should I stay or... you know the gist
November 10, 2019 12:27 PM   Subscribe

My job isn't fulfilling me creatively, and is causing me a lot of anxiety, but I can't really decide once and for all whether I should stick around and suck it up and know I'm getting a good salary in a sector that is meaningful to me, or whether I should leave and risk ending up with a worse salary or an equally toxic job elsewhere. I feel like this question has been asked a thousand times, but I just need some help getting over the hump.

I have complained elsewhere on AskMe about my job. It's really draining. It takes a lot out of me. I have a toxic relationship with my manager. I also feel like the workload in my team is disproportionately placed on me for reasons I can't fathom - like I know my boss dislikes me and thinks I am incompetent but at the same time my boss also delegates to me work that is more high-value and high-risk if it goes wrong. When I compare workloads with team-mates it is glaringly evident that I am doing more than they are. I worry constantly about what new thing I will get into trouble over, even when it's something like my boss forgetting to tell me something. It's been drilled into me that I need to take responsibility for everything, even my boss not doing their job properly. I know logically that I'm competent, professional and organised, but my boss criticises me constantly.

My boss is unpleasant and incompetent - I say this totally dispassionately, I promise - and everyday I see examples of them making their incompetence obvious to senior members of staff. They have a terrible reputation in the organisation for being horrible and not knowing what they're supposed to be doing. Yet they remain employed. I live in hope that they will be found out and fired, but I realise I can't count on that, and besides, who's to say they won't hire someone even worse to replace this boss?

There are many things I like about my job, it is meaningful in that I believe strongly in the sector, I'm proud to be associated with my organisation, I'm good at the work and well-liked within the organisation, but at a day-to-day micro-level, it is grinding me down.

I worry that a job at the same level at another organisation would be similarly draining. I'm in a funny relationship with the sector I work in in that it means a lot to me and I believe in what it does for society but I also know that it is dysfunctional and overwhelmed by toxic personalities. Also I know it takes up to a year to settle into a new job even if it's good. I'm worried I don't have the emotional wherewithal at this time to deal with a new job and potentially a new bad boss and new set of problems.

I've slogged in this sector for years and years to reach a salary level that allows me to live in some degree of material comfort. I know it's shallow but it means a lot to me to earn what I now earn when I think about the years and years I worked so hard for a pittance.

So the money means something to me, and the sector means something to me. But I recently took a long-postponed vacation where I did nothing but sit inside my hotel room and work on my hobby all day, and at the risk of sounding melodramatic I felt connected to myself in a way I have not for years. I remembered what it felt like to be me again. And I realised I was forgetting to be that person amidst all the regular responsibilities of their very intense job and all the admin and adulting that goes around living by oneself and working long hours. It made me realise, I just want to do less. I want to have some time in my week to be creative, and just do what I feel like, rather than filling every hour with tasks I need to do. I just feel exhausted.

I also don't feel like I have the focus needed at the end of a long work day to work on job applications. Also, there are no good jobs being advertised in my sector, and one thing I do know for sure is that I want to work in this sector.

I just... yeah. I just feel stuck, Mefites. What do you think I should do? Can you help me come up with a plan?
posted by unicorn chaser to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you need a new job. I dont know what sector you're in but if you're in a non-profit maybe consider stepping away and looking for a job in government or whatever other avenues there are to stay in your general field. Consulting? A new location?

For some reason terrible managers never leave or get fired so I wouldn't count on that.
posted by fshgrl at 12:45 PM on November 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Getting a new job is a step by step process that takes awhile, like a year or so. The facts that you're often tired and that no jobs are posted now shouldn't stop you from committing to a path.

- Brainstorm jobs that exist that you'd like.
- Sign up for those organizations' job posting alerts.
- Think one step outside your comfort zone and sign up for those areas, too.
- Update your resume so you'll be ready.
- If you know exactly the kind of job you want, draft a cover letter, too.

And then when a posting comes up, regardless of how tired you are, submit an application. I've never done this, but if necessary, take a vacation or sick day to pull it off. Don't take a pay cut unless you have your financial future all figured out or are literally about to quit for mental health reasons anyway.

Another track you could consider would be to angle for an internal promotion putting you at a peer level to your boss. I think you'd have to do a bunch of schmoozing to map this out, but it's maybe not impossible.
posted by salvia at 1:19 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

If the choice is between staying and guaranteeing you are miserable and leaving on the chance that you may not be, well.... time to go.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:25 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Don't just quit.

Some of that money that you use to live in material comfort? Apply it in new ways to help you gather the energy for a solid job search so you can leave this place for a job that is better, at a decent place, with a good culture that you've researched, for a good or better salary.

So, use that money to hire a cleaner, if that'll take something off your shoulders. Get delivery food or eat out, if that will take something off your shoulders. Get a massage every weekend, if that's something that'll help. Outsource difficult things right now so you have the energy for this important, vital next step.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:27 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think salvia's advice is spot-on.

Based on my own past experience, I can say that the time to think about an exit is before the situation gets into "this job is legitimately compromising my mental and physical health" territory. I've been there, and I've done the "take the first offer that comes along because I'm desperate to leave and nothing could be as bad as this" thing, which is rarely a good strategy.

I've been at my current job for a long time and although I don't have any of the personality conflicts you're dealing with, I have reluctantly realized that I'm on my way to being burned out. Every so often I will idly look at listings and daydream. About a month ago I came across a listing that was actually compelling enough for me to send my first resume in 13 years.

Because my skills/domain knowledge are a good fit (the reason the job attracted me in the first place) I actually got a response and had a video chat that went really well. Despite me not being quite the right match for this specific position, I have an invite to visit the office and I feel like it could turn into a real opportunity eventually.

...all of which is to say, this experience of "not getting an offer but making a positive connection with a company I'd be really interested in" has helped me take stock of my current situation with a little more lucidity than past job changes. It feels healthy to be thinking about my exit as a thing I can be plan and be in control of, versus my past experiences of waiting until I'm so unhappy and desperate that I have to bail.

Like salvia suggests, start looking for listings for the sorts of jobs you'd be interested in in your sector, and reach out to the ones that catch your interest. Stick with it and see what happens. Good luck!
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 5:00 PM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

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