Getting out of a toxic situation and finding the right path
August 19, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I rushed into a new job after a layoff a few weeks ago, and it's really not a good fit. The commute is too long (and I have no interest in moving here, because I love where I live and the job is in a really dismal part of the county), the work is too boring (it's IT work that's largely automated, and my "job" appears to be to watch things and make sure they don't go down) and it's starting to make me ill. I'm very close to a breakdown and I am not sure what to do to improve my quality of life.

It's weird how stressful it is to have nothing to do. This is my second IT-type job like this - the first was marginally better because it was a smaller team and there was usually a bit of work to do each day. But this is dire - there are several big teams and absolutely nothing for me to do for days on end. People don't understand or identify with it. All I usually get from people are jokey comments like "oh, wouldn't it be nice to get paid to do nothing?", which is either unhelpful or downright fucking irritating depending on what mood I'm in. No, it's not "nice," it's fucking soul destroying.

The office is a typical IT environment at a very traditional business (100+ years old) and a really bad atmosphere for me. There's always a lot of shouting and arguing and blaming and striding around and general alpha-masculine behaviour, lots of public dressing-downs for people who are wrong on some technical matter, lots of sexist/homophobic/rape jokes passing for banter. There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute, apparently to keep us all on our toes. I'm not entirely sure why it exists, but having asked about it, it seems that having it turned off is non-negotiable. It's so loud that it's audible even with headphones in. People in this type of company / industry / environment appear to thrive on being stressed and anxious. The more stressed you are, the busier you are, and ruining my mental health for work is not something I intend to do. The loudspeaker is a symptom of this toxic culture - the constant alerts are designed to keep you anxious.

I am in a lot of pain. My life has no joy in it, nothing to look forward to, no activities other than driving long distances, sitting in an office listening to RED ALERT with nothing to do, and then getting home and sitting vegetable-like watching TV shows I've seen before (new stuff takes up too much mental energy) until it's time to pass out and do it again. I count down constantly. I count down the hours to the end of the day, the days to the end of the week, the weeks to the next public holiday. Taken to its logical conclusion, I am literally counting my life away. I sit all day typing to myself, because most of the internet is asleep for a big chunk of my workday. I'm incredibly lonely. The work doesn't interest me at all - in fact I am actively disinterested in being a system administrator - I fell into IT via radio, rather than it being something I've always wanted to do, and I am desperate to do a job that is a) busier(!!!) and b) doesn't involve staring at a computer with fuck-all to do and c) doesn't involve Computer Dudebro Types who think rape is a fun thing to have a larf about.

I've been doing the maths on quitting without anything to go to - which I know people usually advise against. Without the hundreds a month I'm spending on fuel for the 84-mile-a-day commute, which is a massive chunk of my income, I've calculated that if I quit tomorrow I could make it for about two months without an income, three if I'm particularly frugal. I feel like quitting is the only way I'm going to find another job, because job-hunting is time and energy-consuming and I have little of either with my long days and long commutes. I'm in a "good" position in that I don't have any dependents, I'm debt-free and I live in a place with a relatively low cost of living and good transport.

What I know is that I can't carry on in this situation, I have to go. I can't spend another minute of my life counting down the hours until I get to slip off this earth. But what should I do? I have a long-term plan, I want to be a freelance copywriter - something I've been told on more than one occasion I have a talent for and something I've got experience of doing in the past for employers in radio (so not a pipe-dream, I have a portfolio of existing work). But building up a business like that is going to take a long time - time I don't have if I'm going to get out of this present situation with a shred of my mental health left. I see others who have fruitful, productive, independent, even somewhat pleasurable lives and wonder what sort of a wrong turn I took to end up with such a joyless existence.

So, questions - should I quit this job in an effort to find something better and build up my baby of a copywriting business, bearing in mind it won't provide much of an income for a while? What can I do to make my day-to-day life bearable and stop myself from crying in the bathroom every hour or so? How can I increase my independence, so that I don't feel like my entire life is taken up with employment-related things (ie. sitting in the office and commuting and getting ready for the next day's work)?

My life is at a very important crossroads. Straight ahead, on the path I'm currently on, lie continued and increasing mental health issues, a job I'm totally disinterested in, long hours and long commutes and general sadness. But to the left and right of me, the paths are foggy and unclear. I need to know which way to turn.
posted by winterhill to Work & Money (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Dumb Dumb question - if your IT job is to watch and ensure everything works as expected - could this be something done remotely? Remoting into your work machine/network/IT buzz word from home?

At least then, you're not having the insane commute, no RED ALLERRRRT buzz going off every few minutes, and you get paid to do your laundry, pay the bills, etc.

Even if it's not every day - but every Wednesday and Friday - it could help stall the burning desire to quit before another job is lined up.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:48 AM on August 19, 2014 [12 favorites]

...and a work-from-home arrangement might also allow you to job-hunt from home and get paid to do so.
posted by tckma at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2014

I don't think all IT jobs are like this.

It's so easy to lose perspective when you're in a daily grind like this. It's hard to remember what it's like to be in a different mental space.

My advice would be, if you can afford 3-4 months of unemployment, to quit today, but not rule out IT work as a whole. Every company needs IT people and most companies are not as bad as this.

Leave this off your resume. When people ask why you left the job you were laid off from, tell the truth. If they ask what you've been up to, you can tell them you have been doing some consulting.

[Edit - I'm a recruiter so I will elaborate. The trope of "never quit without another job lined up" is mostly true, but a big part of it is that quitting is a red flag about a candidate, for various unfair reasons. In this case, OP doesn't ever need to talk about quitting this terrible job, because the last thing on his resume will be a downsizing, which isn't a reason to disqualify a candidate with in-demand skills like IT. That's why I don't think the "don't quit" rule applies as strongly here. BUT, in eight months it will because it'll be harder to explain away the gap. So OP my advice is to quit sooner than later.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

I don't think all IT jobs are like this.

They are emphatically not all like this. This is a toxic work environment. Get out.
posted by kdar at 7:57 AM on August 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

A few things that have helped me a bit in hellish jobs -
reminding myself IT IS NOT FOREVER
Reminding myself "it's not the worst job in the world" though to be fair, RED ALERT sounds close - what wanker got PAID to come up with that?!
Taking a nice lunch and snacks (little things to look forward to).
Writing journal like when I'm really pissed off, or a 5 minute trip to the corner shop, post box (anything away). I don't smoke so do this instead now and again.

If you want to do the copywrite thing that's great. Find yourself a Kickstart advisor or similar - that will inject a bit of passion into your life, sorely missing at red alert. It will give you shit loads to do and think about and absorb you. Back at RA do what you can for that which will make you look officious and absorbed and mean you are getting paid to do something you care about. Starting a venture is a monumental hurdle, trust me - an exciting one though.

If you can't get an advsisor things to start thinking about could be
target audience?
sales pitch?
terms and conditions?
competitors?/your unique selling point
etc etc
posted by tanktop at 7:59 AM on August 19, 2014

I read your comment from the other week as well.

And I've been a freelancer. It's a tough road and I recommend having at least 8-12 months of living expenses squirreled away before you start, just so you can work with some sense of ease and purpose. I know the work makes you unhappy, but I advise saving up (either at this job or another one) until you get to a particular goal so you don't have to scurry back to some other unhappy situation.

Can you write at work during your downtime? Jeffrey Eugenides wrote The Virgin Suicides while pretending to write business correspondence.

Another thing: Being busybusybusy at work is overrated and many people try to use Being Busy At Work as a substitute for Being Productive in Life. (This is not the same. I have tried this. It does not work. It can make you very sick and no fun to be around and even give you symptoms that very closely resemble PTSD.) Do good work, but recognize that no employer is worth the wear and tear of busybusybusy. Work for you.
posted by mochapickle at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you don't have any one breathing down your neck at work, can you work on some of your own projects? Writing, designing plans for freelance work, etc.? (I've been a freelancer for over 20 years, and when I'm not working, I'm working on how to get more work--don't kid yourself that freelancing means oodles of carefree non-work time.)
Listen to books on tape during your commute. Walk after you get home. Volunteer on weekends.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:06 AM on August 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Quit. Quit tomorrow, today If you can. Your job sounds a nightmare which is not only leaving you stressed but also hurting your future health(and therefore income) every day you keep it, seriously, you have enough money & talents that you can find a job (any job even if it is also only temporary) which does not involve a freaking Red Alert Buzzer every minute.

Remeber you can claim JSA & housing benefit while you are out of work (depending on you income) but certainly with only 3 months of savings and I think where you live that will be about £125/week. Not great but it will help alot and even the hassles of Job Centre plus won't come close to your current stress levels
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:12 AM on August 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute. WTF? Get out.

In July you said that you had two job offers and a second interview two weeks after being laid off. It seems like you have options. I'd find a similar job (in IT) that wasn't so awful asap. If you still hate it somewhere else, then you can go a totally different roue.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2014 [13 favorites]

Quit. That is fucking insane.
posted by odinsdream at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just like you, after months of unemployment, I took a job that was a horrible fit - insane boss, unhappy co-workers, completely toxic. I was chatting with a friend during the work day and she said, "If you need permission to quit, you have it." That's all I needed. I didn't put in my 2 weeks notice. I quit that day. I had a few months of savings lined up, like you do and I wasn't going to suffer for quitting. If you're lucky enough to be able to get by without a job lined up for a while, quit. Do it. For all those people who want to quit toxic jobs, but can't because they're without a cushion or safety net, do it. I never regretted quitting that awful, terrible, no-good job and I got my current job (which is fantastic) four months later. Get out today.
posted by Zosia Blue at 8:17 AM on August 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

This job sounds awful. (How is that RED ALERT thing even legal?) I absolutely understand how hard it is to look for work when you are in such a toxic environment that sucks up so much of your energy. Last month you were choosing between several job offers only a few weeks after being laid off. Is there any reason to think you wouldn't be able to find work as quickly again if you quit this new job?

I wrote a whole thing about a recent somewhat similar situation that I was in, but deleted it because the specifics don't really matter; the point is that I quit a bad job after only a few weeks with nothing else lined up and the further I get from the situation, the more certain I am that it was the right decision.

From a job-seeking perspective, I think it also makes sense for you to quit now, while you can just leave this job off your resume completely, than to stick it out any longer and then have to explain why you were only there for six months (or whatever).
posted by enn at 8:19 AM on August 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Even if it meant I'd be homeless, I'd go to the nearest manager and say "it'd be great if we could turn that speaker off right now, because it's an inhumane way to treat employees; if you don't turn it off, I will have to quit immediately," and then I'd quit anyway. Fuck that company.
posted by mbrock at 8:24 AM on August 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute. WTF? Get out.

Even if it meant I'd be homeless, I'd go to the nearest manager and say "it'd be great if we could turn that speaker off right now, because it's an inhumane way to treat employees; if you don't turn it off, I will have to quit immediately," and then I'd quit anyway. Fuck that company.

Came here to comment on this. WTF indeed? That's a form of noise torture, grounds for reporting workplace abuse to the authorities.
posted by Melismata at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

Please quit. You sound highly employable, especially rereading that post from July about multiple job offers. I'm in a field where there are 50-100 applications for every opening, and I once quit a job after a week, and I had three replacement jobs within a month because I hustled like I had never hustled before. You can do this! Leave it off your resume and say you've been job-hunting since your layoff.
posted by jabes at 8:33 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, definitely quit.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:44 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute

Um, quit immediately, then write up the ABSURD story of working there and sell it to some publisher like Medium or some upstanding independent web magazine, live off that money and notoriety while you SLEEP FOR A WEEK, then find a new job. But honestly Jesus Christ, just walk away right now, like literally if you are there right now JUST TAKE YOUR THINGS AND GO, wouldn't you rather work at a laundromat or live on the streets???
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2014 [23 favorites]

There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute, apparently to keep us all on our toes.

Huh? What? This is not a normal working environment in any field. This is decidedly abnormal.

Seriously, if weren't for this booming red alert loudspeaker, but I'd be inclined to say that you should keep the job for at least a little while but start seriously looking. You can deal with a long commute, a boring job, and coworkers you dislike for a short time.

But "RED ALERRRT!" every minute? How is that even legal? That alone would make me quit.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something to do with all the slack time: find the wiring for that loudspeaker and cut it surreptitiously. Everyone will applaud the mystery do-gooder when the lack of alerts is noticed.
posted by lathrop at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'd suggest contacting the Health and Safety Executive about the noise pollution, that sounds horrendous.

Someone upthread mentioned Jobseeker's Allowance- if you make yourself intentionally unemployed, you won't be able to claim for at least 26 weeks.

But yeah, please quit!!
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute, apparently to keep us all on our toes.

No wonder you're at your wits end. Part of the Geneva Convention defining torture talks about "being subjected to continuous loud noise". I don't see how they can legally do that. And if they can legally do that? Fuck them, because what decent person/organization would DO that?

Quit immediately. Give them no notice. Chill for the rest of this week and continue your old job search as if this brief nightmare never happened.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're on the brink of quitting. So I say, let yourself get fired. Spend your time working on your resume and applying to new jobs. Stop caring about your current job. But hold onto those paychecks as long as you can. If you aren't worried about burning bridges or getting good recommendations, just let yourself do a crappy job. Start using all your sick days, vacation days, and fake jury duty if you can. You might be surprised and they may be fine with you half-assing it, at least for a while. You obviously can't stay there. Start looking for another job immediately.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

At this point if they fire you for being crap at your job you will be better off. You can leave this job off our CV, so don't need references, and it may even get you unemployment depending on how things work where you are. So you've got nothing to lose. This opens you up to doing some things to make your job a little bit better since you no longer care what they think of you. Personally I'd be very tempted to even make it a game, how far can I push it before they get rid of me?

Number one: noise cancelling headphones, the really good kind that works. If that's not enough then put some giant industrial earmuffs over the top. Basically, if you can make it the whole day without hearing any of their crap or that horrible alarm thing (which, yeah, I keep thinking "how is that legal?") then that's a win for you. Normally this would be kind of rude and makes it more difficult for you co-workers to interact with you professionally but screw 'em, their noise is toxic bullshit and what are they going to do? Fire you?

Then, arrive as late as you can get away with, leave as early as you can. Working from home would be awesome if you can swing it. Throw a sickie if you can't. Otherwise long lunches. Afternoon strolls around the car park. Smoko breaks outside (even if you don't smoke). Try to physically get outside and away from this mess as much as you can.

Lastly, if they won't give you anything to do then give yourself things. I'd take a big book and blatantly read it at my desk. I'd also bring in my phone or tablet and play computer games. Maybe take up knitting. Look for online communities geographically close to you, there's always someone online if you look in the right place. Trawl ebay and get stuff delivered to your work, nothing like having presents arrive to brighten the day. Ask anyone who comments if they have something better for you to do since you're eager to work and all, then stare at them until they leave.

I'd be a bit careful about doing any freelance work or anything that could be related while you're there, you don't want them to claim ownership of anything. It's also difficult to look for jobs while at work, which is annoying because that's clearly the best use of your time. But if you use a smartphone and your own 3G connection then there's nothing stopping you from searching for a new job that way.

Because, in the end, searching for a new job is your number one priority and is what's going to stop this shit. My husband works in IT for a company based out of the UK and it's nothing like you're describing. This really isn't a general thing and there are other places you can go that won't make you feel like this, I promise! I know how much it sucks to write cover letters after a god-awful day at work but try and do it anyway. Scheduling it can help and even a hour three days a week and, say, three hours on the weekend will get you somewhere. Good luck.
posted by shelleycat at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

> There's a loudspeaker that booms "RED ALERRRT!" at high volume once a minute,

It took some effort but I believe you. This belongs in some over the top satire comedy, not in the real world.

This plus an 84 mile a day commute? Good god, get out.

I advise getting a better job rather than leaping into copywriting with no backup. From what I understand, copywriting is a damned hard racket to be in these days.

Almost any job is a step up from this. Once you have an income, continue to work on copywriting on the side and see where it goes.

I would probably try to keep this job until I found another, but I would be calling in sick a LOT, and if they fired me, oh well.

I like the idea of cutting the wires to the loudspeakers, though I probably wouldn't really have the nerve. On the other hand, the worst they can do is fire you, and you would leave as a legend. Think about it . . .
posted by mattu at 10:10 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies!

Working from home is something that would really appeal to me, not because I'm lazy and want to get up at 8:59am and work in my PJs all day, but because I have at least an hour commute at either end of my day (a lot more if traffic's bad, which is a few times a week) and it's a big quality-of-life hit. The atmosphere at home is also a lot more conducive to concentrating on things. But I've only been there a few weeks and I think turning around and saying "can I do remote?" would be a good way to get fired.

There's a bit of long-hours willy waving that goes on at my office, too. You know the sort - people competing to have done the longest hours and put themselves through the most hardship for the team. "Oh, I was up at 2am this morning reticulating the splines, and then I was back in at 6am to move a 20-ton Sun server on my own." That sort of thing. I'm just more like "more fool you," I have absolutely no patience for it - work is enough in the day, and I don't even check work emails once I've left the office, which has already made me a bit unpopular! As we say where I live, any fool can work for nowt.

But the overriding thing is that I've already quit in my head, if that makes sense. I'm turning up and phoning it in, I'm doing what little work I'm being asked to do to a good standard, but I'm sort of sitting there assuming that in two or three weeks I won't be sitting there. That's a bit of a dangerous place to be in, really, because I appear totally disinterested to everyone.

What makes me feel saddest is that with every day I spend there listening to RED ALERT and watching a clock inch around its dial, that's another day I haven't really been alive, and another day closer to the end. I see others with relatively decent lives - friends, partners, a community, a meaningful home life - and wonder what I'm doing wrong not to have the time or energy to build that for myself. I simply can't continue in a life that has so little meaning, lurching from crisis to crisis.
posted by winterhill at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry for double-posting, but something came to mind while I was doing something else. Being told I can't do something is really starting to grate, too. Why can't I be a freelance copywriter? Other people work from home, other people are copywriters, other people have relatively rewarding, pleasant and low-pressure lives. I decided a long time ago to prioritise a good lifestyle and low stress over high income. If other people are doing those things, what is dooming me to a life of RED ALERT and rape jokes? What is different about me? Nothing. It's not like I'm saying I want to be an astronaut or a Premiership footballer. If you ask people, "you can't" be a radio presenter, but I was for a few years.

Maybe I have misplaced over-confidence. I guess my ideal right now would be to get some contract IT work that was partially or fully remote for a few months at a time rather than a full-time job, and build up my writing stuff on the side. I don't think that's too ambitious. Whether I might as well be dreaming of Manchester United stardom is anyone's guess...
posted by winterhill at 11:12 AM on August 19, 2014

Well seems to me if you're doing nothing at your job, that's a perfect time to do job searching. Then you're active and busy and moving your life along and getting paid too. It sucks from the commute perspective but it seems better to get paid to look for work than to do it on your own dime.
posted by Carillon at 11:25 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

But I've only been there a few weeks and I think turning around and saying "can I do remote?" would be a good way to get fired.

That would be ideal. Frankly, I'm reluctant to address what sounds like depression in your comments because your job is so bad that you are literally being tortured. You must stop going there ASAP by any means necessary.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

I don't see anyone saying you can't be a freelance copywriter. I think it's a fine idea and can be a good life if you have the temperament for it. And there is work out there, especially if you have good connections and you're willing to dig.

But I wouldn't say freelance copywriting is low-pressure, especially if you're trying to build momentum and a sturdy client base without a financial buffer or another source of income. There's a lot of uncertainty. Work ebbs and flows. You'll get conflicting deadlines and then projects will suddenly move out three months, or six. It takes a while to get your sea legs. Thus, the buffer.

Most of my friends these days are freelancers of one kind or another. Everything's a contingency. You worry about getting enough work, and then you worry the work will run out. You begin to link your self-worth to whether you're getting work, even though sometimes that's a crapshoot. I was semi-successful as a freelance writer, but I missed the stability so I found a way to work full time for my favorite client, at home, in my pajamas. I learned a lot and I found a happy medium that works for me.

I'm reading your question (and your last few questions) to be more of a cry for change -- a better way of life -- than a complaint about actual torture. (If it's torture, you buried the lede.) Change is great. I'm just urging you to give yourself the best shot when you do make the jump.

You absolutely can do this. You just have to give yourself the best chance.
posted by mochapickle at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have several of your past questions re: moving away form teh 9-5 life favorited and you're basically my brother from another mother from across the pond in that sentiment. The thing that I stuggle with is the realiztion that the kind of life I really want is such a totally big radical change from what I live AND what my parents lived while they were riding the nice waves of rising consumer affluence of their prime years.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you really want to change you life you just have to jump in and do it, or else you'll stay on the same path. It's unnerving to think that you might fall on your face and regret it, but at least it would be interesting compared toteh unfulfilling monotony you seem stuck in now. The RED ALERRRT is your signal that it's time to drop everything and live on your own terms. Just walk out now (or don't show up tomorrow).
posted by WeekendJen at 12:45 PM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

What makes me feel saddest is that with every day I spend there listening to RED ALERT and watching a clock inch around its dial, that's another day I haven't really been alive, and another day closer to the end. I see others with relatively decent lives - friends, partners, a community, a meaningful home life - and wonder what I'm doing wrong not to have the time or energy to build that for myself. I simply can't continue in a life that has so little meaning, lurching from crisis to crisis.

I've never advised anyone to do this, but just don't show up tomorrow. Just don't go. Go to the park and feed the ducks and then apply for other, better jobs when it gets hot in the afternoon. Quit by abandonment and don't look back. I'm serious. Do not go to work tomorrow. Are you reading this at work? If so, just get up and walk out.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:07 PM on August 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

As a follow up - if you've quit in your head and are calculating how much emergency spending you have - there really is no risk to asking to WFH, since the absolute worst that happens is they fire you, which really forces you to start the job hunt you want to do anyway.

Also as a follow up - i feel like you would REALLY like The Zero Theorem. Watch in on your phone at work to make the day more tolerable?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:43 PM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why can't I be a freelance copywriter?

You can. But the reality is, you're unlikely to get there directly from where you are now, you need something in between. And that might as well be a reasonably paid IT job that you're qualified for and that doesn't absorb and ruin your whole life. Then you have the time, mental space, and building the financial buffer to make the leap. They're out there, I'd even say they're more common than not. Unfortunately you have to survive this current situation to get to the next step (even if that does mean quitting now, whatever you need), and then on to the better thing. And eventually then where you want to be (where eventually doesn't need to even need to mean that many years).

If you ask about working from home and they fire you then, again, you're better off than where you are now. You have nothing to lose with this job, instead make it as tolerable as possible -or leave if that never happens- and focus your energy on the next one.

I know people that work in your industry in your general location, including but not limited to my husband, there is space there to work out your end game. You just need to find it and your current place doesn't have it. So fuckem if they dislike you or fire you, make it the best you can and get the fuck out, onwards and upwards.
posted by shelleycat at 1:56 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would sabotage the loudspeaker.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:38 PM on August 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just get another IT job. Being a copywriter is a good goal, although you may end up doing it for a hobby because there's less and less of that sort of work in the world. It's unrealistic to think that we can all be astronauts or cowboys or fire fighters.

I bounced around from one sort of crappy IT/Analyst job to the next too. Sometimes you've got to pull the plug and start over.

Get your resume back out there and call your recruiters. You don't even have to put this one on your resume. Just tell people you're doing some contract work while you find a good full time gig.

You don't have to work in a shitty job. I found out that I can have a GREAT job, it's a bit of a stretch for me, but that's PERFECT for what I want.

Good luck and don't let this get you down. Be pickier going forward.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not saying you can't be a freelance copywriter. I'm not even saying you shouldn't go for it right now. But you sound quite shell shocked--too tired to watch a new TV show is pretty far gone--and going make or break as a freelancer, with no clients lined up, is not exactly an emotionally therapeutic proposition.

Up to you. If you think failing at freelancing still sounds better than succeeding at a new job that doesn't jazz you, go for it. Even if you do fail, you won't die and you'll learn some things.
posted by mattu at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

You can. But the reality is, you're unlikely to get there directly from where you are now, you need something in between.

And just to be really clear, this is not because of you, it's because of the utter utter dickheads you work with. You have identified how you want your life to look and you have the capability to work it into that direction. This rules, you rule. But it won't happen over night, it never does for any of us, but you don't need to spend all of your in-between days listening to rape jokes and twiddling your thumbs and dying inside. Work out your escape strategy first, be it a new better job, getting fired for trying to make the current one bearable, or just walking out because screw them. And then when you have a tiny bit of balance and mental space, then you can start working on the next step. Just don't put up with this shit any longer than necessary, for whatever of not putting up with works for you right now.

I'm going to have nightmares about that loud speaker scenario, I'm impressed you've lasted this long to be honest.
posted by shelleycat at 2:55 PM on August 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

> I would sabotage the loudspeaker.

Yes! Get fired, don't quit. You'll feel better about it.

If you're going to stay on while you find other income, earplugs or canalphones (in-ear headphones that block the ear canal) plus over-the-ear hearing protection (from a hardware or gun store).
posted by morganw at 4:36 PM on August 19, 2014

I would not recommend getting yourself fired. That shit is on your Life Permanent Record, you'll have to answer "yes" to that question on every application until you die. Either quit or find another job and then quit, but don't passive-aggressively get fired.

I read enough to not be surprised that this is legal. Almost everything is at work, really.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:34 PM on August 19, 2014

1. Tell your supervisor that you need time off to see your GP.

2. See if your GP thinks you are well enough for work. If no, get time off. If yes, quit.

Note that this is more or less the same as walking out / not turning up that others have suggested, except with the added bonus of getting medical advice / treatment.

I would definitely figure out how to get that speaker to stop working too.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:44 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I decided a long time ago to prioritise a good lifestyle and low stress over high income.

And just how has that worked out for you?

I don't mean to sound like a total dickhead about this, but there is an enduring myth that everyone else in the entire world is out for money, and that if you are one of the special few who decides that he prefers quality of life over money, he can get all of that while all the others pursue the monetary rat race.

It doesn't really work like that. Having a job that provides you with good work-life balance and quality of life is an ambition you have to chase after just like anything else.

If you just go with the flow and take any job that comes along making clear you don't much care about money, you end up where you have been-- working jobs where the organization doesn't prioritize paying you that much or doesn't prioritize the quality of life at the workplace.

If you want to be a freelance copywriter, that is going to entail building up a reputation for good work, hustling for clients, prioritizing and demanding that clients pay their invoices promptly and pay you well, and cultivate that clientele. And then after all that hustling will you have a good work life balance.

Similarly, being a sysadmin with a good work environment and short commute means finding the few people in your small local community who need those services and making sure you are hired by someone who values you rather than a local guy who just wants to spend as little money as possible and considers you a disposable resource who is desperate to live nearby.

So yeah, cut the wire to the speakers and polish your resume, but turn what you want into a GOAL instead of wondering why you can't get what you want by waiting for it to appear.
posted by deanc at 5:57 PM on August 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

I feel you dude, but reality check time:

hy can't I be a freelance copywriter? Other people work from home, other people are copywriters, other people have relatively rewarding, pleasant and low-pressure lives.

Low pressure, pleasant, even rewarding are not descriptors people use to describe establishing a freelance career with almost no experience. They use words like "poverty", "soul-sucking", "compromise", "desperation", "late payment", and "tolerating arsehole clients".

Take it from someone who's been there, you are romanticising the idea of freelance copy writing to the point of fantasy because of your current unhappiness. If you quit to pursue this unrealistic dream you are gonna be so disappointed when reality hits.

This is not to rag on freelancing, but what you have put down here is the equivalent of a kid wanting to be an astronaut.

Stop making excuses about how you're too tired etc and start lining up freelance work. If you can't do it now, you will struggle to do it on your own. Start applying for other jobs, now. I know you're tired and depressed etc so do it when you're on the clock.

You hate your job, and I can see you are viewing it as the only thing preventing you from all this other stuff, but I think that whilst quitting will be a great relief, you may have more difficulty changing your life and habits so radically.

By all means quit if you want, but understand the act of quitting will not make you a freelance writer, will not get you another job etc. You have to do all that stuff in addition to quitting. Don't distort how much work that could be.

I would try to line up other work now. Your question is very passive, talking about all the things happening to you, and if they stopped happening, x, y, z could happen. Take more ownership of your current job, and alternatives. Beat of luck, op.
posted by smoke at 6:23 PM on August 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree with fingersandtoes that not all IT jobs are this bad. This is definitely a toxic environment that you need to get yourself out of.

BUT, it also sounds to me like you hate being a systems administrator. If so, I can definitely relate. I hated being a sys admin as well, which is why I worked my way into 100% programming jobs.

So, one suggestion is while you are looking for the IT job in the better environment to get you by while you work on becoming a copywriter, consider other types of IT jobs that have a writing component. I'm thinking technical writer. If you have any experience in HTML, CSS and JavaScript (not hard to learn and there are tons of tutorials out there), you might also consider web content creator type jobs. These won't pay as well as being a sys admin, but they do overlap somewhat with the skills needed to be a copywriter.

These jobs are also more likely to allow for telecommuting than systems administration, although that may take some time in the office establishing trust before you are allowed to do that.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:58 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are low pressure jobs out there. I have one. I got it specifically because my last job was so stressful and so unrelenting that it sucked all the life out of me. But you need to start spending your empty time at work looking for jobs, writing cover letters and applying to places. When you interview, ask about work-life balance. Make sure to get a tour of the office to see what it's like. You don't need to be a freelancer to enjoy freedom and flexibility. I make a salary and I manage people. I work remotely whenever I feel like it and I don't need to tell anyone. My situation may be unique, but it comes with being a boss and moving up. I get to decide how to run my department.

Randomly becoming a freelance copywriter will really require you to have connections or recent work or something. I don't think you can quit your job and start earning a living as a freelance copywriter. It will start very slow. If you can get away with it, work on finding copywriting gigs at work now. But ideally, you will find a job that offers you the flexibility to do some copywriting on the side.

I think you just really need to work on finding a new job. It is the most practical thing.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:32 PM on August 19, 2014

Kill the speaker, if they complain tell them you'll speak to HR or HSE.
Then speak to HR or HSE anyway.
posted by fullerine at 4:10 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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