Are These Red Flags, or Am I Just Nervous?
August 24, 2014 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I recently accepted a job offer with a mid-sized family-owned company. I received some not-so-great information within my first week. Do I brush it off, or use what I know to make an informed decision on how to move forward?

I recently accepted a job offer with a mid-sized family-owned company. I was told that if I worked hard enough and also got a certain certification, I would be promoted to [shinier position], which typically pays double my current hourly wage, in up to 6 months. The job I've accepted is part-time. I also pay $20 a day in transportation costs, and the commute is about 1.5 hours one-way. This didn't bother me: the shinier position is more in line with what I want to do with the rest of my professional life, so this is just me putting my time in, right?

But on my first day, I was repeatedly told that if I didn't perform, I would be quickly fired. By the end of the week, I was told by several people (without solicitation) that I was replacing people in my department who were incompetent, or just didn't gel with the company. My department, consisting of two other people, is also completely new: they were hired a month before me, and the department was previously staffed by an executive's son, the son's girlfriend, and his friend. The impression I got was that the office had a revolving door. This was clarified when, after hearing so many negative things so soon, I looked at their GlassDoor reviews.

I am feeling kind of skittish because of how toxic my previous work environment was, but I also want to carefully weigh my options to avoid reliving that nightmare. I can move forward in three ways:

A) Keep my head down, and continue to apply for jobs on my days off until I land something better/get hired by an office with far better reviews (which does not always ensure that one's specific office will be better, I know)

B) Keep my head down, grab my certification, and then start applying for related jobs once I've gotten it; or

C) Disregard what people have told me as gossip, grab my certification, and try to get promoted within the office.

Which would you choose? Was I just told a bunch of unnecessary office gossip, or is this something I should take note of?
posted by Ashen to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Best answer: You're already working there. Continue working, stay out of (and above) the gossip, and aggressively start looking for a new position.
posted by arnicae at 2:24 PM on August 24, 2014 [19 favorites]

arnicae sums it up pretty succinctly. Do what they say your entire working career. Also keep a lot of notes of anything weird or out of the ordinary. If you don't need them, you've used up a piece of paper and some pencil lead (ie, not wasted very much). If you do need them, they'll be invaluable.

The fact that you have a threat of firing put over your head on the first day is a red flag, I think. However, unless you have some other way to pay your bills, you're going to have to put up with some red flags for the time being. For right now, I would go with B. Be your own advocate and look out for yourself, as it seems that your colleagues and bosses aren't going to.
posted by Solomon at 2:34 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Option A, but also get your certification and try to be promoted within the office up until the moment when you get the offer for your new job.

I would also add that while you're working there try to save as much money as you can in case you find yourself unexpectedly unemployed.
posted by Laura_J at 2:54 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

... and the department was previously staffed by an executive's son, the son's girlfriend, and his friend.

If people that connected were fired for incompetence, they must have been really incompetent -- and you probably won't have that much trouble outperforming them.

Give it a chance and see what happens.
posted by jamjam at 3:25 PM on August 24, 2014

Response by poster: I'm sorry, I should probably clarify:

The executive's son and co. were in that department, but they weren't the ones fired. There were several others who worked there during the time those kids left the office to go back to university, up until my current coworkers were hired. The ones without connections were the ones who were fired.
posted by Ashen at 3:39 PM on August 24, 2014

I've worked in a couple places that seemed to pride themselves on firing incompetents. I pretty much decided it was a way for them to feel smart and powerful, and was mostly an empty threat. OTOH, many family businesses are badly managed as is evident on the "save the business" TV shows.

I would be more worried that when you get the cert, they will reneg on the promised promotion. Still, if it's a step toward the career you want, stick with it until something goes wrong.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:57 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you find out the company's history of making the kind of promotion you want? It's possible that they never or rarely promote people, and they kick them out before that point and then cite performance reasons as an excuse. But it's also possible that they had some real incompetent employees, and they weren't used to that because of their size etc., so having to let people go for being incompetent just made an impression and now they're wary of it.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:01 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

This sounds remarkably like a place I worked at that would promise exciting things and more money in the future, only to regularly fire people for no good reason at all. No one hired for my position lasted more than six months. I stuck it out longer than many and got fired for being late one day.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:51 PM on August 24, 2014

Best answer: Believe what you are told. Find a new job asap. These flags are crimson as crimson can be.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:24 PM on August 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

In some sense there's no difference between the options. You do your best to get along at work, you prepare yourself for a better job by learning more, you continue to keep your resume out there and keep an eye on the job market, and apply for those jobs that look like a better fit than your current one (a flexible definition, depending on suckitude of current job). The difference between the options is just how long it takes for everything to fall apart: a couple of months, 6-12 months, or a couple of years.

Get ready to take your certification. Find out whether this will help you in the long run with your own goals, or is just a company thing. Make sure that the vendor/class is a legitimate place that will make you look good, and find out how much the class costs. Confirm the company's rules about training you, what % tuition they pay and how long you have to stay employed afterwards without owing them the money back. Right before money has to change hands for the certification, evaluate your prospects: your worst-case scenario is having to pay exorbitant tuition for a credential you don't really need/want, and your best-case scenario is getting a valuable certification for free.
In my opinion, if they require you pay back tuition if you leave <1 year, forget it, it just sounds too tenuous. (and does that year start when they prepay the tuition, or when you finish the class? if it's a 6-month class, that makes a difference)
posted by aimedwander at 7:02 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I would've updated earlier, but I'm hesitant to use my office network to access personal accounts of any sort.

There is another person in our department, who had been on vacation during my first week there. Today was her first day back, and she secretly spent an hour over her lunch break to go on a staffing agency interview. She was pretty passionate about getting out of the office, so any uncertainty I had is pretty much gone.

I will be taking Option A, and hauling ass until I receive another job offer. DEFINITELY not making the same mistakes that I made with my previous employer. Thank you for your responses!
posted by Ashen at 4:34 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Some Japanese figurines I know little about   |   Hiring via Paid Tryouts Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.