Working with my father is killing me. What can I do?
June 5, 2008 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Working with my father is a nightmare. Should I quit? How do I deal with the repercussions?

Potentially related information: I'm 23, female, atypical depression since I was 13-ish and it is mostly controlled with medication. I live in a great home with my fiance and I think I'm ruining our relationship with my job misery. My mother is depressed and no one acknowledges it; she has a long-standing history of not caring about my relationship with my father. My father is 64 and everyone who knows him loves him. He does not believe in counseling and does not believe that mood disorders exist.

My father and I have never really gotten along (wasn't around much when I was a kid, refused to let me get mental health treatment when I was a minor, threw money at me and called it parenting). We both have thin skin, and we're both really stubborn. He's a yeller, and since his hearing is really bad, I have to be a yeller. To make a long, mostly unrelated story short, I moved back to my home state last year and he offered me a job. I started working for him about four months ago. I'm thinking accepting was a huge mistake.

The job consists of menial duties like answering a phone, writing up some documents, doing some minor marketing work and being my father's metaphorical punching bag. We're a staff of two (we're a satellite office for a nationwide company) in an incredibly small office. One of my biggest problems right now is that my father is incapable of treating me like an employee - he treats me like I'm still living in his house (I'm not). He yells at me for things that are really obviously not my fault and says really hurtful things when he's angry.

For example, today one of our 15-year-old phones broke and I was treated as though it was my fault. First, he demanded that I fix it, and I tried to calmly explain that I have no idea how to fix a multi-line phone system. I offered to read the manual and try to find some troubleshooting information. I came up with nothing helpful and offered to call the phone company. This resulted in more yelling and me being called "a mental defective." I pulled out my memorized speech for these situations and said, "I don't appreciate being spoken to like that. You wouldn't yell at a random employee like that. When I am here, I am your employee, not your daughter" as calmly as I possibly could. As usual, this resulted in, "You're an employee? Yeah, well, you're incompetent." I think I'm making this out to be more than it is or I'm overreacting or something -- my father isn't an ogre or anything, he just doesn't acknowledge any feelings whatsoever and since he never thinks he's doing anything wrong, he never apologizes when he hurts someone. Like I said, I have thin skin, and I've never had a job that didn't make me cry at least once.

Situations this intense usually pop up once a week, with scattered, minor misdirected yelling pretty much every day. I know I'm not a perfect employee. In fact, one of the major reasons why I took the job in the first place is because I am depressed and I feel like I am totally unemployable as a result (I was laid off from a previous job and it appeared to me that they thought I was incompetent but didn't want to hurt my feelings). I have no "marketable" skills - I have experience as a secretary and a BFA in writing/literature. I get distracted a lot and I never go "above and beyond" what's written in my job description, though I do get all vital work done in a timely manner. I'm trying my hardest to not screw this job up. My father constantly brags to his colleagues that I was the only sucker willing to take this job for such a pathetic salary, which pretty much cements my assumption that I'm worth next-to-nothing.

The yelling plus a hellish 90+ minute commute are making me seriously consider quitting. Is there some magical phrase I can utter that will somehow make my father have empathy (or at least have another emotion besides "angry" and "pre-angry"), or is this as much of a lost cause as I think it is? Right now the only things keeping me here are the money, not wanting to completely ruin any relationship I have with my parents (and to a lesser extent, some colleagues I really like), and not knowing if I'm overreacting. I'm also afraid of never getting another job ever again, and I don't want to strand my father with all my work along with his own -- we do more work than any two people should be burdened with.

Okay, so my two questions are: Should I quit? How do I deal with the inevitable shitstorm that comes with my resignation if I do quit? Or what can I do to make my life livable again and/or stop overreacting? I'm supposed to be getting married about a year from now -- a wedding my father wants to pay for, but I don't want to make my entire family hate me and I don't want to feel even more awful for accepting my father's money. I'm pretty sure that my entire family will be disgusted with me if I leave my dad out in the cold. I just can't see how I can possibly quit without causing more problems for myself.

If anyone needs clarification on my novel, I'm the girl that sucks,
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If he weren't your father, you'd have quit already.

Just as he needs to treat you as an employee, you need to treat him as an employer.
posted by toxic at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2008 [14 favorites]

Lost cause. Quit. I have no way of knowing whether you are actually incompetent, but for the sake of argument let's just assume you are: Lots of incompetent people find and hold down jobs where they are treated with respect, and you can, too.
posted by HotToddy at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Should I quit?

Yes. You aren't happy in this job and you've tried all you can to make it workable. It's just not workable.

How do I deal with the inevitable shitstorm that comes with my resignation if I do quit?

Working with family is tough. Find some *awesome* oppurtunity elsewhere that you just can't pass up. Train the next person to take your place and offer to be there in case any other emergencies come up.

Or what can I do to make my life livable again and/or stop overreacting?
I don't think you are overreacting. You aren't. You are exactly right, if he wouldn't treat another employee like this - it's not reasonable for him to treat you like this.
posted by bigmusic at 10:40 AM on June 5, 2008

Should I quit?

You're not overreacting, you're underreacting. It seems pretty obvious that you should quit. He's being abusive and you're having a hellish time. You're commuting 90+ minutes every day. Unless you have literally no other prospects, it's not worth it.

How do I deal with the inevitable shitstorm that comes with my resignation if I do quit?

What? You don't. You're an adult, if you don't want to put up with being yelled at or whatever, don't put up with it. Tell him to stop and if he doesn't, walk out. If you're on the phone, hang up.

If you want your father to start treating you like an adult, you need to both insist upon it and act like one. That means standing up for yourself; tell him he's out of line. If he continues to yell, leave. If he won't stop, quit.

That's what an adult does. The only exceptions would be if you had minor children depending on you and had to provide for them. That would complicate matters immensely as in that case their interests come before yours. But that isn't the case here.
posted by Justinian at 10:40 AM on June 5, 2008

Quit, quit, quit.

A man like you've described is as much a lost cause as you think it is.

You are not overreacting at all.

Your relationship with your father, at least, is clearly very unhealthy. Don't worry about stranding him with the workload - especially if he brags that he's exploiting you.

Get out now. Deal with everything else afterwards.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2008

I'm the girl that sucks

No, you don't suck. Don't listen to your father. You recognize that he has some kind of mood disorder, and possibly several other problems as well. If he won't seek counselling there's really little you can do in this situation because it isn't going to change. You're to be commended for the mature and non-confrontational way you've been handling his irrational meltdowns. Get another job, and elope.
posted by iconomy at 10:44 AM on June 5, 2008

Please quit. This environment is not good for you!
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2008

yes, quit. the only reason you haven't quit is because your boss is your dad. i'd start looking for something else pronto, and then when he complains, tell him that the commute is too long and leave it at that.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:46 AM on June 5, 2008

Oh you poor thing. There is so much pain in this post. You are so not overreacting. The fact that you think you might be shows how damaged your self-esteem is. Quit, get into counseling to help find your self-esteem, and finance your own wedding. Your father is doing so much you more harm than good. If your family sides with him, you might be better off without all of them.
posted by boomchicka at 10:47 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've had to learn the hard way that family and money should never mix. I only hope I've learned this lesson for good this time after being my father's employee, my mother's employee, my father-in-law's employee, etc.

1) Find a new job first. If you're unemployed it hurts everyone. But find a new job and quickly.

2) Quit as soon as you're financially able to. If that's now, then quit now and spend your 40+ hours per week looking for new work.

You don't have to walk out saying "I'm quitting because you're an A-hole". Just say "This isn't what I want to be doing long term and I'm looking for a job that will help my career to grow" or some other vague BS. He may know you're lying but sometimes all it takes is a comfortable lie to prevent familial Armageddon.

And he'll probably yell, it sounds like he's that type. And if he does, well you've submitted your resignation already, walk out before he sees you crying. What's he going to do, fire you? You just quit.

It sounds like the relationship is already strained as father/daughter and broken as employer/employee. Terminate the latter relationship and continue to work on teh former.

However, I should add: sometimes it's good to remove destructive people's influence on your life. Start by not working for him, but if he continues to be an emotional negative in your life, consider restricting, or temporarily suspending, contact altogether. You're engaged and in a happy relationship...let the healthy relationships grow, let the unhealthy ones wither.
posted by arniec at 10:54 AM on June 5, 2008

Reading this made me so sad. No one should ever be spoken to like that, especially not from a parent and especially not on a regular basis.

Please quit. You are not overreacting. There are other jobs out there, someone else will hire you and your father will be able to find someone to replace you. Blame it on the high price of gas, say it's not your dream job, use whatever excuse you want, but please quit. You may end up angering your (already angry) father, but do you really want him paying for your wedding and then holding that against you like you owe him something?
posted by geeky at 10:57 AM on June 5, 2008

Should I quit?

Do you have another source of income? If your fiance has a job, can he pay the bills for a while?

If you do have another source of income, get out now. The man called you "a mental defective" - what else do you need to know? Get out now, or, if you're not at work, don't go in tomorrow. The guy is royally screwing you over, and deserves all the sh*t that's going to hit the fan. Nobody has the right to talk to you like that, not even your father. I don't care what is wrong with them. Get out, and do it quickly. Do not look back. The longer you stay in this situation, the more poisoned your life is going be. You are worth so very much more than that.

How do I deal with the inevitable shitstorm that comes with my resignation if I do quit?

Walk away from that, too. If you don't live with these people, and don't rely on them for anything, just walk away.

As for everyone else looking down on you, how much is their opinion worth to you? Is it really all that important that the people who take the side of a vicious angry man like your father think well of you? It's better, I think, to just walk away, and leave all the drama behind you. You owe these people nothing. Good friends will understand why you did it. Bad friends/acquaintances/members of the family who don't understand are people that you probably don't need in your life anyway.

You are better than this. You deserve something better. I hope you realise that. :)
posted by Solomon at 11:01 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes, quit, but find a new job first. It's easier to find another job while you're still employed, and then you actually have a place to go after telling Dad goodbye. If you quit without lining something else up first, he will assume you'll come crawling back after a few weeks of being unemployed, which won't gain you any credibility in his eyes.

If, however, you quit and don't come back, he might start to think of you as an independent adult. Your situation sucks but the best way out of it is to get another job before bailing. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2008

The basic facts are this: you are commuting an hour and a half to work a menial job for little money and a lot of abuse. Whether or not it's family is not important - this is a terrible situation that will do very little to raise your already battered self esteem.

Have you considered temp work? If you're already making low wages, and you need to get some more job experience/confidence, then it might be the right choice for you. If you are open to temp-to-hire, then it allows you to prove you can do a job without having to trot out your resume.

Quite frankly, anything...even welfare...would be better than this situation.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:08 AM on June 5, 2008

Working with family sucks.
Good news? You have something on your resume.
Quit. Stop worrying about what your parents think.
posted by k8t at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2008

You know the answer. GTFO. Tell your father the truth: you're an adult, and you will not tolerate verbal abuse.
posted by gnutron at 11:16 AM on June 5, 2008

First: echoing all the "quit; you are not overreacting" advice above.

Second: I have no "marketable" skills - I have experience as a secretary and a BFA in writing/literature.

Experience as a secretary is a marketable skill (or, strictly speaking, the skills you used as a secretary are marketable skills). Writing well is a marketable skill. (Maybe the BFA focused more on writing fiction or poetry or whatever, but writing those well are not unrelated to being able to communicate clearly.) You are definitely employable. Do not listen to the depression which is telling you that you are not.

I get distracted a lot and I never go "above and beyond" what's written in my job description, though I do get all vital work done in a timely manner.

This alone makes you a better employee than a significant fraction of the employed workforce. "Above and beyond" is exactly that--great if you can do it, but it doesn't make you a bad employee if you don't.

My father constantly brags to his colleagues that I was the only sucker willing to take this job for such a pathetic salary,

The message you should take from this is not "I deserve to be paid less than the average secretary because I am less competent." The message you should take is that if your father hired a stranger with the exact same skillset as you, he'd have to pay significantly more, and is only getting away with paying you less because your depression is allowing him to take advantage of you. Conversely, if you were hired by a stranger to do the same job you're doing now, you'd be paid significantly more.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Yes, you should quit. If he was treating a stranger like this at work he could be sued for creating a hostile work environment! At least where I live there are labour laws regarding this sort of behaviour. He does sound like an ogre to an outsider, and you are not over reacting.

YOU ARE NOT THE GIRL WHO SUCKS. You're just a regular person who is struggling and that's ok, you will get past this but I think you need some support, like a therapist. You are so terribly negative about yourself, that even if you were a total incompetent (which I sincerely doubt 100%) you'd still be coming down too hard on yourself. You will find a job that's a good fit for you, as long as you keep looking & as long as you have some faith in yourself. You are educated and you have office skills, this is good! Don't aim low... I get the sense you're the type to pass over a lot of job opportunities because you think you're not good enough, but people apply for and get jobs they aren't 100% qualified for all the time and they manage just fine. One of my aunts got a job selling medical software for a huge multinational, and she didn't even know how to use a computer! She just had a liberal arts degree, which meant she was capable of learning, just like you. So she flew by the seat of her pants the first couple of months, and now she's their head of international sales, traveling the world. This woman isn't some great genius btw (sorry auntie, lol), just an average person.

I don't have much advice on how to deal with your dad and family after you quit, other than for you to be honest and calm when discussing it, and not allowing any conversation to continue that turns into badgering of you. "I'm sorry, I cannot allow you to yell at me/demean me, it's not good for either of us. I am happy to continue discussing this with you later/tomorrow when we are both calm, thank you for understanding" and then walk away/leave/hang up.
posted by zarah at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

"My father constantly brags to his colleagues that I was the only sucker willing to take this job for such a pathetic salary, which pretty much cements my assumption that I'm worth next-to-nothing."

This doesn't mean you're worth next-to-nothing. This means your father is trying to make you believe that, so he can keep paying you next-to-nothing and treating you unprofessionally. And it sounds like he's been successful, since you deprecate yourself all through your post. Are you also getting this kind of shit from the rest of your family?

Because you are NOT worth next-to-nothing. You have a degree - and a lot of companies don't care what your degree is in, as long as you have one. Some even prefer workers that are only recently out of college and thus trainable and moldable.

You are intelligent, and a good writer. Your skills there could be valuable in a myriad of jobs, including marketing advertising, etc.

You get the job done, as you yourself say. Maybe you just haven't found the job that inspires you go "above and beyond," maybe you're just a work-to-live kind of person. Either way you sound like you are potentially a good employee to any company willing to recognize your value.

So - start applying for jobs, and cast a wide net, since you haven't settled on a particular field yet. Don't limit yourself to admit positions. Visit company web sites when you apply, and use the interviews to learn more about the positions. Job-hunting sucks but you will find something better than your current gig if you are persistent and motivated.

Then run, run, run from the toxic environment you are in. You are not worthless, you are not incompetent, and letting your own father put you down like that is destroying you!
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2008

Admit positions = admin positions of course. Typo sneaked past previewing.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2008

Oh God honey, please get out! You sound horribly depressed, and this situation could easily drive you over the edge. Take care of yourself first and foremost!

Since the pay is bad, the situation is bad, the commute is bad, the work sucks, it seems the only reason you're staying is because you're afraid of hurting your father and your relationship. Take a step back, though, and without trying to separate job from family (he obviously doesn't) consider what your relationship is like *now*. Is it better than before you took the job with him? No? Then this job situation is ruining any chance for you to be happy together.

Also, take your own speech seriously. If he shouldn't be treating you like that because you're an employee, then you shouldn't be taking it, as an employee.

He is obviously not as concerned with hurting you as you are with hurting him. Suck it up and quit, and tell him why. "You say hurtful things, you don't respect me, you raise your voice at me, and out of self respect I am quitting this job. Good luck finding another person to take my place." Then just turn and leave.

Dealing with the following shitstorm: He will scream and insult you. Walk Away. You will drive home sobbing, but you'll start feeling better about your actions in a few days, when you realize that you were being treated like a doormat and you've finally expressed some self-respect. After that I bet a few months will go by with no communication. But I can almost promise you that it won't last forever... and when you do get back in touch, things will be much better.

Now about your wedding: FWIW, my own dad - and I love him dearly - is somewhat like this, and we were in a similar situation financially. I learned 3 valuable things.
1) Accepting someone's money means accepting their input. Do you really want him involved in all the details, criticizing your choices, demanding that he edit the guest list, excluding one of your friends for one of his? If not, don't accept the money. Be gracious but assertive.
2) The stress of a wedding makes everyone into an ogre. This is not the best situation for someone who blows their top under stress. If your dad is prone to shouting and insults anyway, expect it to get worse. Much worse.

And most importantly:
3) EVERYONE IN THE FAMILY ALREADY KNOWS WHAT YOUR DAD IS LIKE. They will not judge you for not taking his money. They will applaud you for quitting the job (it's very likely that they're feeling sorry for you right now, wondering how you've managed so far). It was truly a revelation to me to find this out once I got to interact with family away from him. (Besides, your quitting a job is only big news in your life. Not theirs. I doubt they'll be all that interested, or create "new problems" for you like you fear).

Besides, the problems you're having are between you and him, and the choices you make are for your own health, not to avoid judgement by family members.
posted by GardenGal at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain. I moved to Phoenix to work with my parents and it was a disaster in too many ways to go into here. I was afraid our relationship (already pretty bad) wasn't going to survive me resigning ... but it did and I'm so much healthier and happier for it.

As for the money for your wedding? You and the guy need to each get two jobs, save some money and pay for it yourselves. All money comes with strings attached and when you have difficult parents, those strings can be strangling. Believe me when I tell I know this first hand.

It's not fair to you or your boyfriend to have to deal with someone like this. Learning to draw boundaries is tough for folks struggling with depression (and many who aren't) but consider this your first lesson. And then buy a nice bottle of wine to celebrate.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:35 AM on June 5, 2008

Everyone who knows your father does not love him. They either fear him (like you) or tolerate him (his work peers).

He's an asshole. He's the type that "asshole" was re-defined to describe. I mean, a guy who browbeats his own depressed kid into working for him for less than the going rate? Grade A, top-notch, no-holds-barred asshole.

Get out. DOn't even give him the pleasure of an reason - his response will be, "You're such a loser you should have left on the first day." Of course, he's an asshole, so you shouldn't believe him. Really, assholes like this can poison your life. I hope to Christ that you're not letting him walk you down the aisle when you get married - there's no apologies he could possibly give to deserve that honor. Have a wedding with people you like, and make it a size you can afford.

(to my own wedding, I specifically invited my aunt and one cousin, and not two other cousins that live under the same roof, because of the way the little pricks treat my grandparents)
posted by notsnot at 11:51 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh wow. This is exactly how it would've gone if I my father were to have had a business he could've hired me to work at about six years ago. I was engaged for a while up until about three years ago, too, and had similar qualms about accepting money from my father for the wedding. (Ultimately, I broke off the engagement, so it became a non-issue, but if that hadn't occurred I would've faced a number of choices similar to those you're facing currently.)

Here's the deal: You can't let him hold money for the wedding (or anything else, for that matter) over your head. Long story short, he's abusing you. Mentally abusing you. It doesn't matter whether he's nice to everyone else in the world or has tons of friends and relatives who love him—he's abusing you.

My advice? Get out. Move away if necessary. Take steps to secure counseling and a new job. Do your own thing—'cause you can't wait for him to get his act together and stop treating you like shit. It most likely won't happen until every last person has left him to his own devices. (And from what you say about your family, it doesn't sound like they're cutting off support for him anytime soon, so you can't count on that.) You have to do what's right for yourself. Someone this unwilling to examine and modify his own behavior isn't going to realize the folly of his ways until things go terribly wrong and he has no support from the people he's abused for years—and again, I'm not sure that kind of spiritual kick to the head is going to hit your father at any point in the near future.

Have you talked to your fiancé about this, beyond complaining about the job? You need to have a frank discussion with him about all of these issues—your family's history of depression, your father's treatment of your mother, your father's treatment of you both historically and in the workplace now, the impact the situation has had on your relationship as a couple—and work on a plan to move forward together. Before you can take any of the drastic actions I and others in this thread are suggesting, you need to make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page. Some questions to consider: Could your fiancé support you while you switch jobs and/or move, and would he be willing to do so? How would you and your fiancé finance the wedding without your father's support? Are there ways to cut costs and do it yourself, or would you both be willing to elope or postpone the wedding? Is your fiancé willing to join you in taking actions, however mild, that might result in an overblown reaction from your family and/or alienation from your side of the family as a future married couple?

Most important, try to think of ways to negotiate these changes gracefully, incurring the least damage to everyone involved. Don't burn any bridges or issue any proclamations to your father or your family unless your hand is forced—and think carefully about just what it would take to force your hand. Remember: You don't need to tell anyone in your family anything, negative or positive. You're not obligated. You hold the cards at this point, because you know how you feel about the situation, and you know that something's wrong, because you've come to us for advice. You're starting to figure out what needs to happen, so you can plan ahead and choose a course of action that will take you out of this situation with the fewest complications. Of course you don't want to stay in this situation longer than is absolutely necessary, but you also know that you're strong enough to have dealt with your father's shit for years and still come out of it pretty self-aware and willing to improve your lot in life—so if need be, I'm guessing you can remain outwardly stoic and graceful for the few weeks you'll need to plan an alternate future. (It helps to remind yourself that this is only temporary and that soon—soon!—you'll get to ditch this for good.)

You don't have to tell your father what you think about his behavior right now, or your full reasons for leaving. You don't need to tell your father anything about your plans or aspirations. But on the day when you have everything in place and you're ready to walk out, you can simply say, "I found a better job and I'm leaving." Or "My fiancé and I have decided to move [for his job/for my job/for a better environment/to escape allergies/whatever reason you want to tell him], so I won't be able to continue working for you." You can even just ditch work the day you leave and call him—or take a few days off and then call him on the day you were set to return to inform him you've moved. Think outside the box—you're not obligated to be in his presence. When you do inform him of your decision (if you inform him), don't listen to his jeers and digs about how you'll never amount to anything; don't listen to anything else he might say to try to say to hurt you or make you reconsider your decision at that point. He hasn't earned that consideration from you, and most likely, anything you say will just be used as ammunition for further attacks against you anyway.

Just quietly, carefully separate yourself from the situation, then move forward with your plan. Deal with things as they come, then work on recovering and imagining a better life for yourself.
posted by limeonaire at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing quit (or more like QUIIIIIIIT!!!!) for sure, but get a new job lined up first to ease the transition and make the whole quitting process less stressful, with no hard feelings. (Temping seems like the route to go given your situation.) As someone who worked in an abusive environment every day for over a year (at two different consecutive jobs!), it was like the sun coming out after a thunderstorm when I got a new job where people actually acted like professionals. I just couldn't believe it existed until I experienced it for myself. Sounds melodramatic, but I lived it. Some jobs just suck--it's not you, it's the job. But you'd never know that unless you got another job where you got occasional positive feedback instead of a continuous stream of temper tantrums and insults, right?

Also, please don't let anyone dangle wedding costs over your head as a condition of your continued employment or anything else, implicit or otherwise. It's supposed to be a gift, not a payment for services rendered. Weddings are largely overrated parties anyway; what matters most in a marriage is the long-term union, not the event. That's the point of being married - being together in a long-term relationship, not having an expensive party with tons of gifts and guests. Plus, if after the fact your dad has some attitude that he's entitled to this-or-that because "I paid for your (bleep)ing wedding, god(bleep)it" that seems like a net loss to me.

Your dad isn't doing you a favor by employing you; he's doing you a monumental disservice and reaping the financial and emotional benefits while you suffer in both respects. RUN!
posted by ostranenie at 11:54 AM on June 5, 2008

I would like to congratulate you for writing a well-worded AskMeFi post, tossing an Achewood quote in as your anonymized email, and being willing to confront this situation instead of letting it continue to get you down. You may not realize it, but you've already succeeded in attaining a level of self-awareness that many people never reach.

What you can do is this: Come up with a vision of how you would like your life to be, and take the steps to get there. You do not want to battle your father or disappoint your family by causing strife, so don't extract yourself in a flashy manner. Tell your father you'd be more comfortable working elsewhere, and start attempting to set up interviews, even if it just means temping for a while. You're not incompetent, or unemployable, or any other ridiculous thing you'd like to label yourself in lieu of confronting the fact that you have a degree, work experience, and a pretty good work ethic.

Stop viewing it as "trying not to screw this job up" and just as working at a job. You can't approach a job that way, otherwise you'll never be productive due to the worrying that you might make a mistake. I can't just say that you need confidence in your skills, but it should be there. Do what you're good at, ask for help doing the things you are unsure of, and communicate well. Any employer, your father or otherwise, who is frustrated with an employee who does these things is probably borderline incompetent himself and needs to rage at someone else. Get away from this man, he is toxic.
posted by mikeh at 12:37 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

...magical phrase I can utter that will somehow make my father have empathy...

This is just so sweet and so sad, that you hope to get this kind of magic. Sweet, because it's so much the kind of wish that you must have had as a little girl. Sad, because there is no such magic. You can't change him, stop trying.

You don't mention anything about alcohol use when you were growning up, but your description sounds spot on for an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. Not that you need to do anything about that now, but maybe file it away for future consideration.
posted by jasper411 at 12:37 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

No question about it - quit. Right now. No notice, just walk out. There is no reason to work for an employer that treats you with that level of disrespect, and the fact that that employer is your father is completely irrelevant.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:41 PM on June 5, 2008

Just stopping in to agree with jasper411. So much of this post resonated with me but particularly poignant was that very clear daddy hunger .... I know it all too well. Counseling is the only thing that helps quell it but it never goes away ... at least it didn't for me.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:51 PM on June 5, 2008

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, QUIT. I got thru the first few linesof your post and knew the answer to this one.
posted by fumbducker at 1:42 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Unless what you're relating is fundamentally inaccurate, you are so far from overreacting it's ludicrous. The way your father is treating you is reprehensible. Unacceptable for an employer and frankly odious and contemptible for a father.

There is no avoiding his reaction which will be bad. I'd say leave the personality stuff out and stick to things like wanting to be more independent, really get out there on your own, problems with the commute, strive for a higher function job with more mobility etc. Stick to your story no matter what he says. He can't make you say. Make it clear your decision is final and it isn't a negotiation, you aren't looking for more money or anything, you have decided you need a different job.

If I call his personality right from your sketch he will indeed freak out because controlling you and lording it over you obviously pleases some aspect of his clearly afflicted psychology. To cover the "sticking him with all the work" issue you may wish to offer to give up to X time (whatever you think you can tolerate) to help make a good transition to a new hire, rather than just a standard two weeks or whatever. Two months is a generous allotment, I wouldn't go over that. Under no circumstances accept an open-ended commitment to continue until someone gets hired.

There's a chance he will lose it and tell you to just pack up and go, if he does for heaven's sake take advantage of the gift and get out. Under no circumstances work for your father ever again. You can't help being depressed and thin-skinned but that is no excuse for being stupid. There are only two things you can do about the emotional reaction to your quitting: stay calm and stick to your guns.

I'll do as I've done several times previously and suggest looking into clerical temporary work. It has a low entry level, it's a simple way to build up an office work resume, and believe me, if you indeed "get all vital work done in a timely manner" you'll be a fucking rock star. I found it a real confidence booster after a bruising job experience: it was a reminder that, despite my feelings after spending a year under the burden of truly impossible expectations, I was a basically competent person. I ended up with a stack of good references and getting subsequent work was quite easy.

WRT the family reaction and your relationship with your parents, let's face it: to the degree it's screwed up it's due to people who are not managing mental health issues. Whatever the fallout from this, it's just an external symptom of that underlying disorder, so there isn't a hell of a lot you can do about it. Except focus harder on managing your own issues, honestly it sounds like the idea that your depression is "mostly controlled" sounds pretty optimistic. Your beating yourself up about whether to get out of a grossly untenable situation because your self esteem is wrecked, you sound prone to making assumptions about the way things are that are bad for you (you assume everyone else thinks your father is great, you assume the reason you were laid off from your last job was incompetence, not just ordinary economics that zap people's jobs every day, you assume your family will feel "disgust" with you for making a perfectly ordinary decision about your own employment, you assume you are incompetent to get other work). It sounds to me like a lot of work that needs more than pills to resolve. Good luck.
posted by nanojath at 1:44 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with the others that your post seems wonderfully self-aware, if excessively self-critical. I also agree with the overwhelming sentiment that you should quit, but I think it's too easy for outsiders to imagine you saying "Take this job and shove it."
Or, for that matter, that you should just get another job -- which I agree would be best, and suppose you do too. A couple of thoughts . . .

First, I seriously doubt that your father has the saintly reputation you suppose, and doubt your statement that "I'm pretty sure that my entire family will be disgusted with me if I leave my dad out in the cold." I think that's your low self-esteem talking.

Second, I understand why you want to have a non-confrontational excuse. If you get another job, saying something semi-truthful like "Thanks, Dad -- couldn't have had the courage or self-confidence to take this new position without the opportunity you gave me. [Couple with allusion to some decision he made to leave a prior job to enhance understanding.]" Even if not, cite gas prices, draining effect of commute, or something like that which allows you both to save face.

Good luck. Your post really makes you sound like a fantastic person, just under-appreciated, both by your father and most of all by you yourself.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:45 PM on June 5, 2008

Please get away from him. It's an unfortunate fact of life that you can't choose the family you are born into, but you can choose what kind of contact you have with them as an adult.
posted by crankylex at 2:02 PM on June 5, 2008

Quit. Do it responsibly and ethically, and give him time to find a replacement. Don't burn the bridge- he's your dad. But quit.

Lay the groundwork first- find the next job, find a replacement for yourself (if you can), and get out there.

Good luck!
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:06 PM on June 5, 2008

Get a job closer to home. You can do this in about a day via a temp agency.

Give your two weeks notice. This is going to suck, but just be really professional about it. Thank him for giving you the opportunity for a job, but tell him that it's time for you to move on and make your own way.

I'm pretty sure that my entire family will be disgusted with me if I leave my dad out in the cold.

Calmly suggest that perhaps they'd like to work for him, then.

It'll be a lot of drama for awhile, which will most likely calm down. He'll find another employee who's not his kid, and it'll work out better for him, too.

You sound like you're processing all of this remarkably well. Look, I love my dad, but I wouldn't work for him in A MILLION YEARS, and most people I know feel the same way.
posted by desuetude at 2:24 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

give him time to find a replacement

Two weeks notice is as much as I would give him, I wouldn't want to stick around in what may be an even more toxic/volatile situation for longer than that. Two weeks is pretty standard.
posted by zarah at 2:26 PM on June 5, 2008

I wouldn't accept this behavior from my father or my boss. You're not overreacting. You need a new job. He needs to start respecting you. Period.

Anything else is unfair to you as a human being. Get out of this cycle now.
posted by dosterm at 2:39 PM on June 5, 2008

My father constantly brags to his colleagues that I was the only sucker willing to take this job for such a pathetic salary, which pretty much cements my assumption that I'm worth next-to-nothing.

He lets you hear him say this because he's brainwashing you into thinking you're worthless, and it's working. If a friend of yours told you this story, would you tell her that her father is right, she's stupid and useless and deserves to be exploited? No, you wouldn't. So why do believe him yourself? Aren't you your own friend?

Start looking for another job now, quit your current job as soon as possible, when he starts in abusing you for quitting walk away or hang up the phone, continue to walk away or hang up the phone every single time he says anything to you that is not purely kindness and love, and consider carefully whether you want this person to have any control over your wedding.
posted by lemuria at 3:04 PM on June 5, 2008

I'll add one more instruction: if you can, please update us via the mods when you are out of there. I really want to hear that you have won out, here.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:52 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Like everyone already said, you need to get out of there ASAP. Your primary concern at this point needs to be you - not your father, what others might think of you or the work this ends up sticking other people with. Your relationship with your fiance is also very important here, and you said you're worried that's been suffering because of this also.

I would go further by suggesting that you should NOT worry about finding a job before you leave this one. You're already commuting what, 3 hours a day? When would you have time to find a job? It would also be intensely stressful for you to actively look for a job while you're working for him, and I think it would make you feel worse about yourself than you already do. No, you need to get out of there first. Give him two weeks' notice. Don't wait for another eruption to make this decision as that'll just make you more emotional than you already will be. If you're worried about him taking this too personally, just try to be as objective as you can from an employee standpoint. The commute is way too long, and you want to spend more time with your fiance by working closer to home. Your father, of all people, should be able to understand that his daughter wants to spend time with her future husband as you might want to have a family of your own. If he still tries to belittle you, then you can also let him know that his treatment of you is another factor in your leaving.

As for the wedding, you can figure that out afterwards. And don't let anyone tell you you don't have any marketable skills - secretarial skills are extremely marketable. Plus, you have a college degree, which helps as well.
posted by wondermouse at 5:51 PM on June 5, 2008

You know what? Your dad sounds like a grade-A, first-class, Olympic-level asshole.

You wouldn't yell at a random employee like that. When I am here, I am your employee, not your daughter

He shouldn't be yelling at his daughter like that, either.

I think I'm making this out to be more than it is or I'm overreacting or something.

Absolutely not. You're tolerating an unfathomable amount of shit.

Is there some magical phrase I can utter that will somehow make my father have empathy ... ?


My father constantly brags to his colleagues that I was the only sucker willing to take this job for such a pathetic salary, which pretty much cements my assumption that I'm worth next-to-nothing.

Deadly cycle. So long as you feel like a sucker, you'll act like a sucker (e.g., putting up with shit pay and a job that subjects you to daily emotional abuse); so long as you act like a sucker, you'll feel like a sucker. Break out of it however you can. You can start by taking charge of your own happiness and quitting this job.

Should I quit?


How do I deal with the inevitable shitstorm that comes with my resignation if I do quit?

One day at a time, and with your own interests put first.

I'm pretty sure that my entire family will be disgusted with me if I leave my dad out in the cold.

Leave him out in the cold? If he's not willing to treat you with basic human dignity, what makes you think you owe him anything?

It sounds like your father has been telling you you're a loser for your whole life, and that's undoubtedly why you feel like a loser. Even if you are a loser (which I doubt; you seem honest and intelligent and sincere), you don't deserve this treatment. Your father is the one with the problem.
posted by greenie2600 at 6:59 PM on June 5, 2008

Man, I just have to say it again:

Quit. Please.

And put this man as far out of your life as you can. I know he's your father, and because that, he's a part of you. But he's a part that you don't need. When you come to terms with the causes behind your depression, as I hope you will, I think you will be amazed to realize how much of the unhappiness in your life is the direct fault of this man.
posted by greenie2600 at 7:11 PM on June 5, 2008

Everybody's already said what I would. Go ahead and temp closer to home - the work may not be particularly thrilling, but it'll be flexible and you might even make connections which lead to a new job, while you continue to hunt.

As far as the wedding, you and your fiance should plan a wedding the two of you can budget for together. That way, you can calmly and politely keep your Dad out of your business. If he's this bad as boss, do you really want him holding the purse strings to your wedding?
posted by canine epigram at 6:05 AM on June 6, 2008

Even if your father were an angel, you deserve something more, and, more importantly, something vastly different from, a menial secretarial/all-in-one office wench position. You've moved a lot of people to respond here, which says something about you.

It is so very hard to be an expressive, creative person in a limiting, overly-structured, brain-numbing place and position of employment. Even if you don't feel up to defining your career and getting it going at this point--which is understandable--at least if you were shelving books or cleaning out fish tanks or any of a thousand other jobs your could have a little brain space to yourself.

When you're depressed, it's easy to believe that what you really need is some time to just breathe, to idle down and get your shit together. And that might be true to a certain extent, but what often happens is that the idling down part goes fine, but the getting your shit together part never comes around.

If you can quit now, quit; if you have to wait until you have something else in the works, of course your hands are tied, but start making your way out either way.

By yourself, write down some possible plans, like, say, going back for your MFA, working part time on campus, and taking advantage of student counseling resources. You're not married to anything you write down--just throw some ideas out there, even crazy things that seem totally impossible. You might be surprised to find that some part of you in there already knows what you want to and should do, but that you have to write down something silly like mail delivery by day, aerialist by night to open up the part of your brain that's keeping it a secret. :)

If he's supportive, tell your fiance what you've told us. Ask if he will help you figure out which option would work best. Tell him that you know you've not been easy to live with recently, but that you're trying to get it together. No drama--just calm and straightforward. Tell him that your depression sometimes makes it hard for you to self-start, and that if he could give you a gentle push in the right direction (by doing things like picking up an enrollment packet from the university and getting your transcripts sent over, or keeping an eye out for peaceful, brain-space-offering positions in your area, or even helping to keep you on your plan not so much by doing anything for you but by giving you nudges or a 'goal for the day' every day for a while) it might be enough to get things underway. Tell him that once you get started you're a fucking dynamo, but that you could really use a jump start right now, need his help to get your life legs back, and need to feel as though someone is in your corner.

Keep everything plan-related in one place--a folder or notebook--and be sure to cross things out as you do them and reward yourself for them. Seeing that progress will help pull you out of your funk in small ways, which may be enough to get you toward the big hurdle of finding help for your larger issues.

You're already firmly in the drivers' seat of your own pantswagon, but you're asleep, coasting. Take some time to begin to wake up and drive.
posted by littlegreenlights at 11:27 AM on June 6, 2008

follow-up from the OP
After posting my question my feelings of sadness and terror of screwing up have been replaced with equally healthy feelings of anger and disgust. I am job searching my ass off and I am very serious about getting out of here. I intend to play up the commute misery and explain that I need to work closer to home so I can start planning my wedding (my father is ridiculously excited about this wedding). As much as I would like to say, "you've always been an abusive asshole" and slam the door in his face, I just don't have it in me. My fiance helpfully pointed out that one of my sisters had a similar situation to my own when she was living with my father a couple years ago (she managed to GTFO), and it is comforting to realize that I may actually have an ally in my family after all.

I want to thank everyone who answered. "I can't believe you have to ask this question" responses elicited some much-needed laughs and that whole thing about being an adult child of an alcoholic is right on the money. The outpouring of sympathy was immensely helpful. When I was a kid I was taught that feelings were unnecessary ("it's not worth getting upset about" is my mom's mantra) and that you should be thankful to have any employment, even if your job makes you want to throw yourself in front of a bus. It's great to know neither of these things are true and I should be demanding respect in the office. So yeah, I'm looking forward to giving my 2-week notice and getting back into therapy again, now that I won't be spending 3 hours on a train everyday.

Thanks a ton!
posted by jessamyn at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sweet! Best of luck!
posted by greenie2600 at 4:36 PM on June 23, 2008

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