Is this a normal work setting?
June 13, 2013 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out if I should be more agressively searching for a new job or if I would just be jumping into the same situation at a different company.

I have been with my current employer for 5 years. It is my second "real job" after graduating with a BA in English in 2007. For my first 3 years at the company, I was a customer service rep dedicated to a single large customer, where I worked remotely at the customer's location providing customer support and light sales (warm leads for different branches of our company). I then moved into a position of customer support primarily for out retail customers (company has both b2b and direct sales) in the regional office because it was much closer to my house and I thought it would broaden my exposure to move into a better job. This position had become available because a different regional office was closing and being condensed into my local regional office.
When I started the new position, all of the office staff were firefighting for 10 months straight due to a high volume of delivery issues resulting from the consilidation and the contracted use of inefficient delivery vendors.AFter the initial 10 months, we were still "behind the 8 ball", but were able to bring back some record keeping and reporting tasks that had been ignored while firefighting.
After another 10 months or so at that level of existance, things finally cleared up and we were working current on all issues and able to bring back things that had been completely ignored for a long time, such as process improvements, cross training for vacation backups, and work on projects with a more long term scale, such as creating reference databases to help employees. Things went this way for about 2.5 months and it was great. I actually felt like I was contributing something valuable and using my brain rather than being an automated dummy issuing credits and sending scripted emails and filing freight claims and other such tedious grunt work all day.
And then 50% of the office personnell got laid off. Prior to this my load of tedious grunt work had been lightened as I'd been assigned more reseach based tasks and "interesting" work. Now in addition to the interesting work I've been handling, I'm getting the tedious grunt work of 2 (full time) laid off employees back, plus splitting work of a person with a higher title and payscale than me (important things such as managing payroll). Oh yea, I've also been working my old job remotely at the customer's site 2 days a week to cover fo rthe person they hired to replace me while they are on disability recovering from serious health issues (this leave me unable to access a lot of the shared databases needed to perform my regular work on the 2 days I am not in my regular office). I've been covering for this person since January, and their position was a full time position.
I feel completely overloaded with work and do not see a way for everything to get done. I am not allowed overtime, but sometimes find myself addressing emails at home anyway just to not hit my head on my desk at work. I make about 16 an hour in Philadelphia and since I've been there for 5 years i get 21 sick / vacation days. I'm afraid my customer service experience will be difficult to twist into something grand enough for a significant pay increase and I do not want to take a new job only to make the same amount, have no vacation time, and end up in a similar situation. Does this work scenario seem normal or should I be searching for greener pastures?
posted by WeekendJen to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Definately, search for those greener pastures: find another job and then quit this one; don't quit first, it's easier to find another job while you have one than while you're jobless.

They've figured out that no matter what they load onto you, you'll do it, even though it means unpaid work hours (those emails from home, for instance). At the very, very least, stop doing any work outside of your paid hours!
posted by easily confused at 11:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's common, but you don't have to take it.

Sure, you've done customer service work, and sure, list it. But really play up the more interesting parts of your job on your resume. Especially process improvment, reference databases and Sales. If you had a quota, talk about how you kicked it's ass.

Start looking on Linked In and other job databases and see whats out there. Off hand, I'd say you can look in Sales Operations and Business Analyst jobs.

Look for large companies, I worked for the Phone Company, but finance, utilities, and technology are going to pay more and have a lot of opportunity for advancement and training.

I would meet with your manager and ask him/her to help you strategize on your workload. "I know we're all doing the work of 3 people and I'm really struggling with getting everything done. Can we discuss the company's expectations and the realities of what one person can do in a day? I'd love your guidance on strategies and methods for achiving my goals." You never know, your boss may say, "Never mind doing the thingamajig report, it's more important to get through that pile of invoices." But at least take a stab at diminishing their expectations and your workload.

Personally though, once I've shown them that I can do all that crap, I find they just take advantage until I explode with rage and stomp off into the night like the Hulk.

So...yeah, start looking. Also, don't do unpaid over time. Ever. That's uncool and it makes me insane when I see some of the office staff here doing it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:13 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny: "Also, don't do unpaid over time. Ever. "

This is normal in every non-union salaried position that I know of in the US.

It sucks, but if your company isn't shy about firing half of its employees, you probably shouldn't scoff at some OT. Finding a new job (which, oh my god, you should) is a lot easier when you're employed.
posted by schmod at 12:36 PM on June 13, 2013

Response by poster: I am NOT salaried. If I was offered OT at my paid rate, I would not hesitate to take it. I do not intend to quit before finding a different job if I go that route.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, start looking. This isn't crazy-unbelievable bad conditions, but it's not great. It might take a while to find something better but there are actual greener pastures.
posted by mskyle at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2013

I've worked for companies like this, and sometimes, thankfully it's been a phase. At other times it is just their SOP.

Companies who create this atmosphere, have, in my opinion, lost focus on the fact that employees are a resource to be preserved, the same as leads, revenues, and customers. If you are at all privy to a possible reason for this (due to your accounting or other work), it may be a phase that this company is going through, and if the ship is righted, things may calm down. It will be an uphill battle for the remaining employees to reclaim some decent work expectations and a more positive environment, but it is possible in my experience.

That said, It doesn't make it right for a company to treat any employee as interchangeable or dispensable, even if they are struggling financially. My dad, who has been in the corporate game for decades, advises me to ALWAYS be looking even if I don't necessarily have a reason to. He goes on at least one interview a year, just to keep things fresh, and usually for much higher pay and positions in his field, "Just to see."

If, however, this is this company's standard of how they view the majority of employees, you should be planning an exit now. I will digress from the comments above telling you to stop answering e-mails. If that's the only way you can keep yourself sane at work until you get out, then it may be a necessary evil. That said, for every set of e-mails you send out from home to preserve your sanity while at work (whether it's every e-mail, every 5, 10, whatever), send out a custom CV and resume. You'll likely have the double benefit of responding to less e-mails (maybe just getting the time critical stuff), and also ensuring that you're not slacking on getting your name out to other employers.

Looking for work is another job, and often times I'll rationalize in my head about although I want to stab myself in the face M-F, 9-5, I'll wait until after the holidays, or a vacation I have planned, or a million other reasons, some good some bad, but mostly just excuses.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately these days the conditions you describe aren't unheard of at many places, but if I had those conditions I'd be looking.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2013

definitely start looking.

so, let's get this strait: once your department was sufficiently staffed they laid-off half of the workforce. the management is either stupid, doesn't care about it's employees, or they realized they're going broke.

it sounds like you have some good experience, and saying something about how you covered for the laid-off employees and the person on disability who did your old job will look really good.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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