How do I live this awful job?
July 30, 2016 4:46 AM   Subscribe

My job is awful — and I mean really awful. I can’t get a full night’s sleep, take care of myself, or have a life any more. I’m suffering mentally and physically, but the exit door isn’t clearly marked. I could use some advice...and also, a new job. Lots of shitty snowflakes inside.

So here’s the thing. I’ve been trapped in this ostensibly "part time" job with no benefits for a year now. It is eating me alive. The reasons are pretty straightforward.

To begin with, I start work at 3 AM. I typically get about 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. I have an hour-long commute on top of that, but that’s the least of my problems.

Because we are severely under-staffed, I pretty much have to work any day my boss tells me to work, and I easily clock in more than 40 hours a week. That also includes working weekends, and sometimes working for 7 to 8 days straight. I have worked on every single holiday since I was hired.

All of this, by itself, wouldn’t be so bad because it pays reasonably well, and I’m very good at my job. However, it's a stressful, deadline-driven job with no margin for error. And on top of everything, this is by far the most toxic place I’ve ever worked in.

A couple of examples, in order of shittiness:
-no one says hello to each other - unless scowling is a form of communication
-quite a few of my co-workers still don’t know my name, even after a year of seeing me every day
-my boss retaliates whenever I ask for time off
-a supervisor called me a retard in front of everyone (including my boss) on one of my first days there
-lots of casual racism, all the time
-another supervisor went into a long, uninvited rant about how he would kill his kids if they ended up being transgender
-I once broke up a fist fight between two co-workers (the person who started it still works there, the other ended up getting fired)

Needless to say, I’m fucking miserable. The sleep deprivation is crushing — I feel like I’m jetlagged from a trans-Pacific flight every single day. My anxiety is through the roof from the job itself and the people around me. I get headaches and chest pains nearly every day, and now I’m developing gnarly stomach problems, too. I used to be really active and outdoorsy before I first started this job, but all of that has fallen away because of my schedule and all these weird ailments I've developed.

To follow the popular advice on this, I’ve been trying to get out by landing a new job first. I’ve been applying left and right pretty much since I started, but I haven’t gotten a single call back. There aren’t a whole lot of openings in this particular field to begin with, which is making my dilemma a lot harder.

Anyway, I’m at the end of my rope. I’ve saved up a shit ton of money that I could probably live on for about a year if I really needed to stretch it out, and my partner has a stable, and much higher paying job. In my heart, I just want to just quit now, watch my boss lose his shit, and burn the damn bridge. However, I’m scared shitless of not having a job. I was once unemployed for about a year, and it wrecked me pretty hard.

So what do I do? I just started therapy a few weeks ago, but so far I haven’t gotten any useful insights that can help the situation. I'm also considering a career change, and I have some ideas about what I'd rather be doing, but I have no idea how to make any of it happen.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Take a week off. If the boss doesn't like it, what is he going to do---fire you? That would be great for you.

Take a week. Get some sleep. Once you get some sleep, reevaluate.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:09 AM on July 30, 2016 [27 favorites]


I know you've already been through unemployment and it wrecked you (me too, and more than once), but if you end up unemployed for a full year again (unlikely), will it wreck you more than this awful, awful job?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:16 AM on July 30, 2016 [31 favorites]

I've quit better jobs than that and I've never had any savings. I can't imagine staying there one more instant with the crap you describe. Your premise barely computes. Quit yesterday.
posted by norm at 5:36 AM on July 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

You are in an excellent position to give your employer some gently-worded ultimatums.

You could, for example, start by saying "I need to come in later. Since I don't have benefits, I really need to take care of my health, and part of that is going to be making this really a part-time job. In addition, you know I have to drive an hour each way, which adds to the time I spend. To get enough sleep, and be able to cook well for myself, and do the other things that make up a life, I need to be more strict about my schedule. So, I need to come in at X and leave at Y o'clock.

I know you need someone covering the stuff I normally do. I need to start this new schedule on Monday. If you can't work with that, then I hope you'll understand that I'll need to take a vacation immediately to think about my options, which might include not working here anymore."

This is just an example. Maybe you could be in a position to improve working conditions for others, too -- maybe the reason people are so terse is that _everyone's_ sleep-deprived. Improving this could improve the whole business.
posted by amtho at 5:37 AM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

What if you quit this job and take an (actual) part-time job temping or something while you look for a better position in your field?

You worked very hard to have savings in place for this kind of situation. If you feel badly about being out of work for a while, you can remind yourself that you earned the money you are living off of by working your butt off and being smart with money.

Good luck to you.
posted by bunderful at 5:43 AM on July 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Is working in your field worth all of this? I would say to find any job you can (it seems like you've been applying in this field exclusively from the question) so that you can regain your mental health and get on solid footing for a new job.
posted by xingcat at 6:00 AM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Quit, like now. And then try Upwork or another freelance site or to find some work in the meantime. Hell, drive for Uber or Lyft and sign up for ACA and get a doctor. This is crazy. Also, you.mention you were outdoorsy before this job. it's summertime which usually offers a ton of no stresss, fun and outdoor related jobs. can you try those. I understand being unemployed sucked but you're in the perfect situation to do so, this place is hell on earth and doing some contract work should help with the feeling of northe having a job. No job is worth this and your boss and his boss is fucking psychopathic, baby-ass, dipshit, none of what you describe is ok and it reminds me of a petulant child who doesn't get their way. Leave this place, you deserve better.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 6:25 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Short of quitting, which I'd be seriously considering in your position, have you considered asking to be reclassified as full-time? Because if the company offers benefits to full-time employees, and if their benefit plan or employee handbook defines full time as being a threshold number of hours that you already meet, then it would seem that they're in violation of their own policy.
posted by jon1270 at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some of the things you've listed can be changed for the better. I mean having some people know your name and saying good morning means making it a point to make connections with those people.

In any case, this job is tearing you up physically. I think most of us would've given the boss some ultimatums before the job began to kill us, man. Make that demand for some time off.

But overall, doesn't sound like the job is worth salvaging to you, so use some of that off-time to call potential employers or knock on doors. Speaking in person to potentials is the fast track to new and better situations.
posted by artdrectr at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2016

People will tell you not to quit without another job lined up, but in my case, having the (also early-morning, also sleep-depriving) job was what kept me from finding another one. It's hard to be at your best in an interview when you're waking up extremely early to work a long day. After 6 months of looking for a different job, I quit to live off my savings for a while-- and immediately found a different job. Not to say that the same thing will happen to you -- just saying that taking some time off to polish your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your website, whatever might apply to you could be the difference between not getting calls back and getting calls back. You have savings, you have a supportive partner. If it were me I would quit.
posted by matcha action at 8:03 AM on July 30, 2016 [13 favorites]

What xingcat said - is your field worth it? Is this a stepping stone to a better job in the future? In other words, if you put up with this job for a few more months, it will truly pay off?

If this is not the case, then I would quit, if I were you. You have savings and an employed partner. I don't think it's worth destroying your health (physical and mental!) and peace of mind just for a job, unless it's that or be homeless, and you are lucky in that this won't be the case for you.

You don't want your health to deteriorate to the point where you can't work. I've seen this happen to a couple people and it really, really sucks.

Quit, find temp work, and consider switching fields. You need to take care of yourself.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:07 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Quit. You have savings, you aren't in immediate danger. You're resourceful and capable - you're performing even under these conditions (at significant cost to your health, though). Go for the career change. Take a temp job now - they won't ask for a reference from this place, and later, you'll have references from the temp agency (because you are a good employee, too good) and your previous jobs.

You will be ok.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:08 AM on July 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

I too have quit better jobs than this. You will feel so much better not working in a hateful and crazy place.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2016

Go for the career change.

To elaborate: if there aren't many jobs in your field, and staying fed effectively means putting up with abuse, it's not silly to think of doing other things, that's called adapting to your environment. You have transferable skills. Do some more research on these other ideas you have, you'll have the headspace for that when you've got a few weeks of 8 hrs' sleep a night under your belt, and are freed from constant anxiety. Temping while you figure it out is ok - and once you know what you want to do, you can explain the temping blip by talking about how the (necessary) schedule at your current workplace was incompatible with pursuing the further training/volunteering/whatever required for the switch.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:23 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Don't quit without another job" is not advice for people with a year's worth of savings and supportive partners who are being emotionally destroyed by their jobs. QUIT, LIKE YESTERDAY
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2016 [23 favorites]

Please quit. A toxic job does so much damage. If you had to keep your kids on diapers it might be different but that's not the case.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:05 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't quit immediately, figure out how to change fields (school, certificate, training, etc) and start doing that.
posted by gt2 at 9:27 AM on July 30, 2016

I'm "team find another job before you quit" 99% of the time, but situations like this are exhibit A as to WHY it's good to have a lot of savings. Rationalization: You can't search for a job effectively when this stressed out. This random internet stranger gives you 👍 for quitting.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:13 AM on July 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you continue in this job, how long are you going to last until you snap?
How much longer can your body take this treatment before you wake up one day and just do not have the strength to get out of bed?
posted by M. at 10:43 AM on July 30, 2016

Given your savings and your partner's job – quit.

In a month you will have sufficient rest, recovery, and perspective to see that it was one of the best decisions you ever made, whether or not you've found a new job by then.

Also nthing you'll interview better with rest. Take care of yourself. Go enjoy August.
posted by fraula at 11:39 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was once unemployed for about a year, and it wrecked me pretty hard.

What about it was distressing for you? Might be worthwhile to unpack that, consider if the situation is the same, and what strategies could help mitigate the discomfort. Your therapist might be helpful.
posted by bunderful at 12:40 PM on July 30, 2016

-my boss retaliates whenever I ask for time off

I'd 1. Put in for vacation, starting the next week, for a week or so.
2. Take that vacation.
3. Come back to work.
4. If the boss indeed retaliates by firing you, file for UI and fight for it. (I'm assuming you're in the USA and on a job that's eligible for UI.)
posted by spinifex23 at 1:50 PM on July 30, 2016

I think you're one of the rare people in a position to moon your boss and walk out with zero consequences to yourself.

Doooooo iiiittt

do the thing
posted by tel3path at 2:53 PM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Depending on what state you're in, they may be breaking the law by now offering a de facto full-time employee benefits. If you average over 40 (in San Francisco, 32) hours a week, you may be eligible for benefits. If so, one of two things will happen:

1) You get benefits and a doctor will write you a note about the sleep dep

2) They will make sure you never work over the part time max.

You may also be able to quit and get unemployment for "constructive dismissal." If your boss calls you a retard, then I'm pretty sure it meets that standard, depending on the state you're in. You should call in sick, call an employment lawyer, and either bring charges or just quit.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:22 PM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

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