should I stay or should I go now?
September 6, 2012 4:48 AM   Subscribe

Should I stay in a job that makes me unhappy, but has good opportunities for future growth, or take a new job knowing that I will have to leave it I ever want a promotion?

I have been sick of my job for a long time, mainly because of a bullying supervisor. I was offered a job at another city agency with a slightly better title, and roughly the same pay. The new job would be interesting, and I would be working with a great bunch of people, but it was clearly stated in the interviews that there is very little room for advancement there.

Reasons to stay at my current job:
At my current job, my bullying supervisor has mentioned that when she hits age 57 she will take the early retirement package. I do not know if she really will. She is 55.5 years old now. I have just started going to night school right now for a masters degree directly related to my current job and am the most likely candidate for my supervisor’s job when she retires.

Reasons to take the new job:
The people there are far more dedicated to improving the city, and I would learn some new skills working there. I can stick with the Masters program at night even though it does not directly relate to the new job.

Question: Should I stay in a job that makes me unhappy, but has good opportunities for future growth, or take a new job knowing that I will have to leave it I ever want a promotion?
posted by DaveZ to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't waste a year and a half in a job I don't like, purely based on the hope that a supervisor is going to retire, AND that I would be chosen to fill that role. I would go for what's best for me now. How will you feel if she changes her mind and doesn't retire in 18 months, or, she does retire, and someone else is given the role? And even if you do get the supervisor role, will it really make you happier? You'll still be in the same place.

Having said that, I have stayed longer in my current job than I wanted to, not completely happy, but I *know* for sure that there is a big fat redundancy cheque waiting for me in December.

(counting the days)
posted by Diag at 5:00 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

This was me.

Go, go now. Please don't waste 2-ish years of your life waiting for something that might not happen.

Continue with the masters, but go. If her supervisory position is all that, then move laterally career-wise (if possible, and/or to build your experience in that area) and check in with management in 2-ish years to see if they're looking for her replacement.

Always go to the place that makes you happier - the unhappy weight of a bullying supervisor will age you like all get out.
posted by Chorus at 5:10 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Advancement at your current job isn't guaranteed even if she does retire. The new job you'll at least go into knowing that you have to move laterally to advance, which might actually be better in the long run, because you'll be conscious of it and probably put more active work into making it happen as a result. This seems like a complete no-brainer.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:10 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this seems like a Drake equation:

P(you will last 18 months) * P(supervisor will retire at time promised) * P(you are selected to replace her) * P(you actually enjoy being the supervisor)

If we generously set all probabilities to 90%, this means the chance of you getting to actually enjoy being is supervisor is about 66%. Only so-so odds.
posted by outlier at 5:15 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think you should take the new job and apply for the other position in 2 years, if it's open and if you still want it.
posted by milarepa at 5:19 AM on September 6, 2012 [10 favorites]

I like miarepa's suggestion. Unless your current job has some policy against re-hiring people who used to work for them, you don't have to be miserable until this person retires. Take the other job, get some skills and in two years they won't blame you for moving on if they've already told you there's no room for advancement. You'll also be in a good position for going back to your current job considering your experience.
posted by like_neon at 5:30 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Staying miserable for two years on a chance is a poor idea, and I don't understand why you think it's a good one. Go somewhere you're not miserable, and then try to figure out how to advance in your career.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:39 AM on September 6, 2012

Yes, to all of the above. I have laterally moved several times, and gone back to the same company three times. Each time I went back, I ended up in a much better position than previously, both financially and professionally. These days, getting experience "elsewhere" is seen as a good thing (at least in my field - IT). Go out, spread your wings, and in 18 months, if you're still interested, check in with them and see if they're interested in the more widely experienced DaveZ for that supervisor role.
posted by Diag at 5:40 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lateral moves are great, expecially as place holders.

You'll continue on with your Master's and when you graduate, you can re-evaluate from there.

Why be miserable one more minute if you don't have to?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:44 AM on September 6, 2012

Go to new and better things! As long as you make enough money to live on, there's no need to make yourself miserable doing something you dislike.

It sounds like you've been there for too long and you've started, on some level, to think of this place as your only option. It's not. Who knows what may open up or where you may want to go in a few years?

Besides, if this supervisor's so bad, they will probably screw you over and oversee the hiring of someone else. This hope of eventual advancement sounds like pie-in-the-sky to keep you productive and submissive.
posted by windykites at 5:56 AM on September 6, 2012

+1 move on.

It is very hard to be successful at a job you are unhappy with. Doing a job you like is a virtuous circle; it sounds like the new job will involve you, engage you and reward you in different ways. I'd bet you'd do better at it than your current job.

How much of your focus on 'advancement' is as a result of feeling constrained by your ugly boss?
posted by BadMiker at 6:21 AM on September 6, 2012

Never count on a job giving you anything that's not in writing. I was the "most likely candidate" for promotion in several jobs and they usually gave it to somebody else they brought in from outside (then promptly wondered why they didn't know what they were doing).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:26 AM on September 6, 2012

I always scoff at Metafilter questions that have obvious answers to everyone other than the original poster, but I really expected responses to this post to be split 50/50 between staying and going. Your unbiased advice has been extremely useful. Thanks hive mind!
posted by DaveZ at 6:27 AM on September 6, 2012

If you're unhappy in your current position, it will affect your performance worse than if you just started from scratch in another organization without the toxic workplace.
The people there are far more dedicated to improving the city, and I would learn some new skills working there.
This! You will get so much more benefit out of being around people who give a shit and can teach your something than you will from sitting in your current position for years waiting for a promotion that may never come. The benefits of being around smart and motivated people, IMO, are well worth the risk. It will help your career more in the long run to challenge yourself than to wait for a promotion.

That said, are you in some kind of financial risk – debt, medical expenses, ailing dependent? Is there a chance that the new job wouldn't work out (is it at a risky startup or a flailing firm?) or that you wouldn't be able to maintain your current income level, and would that be a serious problem for you or your family? If so, maybe sticking with the current job is the thing to do. It all depends on how much risk you're willing to take for a potential boost in your day-to-day job happiness.
posted by deathpanels at 7:04 AM on September 6, 2012

I have been rereading the comments and keep coming back to this one from Bad Miker "How much of your focus on 'advancement' is as a result of feeling constrained by your ugly boss?"

What I really want is the freedom to do useful work. Thanks for reframing my question.
posted by DaveZ at 9:31 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my experience, everyone who plans to take early retirement pushes it off a year or two or three. It's a funny thing: When you are eligible for retirement, the extent to which the job pisses you off is greatly reduced and you don't mind hanging around.

On the other hand: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. You know what the problems are in your current position. There may be issues over at the new position that no one has mentioned because they don't want to scare you off. I've seen this many times in my career.

The economy is still very uncertain. Unless one position is clearly more secure than the other, you're probably more likely to survive a downtown in your current spot. When downsizing, the "new guy" usually has a bulls-eye on his back.

In the grand scheme of things, a year or two really isn't that long of a time.

I guess I'm not recommending one course or the other, but just consider the potential downsides of the new position, and the upsides of your current position. The best answer may be to move, but make sure you consider all the angles.
posted by Doohickie at 9:49 AM on September 6, 2012

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