Should I take a pay cut to escape a toxic job?
September 16, 2019 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I’ve heard of people jumping to other jobs in order to be happier, but money is also no small thing... would it hurt my career earnings in the future to take a big pay cut?

Thank you so much to everyone who answered my question about unhappiness in my new-ish town and horribly toxic job. I interviewed for a position that I was really excited for recently. I am acquaintances with a few people who work there so I know about the work culture and it sounds amazing. The job itself is interesting and one I think I could do well. What I did not know about the position was the salary. I was offered the position on Friday and just now got the written.

The pay cut is pretty severe. I know that I could negotiate, but there is no way that I could see them coming up any higher. In fact, when I asked about turnover, they did say that they wished they could pay their department more. I looked into the benefits and I would not get PTO. I also would have to pay for my own insurance premiums three months out of the year, because I would not work for those three months (I guess I could get a second job to supplement the pay.)

If I took the job, it would be a $25k pay cut. (For my field, this is pretty underpaid.) I make a reasonably higher salary for my experience level (almost $60k) but I negotiated that for my current job and that’s really why I stay, because I can make enough money to put away for savings to maybe move back east. Also, if I was right out of college, I probably would take this job in a heartbeat, but now that I’ve had the chance to work at a job with more responsibility and pay, it’s harder for me to go back.

I think I would love working at this new job. I like the managers and employees that I met. The title is still a good title and I could do work that would still give me great experience. But I hear that taking a pay cut can negatively effect what I earn in the future? And also, I would have to move out of my current apartment and possibly get a second job to make ends meet if I took this position because the COL here. Oh, and the commute is about the same as my current job, but many of the people on the team live in my town and commute to work as well. So at least there’s a chance to carpool. I so desperately want to leave my job, but I’m not sure how much of a paycut would be reasonable? Would I just be a different kind of miserable because I’m trying to make ends meet?

If anyone has taken a pay cut before, please share your stories and advice. I’m still early-ish career (only been in the non-school work field for 3 years) so maybe this is the time to take a pay cut?
posted by buttonedup to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would not take that job. A $25k pay cut and no paid time off AND paying for three months of health insurance every year - that's a lot of bad. I understand that you're desperate but there will be other job offers.
posted by something something at 3:13 PM on September 16, 2019 [34 favorites]


Lots of companies, especially nonprofits, that can't pay market rate compensate for it with more generous vacation policies. A big pay cut and no PTO would be an absolute dealbreaker for me. I understand that you really want to leave your job, but I think you can do better.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:15 PM on September 16, 2019 [12 favorites]


One more vote for a hard no. That's too much of a setback for you to make it a viable decision for your long-term success.
posted by mccxxiii at 3:19 PM on September 16, 2019


Not only is that $25k, it's in the 40%-50% range and you are not absurdly highly compensated. It does not sound like this job is a good stepping stone for future prospects. Nor are the other benefits that amazing. Most likely this would be a serious financial setback over the long-term.

Unless you think that you are extremely unlikely to find another job in a reasonable timeframe I would not take this one.
posted by plonkee at 3:21 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that is too big a pay cut to reasonably take. I have taken pay cuts for job happiness and not regretted it, but remember that the health insurance costs will probably make it more like $30k less, plus no PTO indicates to me that the company isn't doing its best for you.

In addition to the money lost while you're working there, your salary negotiation position for your next job will be weaker, so it's likely to have a long term impact on your earning ability--at least that's the conventional wisdom.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:26 PM on September 16, 2019


If it’s your dream job or a necessary path to your dream job, and you can afford to, yes. Otherwise, no.
posted by sallybrown at 3:32 PM on September 16, 2019


I am all for valuing a good workplace over a higher paycheck, but if is a pay cut that means that you can’t live in your current apartment and have to get a second job (and comes without PTO) then it is too deep of a pay cut for almost anything that is not fulfillment of a lifelong dream. It seems like you really want to leave, so I would recommend applying for jobs somewhere that you want to be more long term rather than settling like this where you will have most of the hassle of moving anyway without the change in location.
posted by pie_seven at 3:41 PM on September 16, 2019


As is, no, I would not take this offer.

And even though you don't think they have room to negotiate, if you're not going to take the job as it stands, it doesn't hurt to ask them for what you need. Always negotiate.

Sounds like you might be slightly overpaid for the field now, but I wouldn't accept less than $50k and 2 weeks PTO. That seems reasonable.
posted by hydra77 at 3:42 PM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


Run far, far away from this company. A company that does not offer PTO does not value its employees.

That alone would be enough for me to say no and then to add the huge salary decrease and the insurance on top of that?

No wonder this place has high turnover.
posted by nolnacs at 3:48 PM on September 16, 2019 [12 favorites]


No matter how nice the people are, these employment conditions do not speak of a company that values its employees. I would consider that toxic. Don’t jump from one crappy work situation to another - and one where you will be more likely to be trapped and find it hard to move on at that because your financial resources and energy will be severely depleted (second job?!) You sound thoughtful and articulate. Both these companies wanted you - there will be other offers. Hold out for a lateral or upward move. Or at least one that won’t be worse than where you are.

On preview: what nolnacs said. High turnover? This is the reddest red flag ever. Do not walk, run.
posted by t0astie at 3:54 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


The fact that you are giving this serious thought says a lot about how unhappy you are at your current job. I nth everybody who said don’t take this job. But I would encourage you to keep looking for a new job. You can’t make the economics of the job work, nor could many others before you by the sound of it, and that’s ok.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:08 PM on September 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


Keep looking! Remember that this underpaid job and your current toxic job are NOT the only options.
posted by mskyle at 4:08 PM on September 16, 2019


Thanks for all the advice! I think y’all are saying what I feared I knew deep down but man. I would love to leave. Not to thread sit, but I was just sent more information. If I took the lowest insurance plan, which is an HSA and no out of network, it would be free. I just don’t know about that one since my current providers are out of their network. They explained that there’s no PTO for the position because there are three months off in the summer (unpaid) and holidays are paid. I guess that’s true but also I think that would limit flexibility during the rest of the year. They did tell me they have not had turnover at the higher levels, but it’s now clear to me that this position isn’t considered higher level based on benefits and pay. I think I’ll have to keep looking. Sigh.
posted by buttonedup at 4:10 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Giving up my healthcare providers would be a hard no for me. That sounds like some pretty crappy insurance (if you can call it that).
posted by kathrynm at 4:23 PM on September 16, 2019


Hard no, sorry. $25k is maybe a year's rent for one person in my part of the country, and you would have additional costs on top of the salary loss - it's financially untenable. Even if the title were amazing and it didn't weaken your potential salary negotiation position for your next job, the additional factors you've mentioned do sound like a recipe for a different kind of miserable.

Additionally, a chance to carpool also isn't the same as guaranteed transportation back and forth on an already long commute - you'll have to take the chance that they aren't going to leave or return home at the same time as you do, and that they will continue to work at this place (where your reasonable question regarding turnover was met with a non-answer of the company wishing they could pay more). Are the people living in your town and commuting such long distances happy with their commute? Or are they just putting up with it because of other reasons (such as rent control/low rent, or the town being the midway point between their commute and their partner's commute, or they genuinely really enjoy the town that you already are unhappy with living in)?

Seconding mskyle's comment - this underpaid job and your current toxic job are NOT the only options, and it will be worth holding out for a job that won't add additional stresses on top of your existing stressors. Keep looking and good luck!

On preview: Yes, three unpaid months off in the summer with the occasional paid holiday does limit flexibility during the rest of the year, and also limits you to only having vacation time when everyone else is on leave. Were you to want to take time off to look for apartments or go to job interviews back east, you'd be limited to the the times most renters are trying to look for apartments for the upcoming school year (either because they are students themselves or are the parents of such students). Flights would probably also be impacted while people are taking the opportunity of those common days off to go travel. Don't feel bad about considering this offer in the first place, but it really isn't suitable for your situation.
posted by rather be jorting at 4:25 PM on September 16, 2019


Would the culture likely be that happy if nobody is getting paid time off or a decent salary?
posted by amtho at 4:26 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


And also, I would have to move out of my current apartment and possibly get a second job to make ends meet if I took this position because the COL here.

So you aren't talking about leaving your current job for this job, is the thing. You can't compare them like that. You are talking about leaving your current job for this job AND the theoretical second job. However nice you think the people are at this place, you haven't even met yet the people you're going to be stuck working with the rest of the time. At the very least over the summer--do you remember the kind of companies that hire people just for a summer?--and quite possibly also during the year. So, great, you like the people you might work with at this place, but do you also like the people at Panera? Do you have good connections somewhere that reliably hires part-timers? How are you going to feel about the fact that like 1/4 of your working life is gig work or retail or food service?

You want to do an apples-to-apples comparison, here, so you need to compare your current position to this job and whatever else this job would require to make ends meet in a way that keeps you with basic things like health care, retirement savings, and an emergency fund.
posted by Sequence at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think you can very kindly respond with "Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed learning about the position and agree that I would be a good fit. Unfortunately I cannot afford to accept your offer, which is so far below the market rate that I don't see us being able to negotiate on terms. Best of luck in filling the position." That should give them at least something to chew on.
posted by juniperesque at 5:49 PM on September 16, 2019 [13 favorites]


I would take the offer as a sign that you're hirable and will get more (and better) if you keep looking. And then keep looking.
posted by bunderful at 6:17 PM on September 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


I think juniperesque has a good idea - because then maybe it could prompt them to say ".....hang on, what if we did better on the salary?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 AM on September 17, 2019


I have to agree with the majority of the advice here, that $25K off of a $60K salary is just far too big a cut. If you were making significantly more money, I'd say a $25K pay cut would be something you could think about and budget for, but cutting out nearly half your income would give you a whole new set of issues that leaving the toxic workplace possibly wouldn't make up for.
posted by xingcat at 7:42 AM on September 17, 2019


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