Should I quit my job?
September 10, 2015 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I’ve had my current job for 9 months. At first, I thought it was my dream job, but now I dread going in every day. I just got a new job offer and I need help sorting out my thoughts and deciding what to do.

There are three main problems: I am overworked, my boss is completely unavailable, and my job is already in a high stress field dealing with angry and/or rude people, which to some extent is inherent and unavoidable.

I would talk about it with my boss, except my boss is completely unavailable. And I mean completely. I really can’t overstate how true this is. When I first started, I knew he would be the type of boss who didn’t want to micromanage anything. I thought that was great. But now it’s like he’s not even managing anything. I probably haven’t talked to him in 3 months. He ignores my emails. He is constantly traveling and out of the office. I also have about 5 other various bosses above him, some of whom are very responsive and some of whom ignore me even more than he does. I catch flak sometimes if something is late or there’s a mix up, or whatever. But if I cut out my immediate boss and go straight to them, he gets very anxious (mostly due to his image, I think), so he always wants me not to reply and to fill him in on anything before I talk to the “big bosses.” The problem is there is really no one else who knows what I do who I can go to. There is no HR and our office manager is new and doesn't really understand what I do anyway.

I tried to tell my boss I was thinking of quitting two days ago. I walked to his office, asked if he had time to talk, and he said no. Then when he was rushing out the door to lunch he poked his head in my office and asked what I wanted to talk about. Since I couldn’t very well say it in front of the whole office, I just muttered, “Just wanted to know how hiring third person was going.” To which he replied “it’s at the top of my list.” Now he’s out of town until Monday.

There are two people who do my job: me and a lady who works from home. My boss has been saying he will hire a third person for about 3 months now. A month ago he put an ad up online. He then showed me the resumes and asked for feedback. He then did two interviews about two weeks ago. I never heard anything after that. Either they did not take the job, or he didn’t offer it. The ad has not gone back up. He mentioned he didn’t get a “gut feeling” about anyone. The problem is, we desperately needed someone to be hired two months ago. Anyone. And even when we get them, they will not know what they're doing and I will have to train them. When I first started, the lady who "trained" me barely taught me anything and my boss kept her on for two months just to train me because he certainly didn't have time to. I basically trained myself. I would say it still took about 3 months to really get the job down.

It’s a fairly small professional office and there is only me, the lady who shares my job but works remotely, an office manager, a receptionist, and a secretary. That’s it for support staff, and the rest of the office is professionals. I replaced someone who was there for 8 years. Our office manager who was there for 10 years just got a new job and the new office manager is clearly struggling to catch up and learn everything. (I also think the previous office manager handled hiring and the new one has no clue how, which means it’s terrible timing for finding a new person.) The secretary and person who work remotely both want to retire in a year to two years, and the receptionist wants to quit in a few months. The receptionist currently does all of my paperwork I can farm out to her and she is great, but there’s nothing else she can do without actually doing my job. When she leaves, I will drown. She shaves off at least 2 days of work from me currently, and before she started helping, I did all of it myself.

The workload has objectively been crazy. This year we are getting double the incoming work as last year- literally. I have seen the charts. It was my extreme misfortune to start the job by coincidence almost exactly when the amount of work doubled. This, I think, has caused my boss to assume “I will get faster in a few months” or “we just hired someone, so we can wait a little longer” or even “maybe it’s just her.” But the thing is, it's really not just me. I really actually am much faster, more organized and more efficient than the other lady who works remotely and shares my job, plus I have more responsibility as I work at the office and have to help answer the phone, go to conferences, etc. I am already taking on more than my fair share of the work load because she pulls rank and complains a lot, so I take about 2/3 of the incoming work. She complains to me because she can't reach our boss either. To be fair, she is pretty nice and I think she is genuinely overworked. So am I. So is my boss. Something has to give.

A few weeks ago after a particularly horrible day in which I was screamed at for something that was not my fault (not by my boss, but by a client) I snapped and cried after work. A few days later, I applied to a position in a slightly different area of my field that is lower stress. I didn’t really expect to hear back, but I did. They sound enthusiastic and like they really want me for the job. I have an interview tomorrow, and I really wouldn’t be surprised if they offer me the job more or less immediately. There are maybe 3 or 4 good openings in my field in a month- and this is a really good one- it was not a split second "I'll take anything" decision- it really is a lucky stroke.

The icing on the cake is that my printer has been out of toner for a month because I go through paper so fast and the new office manager hasn’t ordered any yet. I would order it myself, but it’s about $200 I am not sure the office will reimburse me. The blinking red light on the printer is like a metaphor for everything: just burnt out. Not getting reinforcements any time soon.

On the other hand, I get a really good salary and benefits. My boss will almost certainly try to offer me a raise if I make motions to leave. I like who I work with. Despite it all, my boss is actually a genuinely good person. I still believe in the necessity of what I do. My office is ethical and respectable. It’s a very nice office downtown. None of these things are likely to be true at my new job, which will probably have slightly lower pay, possibly slightly less benefits, not as fancy, etc. The position I am in now is completely unique and there are probably about 5-10 in the US. I will never get another job like this. It's that unique.

I am also very sure my boss with feel like a failure, and worry a LOT about his image if I leave now after less than a year. (He worried when my predecessor left, and she was there 8 years) I think if I say, "it's not you, it's just I don't feel I can handle this job." (True, because I am becoming more and more unmotivated) that might help the blow to his pride. Even if not strictly true. I also have no idea how he's going to take it. He might laugh it off, he might blame me, he might blow up, he might freak out, he might threaten, he might try to cover it up. No clue. My boyfriend thinks its okay to quit but I need to give a month’s notice. My mom thinks I should stay and stick it out with my boss. Both of them told me to talk to him. It’s basically impossible to talk to him. It took a lot of courage to even walk down to his office and now he’s out of town until Monday.

When I started this job, I really wanted to be a star. I thought I would never burn out and get grumpy and that I would never leave. Or if I had to leave, would leave on great terms. But I'm just floundering. I'm constantly stressed. It's affecting my friendships, relationships. I want to do the right thing. What is it?
posted by stockpuppet to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Focus on nailing the interview. You are stressing over the choice- stay or go?- and you haven't been offered the new job yet. Slow down. You'll need a cool head to negotiate this, if what you say is true about your current gig offering you a raise to stay. You'll have to determine the ratio between money, sanity, quality of life, etc.
posted by vrakatar at 6:14 PM on September 10, 2015 [18 favorites]

Make an appointment with your boss to discuss transition plans. Let him know the conditions under which you would stay. If he can't or won't agree, then you need to find one of those 5-10 jobs.
posted by 26.2 at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

I would not, never, ever discuss a possible departure until you have a signed job offer in hand. I think the discussions about improving work conditions have been asked and answered.

Focus entirely on nailing the job interview. If you are offered a job, and you want to take it, take it. Give zero F's about whether you're letting anyone down at your current, crappy, job or how anyone there will take it.

Good luck.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:28 PM on September 10, 2015 [39 favorites]

If you are offered this new job, it is no longer your job to make sure this current place is OK. I've stayed in a few jobs too long because I thought like this, and when I left, I was always stunned at how I was able to put up with being so unhappy for so long. Sure, things were probably rough on people I liked because I left, but in the end, my happiness and well being was worth more than that.
posted by advicepig at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]

GTFO. I had a job like that. I had nightmares for over a year after I left.
posted by bq at 6:49 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

I was in a similar work situation and got a new job. I told my new employer that I would need time to transition our of my old role. I made a transition plan detailing my responsibilities on my team, and worked long hours automating as much of my work as I could.

When I told my boss I would be leaving before going over any of that plan or automation, he told me that HR thought that that day should be my last. They never used any of the plan or tools I made.

You may feel like it is a burden to place on your old employer. But managers plan for attrition and may very well not even notice your absence. Get that new job and get out of there.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [8 favorites]

I would recommend not being so concerned with people who are basically ignoring you and your stated needs. Toner? Ridiculous. Overwork? That's your health, your life, which is too short to fix broken offices that have been broken since long before you got there.
posted by rhizome at 7:00 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]

Get the other job first. Then leave.

One of the few things I kept from a previous, terrible job I stayed at too long and then was unceremoniously let go from is the phrase "Fuck 'em, and feed 'em fish heads."

Once you've got that other job, fuck 'em and feed 'em fish heads.
posted by notsnot at 7:05 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was reading about how some people think of their bosses as parents. They want their bosses to be there to help them and guide them and they want them to fix things and tell them everything is going to be okay. I'm not saying this is you at all but I think I might learn to deal with the situation if there is more money at your current job. If money is not worth it to you, take the least stressful job. If you basically know what to do and don't need further training, it's just the workload that's bugging you and your boss can't really help with that, except hiring the extra person of course. And as in just about every workplace, money trumps all. Hiring another person might not happen. As it is, it is a very low or nonexistent priority.

I deal with the public all day and make it a game. I take nothing personally. I do not allow my ego to become involved. When you drop the ego, you cannot be offended. I extend kindness to even the crankiest of people and usually it ends well. I live in the moment at work and take it as it comes. When you think of future, you will be stressed. When you think of past, you get riled up. Think of now. You're okay now. This sounds all Pollyanna and woo but it helps me. To me, the toner thing is the most annoying thing about your situation. Bug that office manager like no tomorrow for more toner and decide if the grass is going to be greener at the other job.
posted by Fairchild at 7:30 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Much of this isn't your concern. From the organizational viewpoint, either your boss is bad and the "big bosses" need to realize that and do something about it, or your boss is good and needs more support. Your boss might even be able to use your departure ("see that, I've lost two people in a year") to negotiate what your department needs from the big bosses. Ultimately, it's not your concern.

Your big concern should be whether you want to give up the money and fancy office in exchange for a lower-stress job. Among other things, I'd definitely confirm that it will, in fact, be lower-stress, before taking it.

If you quit, don't blame yourself just to cushion the blow. Say something neutral and non-blaming, like "I found a job that felt like a better fit," or "the job wasn't what I expected," or even "I knew I wouldn't be able to succeed under the conditions I was experiencing, and I didn't think that was good for either me or the company." Say true things, e.g, "I enjoyed the time we spent together," but not "I enjoyed working for you."
posted by salvia at 7:37 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Even if you got this other job and negotiated a raise, it doesn't seem that it would be worth the stress just to hang on to this job title for however much longer you think you'd need it to get those other 5-10 unique jobs. What's the turnover on those, anyway? You might not get them with two or even five years' experience in this role.

On the other hand, you did get this job. You could take the offered (or another) less-stressful job for now, keep looking, and maybe find something different that's got 75% of what you want and 25% unanticipated, interesting, skill-broadening stuff to do.

You could maybe negotiate for a temp with a job offer in hand, but I doubt it would magically get him to start communicating, or working proactively, or really dealing with any of the issues that need to be dealt with. It doesn't sound like he would actually act on any promises made, either.

Nth that you're not responsible for his emotional well-being. That wasn't in your contract.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:16 PM on September 10, 2015

Get another job, any job, just so you have something, and leave. It is not worth your time or your energy to worry about this job any longer. You deserve better.
posted by junipero at 8:24 PM on September 10, 2015

I am also very sure my boss with feel like a failure, and worry a LOT about his image if I leave now after less than a year. (He worried when my predecessor left, and she was there 8 years) I think if I say, "it's not you, it's just I don't feel I can handle this job." (True, because I am becoming more and more unmotivated) that might help the blow to his pride. ... When I started this job, I really wanted to be a star. I thought I would never burn out and get grumpy and that I would never leave. Or if I had to leave, would leave on great terms. But I'm just floundering. I'm constantly stressed. It's affecting my friendships, relationships. I want to do the right thing. What is it?

It's not your pit; those aren't your vipers. (Did you see the emotional labor thread?) It is NOT your job to coddle your boss' ego by pretending you aren't up to the job. Don't you dare denigrate your performance to make him feel better. Your job is to take care of yourself. That means the right thing to do is to look for a new job that is a better fit.

I was once considered for a fancy column in a fancy newspaper and turned it down cold. It didn't matter that a bunch of journalists would have killed for such an opportunity. It wasn't an opportunity to me, it was a jail sentence. It was a terrible fit and it didn't matter that there was only one such column at that publication to be had.

You say you are constantly stressed and this job is affecting your friendships and relationships. So go elsewhere as soon as you can. It's not your job to save this company from itself. It's your job to take care of yourself and create a rewarding, satisfying and sustainable life. This job won't let you do this. Time to move on. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:53 PM on September 10, 2015 [11 favorites]

Other people have answered about whether you should leave (yes) and when to announce that intention (after you have your other job in hand.) I just want to address this:

The position I am in now is completely unique and there are probably about 5-10 in the US. I will never get another job like this. It's that unique.

This is a generally a bad thing for your employability. The longer you stay in a role where the skills aren't obviously, easily transferable to another position, the less power you have to leave.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:04 PM on September 10, 2015 [9 favorites]

If you hate it, just quit and take the job offer. Life is too short to be miserable on a daily basis. I got over trying to do the impressive job in the cool city for the prestigious organization and focused on just being able to work everyday without hating it. No one can tell you what is best. It's a roll of the dice because the new job could suck too. I think you need to decide if you can be happy or if this place is just slowly crushing your soul. If it's the latter, it's not worth the money.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yup, get another job first, then leave.

You haven't said why your boyfriend and mom think you should stay a month or indefinitely. Unless there's a good reason you left out, it sounds like they may just be misguided.

in terms of this other possible job, you say, "[pros about your current job here]... My office is ethical and respectable... None of these things are likely to be true at my new job..." You follow that with specific contrasts to the other job's cons, but nothing further about "ethical and respectable." Did you mean that to be one of the things not "likely to be true at" the possible job? That could potentially matter a lot more than the less shiny office.

It may also matter more than the pay, WHICH YOU SHOULD NEGOTIATE. From their perspective, you have a position of considerable strength to negotiate from. If they want you, make them win you.

If you do still want to work it out with your boss -- without tipping your hand about other non-confirmed possibilities -- then go to his office again. You have time before you have to respond to another offer that hasn't been extended yet. This time, if he stops by your desk, instead of backing down, say something like, "It's not a matter to discuss here. Can we talk in your office?"

The common theme across all of these points? You would benefit from being a stronger advocate for yourself -- with your boyfriend and mom, the possible job, and your current boss.
posted by daisyace at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2015

The right thing to do here is what works best for you, not your boss, mother, or boyfriend. You really need to figure out what you require from your boss/org to succeed, regardless of where you land (and I'd be jumping from this ship ASAP myself). You don't want to go from bailing water to... bailing water, you know?
posted by sm1tten at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older How to approach the same old argument in a new way   |   Blown speaker? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.