at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2012

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