Friendship might fail because of second job that’s not going well
December 16, 2017 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I’ve recently started moonlighting with a former employer, and it’s not going well for multiple reasons. A friend, and now a coworker again, hooked me up with this gig. I’m worried about the impact on our friendship. How can I salvage this?

I recently started a full time job that I really enjoy. I love the work, and it's a very good fit for my professional and personal strengths. The pay looks pretty good on paper, but the cost of living in my city is getting more and more expensive and I live alone. It’s bad enough that people are getting priced out and moving to different states. I’ll also have some medical expenses in January 2018 that would really stretch my budget. Once I make it through the one-year probationary period I’ll get a 5% raise. Until then, I've taken an on-call moonlighting gig with a former employer to supplement my income.

When I first started job hunting a few months ago, a friend from my former employer told me they were looking for on-call help. I left this company two and a half years ago. I was there for five years. My friend wanted to bring me back on full time before I took this new job that I really like, but my old company likes to hire on-call people rather than full-timers because then they don’t have to pay benefits. They do pay a higher hourly rate to offset the cost of paying for your own health insurance. For the record, my friend has no say in whether someone gets hired as a full-timer or on-call. This company never offered me a full-time position when I was looking for a new job, so I chose this other job instead because I was excited about the work and would get benefits. I took the on-call work too for the financial reasons I explained. I can do this on-call work from home, and they know I have a full-time job so my only availability is nights and weekends. I told them I could do about 10 hours a week and they agreed to that.Right now my commute is about an hour long one way, so I do most of my on-call work on the weekends. They’ve given me a very generous hourly rate. Since I already get benefits from my full-time job, I thought this would be a good move financially. Now I’m not so sure it’s worth it.

I’ve been doing this on-call work for about three weeks. In that time, my boss, who was also my boss when I worked at the company before, has already moved a major deadline up by two days. Since I’m already working a full-time job, I don’t have the flexibility in my schedule to accommodate changes like this. I also need some time on my weekends to recharge and find a cheaper place to live, so I don’t have time to work a total of 55-60 hours a week instead of 50. I met the deadline, but I was pretty exhausted.

My boss is also overworked and overwhelmed, so he sometimes forgets when we’ve agreed to do X instead of Y. This past week he essentially called me out on not doing Y over a group email. The other people on the email chain didn’t seem to remember that we agreed to do X instead either, so to their eyes it looked like I did a poor job. I knew that we’d agreed to do X, so I responded to the email chain and said, “My understanding based on our last discussion was that we were doing X instead of Y. Are we no longer proceeding with that plan?” To his credit, boss acknowledged that I was correct and we’d proceed with plan X as originally discussed. However, my boss also called out some of my other work as needing a lot of edits even though the client said they were happy with it. On a third deliverable my boss had a single edit out of 10 pages of text, and the best he could say was “this looks pretty good from my perspective.” He didn’t say anything positive about it in front of my coworkers though. This is all part of a larger problem where my boss is not great at giving positive feedback but is pretty forthcoming with criticism. Other employees complained about this too when I first worked for the company. My old position had a lot of turnover both before I came on board and after I left. Most people lasted less than a year. They are now on my third replacement.

There also seems to be this mentality from my boss, my friend, and others that I wouldn’t need any refreshers on things like how to track my time or how to remotely log into the project server. A lot of these things have changed since I left, and I feel like people are treating me like I’ve just been on a really long vacation instead of that I’ve been gone for two and a half years. I didn’t get any links to the timekeeping software or a refresher on how to use it, and I had to chase people down to get the timekeeping link and the file path for our project drive so I could map it to my computer. People seem frustrated that I don’t just remember how to do this stuff. I’m feeling resentful because I doubt they’d handle the onboarding process like this with anyone else.

Between that, the changing deadlines, and getting called out in front of coworkers for not doing something I wasn’t supposed to do in the first place, I’m thinking that taking this work was a serious mistake. The real shocker to me is that my boss apparently asked my friend if he thought I’d be willing to come on full time. I feel like I’m receiving wildly mixed messages. The best he can say about my work when he has almost no edits is that it’s “pretty good” and he openly criticizes my other deliverables in front of coworkers, but he wants me to come back full time? What?

I’m not willing to let the stress from this on-call job burn me out for my full-time job that I really like. Earlier in the week I texted my friend that I wasn’t sure that I could do this much longer if deadlines kept getting changed. His response was pretty unsympathetic. He’s not an especially sympathetic person to begin with. He said everyone’s overwhelmed and frustrated, but at the end of the day I should do what I need to do. This conversation was before the email chain where my boss called me out in front of several coworkers, so now my friend is also hearing about how I apparently keep fucking up. Last time we were hanging out, he made a dig at me about my timekeeping. I’m ready to just suck it up financially and tell my boss that I don’t have the bandwidth they apparently need. My big concern is that I’m worried about how all of this has impacted things with my friend. I feel like I’m either going to piss him off for leaving when they need help the most or piss him off for apparently being crappy at this job when he was the one who suggested bringing me back on. I feel like if I try to explain my side of things, he’s just going to think I’m making excuses for being a fuck-up. This was all a huge mistake, in terms of both taking the work in the first place and creating this conflict of interest with my friend. What can I do to salvage this friendship?
posted by Chkalovskaya to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh, what a nightmare. It sounds really frustrating!

The boss is sending mixed messages because he likes to nitpick, but also recognizes that you are probably better than most of the people who have come and gone from this gig.

Don't worry about the friend. It sounds like he's not too supportive but also recognizes that you have to take care of you. Put your own oxygen mask on before worrying about others. You can either 1) continue this job and try to shake off the bullshit, or 2) quit because they aren't making things very easy and aren't particularly good to you.

It's up to you.
posted by 41swans at 3:51 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

They've already acknowledged they need someone full time for the role and they know you have a full time employment already and don't have enough spare hours to complete what they need. I'd just say you can't commit any more time (given that you're already working in another job) without jeopardising your current role. Thank them for the opportunity and maybe suggest someone who might be available.

So basically, it's not them, their processes, or your boss's crappy communication, you just don't have the time. It makes sense, it doesn't look like you're crappy at the job - it looks like they're trying to get a part time person to do a full time role in a quarter the amount of hours.
posted by Jubey at 3:53 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

As regards training on new systems that this workplace has put into place since you were gone - have you explicitly asked to be trained on these new systems?
posted by Mistress at 4:11 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you are "stuck" in a job (ie it is your only full-time position) you tend to put up with a lot more crap and sick systems. Now this job is only optional the ROI is no longer in favour of staying (ROI isn't just your hourly rate but also things like are people nice to me, do I have resources to do the job properly, do I like the work I am doing...). You have outgrown the PT position so it is no longer worth your while to stick it out. Are there any competitors you can apply for PT/contract positions with? As for the friend, it is up to them whether to take you resigning in a mature manner or not. Do what is right for you.
posted by saucysault at 4:18 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I hated it when people used to say this to me about my job, but I'm going to say it to you anyway: "Don't let it get to you." Of course it's going to get to you! You're working your hardest under difficult circumstances, turning in great work because the clients are happy, yet it seems like you're not being appreciated. In fact, the exact opposite is happening: you're getting flack and mixed signals from your boss and your friend is teasing you in a way that makes you feel incompetent. It's natural that you'd feel stressed out and irritated, but seriously, don't let it get to you. You're not there for compliments and praise, you're there for the money. That's it.

You are not your job. This job is temporary and a means to an end. Taking the job when you did was smart, smart, SMART because you were able to jump right in doing well at a job you already know to meet your upcoming financial obligations. Smart! You laid your cards on the table when they hired you, so don't let them exploit you or try to give you more work than you agreed to initially: 10 hours a week. If they need more than that or arbitrarily change deadlines, too bad. Not your problem. Let one of their full time workers pick up the slack. If you, however, want to work the extra hours or provide rush deliverables, make sure to charge them appropriately (at least 2 times your normal wage).

When you've earned however much you need until your raise at your real job kicks in, bounce. The company sounds dysfunctional considering their churn rate. The boss won't be surprised. If he wants hardworking, loyal employees, he's going to have to do what it takes. That means not relying on part timers to do full time work and not alienating good employees with his bad attitude and mangement-style.

And as for your friend, he knows how f'ed up the company is and most likely won't hold it against you when you leave. Once you're gone, things will probably go back to normal between the two of you. Don't let his teasing get to you unless it gets nasty. He's working at a terrible place and is probably just as stressed out as you, but he doesn't have an exit plan.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2017 [10 favorites]

It sounds like your boss is not that great at being a manager (which is sadly common - most people become managers solely to get a pay raise and often don't get any training in how to be good at it) but it doesn't sound like you have anything to worry about with your friend.

It sounds like you're doing a fine job, so that shouldn't be an issue (and even if you weren't doing a great job, it doesn't sound like you are doing things that would reflect badly on him, like disappearing for days at a time or neglecting to do your work or otherwise being disruptive). And if you quit, he may be a bit miffed, but you know, people quit jobs. If he's a reasonable person, he won't hold it against you.
posted by lunasol at 4:22 PM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: I feel like you can ignore 99% of what you've complained about and just keep it professional. Seriously!

For one thing, you keep referring to someone you give 10 hrs a week to as "my boss" - NO! He's not! He's this guy w/ 10 hours of work you are well paid for. Do the 10 hrs and stop thinking about these people.

You need to focus on yourself and your new job. Keep the drama from your old workplace arm's length away. I feel like you know this, you just need someone to tell you to refocus yourself.

If they can't stick to professional boundaries, drop the gig. But I feel like you are taking them personally when you can likely mostly ignore the shenanigans and just focus o the work and your new adventures.
posted by jbenben at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2017 [19 favorites]

Just for perspective, based on what you've written here if I were your manager and I heard all these things I'd think you were being pretty demanding and needing a lot of hand holding. Another way of looking at your situation is : everyone assumed you remembered how to do stuff because you seem really competent /most ppl do remember /it hadn't occurred to them to think otherwise. You didn't remember. You chased down training and got it. Your boss made a mistake about work that was due. You corrected him. He agreed that he was wrong. Your boss accepts good work and offers constructive feedback on unacceptable work.

Is your boss the most emotionally in-tune, inspiring person? It doesn't sound like it. OTOH, you only work there 10 hrs a week. He's probably not giving you that much thought... At all.

I mean, you seem offended by the notion that they want to take you on full time. Why? This doesn't seem like mixed messages to me. It just seems very practical and not focused in motivating you personally. That's ok though right? Cause that's what the money is for. As far as I'm reading there's nothing hostile or aggressive here??

Of course I don't know what it's really like but as it stands it sounds to me like you're expecting rather a lot of consideration of your feelings and motivation for a 10 a week job. You should consider that they're not deliberately insulting you or displeased, but are just busy.
posted by jojobobo at 7:14 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

As for the friendship - similar principle applies. Thanks for the connection but in the end I couldn't fit the work in. Seems like nbd and also totally accurate?
posted by jojobobo at 7:16 PM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: You need to separate these things:

1. the part-time gig: you are a consultant. Think of yourself as a gun for hire, or maybe a plumber. They pay you for X amount of your time, and that's it, you don't have any emotional or other investment beyond that. If they want to waste it asking you to re-do work because of unclear instructions, that's their problem. Tell your client (NOT boss) that you have X number of hours and no more. If they don't like it, they can hire someone else to do more. Document your interactions with the client in advance, i.e. "As instructed, I will be doing XX in YY way. I estimate this will take ZZ billable hours."

2. Your friendship with this guy: "thanks for making the connection for me, it sounds like they might need more time than I have available but I am giving them X hours and moving things forward as well as I can. They might need to find someone else. How about those Bears?" If he tries to talk to you about things that are being said in the office say "I'm sure [client] knows how to contact me directly with any concerns. No need for you to feel caught in the middle."
posted by rpfields at 8:38 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I doubt your coworkers are judging you. They know that your 'boss' and workplace are dysfunctional and stressful, and assuming he treats many people this way, I'm sure they take his criticism with a grain of salt.

You friend has to deal with this difficult environment too. His shortness doesn't mean he thinks you do bad work, just that he likely doesn't have the emotional energy to hear you complain about something he deals with full-time. Especially when you have a better job to lean on and are only doing this work for extra money. Stop putting your stress on him, find someone not involved with the company to vent to.

From what you've written, I think you know all of this... but are letting your thoughts obsess on small things, or perhaps just falling into old patterns. Your coworkers are stressed and it's a dysfunctional environment: if they seem annoyed, it's not about you. Just keep repeating that. I think working there is very smart, actually, but you should realign your view of the job. These aren't your bosses and coworkers, they are your clients. Set boundaries, accept the money for the agreed-upon work, take a deep breath and brush off any of their weirdness, and don't complain about the position to your friend. How would you expect a contractor to work, in your shoes? Do that.
posted by Emily's Fist at 12:43 PM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is there any way to do any of this part-time work during your 2-hour commute each day?
posted by CathyG at 6:52 AM on December 19, 2017

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