What can I do to make my last months at a bad job bearable?
March 9, 2021 9:13 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm leaving for Canada, specifically to get an MSc. This job I am at has been a mixed bag, it's a startup and there have been plenty of things to learn from finance to interviewing people to leading a team. Nonetheless, the job has run its course.

At this point I don't really care much anymore other than the money. When I first got in during 2019 I put everything into it. My efforts have led to the company heading towards a rewrite of the code for their products, streamlining of their interview processes, getting a better grip on their finances and overall just being in a better place than they were before.

Nonetheless, even if all those things are true. I feel that my efforts and the vision I wanted to enact at the company seem pointless. It feels at times like it's just me mixing it up down there. My teammates certainly don't have an interest in moving towards this new direction, my boss is completely indecisive and lets everyone walk over him. He can't chart a course, he can't call out bad behaviors and he continues to make the same mistakes that he did at the start.

For example, a new software engineer was hired and started working yesterday. I suspect this person has a dodgy history and got fired from his previous job, he certainly has some bad attitudes. One of the first things this person did was to start barking orders. He's got 9 years of experience, I'm reaching my 3rd year on June. Regardless, I've been in charge of heading this thing, I know this person is likely going to be difficult, he's the type to think that someone younger and less experienced has no business telling him what to do. He flat out refused to do something I asked him to do on his first day. Anyway, because I've not been really put in charge, I asked my boss who's going to do that? He tells me that I shouldn't lead but that I should push the others to do things my way. So, basically I've been told to assert myself over these people, but without being given the authority. I'm supposed to rein in a guy with 6 years more experience without no backing whatsoever from my boss. I find this incredibly bad and huge example of how my boss is incredibly indecisive and out of touch. This new project that thus far I've been heading alone is at this moment leaderless. This is nothing new, we had a terrible leader in one of our teams and she damn near wrecked everything. My boss -- as usual -- did nothing, after she quit this team pretty much ended operating on its own.

Like I said before, at this point I'm in it for the money. I don't know whether I should lead, I want to learn how to manage difficult people like that guy and kind of see it as a challenge for me to put him in his place, but I don't know whether it's worth the effort. I 3 months at best, 4 months at worst left. These efforts I started have been going nowhere, that has been so since November of last year; it is mostly because my boss is indecisive and he just never makes any choices or always needs a committee of people around to make any decision. He reminds me of Lieutenant Norman Dike from Band Of Brothers, in charge but has no clue and can't make any decisions or needs someone to make them for him.

At any rate, I feel stuck and I don't really know what to do. Should I just quit earlier? Should I just do the minimum effort, take the money and just not think anything of it? Should I really tangle with this new guy who is undoubtedly going to be a problem?
posted by Tarsonis10 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you the project leader/manager? I mean an actual org-charted line manager this guy reports directly to?

Because if not, no one wins when someone without actual management responsibility tries to exercise it.

I too would push back if, on my first day in a job, someone who was ostensibly on the same level as me in the org chart started telling me what to do. Discussed or asked, sure, but telling? Like you think you're my line manger? I would have some issues too.

The issue here is your boss, expecting you to lead but without giving you the authority to do so. This guy may well be a bit difficult, but at this point in time, in this set up, you are not managing him.

So, stay for the money and focus on your own tasks, but don't expect to gain any management experience, because you are not his manger.
posted by Faff at 10:44 PM on March 9, 2021

I guess I don’t understand why you care. You’re leaving, you’ve been told to not make a scene, so keep your head down, do your shit, take your money, and leave.

You’re not going to fix your boss, you’re not going to fix your team, you’re not going to ever be told “wow, you were right!” By the time you finish your degree none of this will matter, unless you create some huge battle or fuckup, so do neither of those things, and go with your money.

Just let it go, and move on.
posted by aramaic at 10:53 PM on March 9, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: 9 to 5 baby! Keep your mouth shut, head down and do your work to your best ability. Cash check every two weeks. I don't have the saying exact, but never interrupt someone when they are saying or doing things to hang themselves. New guy, he will piss off the entire group and firm and be out before you are. Boss is a Peter Principle living example. They will never make this company into what it can potentially be because they are not up to it. You will not change that.

Help those on your team that deserve help. Let the others sink or swim. Go home every night laughing to yourself that these jamokes are stuck in a dead end job and you are moving on to bigger and better things. Network with the good ones. Stay in touch with them when you leave. A great piece of advice I got from a guy who was a reorg consultant, one of those guys who comes in and tries to turn a company around or who comes in during a bankruptcy and liquidates, said to me, "Always keep your network hot. Stay in touch. You never know when you can help someone or they can help you. Out of sight, out of mind."
posted by AugustWest at 11:57 PM on March 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: nthing that you can't fix that place. Bad / ineffective line managers are like drop-ceiling water stains. They are ugly and you don't want them and they indicate worse damage above.

So, this internet stranger recommends tuning out immediately. Do the absolute minimal work you can without getting fired (modulo any networking considerations, as AugustWest thoughtfully mentions)

By the time anyone notices, you will be long gone. A single quarter is an eyeblink if your job has any pace to it.
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:14 AM on March 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I understand why you care. It is painful to spend 8+ hours per day watching a situation deteriorate into incompetence. It is like sitting in an extremely messy room 8 hours per day and told not to clean it, or with loud grating music and told to not shut it off. It assails the brain.

Since you are leaving, I recommend focusing on making things easier for the next people or remaining people. Document everything. Don't try to become the leader, because that will then cause another vacuum when you leave and your CEO didn't give you authority. Begin your phase-out transition by training others to replace you, and create documentation.
posted by cheesecake at 4:00 AM on March 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest, as others, that you stay and work for the money. I'd also suggest that you have an incompetent boss and a jerk coworker, and also maybe you need to reframe your own thinking ("putting someone in their place" as a concept basically has no place in a professional setting).

So you could think about this as being paid for 3 to 4 months to learn how to deal with extreme job life challenges. Lear more about how to deal with these situations, learn, about yourself, improve you as a professional person, all while getting paid.

Good luck!!
posted by chasles at 5:13 AM on March 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not a manager, no, but I've had to make decisions about where this thing goes. My boss also always seems to consult me on everything and every decision.

However, I will take everyone's advice and just do the bare minimum until I leave. There's really no point, and I'm not going to fix that place in 3 or 4 months, even as much as I would enjoy such a challenge.

There is actually no point in telling my boss these criticisms, he doesn't think he's doing anything wrong.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 5:21 AM on March 10, 2021

If you have vested ISO stock options, consider exercising them. Of course, it all depends on how much it would cost, if you think the company will go public and do well, and if you have the money. In my experience, you have 90 days to exercise ISO options after leaving the company, but check to verify. It is a gamble, though, as is any stock purchase.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:41 AM on March 10, 2021

Best answer: I am in the same position. Job that provides much needed financial security but is so toxic and unbearable that my mental and emotional health have taken a real hit, in a year where everything is just extra miserable. I too will be leaving at the end of the summer but until then, am trying to do what many people have recommended here. Putting my head down, doing the minimum required of me, understanding what is within my sphere of control and trying to let go of what is not, and trying to not let my mental and emotional health take an even steeper nose dive. It is hard. And it will and has taken a lot of effort for me to let go and to try not to care as much as I normally would. But I am going to keep trying to check out and do only what is required of me, and nothing more, and I encourage you to do the same.
posted by something_witty at 9:27 AM on March 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

unsolicited advice: pay attention to the people here telling you that you might have some incorrect assumptions about software leadership.

I'm a senior SDE with decades of experience working for companies you've heard of. When I join a new team I am absolutely going to take guidance and instruction and even marching orders from those with more tenure on the team, regardless of our relative levels of experience. My large general experience does not directly translate to successful work on any one team, because every software team is fucked up in its own special way and getting that lay of the land is critical.

However, I would not respond well to being "put in my place" by anyone, regardless of whether they are Linus Torvalds or a bootcamp grad SDE1.

If you want to be a great software leader, find great software leaders and learn from them. Don't take on quixotic quests to fix broken teams. You can do that later, after you've become a great software leader.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

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