Should I Stick With My Current Company, or Leave for a New One?
April 4, 2016 8:03 PM   Subscribe

I've come to realize the people I work for are fake and opportunistic to the point I've been looking quietly for a job. Then they offered me a substantial promotion. Do I take it and tolerate them until I can go elsewhere? Or do I quit now and move laterally on to something else?

When I turned 23, I moved from Nebraska to New York City after graduating college without any connections or money. Fast-forward a few years: it took me a while to get momentum professionally but after working up from low paying internships to freelance jobs at reputable companies (with some hustling on the side working as a barista), I eventually I landed my first full-time, entry-level job as an office manager at a small but very successful advertising firm. I'm very good at my job, I'm smart, and curious and enthusiastic about what the company does even though I have no background in advertising whatsoever. The company is run by two brothers, who are equal partners, and they have noticed me and appreciated my work and intelligence. I also hit it off with them since day one.

After the honeymoon period wore off, I noticed there were a few negatives about working for them. The partners take their frustration out on employees around them, and they are ALWAYS right (even if they're actually wrong, they are always right). One partner occasionally plays employees against one another. Basically the whole office runs on their moods. These things are annoying but nothing outrageous. However, several weeks ago, one of them went in, wrote the clients emails criticizing them for being slow, incompetent, and indecisive...and being ruthlessly nasty to employees to the point of being utterly unprofessional and unhinged. It got so bad, the partners had a huge fight and the one who went crazy (let's call him Fred) left work for a week to think things over. In the end, it was decided that Fred would no longer interact with clients, while the other partner (let's call him Jimmy) would take over clients and business ops. Fred also announced he was going to start seeing a psychiatrist because he knew his behavior had been inappropriate, and he would understand if anyone chose to quit.

Then, an employee who worked for the company for 30 years, was prompted by Jimmy to explain how she felt about the situation. This employee wrote an honest email, and was abruptly fired for it, without a dollar of severance pay. Then Fred wrote a company email disparaging this employee, saying things like she was overpaid and her work was mediocre anyway (and other nasty personal insults). It should be known this employee was the rock of the company, and worked almost just as hard as the partners and went way above and beyond the call of duty. Horrified by the partners' behavior, two employees quit the following week. Fred wrote a company email that disparaged these two employees, saying they never really contributed anything and weren't really that committed anyway. (It should be noted these employees were remarkably hardworking and delivered beyond what was required.)

For the employees remaining, morale is down, and things just aren't the same anymore. I have just been a bystander in all this but having been disturbed, horrified, and turned off I started looking quietly for another job. Then today, one of the partners sat me down and said they want to promote me. Right now I'm the office manager, making $48k per year. The promotion would be into account management, making $60-$75k. I'd definitely be working with a multi-million dollar account, and a couple of other high-profile clients. The partners are also seriously connected to some very big people, in and out of the advertising industry. Although I'm the office manager, I've helped significantly with account management duties when the office was slammed and took to it like a duck to water. I do enjoy it but I can't say it's my dream job.

After everything that I've witnessed, I feel that work has been tainted and a lot of the respect and I trust I had for the partners is lost. Taking the promotion would mean working MUCH more closely with them than I've been in my office management role. Do I tell them "thanks but no thanks," and keep looking for a new position, realizing this may well result in them firing me? Or would I be naïve to turn down this opportunity for advancement and I just need to suck it up and do what's best for my career...perhaps that's just what you have to do in this city to get ahead?

That's my conundrum. I'm looking forward to your input.
posted by priskyprisky to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Personally, I would smile brightly and say "thank you" and in the meantime start looking for another job as fast as my little email legs could carry my cv. With that level of drama and crazy, why do you need to announce you don't want to work for them? Much easier to find a job when you have a job.

If you think that a year or two as account manager would make you hella more marketable, then you are the only one who can decide if you can put up with it. But it sounds like a giant bucket of ick to me.
posted by frumiousb at 8:15 PM on April 4, 2016 [23 favorites]

I'd do it as long as you don't have your self esteem tied up in what these guys think of you. If you can know that they'll eventually say shitty things about you when you leave, but that doesn't make it true, then take the promotion and get in some good experience that will help you get an even better job working for people who aren't assholes. Also, bank every penny of the difference between your new salary and what you're making now. This is your Fuck You Money for if you ever decide that they've crossed a line and you want to quit on the spot.
posted by MsMolly at 8:24 PM on April 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

Account managers move around a lot. Some time with a $MM account makes you very attractive. But only you know if you can stand being around them. Whenever you go, go quietly and with 'great regret,' to minimize the backlash.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:37 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Take the promotion. You have nothing to lose by it. If in six months you still find the place insane, make a lateral move at that point from the much higher base and title. I have worked with yellers and insane folk. I found if you just do your job while you are there, they leave you alone. It is when you leave that you are bad mouthed. So what? As is clear by your description, they look like the asshats bad mouthing hard working employees when they leave.
posted by AugustWest at 8:48 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

You know the saying about a bird in the hand? ....

... and it will look good on your resume.
posted by GeeEmm at 8:49 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Take the job, stick around for one or two projects (because that's all you'll be able to stomach) and move on with a better title. People in that industry move around very frequently, it won't raise an eyebrow at all. You'll be better off than when you started, at the cost of a few months of unpleasantness.

And keep in touch with everyone they fired. They are now your band of brothers in misery, follow them to saner pastures.
posted by danny the boy at 11:07 PM on April 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

It would be foolish to pass on the promotion just because you think you work with a bunch of jackasses. If that was how everyone approached their career, no one would get ahead. You mentioned this is your first full-time job -- well, let me be the first to welcome you to office life. Just about everyone works somewhere dysfunctional at some point another and, while your workplace sounds incredibly toxic, nothing you described shocked me that much. Take the raise, take the stronger resume experience AND keep looking for new jobs.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:18 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

My rule of thumb: You're the best judge of what's good for you, and whenever you list out all the pros and cons and whatnot, the thing you say last is what you really want, and you're just asking for permission.

Or would I be naïve to turn down this opportunity for advancement and I just need to suck it up and do what's best for my career...perhaps that's just what you have to do in this city to get ahead?

Take the promotion. As others point out, it won't take long for you to be able to leverage it into a better offer somewhere that you'll be happier. But beware the proverbial grass on the other side.
posted by Etrigan at 3:57 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

All workplaces have jackasses. You may just take on a whole different kind of jackassery if you change jobs. Might as well take the promotion, and start squirreling away money against the chance that one of these people gets a wild hair up his ass and fires everyone.

So take the promotion, learn the job, schmooze the customer, and see what happens. If, after a couple of months you still want to leave, awesome, now you're getting a shit ton more money AND you can still leave!

I am 100% positive that the entire world of advertising knows about Fred's drama, and will completely understand if you want to jump ship. No one will hold it against you.

Watch Mad Men, you may find some parallels.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:00 AM on April 5, 2016

Take it! But don't stop looking either. Just remember that giving you a promotion and raise is not out of the goodness of their hearts and you don't owe them any sort of loyalty for it. They are scrambling to stop the bleeding. This is business. You can accept and still quit as soon as something else comes along. And in the meantime the salary and resume boost help ease the pain of waiting while you look.
posted by Caravantea at 5:23 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Given the personalities you've described, I would almost assume this is a forced promotion. As in, if you tried to decline taking on the new role you could expect to be fired immediately.

If you can stomach it at all, take the promotion while you continue to look for a new position. It could look really great on your resume.

If you simply cannot stomach the partners for one more day, just say thanks but no thanks and quit.
posted by vignettist at 1:15 PM on April 5, 2016

Agree with everyone here. Take the promotion, keep looking, and document everything.

You have email evidence and sane people that can back up your story. Keep documenting. If they fire you without cause, at the very least you can get unemployment while looking for something else, and it won't be a black mark on your employment history. "There was restructuring and high turnover at the time" or some such. Totally true.
posted by serenity_now at 9:28 AM on April 6, 2016

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