Should I stay or should I go now?
January 18, 2013 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Please give me advice on possibly quitting my job. My boss (also my father) has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Long story inside.


I'm in my late 30s and was in federal prison 10 years ago for a crime that's I won't describe in detail here. I served a year and then came to work at my father's small (but successful) business.

I believe my father has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. My parents divorced when I was young and I didn't spend much time with my father growing up, maybe one or two short visits per year, and I've gotten to know him much better in the last 10 years. Although he works from home and doesn't come to the office, he's extremely difficult to interact with. His behavior is usually just annoying, embarrassing, unprofessional, manipulative or inconsiderate, but it's occasionally abusive and hurtful. I've developed some coping skills and have reduced my contact with him out of the office. When he does freak out at me, it's typically related to work and I feel like there's nothing I can do it except ignore it if I want to keep my job.

I could give a hundred examples of how my father has been hurtful, abusive, offensive, accusatory, guilting, mean, mocking, judgmental, condescending, manipulative, etc, but I'm not going to do so here. I feel like I have a good understanding of what's going on here, and I need to figure out what to do about it.

Should I Quit?

For years now I have tried to enjoy the parts of my work that I enjoy and try not to express my opinions, anger, criticisms or embarrassment in front of my father because it just makes him lash out. My approach has been to try to limit my exposure to his unhealthy behavior. But after 10 years, it's not getting any better and I believe staying at this job is proving unhealthy for me and my marriage.

So I would like to quit my job but am concerned about financial security. I am worried that I will not be able to get a job at another normal company because of my record. My wife and I have monthly bills, own a house, have car payments, student loan payments, etc. like most couples our age. We have savings that we could probably live on for 6 months or so. We hope to get pregnant in the next few months and have our first baby later this year.

Career Options

I'm excellent at the work that I do and enjoy some of it. For the last year, I have been applying to jobs in my field around the country (we would like to move and have a handful of cities we are interested in). After 125+ applications I've had almost no response. With my felony history (and the nature of the crime), it is possible that even if a company wanted to hire me, they would do a background check and back out. (I always lie on applications if they ask if I have been convicted of a felony, so there's also the risk that I get hired and then fired if and when they learn about my record.)

My wife works at a non profit and makes much less money than I do (not enough for us to live on). She feels that any financial security we lose from my leaving this position will be insignificant compared to the benefits we will both gain from not having him in our lives.

Freelancing in my field is an option. A year or two ago I made some attempts to get a freelance business started with no success. I didn't give it 110% like my life depended on it - it was a part time attempt, and I kind of gave up when I didn't get any bites after a few months. (I believe I have the skills and temperament to thrive as a freelancer, I just need someone to hire me and I wasn't able to find gigs.)

Other than getting a real job or starting a successful freelance business, I could get a normal job at a small business nearby. I might even find something I enjoy, but it would be a huge reduction in job status and salary. I could do that for a while while I try to find some freelance work, with the hope that the freelance business grows someday.

So... questions that are on my mind:

• Have you been in a situation where you left an unhealthy job with no prospects for another position?

• Have you ended a relationship with a narcissistic parent? Did you feel any loss from ending the relationship?

• Have you started a freelance business when it seemed really difficult to do so?

• Have you made a decision to stop working a lousy job with great pay and downsized for happier and simpler lifestyle? How did that go?

If you'd rather reach me via email, you can contact me at this throwaway address:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For however worse your job is, I can tell you that voluntarily quitting your job and making less money than you need to live is worse. It is more difficult to get a job when unemployed, which compounds the difficulty of paying bills when you are unemployed. All of that doesn't even include the difficulty associated with a criminal background. In short, being unemployed sucks. Don't do it.

If you want to switch jobs, find a job, get a job offer, and make it work for you. In your scenario, it's a bad idea to quit your job in expectation of a different job. Full stop.

If you want to reduce the cost of your life style, do so, live with it for a year or so, and then quit your job. In your scenario, it's a bad idea to assume you can reduce the cost of your life and assume your wife will never lose her job. You would have to assume that you will never again get a job. If you can make all of that work, you can quit your job, but not until then. Full stop.

If you want to start a freelance business, that's great, but don't quit your job to do so. Again, in your scenario, it's a bad idea to quit your job in expectation of freelance work that doesn't exist. Full stop.
posted by saeculorum at 7:44 PM on January 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

Considering the criminal record, I'm going to strongly encourage you to keep your job until you find something new. Don't lie on your applications regarding your conviction. If you quickly lose a job it will considerably diminish your chances of finding another one. In that instance, you'll have a decade old conviction and a quick turnover in your recent job history. That'll make finding a job very difficult.

Lots of people freelance part-time to get started. In your situation, I'd start by building a part-time freelance business. Once you have a second source of income and clients to recommend you you'll have more options.
posted by 26.2 at 8:21 PM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]

I had a friend growing up who went into the family business. He hated it. His father and his grandfather spent all day arguing with each other and telling him to clean up the mess. After a few years, he would make suggestions on how to improve the business. They were summarily rejected. One time he pushed his suggestion hard even after rejection. His father told him if he was so smart and knew better to open his own business. He did. He competed for a few years then moved the business to a different state. He grew it to about 50 times the size of his father's business and was bought out by a large corp in a similar business but not in his state for an astronomical amount of money. He retired about 10 years before his dad did.

If the business is a successful one and you think you can duplicate it, instead of looking for another job as a felon or instead of freelancing, just replicate what the old man did and do it better.

WHen you are your own boss, it is hard to not get along with the boss. It has its own set of problems, but at least you are making the decisions.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Have you been in a situation where you left an unhealthy job with no prospects for another position?"

Yes. Twice. Once, it worked out all right. The other was an unmitigated disaster and convinced me to never do it that way again unless I was literally being threatened or violated.

"Have you ended a relationship with a narcissistic parent? Did you feel any loss from ending the relationship?"

Yes and yes, but the loss is far less grief than the pain of trying to continue to operate within their orbit. I also realised that a lot of my sense of loss is based on a few very good memories (and stories from other people) as well as long-held hopes about my parent being the person in those memories and stories instead of why they really are. I can't overstate how worthwhile it has been to end the bed-of-nails see-saw that was my relationship with that parent.

"Have you started a freelance business when it seemed really difficult to do so?"

Sort of...I had no resources, but I scraped together the materials to sell custom-decorated t-shirts and beaded jewelry and turned that into a micro-business that kept me going until I could find something less wobbly. Kind of the same as building up from nothing using only your skills, references, record of successes, and what self-marketing acumen you have available.

Your last question didn't apply to me, but does sound dreamy and worth pursuing, if you can make sure to have a good emergency fund put away just in case.

You didn't ask for this,'ve got to be honest about that felony. You do. It comes up in so many background searches, it's just too easy to be disproven in the lie, and no employer is going to accept that. Many Workforce Solutions/Worksource job centers have a person or two specialising in placing and advising people with records - it might be worthwhile to see about meeting with that person to talk about your job search attempts and what's been happening so far.

I also agree with others saying to try building your own business up a bit at a time and use your success there to move on.

Luck and good fortune!
posted by batmonkey at 9:55 PM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

(I believe I have the skills and temperament to thrive as a freelancer, I just need someone to hire me and I wasn't able to find gigs.)

Honey. If you can't find gigs, you do not have the skills and temperament to thrive as a freelancer. Finding gigs is 30% of the game in freelancing.

You are a difficult hire. Do not leave this job without another one to go to, especially with a possible baby on the horizon. If you think this job is stressing your marriage now, wait until you and your wife cannot have a baby because you've been unemployed for six months. That will kill your marriage 27x faster than this.

Also, who's job is providing health insurance? Will your wife's job cover self-employed you and a baby? What happens if she doesn't go back to work immediately? Or, you know, at all?

Have you made a decision to stop working a lousy job with great pay and downsized for happier and simpler lifestyle? How did that go?

Yes, but I'm pretty dubious this can be done on your time schedule. The traditional smart thing to do is sell the current house and get a new mortgage for a smaller, cheaper house using your current 10 years of employment, income and credit rating to apply. Close on the new place, then bail. Whilst doing this you pare your expenditures to the absolute bone and pay off debts while accumulating savings.

Have you discussed with a lawyer the possibility of getting your felony expunged?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:06 AM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

Oh boy. Stop lying about the felony conviction immediately. Here's the problem with it, as you've already noticed: say you catch what looks like it may be a dream job. So you quit you dad's business, move the family to another state, and start. And somewhere along the line, it's discovered that you lied. About a felony. This is grounds for immediate dismissal. Either way, it's going to be a bad scene if they like you and want to hire you and only discover that you lied at the background check stage of things.

Instead, and without knowing the specific felony, this may not apply, but I would suggest including a statement on the felony, the punishment, how it's been managed and dealt with and will not affect your performance or the trust your future employer can place in you in any way at all, and how you've been living as a responsible, wage-earning individual for the last decade with no threat of recidivism at all.

If I saw that on a resume, I would raise an eyebrow, but if the candidate was strong, and I felt they adequately explained it, I would almost certainly hire them anyway. I would drop you like a hot potato if I found it out AFTER you told me explicitly you had not ever been convicted, and I would feel cheated, lied to, and taken, by a felon. It's an extremely bad strategy.

That said, I think that you should stick it out at the current job while you line up whatever's next. If it's freelance, try to get that going while you're still at your current job. It will require a fair amount of effort and dedication since it will involve after-hours work, but you want to have the safety net of your current income. Use the vision of being able to tell your father you've quit as your motivation if need be.

Or send out more applications, work your resume, and stop lying about the felony thing, as it will certainly come up and get you.

My partner and I started our web development business with just $100 and whatever knowledge we had, and then started pounding the pavement and working everyone we knew. (We did not know many people. We sold our first "website", not app, to an antiques shop because my partner's co-worker at the MVD knew some people who had antique shops in the downtown area so we literally went door to door. Those were some humbling times, and we were young and did not require completely steady income at the time, but boy.)

Things grow with word of mouth, a website that looks okay and has good information, and by you talking to people. Delivering good quality product is the other part of that, and you have to follow through on that side, but those are steps you may be able to take while still employed at your dad's.
posted by disillusioned at 1:18 AM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

You have two problems:
1. Ending a relationship with your destructive parent
2. Finding a job when you are a felon and only have family business job experience

For 1:
I know what it's like to have a narcissistic parent. It messes with your head in so many ways, so it's hard to see this clearly. But... you don't owe him anything. So you don't have to be particularly good at your job. Just do the basics while preparing to get out.

For 2:
I think what you need are *skills*. If you develop a practical, real skill that people need, people will want to hire you to do it, and you won't need to look for a job where people will ask about your conviction.

I would keep the job as long as you can and look into getting some training on something specific. This could be anything that is in high demand, from plumbing to statistical analysis to web programming. It could be in your current field or out of it.

I would also start the process of self-promotion. Blog about your new subject. Come up with a good gimmick. Network and market yourself.

Btw, the same plan works if you just can't stand it anymore and have to get out. Get a real skill and sell it.

Put off having the baby for another year or so until this gets sorted.

P.S. I second looking into expungement. Would make things a lot simpler.

P.P.S. This looks harder from where you are now than from where you will be in a year. You will *survive* no matter what, and getting freedom from a narcissistic parent is worth almost any price.
posted by 3491again at 1:37 AM on January 19, 2013

• Have you been in a situation where you left an unhealthy job with no prospects for another position?
Yes, and while I should have planned it out better, in the long run it was the right move. I was dying in the old job, not just professionally but personally and that manifested itself in all sorts of bad habits. While that particular job was not the root of my personal issues, it did delay getting on with life.

• Have you started a freelance business when it seemed really difficult to do so?
Yes, but I just took the plunge. For me, it was not that bad as I already had a good base in the skills. However instead of “starting a business” , I went half way and worked through freelancing websites. Having a pre-set group of buyers i could access really helped early on. While not as profitable, it did allow me to keep the lights on in the beginning.

• Have you made a decision to stop working a lousy job with great pay and downsized for happier and simpler lifestyle? How did that go?
As part as above, I also made the effort to simplify things and that included the crazy errata of all the money spent trying to commute to work and other social activities one would associate with that. Other things were to re-evaluate exactly what material items were of true importance to me and what I was holding onto, not for my needs, but to show others that I had them.

Overall, it was the best move I have made in years. Sort of sucks not having an excess of cash or a consistent pay check, but balanced against the stupidity of previous employment train wrecks, it is far more desirable.
posted by lampshade at 4:06 AM on January 19, 2013

To get around the felony issue:

A) QUIT LYING. You'll be waiting for that shoe to drop for the rest of your career, if you don't just own it and move on, through B and C below.

B) DEVELOP YOUR CREDIBILITY AND SOCIAL NET. Work systematically to make yourself very useful, very known, and very respected in the community associated with your field of expertise. Network, volunteer, contribute, help out like a recent college grad. Get to know LOTS of people in your field, well. And make sure some are newer in the field, and some are more accomplished. Develop good, authentic, relationships with them based on your shared interest.

When the time is right, i.e. after you've established a real relationship and have shown yourself to be a reliable and useful contributor for at least a year or two, THEN mention that you're looking to get out of your current situation at some point. Do not be needy or whiney about this. Do not mention your dad and what a broken situation that is. If things start to heat up, and they're talking about you for particular companies or whatever, mention that you have this one issue, a long-ago felony. Don't let them go out on the limb of recommending you without making sure they know about this. And don't make your friends look stupid by allowing them to recommend you for a company where you already blew it by not mentioning the felony. Depending on your field, and how many people/companies do that in your area, that may mean that you've already blown it in your city - so network like crazy in other geographies or at a national level.

If your friend is highly placed enough, or knows people within the company who is highly placed enough, AND if you rock it at the interview and reference check stage, AND if you are honest about your past but don't dwell on it, you might be able to skirt the normal rules of hire.

C) DON'T BE A DICK. If someone puts themselves out there and tries to help you get another job, show your gratitude to them, whether or not it works out. If something does work out, make your friend who referred you look like a rockstar, by doing your best possible work, every day. And keep up with, and continue to contribute, deeply in your field. That way, if new job doesn't work out, you will continue to develop options. You'll also learn more, become more accomplished, and help develop more people who can learn from you. It would probably be a good idea to seek people who are in a similar situation and mentor them.
posted by pomegranate at 5:27 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

One more thing - seek professional help. My mom has NPD and is bipolar. It took a long, LONG time for me to realize how much that was affecting my worldview. (I'm 44 and just now started therapy.)
The therapy is not because you're broken, and not because your parent is broken, and is certainly not going to change anything that's already happened. But it can help you get perspective, and live a richer, more peaceful and satisfying life, even when you're still there working with him. And you are going to have a hard time getting enough perspective to actually build something completely new without a neutral, experienced therapist, and maybe a career coach.
posted by pomegranate at 5:37 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have quit a job without another lined up, and it's incredibly stressful. As others have said, much, much better to find your next job first. But, if you can figure out a way to survive financially, even with the baby, taking a lower-paid job that you don't hate sounds like a good option to me. You could keep working on projects on the side, either freelance or pro bono things, and keep building up a current portfolio while you continue to look for a job that's a better fit.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:54 AM on January 19, 2013

Yes, ditto not quitting your job. You should be working on remaining balanced and calm around negative situations. Your parent isn't the only stressful situation you can encounter in a workplace. If you can find ways to remain calm in the center of the storm, you will be well prepared for any future jobs you do or employment situations. What if the next one is a great job but your supervisor is worse?
I'd suggest getting training on networking or joining networking groups. Meet people, make connections, expand your people horizon. Once you've made that connection, you can explain your past and people will be wiling to see beyond that if they know you. Making connections is the real way to get a job. Working the resume thing is a bit of a dead end, especially with your history.
posted by diode at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2013

"Have you been in a situation where you left an unhealthy job with no prospects for another position?"
Yes, once. I wasn't related to my boss but the situation was nonetheless bad for me. I ended up finding a similar job within a week, but I wouldn't do it again as that week was incredibly stressful.

"Have you ended a relationship with a narcissistic parent? Did you feel any loss from ending the relationship?"
Yes ... and yes and no. I am completely estranged from my family of origin, and while sometimes I have pings of missing them, the idea of family, and the like, overall I feel much better emotionally and even physically from having no relationship with them. It helps that some of the estrangement initially began as their way of "punishing" me for something, because I am not sure if I would have had the strength to maintain it all on my own steam.

"Have you started a freelance business when it seemed really difficult to do so?"
Yes, and I had to go back to working a "real job" because the instability of income was too much for me to deal with. I also really wasn't as prepared as I should have been and I wasn't as good at "self structuring" as I needed to be. I am planning to do it again, though, someday.
posted by sm1tten at 9:22 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Following on to the people who are saying to network....if you and your father have a family business, there are several organizations that you should be able to join. Like the Chamber of Commerce for your town, the Lion's Club, the Optimist's Club, etc. A lot of the folks in those types of organizations own a small local business and they meet monthly to sponsor charities, get to know each other, and help each other out while helping out the community.

If you can represent yourself (truthfully!!) as a member of the family business, not necessarily the owner but also not just the guy who sweeps the floors, you can join a group and start to make contacts on your own.
posted by CathyG at 3:46 PM on January 19, 2013

I too have twice left an unhealthy job without anything lined up. Both times cost me financially but were huge reliefs emotionally. I have no regrets about the first one - my colleagues and I were routinely humiliated and abused by managers, and they also broke my contract by changing my work hours from a steady 8 hour a day gig to a 12 hour graveyard shift. I was actually becoming sick, having issues sleeping. The second one, I wish I had prepared for my exit better, to salvage some really good relationships I would have liked to continue with some of my colleagues ... and I wish had more time to adjust while I was looking for another position - I carried way too much of my burnout and anger into the next position, which was a bad, bad thing.

I also have a parent with NPD. Please find someone to talk to, and not just the support groups you can find online - a therapist will help. I was lucky enough to get help before I left home as a teenager, but my mother's behavior still casts a long shadow. I can say that of the remaining members of my family, the ones who got therapy are doing a lot better than the ones who didn't.

I agree with everyone who suggests you start moonlighting now. Get Paul and Sarah Edwards' books on working from home, being self-employed, and getting business. Even the older (pre-2000s) books have some great wisdom. Go to your local Small Business Development Center, which is a free service from the Small Business Administration - and discuss your idea for starting a new business. They can refer you to a lawyer, accountant, etc., and most centers have good libraries that give you resources to read and research. They also offer low cost classes.
posted by mitschlag at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2013

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