Should I quit today or quit later? (C-PTSD Version)
October 6, 2021 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Due to past workplace abuse, I have been medically diagnosed with Complex-PTSD. I have found myself in another untenable situation at work, which has sparked a slew of triggers for that PTSD. Should I quit, like right now?

I started a new job one year ago this month. It was a bad fit from the start, but I rose to the challenge and have excelled in ways that my supervisors never imagined. They love my work and my positive energy, as well as my dedication and passion for the special projects I take on.

One of my supervisors (Ms. J) left her position for an “indefinite” period of time, which appears to be the result of a mental breakdown. In the wake of her departure, the entire department has been thrown into complete chaos. Over a dozen employees, including myself, have been overburdened with her responsibilities to make up for her absence. Our department is horrifically understaffed, even in this era, largely because compensation is abysmally low (think minimum wage). Since I am in a highly specialised position as a Gallery Curator, my compensation is slightly higher than most of my coworkers’, but it’s still about a 66% pay cut from my previous position). I stayed because the professional experience is good, and I genuinely like my supervisors. Except for one.

One supervisor (let’s call her Ms. C.) has taken the reins in a horrible way. She has a reputation for being bullying and domineering, and I can tell you for sure that she has not disappointed in that regard. Scheduling shifts in our department has always been unpredictable, but Ms. C. has completely sabotaged it, resulting in bizarre shifts of all hours of the day and night. She changes the schedule cnstantly, every day. No one can plan for a day off because they can be put on the schedule at the last minute. Over the past months, these scheduling changes have placed an undue hardship on my family. And did I mention she is a bully? I have even witnessed her pushing around her own superiors. (!) But she’s one of those people who’s made herself indispensable, just had her 20 years here, etc.

Things have been so bad that I went into our Director’s office last week, closed the door, and told him I was ready to walk off the job. He said all the right things. He spoke of how valuable I am to the organization. He urged me not to make a rash decision that day. He told me to take care of myself. He also told me that he would completely understand and respect my decision to go if I need to.

In the meantime, I had put in for two days vacation time, and Ms. C. turned around and put me on the schedule for those same two days. Not good. I mentioned this to another supervisor (Ms. K.), who promptly approved the two days of time off and adjusted the schedule accordingly. I woke up this morning to find that Ms. C. put me back on the schedule for those same two days, again. I really can’t work those days; hubby and I have big plans, tickets, money has been paid, etc.

Already being in the throes of PTSD, this is incredibly upsetting to me. It’s a breaking point; a dealbreaker. The past weeks have been awful. I’m not eating. I’m not sleeping. I have a surgery pending in less than 2 weeks. All that combined with the PTSD has made me a mess. It’s not worth it for a job that pays $13-/ hour.

I am Part-Time; I have no FMLA. Since I’m already looking at significant leave for my surgery/recovery, I don’t want to miss more hours. However, I feel I cannot stay, either. This is a problem that will just keep happening, and Ms. C. is making life miserable for me and so many of the people I care about over there.

I spoke with one of her superiors (another supervisor of mine, Mr. A.), who said he was concerned about me being too stressed out and that I could finish my curation of our current exhibit and then just take time off for the days leading up to my surgery so I can relax, etc. Since Ms. C. is overreaching on the schedule and bullies him as well, I don’t know how viable an option that is.

My hubby is extremely supportive of me and knows what a bad situation this is. Although I appreciate the professional experience this job offers, we have discussed just living on his salary alone, which we could do very comfortably.

I feel that my time and my mental health are not being respected. The superiors over Ms. C. are allowing her complete freedom to do what she will, because of the understaffing and because they have bigger fish of their own to fry. I’m afraid I’m on the verge of deeper mental damage, which is even more frightening in the face of the pending surgery. How do I navigate this? How do I address this with HR? Should I just walk off?

I appreciate all your responses in advance; you guys have always come through for me, and I’m looking to you once again in a time of crisis.
posted by chatelaine to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just walk out yo, life's too short.
posted by so fucking future at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2021 [33 favorites]


You can live on your husband's salary, so do so. I would not walk out, before doing so, talk again to some friendly people and tell them [positive things] but that with upcoming surgery, the scheduling issues are too stressful and there's too much going on for you to continue, but that you hope you can get a good reference from them going forward.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2021 [6 favorites]


I have been medically diagnosed with Complex-PTSD. I have found myself in another untenable situation at work, which has sparked a slew of triggers for that PTSD. Should I quit, like right now?

God, yes. I'm getting anxiety just reading what you wrote.

Whatever you wanted to get out of the professional experience has been got, a year in. You can live comfortably on your spouse's salary. If I were you I'd absolutely quit today.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:17 AM on October 6, 2021 [8 favorites]


Best answer: You have all the leverage in the world right now: you can live on your partner's salary for a while. Go back to that director and ask, one final time, if there's any intention for this situation to change. Ask - kindly - if he would rather you just resign so they can attempt to replace you or if there's any point in arranging unpaid leave for a couple of months and revisiting then to see if the situation has become tenable. Plan to be gone by the end of the day or the end of this week. If it works out any better than that, that's awesome, but you're not the one in control of that and you should do what you need to do for you.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2021 [37 favorites]


Quit. This sounds awful with a supervisor who apparently is such a bully that she steamrolls her own superiors. You have the means so I don’t see anything keeping you there.
posted by hazel79 at 11:24 AM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]


You have all the leverage in the world right now: you can live on your partner's salary for a while. Go back to that director and ask, one final time, if there's any intention for this situation to change. Ask - kindly - if he would rather you just resign so they can attempt to replace you or if there's any point in arranging unpaid leave for a couple of months and revisiting then to see if the situation has become tenable. Plan to be gone by the end of the day or the end of this week. If it works out any better than that, that's awesome, but you're not the one in control of that and you should do what you need to do for you.

Yes, agree. And I wouldn't bother going in, just call them.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:27 AM on October 6, 2021 [7 favorites]


another possibility: just don't show up the days she put you on for. Go have your fun.

make them fire you for it. they may think twice about courting a wrongful termination scenario. her power lasts only until she becomes a bigger liability to them (like if she gets them successfully sued) than she is an asset.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2021 [29 favorites]


"C, I want to draw your attention to an error in the schedule; you have me listed to work on PTO days previously approved by K; I am not available on those dates. Thank you!"

cc K., A., Director
posted by ook at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2021 [31 favorites]


Things have been so bad that I went into our Director’s office last week, closed the door, and told him I was ready to walk off the job. He said all the right things. He spoke of how valuable I am to the organization. He urged me not to make a rash decision that day. He told me to take care of myself. He also told me that he would completely understand and respect my decision to go if I need to.


What!?! Your Director said all the wrong things because he put his responsibility to fix a bullying boss on you by first passive aggressively describing you as rash, and then telling you he wouldn't do shit even if you do leave. This is the mostly (work) cowardly thing I've ever seen.

As a worker and a human, you deserve more support than this. You should feel justified in leaving when you want, to preserve your health.
posted by RajahKing at 11:52 AM on October 6, 2021 [17 favorites]


Yeah I don't see any "oh what C is doing is unacceptable we will talk to her" in your director's response to you. But I agree you have enough leverage to almost pretend she doesn't exist. I would go forward with ook's email strategy and just be very pleasant about it, like it must have been a misunderstanding. If you have to quit, you have to, and this is ridiculous so please don't feel bad. But if you want...like, everyone else must know this is ridiculous too, right. Can you clear your schedules with K and basically ignore C?
posted by clarinet at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]


Your director did not say ONE SINGLE right thing to you. He barfed a bunch of bafflegab guilt-tripping in your general direction, and made zero promises (much less actual attempts) to fix the situation.

You gave him a chance. He whiffed it. Walk out.

From your title, I'm guessing this is a museum or art gallery? Yeah, the sector is notorious for craptastic treatment of labor. WALK OUT.
posted by humbug at 12:07 PM on October 6, 2021 [4 favorites]


dude, if you can live off your spouse's salary comfortably, there is no reason you need a $13/hour shitty job. quit that shit now.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:26 PM on October 6, 2021 [5 favorites]


Not a single person in this story has your back, except your husband. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to change. They know that, you know that, she knows that.

Normally I'd suggest finishing up whatever loose ends you can, but I'm not feeling generous today. I would just walk.
posted by sm1tten at 12:27 PM on October 6, 2021 [3 favorites]


The world is full of jobs that need people like you and pay way more than $13 an hour. Make them fire you, walk out, whatever feels best and does the least damage to you - but do get out of there, do it now, and do not for a moment have the slightest, tiniest bad feeling about doing so to protect yourself.
posted by jzb at 12:34 PM on October 6, 2021


Response by poster: Thank you all for your amazing and thoughtful responses. (Wow, that was more unanimous than I thought it would be!)

I hadn't thought of the Director's reaction as being as abusive/blame-shifting & useless, but now that you guys mention it...

It's not a museum/gallery, but it's an art gallery within a local municipality. My hire is the first time they've taken on something of this nature. I was hired on the spot during the pandemic because they "need" the Arts. They creamed their pants when they saw someone with my experience apply. Within that, they have no clue what they're doing, they've let me run, and I've made it excellent. But they can't take care of me.

I asked to have my position reclassified as a formal Curator 5 months ago. Everything has to go through the City Manager's Office, which takes an eternity.

My other question is: If I quit this week, would I be able to return to the same municipality in a different capacity in the future? The city I work for is otherwise a good entity with high retention rates and excellent benefits (sans my dept., of course). I've heard that quitting with barely any notice can bar you from employment with that entity in the future... you know, burning bridges and all...
posted by chatelaine at 12:39 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]


Given your update, I would give an immediate standard 2 weeks notice, take whatever days off you previously got approved in that timeframe, and don’t stress about it. You can be marked as not eligible for rehire without adequate notice. Given that you may want to work there again and they’re overall a good employer, I wouldn’t risk it.
posted by jeoc at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2021 [4 favorites]


I would simply inform your supervisor that you will not be working those days and they are welcome to respond as they choose. If you're fired, you might still be eligible for unemployment/rehire because you requested the days off according to the rules. If you are following the rules and Mrs. C is not, you may still have the job, if you choose to stay.

"Act As If" Act as if there are reasonable policies in place, follow the rules and let her accept the consequences. Act as if time off was approved and you are taking it. Inform Mrs. C if she's a person who should be informed. Be calm and polite and do not engage in this horrible BS. Especially if you want to keep the job, behave as a reasonable person; it makes her shitty behavior quite apparent.

Random scheduling is abusive. Computers should make reasonable, predictable schedules available in advance.
posted by theora55 at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2021 [9 favorites]


All I can add to the "Act as If" is to get something in writing if you can about the approval of the scheduled days off.
posted by moonlily at 4:51 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]


You are not resigning, you are quitting due to medical reasons. Be very clear about that. Get a note/confirmation from you doctor. That will help you with an unemployment claim.
posted by brookeb at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]


Since C’s behaviour has been tolerated this far it is highly unlikely the company will be doing anything about it, so you can expect toxicity for the indefinite future.

Life is way too short. If you think you’re up to it give two weeks notice but more importantly don’t sacrifice one whit of your health for a broken corporation.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:06 PM on October 6, 2021


I would probably just not show up for the shift, because I'm petty that way, but it sounds like the mature healthy thing to do is to quit.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:27 PM on October 7, 2021


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