Should I quit my miserable job without another lined up?
January 26, 2016 11:04 AM   Subscribe

It didn't take me long to figure out my new job isn't for me, but delayed training and mandatory training repayment if I quit could mean being stuck there for more than a year. I am miserable. What do I do?

(Asking for a friend.)

I moved to a new city about four months ago. The move was planned, but I was eager to get a job and was excited to find a position nearly-identical to my old job rather quickly.

It quickly became apparent that the company (or at least the job) and I were a poor fit. I'm alone in a small office far from the main campus most of the time, and as a result, they've made me responsible for a lot of things clearly not in my job description—things like taking cars into the shop, running errands, and maintaining the office. (The position isn't remotely administrative.) Because of these duties, I'm struggling to get time during the workday to do my actual job, leading to lots of late nights doing paperwork or visiting clients that I couldn't fit in during the daytime. I moved to this city for better quality of life and feel like my quality of life has gone down the drain.

But beyond all that, the organization just clearly isn't a good fit for me. I was eager to get a job once I moved, and took the first one offered that seemed okay because I figured it was better than nothing. If it were truly terrible, I could look for a new job.

Here's the catch: The company has a mandatory training program, and if you quit within a year of training you are required to pay back expenses incurred. I understand this; I signed the paperwork. But I've been here almost four months and still haven't been trained, and it looks like it will finally happen in March. That would mean I couldn't leave until March of 2017 without incurring huge expenses.

To be clear: I want to leave this job. This job makes me miserable, has contributed to my depression returning, and is filled with poor management and morale. Had I been trained immediately and only had another seven months or so, I would probably suck it up and be okay. The idea of working there for another year and a half, though.... it makes me miserable.

I just started the job-hunting process before I found out about the finally-scheduled training, hoping to get out before they could get it scheduled. However, now I feel like I'm in a rush—they've already booked my plane tickets. I'm not too concerned about finding a job; I'm skilled in an in-demand field and have excellent qualifications. But I'm not delusional. Finding a job will probably take at least a month or two, if not more. I probably won't be able to find one before the training is set in stone.

Here are my options:

1) Suck it up for the next year. This is a possibility, but honestly, the idea of staying there for more than a year longer makes me want to cry.

2) Accept that I might have to pay them $1000+ if I leave (it actually could be quite a bit higher than that; we don't have the full breakdown yet). I could technically afford this, but we're saving for a wedding and home. If there was any way to avoid this, it would be great.

3) Quit now, and start job-hunting. I've considered driving for Uber for a bit (I have a good car for the job) and there are part-time jobs in my speciality that I could apply to while I'm waiting for a full-time position. My girlfriend will be able to float me for a few months on her salary doing this, but could not do so indefinitely.

4) Job hunt and hope I find a job really quickly.

What do I do? I thought I was good at sticking things out, but this company and position is making me miserable and I'm having a hard time looking at things objectively.
posted by good day merlock to Work & Money (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First thing I'd do is consult with an employment lawyer and find out if this repayment of training stuff is even legal.

Then I'd try to initiate a conversation with superiors/HR about being required to perform tasks that are well outside of my job scope and how that is severely impacting my ability to perform my job.

If neither of those avenues are fruitful, I'd start lining up interviews and resign ASAP, providing detail like "I was required to perform tasks outside of my job description which made it impossible to focus on my actual job functions." As for the repayment of training, I'd likely channel Sigourney Weaver in Aliens: "They can bill me."

Personally, I would flat out refuse to repay training--they weren't honest with you about the actual job duties, they failed to hold up their end. For another thing, it is their decision to take the risk/expense of training, not yours, and it's (morally) their responsibility to pay for it. Similar situation to e.g. models and headshots; if you think I'm worth hiring and training, then hire and train me at your expense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2016 [13 favorites]

Start applying for jobs now, and ask for the $1000 you'd need to repay as a signing bonus at your new job.
posted by Andrhia at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd stay and simultaneously job hunt, seeking a position that will enable training cost payback if necessary. I'd also start drawing the line right now on 1) anything outside the job description, as in I would decline to do it and 2) hours outside the job description.
posted by bearwife at 11:15 AM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: One quick clarification (thank you for the answers!)—signing bonuses are very uncommon in my field of work (social services), and the chances my next position will provide one is... well, minimal-to-nonexistent.
posted by good day merlock at 11:18 AM on January 26, 2016

quitting your job now will likely cost your more than repayment of training, even if you did something like uber while you were looking for a job. i would keep looking for something better and realize you might lose that money when the right opportunity comes along.
posted by nadawi at 11:19 AM on January 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you hate the job, and you have an alternative source of income, quit now, and work Uber, and any other jobs you can line up to fill the gap.

You know if it's not a fit, usually from the first few hours. If you haven't had the training yet, I'd approach your manager and say, "Look, this isn't working out. I'm being asked to do a lot of tasks outside of my delineated duties, requiring me to work late into the night. I feel isolated from others by being in this satellite location. Is there a way you can lay me off so that we can both find better fits?"

If you can persuade them to lay you off, you can collect unemployment. At the very least, negotiate the non-payment of the training costs. If you leave before the training.

But me? If I could afford to do it, I'd leave now. Call it a temporary gig and move on. Life is too short.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:21 AM on January 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

IANAL. You might want to consult one asap. Not sure where you're located, but the 9th Circuit federal court (California, Washington, Oregon) has addressed this, and said that an employer can charge for training if the employee leaves, so long as the training charge is prorated (that is, has some bearing on the time that the employee actually worked with the employer).

If you have not actually begun training, I think you have a good case for retaining your wages. There should be an employment law clinic in your area where you can get some questions answered and assess your options.

I'm so sorry this is happening. Good luck with your job hunt.
posted by ananci at 11:34 AM on January 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've used Bunny's script but slightly modified.

Push for your initial 3-month review (if they don't have one, ask for one). Wait for them to give whatever feedback they have (blah, blah, blah). Then when they ask if you are happy, I use a similar script to Bunny, but modified as to what I like to do and can do for them. So for example (and pick something that matches your skill set, and no one else's) - "I really like writing TPS reports, love it, I want to write them all the time. .....I am very unhappy about these other duties, X and Y. Very unhappy" and then stay quiet. Often times, the manager will step up and take away the other stuff and give you TPS reports or acknowledge that it's your main job from here onward.

Then if other people try to throw on those extra errands, respond that you will have to review your schedule and availability (and email your boss - I need to leave at 5:00 today. Which of the following are your priorities? Moving Fifi's car or the TPS reports?" Then let your manager handle it.

I've done this a few times. In my head, I give them an internal deadline to "make it right" (a few weeks, a month). If it changes (and sometimes it does, and becomes the job you want), yeah. Sometimes it doesn't, and I usually exit stage left.

You could also decide to go this route, stick to your leave at 5:00, and there might be lots of cars moved around, errands done, but not the main task...which could lead to a layoff, which could lead to you escaping the job you don't like without the payback required.
posted by Wolfster at 11:36 AM on January 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

IANAL, let alone yours, etc. The training repayment thing, however, sets off all of my bullshit alarms.

RB is right. Life is too short.
posted by brennen at 11:40 AM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The company has a mandatory training program, and if you quit within a year of training you are required to pay back expenses incurred ... But I've been here almost four months and still haven't been trained

If no training has been provided, what are the expenses incurred?

This sounds like something that might be challenged in court if they've failed to deliver the training in a reasonable amount of time, but for $1,000, it may not be worth it. Checking with the appropriate labor board to find out whether it's legal would be - simply providing a statement from them saying it's not allowed and quitting before March may be enough to make them back off on it.
posted by Candleman at 11:41 AM on January 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd tell my manager that the "extras" that have been added to your workload, yet are not part of your job description, are creating a situation where you can't get your regular tasks done. Tell them that you'll be making sure that your job tasks are prioritized and that likely means that someone else will have to do the extras as you can't accommodate those and your actual tasks. Spending lots of off-the-clock time on extra tasks is not sustainable. Work your 8 hours doing your actual job, and if the extras aren't done, so be it.

Does the contract for repayment say that the clock starts after you complete the training and not the date of hire? That seems really shady. A consult with a lawyer could be very helpful to find out what your actual right are. Especially if you haven't even been trained yet. How can they charge you now for training not done? Lawyer.
posted by quince at 11:43 AM on January 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: The repayment contract just says quitting within 12 months of the training requires repayment etc etc. And we assume that there would be no costs if he quits NOW... but if he can't leave before the training (or even before the training is booked) they will charge for the training.
posted by good day merlock at 12:01 PM on January 26, 2016

Have you (going to use "you" here but I know it's your friend) taken any steps to improve the job as-is, so it would be possible to tolerate it while searching for another job? In your case, I would leave the $1000 out of the equation (though agree that consulting with a lawyer about it would be a good idea). Then I would do whatever I could to fix the issues and focus on making this job work to make me look attractive to the next employer while maintaining quality of life.

If this seems completely impossible—and it could be, some employers are just toxic, mismanaged nightmares—then yes, quit now. You won't want to list this job on your resume, probably, so getting a new job as soon as possible will be beneficial.

I've left a job without another one lined up and it eventually worked out, but it cost me WAY more than $1000 in lost wages, including benefits, such as healthcare and retirement. (And I had a partner at the time who supported me with her wages while I was searching for work.) I don't regret the decision because the toxic job was wearing me down to the point that I couldn't muster up energy or enthusiasm for a job search, but that was after a year in the position. I'm not sure I would do it again unless I knew I tried everything I could do to improve my situation. I was young and I probably could have tolerated the job better if I was more mature, and it really set me back even though I found a job fairly quickly.

One other thing, would the training make you more desirable for an employer, so you could ask for a higher salary and recoup the $1000 fairly quickly?
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:10 PM on January 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have to agree that the training things seems super shady, possibly illegal. Have him talk to a lawyer.

If he needs to quit soon, there is always office temp work. Not that different from what he's doing now and they expect you to be looking for a fulltime job so there's less pressure, and you have something to live on (I'd certainly do that before trying Uber, but that's me).

One other thing is to Google the company in question, or even use a site like, and see if other people have logged complaints/taken action against them. Chances are if they're skeezy, he's not the first to have to deal with it.
posted by emjaybee at 12:18 PM on January 26, 2016

Im no lawyer but if they booked the training but he never attended (as in, got another job between some future point where he comitts to training but before it happened) how could the clock ever start on his 12 month's since training window for repayment?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:20 PM on January 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, there's no need to make this complicated, just leave right now and never come back. Let them sue you (unlikely! But possible!) to repay a training that you didn't receive, that'll go well.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:08 PM on January 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you could put off the training till you get another job that would be good - some really good excuse like you can't leave the area for some sort of personal reason? Then search search search and get out of there. Having to run errands and sort out the operational side of the building where you are is not in your job description and is a lot more responsibility than you should have.

I take it you are in charge of the building - e.g. health and safety - that's a very responsible job without any formal training.

Get out though!

Good luck.
posted by Flowerpower at 2:26 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Employment lawyer. They have probably violated their own employment contract by demanding training payment and then not providing it.

Personally, I'd quit, and when they try to get the $1000, tell them that you aren't liable for training costs for training you never recieved, and if they fail to pay that, sue them for failing to pay you, which has epic penalties.

But talk to the lawyer first.
posted by eriko at 4:17 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Quit now. Don't get trapped. If they start you out this way as a new employee, just think how bad things will get once you're trained and trapped. Flee!
posted by clone boulevard at 6:04 PM on January 26, 2016

1. Quitting before Friend has a new job should be the absolute last resort. "You’re far better off job-searching while you’re still employed."

2. Friend should sit down with his/her manager right away and say "I was assigned A, B, C duties when I signed on. Since that time, X, Y, Z duties have been assigned to me. X, Y, Z duties are impacting my ability to get A, B, C done. How do you want me to handle this?"

2a. Also ask the manager about the late hours. To borrow from again, "Start the conversation by saying something like this: “Can we talk about what kind of hours you think [I] should expect...? I can work about 10 extra hours a week (or whatever)...but it would be difficult for me to be work significantly more than that on a regular basis.” Or "I'm already working X hours a week after normal hours. I will not be able to continue at this rate. How would you like to handle this?"

3. Did the paperwork Friend signed agreeing to paying back the training costs specify an amount? When people ask "is it legal for employer to do X?" it usually is, so I don't normally come down on the side of attorney. But in this case, I do agree. If for no other reason than to be fully informed of the laws around this.

4. Trying to postpone the training as someone mentioned above sounds like a good tactic. Does Friend have any spare ailing, elderly relatives lying about that suddenly need your care? Use that time to find an awesome new job. And get very specific details about the new awesome job when the offer is made. Remember, Friend, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 10:03 PM on January 26, 2016

Just chiming in as another voice to say: 1. you're likely a more attractive candidate if you're employed, 2. you'll probably give up far more than $1k in lost wages if you leave, 3. you should try to renegotiate out of the random duties, 4. you could simply limit your work hours to 40 and then ask them to decide which tasks to prioritize. Worst case you get fired and avoid the $1k penalty (I assume?).
posted by salvia at 11:11 PM on January 26, 2016

1) "It's always easier to find a job when you have a job."

2) The morale at the place sounds bad. That means he's not going to be the only one with a complaint. Which is an advantage.

3) He should absolutely do the training, and look for a new job. In the meantime, keep detailed records of activities on a daily basis. That can be as simple as printing off copies of email.

4) When it comes time to leave, be the first to make a deal. "I'm going to leave now." Who knows, maybe they'll not push the training issue. If they do, he can come back with, "I've secured the services of an employment solicitor who will discuss that with you, for these three reasons:

1) I was assigned tasks outside the advertised remit of the job.
2) Training was unnecessarily delayed.
3) I was poorly managed and had to conduct work outside business hours, which I have not been compensated for.

Depending on the country, most employers would rather suck up training costs than engage legal. There's two prongs to that attack. The first is the time cost. The second is that if it gets around that they are pursuing people for the training costs, it reduces morale in a place where it's already potentially quite low.

I see little downside to both going on the training and looking for another job. Alternatively, he can refuse the training now – sorry, I have a family matter that's come up and I need to be in X Location at that time. When's the next one?"

If he really wants to turn the screws, ask for a psychological referral to deal with the stress of the after hours work and lacking management. Then negotiate an exit package of 6 months salary.

The thing to remember with companies is that most large-ish companies are not people. Employees negotiate from a personal position, but the person on the other side of the table is working on the company's behalf. That means an endless process of managing risk and return. So give them a different set of risks and returns to manage!
posted by nickrussell at 5:53 AM on January 27, 2016

I have found being miserable at work to be incredibly depressing to all my other abilities to function. In your shoes, and assuming I could financially cover a comfortable stretch of time off, I would absolutely cut and run. In fact, I have, and I stand by it as one of the best decisions I have made for myself.
posted by spindrifter at 6:41 PM on January 30, 2016

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