Best job I’ve ever hated
October 29, 2016 7:48 AM   Subscribe

My job is, by most objective standards, terrific. I work from home (which I like); have flexible hours; overtime is okay’d whenever requested; boss likes me and thinks I’m brilliant. And the pay is more than I’ve ever made in my life (which puts me at just under the low end of middle-class income). Yay. What’s not good: the work I do, which includes an increasing number of tasks I dislike intensely – enough that I’ve thought not only, “I’d rather work with raw sewage than do this,” but “hey, I wonder if that guy I used to know who worked at the sewage plant still works there? Nah, they probably don’t pay this well for untrained labor. (Could I get trained?)”

The Question: I have a potential new job. Should I take it? What should I consider before deciding? I have an interview next Wednesday; it’s with a company I interviewed with a few months before I took this one. They were almost ready to hire me but a different job (not this one) came up for me first. This if for the same role as before; interview should just be "do we like you as much as we did last time?" Job is a standard office job (“Documents Specialist”) – I’ve met a few of the people and they are pleasant; location is easy; I know I’d enjoy the work itself. It pays a bit more than I'm making now.

My expertise (and joy) is in document editing and doc management. And my job has some of that – used to be more, but I’ve caught up with the backlog, and it doesn’t roll in quickly. [cut: two paragraphs squeeing about the joys of doc formatting.]

The tasks I hate: Admin assistant, recruiting, and accounting. These are growing. I hate being the calendar-and-communications interface person. As a severe introvert of the “I could be quite happy never introducing myself to a stranger for the rest of my life” variety, cold-contacting people on job boards and LinkedIn ties my stomach in knots; I get through it (I dodge some) by gritting my teeth and communicating in scripts as much as possible. Accounting isn’t as emotionally stressful, but we have no software system for it, so I’m bouncing between Dropbox folders and spreadsheets. I have been told not to look for software solutions for any of these - I think that's mostly that he doesn't want to learn new software, and partially budget concerns. I wind up thinking, “I hate my job” several times in most days.

Good points: I’ve worked with this boss for almost 8 years now (18 mos at this job, 6+ years at a previous job; not all of that had him as my direct report). We get along well; he almost certainly thinks we are “good friends.” I don’t dislike him, but we’ve got nothing in common outside of standard SF-area liberal politics.

Bossman trusts me. A lot. With everything. In order to sync his calendars (which can’t be set visible to each other for weird security reasons), I have the login to his corporate email. In order to do the accounting and expense reports, I have his company credit card login. In order to buy things, I have the credit card number. I have his LinkedIn for recruiting outreach; his Hotmail because there was that one software service that needed verification sent from the correct email; his Amazon account so I can print invoices and order gift cards for employees; and anything else that’s come up that has anything like business expenses attached.

I knew when I signed up for the job, that a substantial portion of it would be EL. I didn’t realize that he believed that introversion is something you can get over via practice, nor that he’d be handing me the keys to his life. (I have a scan of his signature to attach to documents.)

I don’t know if I’m hoping to hear,
  • “It sounds like you have a great setup; do what you can to minimize the stuff you hate until the company grows enough to throw recruiting & accounting to someone else” (this is likely to happen, but not in the next six months), or
  • “There is something seriously dysfunctional about that, so you should get out if it makes you uncomfortable” (it does) or
  • “Don’t leave something that solid without a 30% raise into a company that you adore” (not what's on offer) or
  • “if you’re hating it now enough to get physical symptoms, that’s a really bad sign – jump at the chance of a slight improvement in pay and ignore the loss of perks that most jobs don’t get,” or
  • Something else entirely.
tl;dr version: I don’t want to give up my cushy-perks very stable job. OTOH, I’m deeply unhappy with the work I’m doing and fretting over some of the ethics issues. New job opportunity is much more mainstream, with all the pros and cons that go with that. Would love some insights and different perspectives because I’m just running around in circles at this point.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Deeply unhappy. Those are your words. Bounce ASAP.
posted by so fucking future at 8:00 AM on October 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

Can you talk to your boss about the accounting stuff? Software isn't too expensive and it would minimize one hated task. Let him know how much you dread doing it. Maybe that would sway him.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:03 AM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I get that working from home and regular overtime can be perks, sure, but if you hate the work, you hate the work. Go take the better-paid job doing what you actually like doing. It'll be good for you. (Source: worked in inbound call centers for several years, loathed every second talking on the phone even though I was good at the actual tech support part, left and never looked back.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:04 AM on October 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

The job you have sounds like a dead-end, which might be OK if you were happy but you aren't. Sounds like a change is in order.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:06 AM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'll vote for option 1. It sounds like a great job. Let's make it better.

Tell your boss (who sounds like a nice person) that you don't like certain aspects of your job to the extent that it's stressing you out and you are thinking of leaving. Ask if he can help you to get some help for the aspects you don't like (whether software or admin help).

The kind of access you have to his credit card and such is not unusual. Anyone in your position would have them. There's nothing wrong ethically since you are only using that information in the way he directs you. (If you use them to commit fraud, of course, that's wrong.) If you leave, the person who comes after you will have access to those things too.

I think your boss relies on you and will be flexible if he knows that it's really serious.
posted by 3491again at 8:24 AM on October 29, 2016 [18 favorites]

Get the job offer and then negotiate. Tell your boss that you're not happy with (list of unpleasant tasks) and unless your job is restructured so you're no longer doing them, you're going to move on. If he negotiates, get the job description formally changed in writing. If he doesn't give you EVERYTHING you want, take the new job.
posted by metasarah at 8:29 AM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have been told not to look for software solutions for any of these - I think that's mostly that he doesn't want to learn new software, and partially budget concerns.

My knee-jerk response to this was that anybody who is this against implementing Quickbooks or one of its low-cost competitors is either on the verge of going out of business, cost-wise, or so averse to change that they are going to go out of business in the long run, and that is reason enough to get moving to something else. Even if he'd agree to new software in order to keep you if you threatened to quit, that's not going to change the way he's running the place, and it'll eventually be something else.

Don't be this faithful to people who are not going to be this faithful to you.
posted by Sequence at 8:31 AM on October 29, 2016 [21 favorites]

Just because it's a great job on paper doesn't mean it's a great job for you. That's okay. Lots of companies have exclusively doc control type positions, perhaps that's what you should look into.

side note - I'm not sure there's an ethical issue here, with the "reins to his life" kind of thing. In my small-office company it's totally normal for the admin/office mgr. to have access to the credit cards, passwords, email/linkedin accounts, etc. because they're the ones needing to run these things.
posted by lizbunny at 8:46 AM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

In the interest of calibrating expectations for future jobs, this isn't unusual at all: Bossman trusts me. A lot. With everything. In order to sync his calendars (which can’t be set visible to each other for weird security reasons), I have the login to his corporate email. In order to do the accounting and expense reports, I have his company credit card login. In order to buy things, I have the credit card number. I have his LinkedIn for recruiting outreach; his Hotmail because there was that one software service that needed verification sent from the correct email; his Amazon account so I can print invoices and order gift cards for employees; and anything else that’s come up that has anything like business expenses attached.
posted by studioaudience at 9:02 AM on October 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Go to the job interview. If you get the job then you have a powerful negotiating position. Go to Bossman and say, I will leave this job unless you hire an assistant for me to do all the tasks I hate. If Bossman says no then you can take the new job and feel good about it.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have been told not to look for software solutions for any of these - I think that's mostly that he doesn't want to learn new software, and partially budget concerns.

He knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. A similar mindset is at work with his decision to load you up with duties that are a bad fit for you-- he is already familiar with you, and getting someone who would be better at the other tasks would cost him more, so he doesn't change the situation.

In the long run, this won't work well for you.
posted by deanc at 9:47 AM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

The new job pays more AND has more stuff that you like doing. Why on earth wouldn't you take it?
posted by MsMolly at 9:55 AM on October 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

A couple small points:
#1 - I would be more worried about someone having my passwords than someone else trusting me with theirs, and yes I know of AAs who do this kind of thing (and I hear you that you don't want to be an AA)
#2 - maybe (?) it might help you to think of yourself as an AI (Artificial Intelligence) for your that case posting/replying (only/as much as possible) via scripts is totally reasonable.

On edit, woops: I also like the upstream comment about insisting your boss hire an assistant for you to do what you hate.
posted by forthright at 10:14 AM on October 29, 2016

What are the ethics issues? I don't see any.

Talk to your boss. Talk to him now. He clearly trusts you and values you. Tell him you're unhappy doing the things you're doing and want to stop doing them and do more of the things you love. Do it before you have another job offer, you're too close for him to see that as anything but a grave insult.

You're both human beings. Even though he's given you assignments you don't like (have you told him this at all?) there is no reason to just leave the job without a word instead of discussing things openly and trying to make it work.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I mean, ultimately, I think you should probably consider moving on. But the way you're handling this seems so intensely and disproportionately avoidant that I can't help but think that there's something else going on here. It sounds like this job could be great but you are too anxious to communicate about your preferences. If this guy really likes you and thinks you're brilliant, why would you be so unwilling to just have an honest conversation with him?

And if you are maybe unwilling to have this convo because you're introverted, how will it be better to have to go work in an office surrounded by other people? I think you might be going in circles on this because there's an underlying problem (I don't know what it is but I'd guess serious social anxiety) that is making it hard for you to just do the most obvious and simple thing (communicate honestly and directly).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

Your job sounds like a hodgepodge of tasks, some of which don't quite fall under the admin umbrella (at least not how it was when I did the role for a few years). If you stay have a discussion about the parameters of your job and what you'd like to do versus what you are doing. Is there document management work you're not doing in order to do the admin stuff? My reaction is that they've been giving you miscellaneous tasks because document work isn't full time.

I would definitely interview for this job and seriously consider an offer, if it comes to that. See if any of the perks you enjoy can be negotiated at your next roll.

Another "if you stay" idea is to find coping techniques for the tasks you dislike (although needing coping techniques to get through work is a clear sign to eventually leave). Consider if having a firm commitment from your boss on hiring another person would make it manageable until then.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2016

Make a list of what you want, then ask for it.

You are in an incredibly powerful position, and you should be. It's also your responsibility -- to yourself, and maybe to your boss -- to be clear about what you need in order to make you happy, because you need to be happy to be a really good employee. If you need to do more document editing to be happy, or to have someone else do most of the recruiting, and if you're going to end up leaving if these things aren't provided, you should tell your boss -- before you get so upset that you have to leave without having the patience to even explain why, and before you get so depressed that you stop being able to do your job well.

This is when you figure out what you ultimatum would be; probably not "do this specific thing" or "pay me this much more" or you leave, but something like "we need to figure out what will make me want to do continue working here even as I grow as a person." Don't feel bad about asking for what you need. It's far worse to not ask for what you need and then just disappear one day.
posted by amtho at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is there an amount of money that would make your current job tolerable? If so ask for it. If you don't get it, or there is no such number, you gotta move on.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I should also add that part of the reason you get a lots of administrative assistant tasks dumped on you is because document editing and organizing is the sort of task that administrative assistants get dumped on them. What your current boss ultimately wanted was an AA who could also do document work. I suspect if you leave he will replace you with someone who has a more traditional AA background and just add the document work on top of that. This will be the same in just about any small office, simply because they don't have enough documents or money to hire a separate document specialist but DO need an AA. So pretty much if you ever want the kind of job you would prefer, you have to leave this current job.
posted by deanc at 11:39 AM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Perhaps I have misunderstood the potential alternative job but I assume this is office based? If your main concern is not wanting to be a communications interface (ie introversion friendly role) I am not entirely clear how taking an office based role would fix that? In just about any office environment if a 'document specialist' is not busy with documents you'll be asked to do things that fall under the umbrella of 'admin' and that normally includes some kind of communication interface.

If your current job is so stressful by all means take another job but don't assume that kind of role will fix the problem for you. If your boss trusts you as much you could do worse than have a chat about the balance of tasks and how you have ideas on how to do them more efficiently. Simple, cheap accounting software. Let other person x who is bubbly and personable do the recruiting? (Has person x expressed an interest in broadening their role?) Before you have that chat think about what your objectives are. What are the worst things about your role? How can you make a business case for you not doing them or doing them differently? If that doesn't work you can always leave. Especially if you've been offered another job.

Nthing that I am not sure what the ethics concerns are. I don't have a long standing relationship or trust my assistant, or the wider assistant pool in my office, but they can all access and use a scan of my signature, my assistant has my credit card details, she does my expenses and books my travel so on. To do that she has access to my accounts in the time and expense tool as well as the travel tool. If they abused these rights they'd be in a lot of trouble but that's just how that kind of role works.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:46 AM on October 29, 2016

OP here with new shiny anon account.

Re: Ethics issues - I am certain the company didn't authorize him to give out his passwords to me. (To fill out the expense reports, I log into his manager console.) I'm not officially his AA; I'm a "business analyst" whose duties are blurry, assigned to the project that he's in charge of. I have an intense dislike of contacting people on LinkedIn through his account, pretending to be him; not sure if that's a TOS violation but it's definitely not what those people are expecting. I'm aware these are tiny things - I'm scrupulously careful about boundaries, which is part of what he likes.

He plays fast & loose with the expense reports, and since I fill them out, I'm involved with that. He handwaves past liability issues that make me cringe. I do suspect that it's all well within "normal corporate activities," especially for someone ambitious. Still makes me twitchy. (Likely worst result if things went down badly: they cut back his expenses, and maybe even stop paying for his car lease.)

What's not to like about the new job: One, it means learning a new office culture, new people, new task-set, and all that. That always has risks. Two, it has a commute - a very small one, as these things go (half-hour on the train), but even that's a big jump from "stagger out of bed, grab coffee, flip open the laptop." Three, loss of substantial perks; I haven't listed them all. None of these are decisive; all are reasonable burdens to take on; they're still worth considering.

Introversion: I don't mind working with people; I mind small talk and sales pitches. Working with people where I can talk about the intricacies of doc formatting is heaven, and it's possible part of my wanting to leave is that I miss having that. Potential new job is docs specialist - I'd be talking with lots of people but it would all be task-focused.

I don't mind the accounting stuff nearly as much as the recruiting. (I will continue to look for software anyway; I have enough spare time for it. The "do not look" order mostly means that I'm stuck looking for free options, and that he won't learn to use it, unless I can overwhelm him with "we MUST use this.") Accounting annoys me with the inefficient setup; recruiting outreach makes me stare blankly at the screen until I force myself to open the tabs with the script-emails in them and send them out. Side effect: I have cut my social life outside of work down to nothing; I have zero energy left for the EL involved in contacting people, even those I like for activities I enjoy.

We're a small branch of a much larger, non-local company, and we're growing; we've gotten about as far as we can without an actual admin infrastructure. The over-company has plenty of structure; we're breaking new ground, so we don't. (Startup lets-try-whatever methodology *and* corporate oversight... best of both worlds, right?)

Bossman doesn't intend for it to be a dead-end job; I think he wants me to become a "regional manager" or something like that. The problem is that his idea of helping me up the corporate ladder is going in directions I don't like.

I think it's worth talking to him (thanks, all!) and going to the interview (thanks again!); I'm now trying to decide whether to talk to him before the interview. If he offered to double my wages, I'd drop the other job idea in a hot minute... but it just means I'd be looking for a higher-paying replacement job (and being able to say my salary is 2X instead of X would help with that).

I do know he does want me to be happy with this job, so maybe I need to put together a list of "things he absolutely MUST hire another person to do, ASAP" (recruiting, and all calendar & HR-ish things related thereto) and "things that need to change so I'm not spending a third of my day frustrated" (accounting and/or doc management system not based on Dropbox and Google Drive), with a side discussion of "wtf do you expect me to be doing in three years, because I want 60+% of my workday to involve doc editing/management, and filing expense reports does not count for that."

More suggestions/feedback are welcome, but I think I have a plan, and this has been a great help in sorting out my head. I don't actually want a different job; I want to fix the one I have. I have doubts about whether that's possible -- but that's based on whether Bossman can accept the idea that my dislike of contacting strangers is not going to fade with practice. If he tells me that outreach is going to remain an essential part of the job, I need to leave.
posted by Mlin at 1:57 PM on October 29, 2016

you are in a scenario that is so common in small businesses and poorly run medium-size businesses there is probably some kind of a name for it, but it's escaping me right now.

These kind of situations rarely, if ever, get better. As someone else said, you have been given a hodge-podge of tasks, and you are a person who wants structure and a defined job, which is NOT unreasonable.

I wouldn't talk to your boss, negotiate salary, any of that. To negotiate salary on a job you don't like isn't changing the fact that you don't like the job. Interview for and get a job you like.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:10 PM on October 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

If the company is growing, then maybe you're exactly the person to say that it's time to hire more help, which help to hire, and when; you'd also probably be a good person to train the new help, and supervise some of it. Then, poof, you're a manager, and you set up things the way you think they should be set up (within boundaries).

Get whatever's most important to you in writing.
posted by amtho at 2:25 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

As someone wise told me, "find people who like you and stick with them."

The best of all worlds would be to get a raise and promotion, rewrite your job description to be more aligned with your strengths, and also keep the awesome perks and the good relationship with your boss.

Pursue that first. Learn to ask for what you need.

If you do end up leaving, try and leave on very good terms so that you can come back if things don't work out.

I hope you find a job you enjoy with people you like, in a company that give you stability and growth.
posted by metaseeker at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2016

I think you need an apprentice. A professional in the fields ready to retire who has reporting expertise or someone fresh from grad school with industry experience who has some bid writing or contract writing experience. It might force you to stabilize your earnings if they question the hire you may need to find the budget off your own back at first.
I am a bid manager with a staff of five and I know just how challengingly tedious document management can be in the wrong situation. There is zero reason not to at least outsource some certificate processing except those you could expect an in-person audit. Love those, seriously. Happy to correspond if you need additional advice.
posted by parmanparman at 4:04 PM on October 29, 2016

I'm glad you're going to go to the interview--I think you'd regret it if you didn't. If I were you I'd speak to your boss *before the interview* about wanting to change the aspects of your job that you don't like, BUT I would not tell him I was going to interview for another job.

If your talk doesn't go well, then you know to be 100% committed to getting the other job. If it does go well, then you know you're just giving yourself an extra option.

One more thing: it struck me, reading your post and follow up, that you sound like you really don't like your boss much and think he's a little shady. The passwords stuff and credit card stuff actually sounded very normal for someone doing AA type duties, but in your follow up, this raised red flags for me: "He plays fast & loose with the expense reports, and since I fill them out, I'm involved with that. He handwaves past liability issues that make me cringe. I do suspect that it's all well within "normal corporate activities," especially for someone ambitious. Still makes me twitchy. (Likely worst result if things went down badly: they cut back his expenses, and maybe even stop paying for his car lease.)"

If that's the case, then I don't know that you'll ever be happy working for him. I mean, everyone is different, but I would be unhappy working with a boss whom I thought was unethical. I think you should give that a lot of thought before making a decision.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:31 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm considering telling him that I've been looking at other job options and sending out my resume, but not that I've got an interview set up. I think saying "I'm looking to leave" is the only way I'll get it across to him how much I really don't like parts of the job, and that I'm not willing to "get used to it."

I'm nervous about the talk - not because of it not going well, but because he's very, very good at sales. It's easy for me to get caught up in his "everything will be awesome" pitch, which will include vague promises of non-specific improvements. I've somewhat attempted to have a talk like this before; when I try to pin him to specifics, he usually grumbles about me being "too negative." Often, later he apologizes and thanks me for focusing on the details. He relies on me being "the realist;" I'm just not sure I want an entire career built on being someone's anchor. (Not sure I don't, which is why this question exists.)

Although, there's a good chance that I can push for a raise (have been here a year, so am reasonably due for one, so it should be easy to push that through the higher-ups) and a more spelled-out job description, with lists of "we will hire someone else for XYZ tasks" and an actual timeline.

The shadiness doesn't specifically bother me as much as the wink-and-nod approach to it, where I don't know where the boundaries are or who's "in" on it. (The liability issues are, thankfully, not my responsibility; if the company gets sued because an ex-employee is unhappy with their paperwork details, that's not my problem.)
posted by Mlin at 6:20 PM on October 29, 2016

I'm nervous about the talk - not because of it not going well, but because he's very, very good at sales.

Based on what you've written about your personality and about his personality, you will never, ever click with this person. If you ever want to grow into a different role within the same office, it will involve doing more of what he does (sales and sales-like tasks) while you pass on the administrative work to someone else. My guess is you don't want your job to become more like his job, so as a consequence you will always be the person taking on those administrative tasks. And, as I said, unless you work for some large institution with data needs that are significant enough to have their own department to handle them (I once worked someplace that hired an ontologist who would aid in coming up with ways to organize documents and data), "copy editing" and "document organization" will always be an auxiliary role of the admin.

Work with other document people who want to see you become a better document person. Don't work with a sales person that wants to change you into someone who works in sales.
posted by deanc at 7:12 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am baffled by the bookkeeping situation. I can't imagine any company not using accounting software. QuickBooks is really not very expensive. And it's easy to use. And without it you're not getting the benefits of reports, payroll integration, etc. Freakin' *everyone* uses QuickBooks. My SIL's tiny coffee business that she runs with her boyfriend uses QuickBooks Online. Using spreadsheets and syncing Dropbox files instead of using accounting software is deep into "cutting off your nose to spite your face" territory. The most expensive version of QBO is $40/month -- surely the company is wasting at least this much money every month in your hourly wages spent on manual accounting, if not more.

Ok sorry done with my accounting rant.

The change to any new job situation is scary. New people, new norms, new routine. But after a few weeks of discomfort you'll get used to it. You'll be losing the WFH perks, but the new perks will be that you'll be doing what you actually want to be doing, for more money. Plus it's better for your career to be doing document work than admin work. Assuming you get a firm job offer, take it. And if you don't get this one, keep looking!
posted by radioamy at 9:29 PM on October 29, 2016

I am baffled by the bookkeeping situation. I can't imagine any company not using accounting software. QuickBooks is really not very expensive.

We don't need Quickbooks, or rather, haven't so far. The over-company manages real financial issues; I'm doing expense reports (that have to be entered into Oasys manually, so QB wouldn't help) and tracking a handful of invoices every month. I don't have to do anything with the numbers; just confirm that they match the number of items expected and that the rates look approximately accurate.

Except occasionally the clients say, "please give me the breakdown of the costs of X item(s) for the last few months," and then I have to track that info down manually; those kinds of tasks are going to be increasing as we grow. And I suspect we'll actually have to manage more of the financials as we grow enough to be a separate-ish entity instead of a regional branch of the over-company. (It's complicated.)

I would point out that working with sewage is a socially valuable, well-paid job with great benefits and room for advancement.

It's crossed my mind. However, I have doubts that they're hiring middle-aged women with zero experience at the rate I'm current being paid. I can't afford to switch to an entry-level wage for several years while I learn an entirely new skillset.
posted by Mlin at 10:24 PM on October 29, 2016

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