A reader writes:
I’m stuck in a dead-end publishing job. I’ve been here three and a half years, and it’s clear this job is going nowhere. Basically, I manage the entire office, do all contracts, finish all deals, work with clients, but all the money goes into my boss’s pocket. I generate a lot of income for the company, but my annual bonus is very small and I make under $35k a year after three and a half years.
I’m now looking for a new job in a completely unrelated industry, but my boss has been getting steadily worse over the years and her behavior is driving me up the wall. A few times, clients mailed Christmas gifts to me to show their gratitude for something I did. The notes written were addressed to me. The labels on the gifts had my name. My boss took these gifts without consulting me. The only reason I knew about them was that 1) I saw her hoarding them and 2) she told me to write thank you notes pretending that I was the real recipient of the gifts they sent. Two or three times in the past when my parents called the office, my boss told them there was no one here with my name. One time my friend called with an emergency. There is nothing wrong with my friend’s English or my parents’ English. Both times my boss told them either 1) they had called the wrong number or 2) there was no one working there of that name.
My boss also picks my vacation days for me and told me, for snow days, that I could sleep in the office instead of commuting home. In July, she was already telling me about how I couldn’t be out for any snow days. Then when I told her if she was really adamant about it, maybe I could stay overnight in the office for just a day, she told me that was no longer an option and she would have to call her insurance company.
When I tried negotiating a raise for my salary, she told me I could use my 401(k) plan. She also at one point asked me to decide between a raise and better health insurance. She said she could either give me a raise using health insurance money or put my raise money in health insurance.
She also makes racist comments. One time, she mimicked an Asian accent in front of me. And she lies about working from home and taking three-week-long “business trips.” When my stepdad passed away from an aneurysm (he’d been living with my mom for the last few years), she said it was a great time for me to take advantage of the situation and move to a predominantly Asian community (Queens, NY). And believe it or not, she never once offered during this time to give me a day off to deal with the illness, death, or any of the aftermath of the death. I came to work every day, knowing she would raise a stink otherwise.
I’m trying desperately to leave this job. I’m using two headhunters while also applying to jobs on my own directly to employers. At the same time, this job is really getting on my nerves, and I’m at the point where I would be fine quitting without even giving two weeks’ notice. Should I stick it out until I find a new job or can I quit now?
Let’s be clear: Your boss is a horrible person.
But if you can manage to stick it out there until you find a new job, I would, for a few reasons:
1. It’s easier to find a job when you’re employed. Rightly or wrongly, many, many employers favor job candidates who are already employed. They assume they’re more valuable (someone is currently paying to employ them!), they assume your skills are fresher, and they don’t have to wonder why you’re not working.
2. Quitting without a job lined up will raise red flags for some employers. Righty or wrongly (again), employers generally assume that people don’t quit jobs without another one lined up unless (a) they were about to be fired, (b) they actually were fired, or (c) they’re can’t or won’t hack it when things get frustrating.
Hiring managers do realize that some jobs (or bosses) are so terrible that a reasonable person might quit with nothing else lined up. But because it’s difficult to tell from the outside what the real story was and because they don’t know you, it’s often a red flag anyway. That is unfair, yes, but it’s the nature of having to use limited data to make risk assessments.
3. Finding another job can take a long time. In this job market, it’s not unusual for a job search to take a year or more. Plus, even if your finances allow you to go without work for that long, simply being unemployed — especially for a long time — may make it harder to find your next job (see #1 above). As a result, you risk walking away from a bad situation only to find yourself in a much worse situation (unable to pay bills, unable to find decent employment, or forced to take the first job offered to you even if it’s a bad fit). You want to take your next job from a position of strength, not feel obligated to take an offer because you’re running out of time or money.
4. If you’re currently employed when you become a finalist for a job you want, you have an excellent reason for not letting your crazy manager be contacted, since it’s widely understood that many candidates don’t want their current manager contacted because it could jeopardize their job. But if you’re not working there anymore, it’s much harder to explain why reference-checkers shouldn’t contact her (and you really don’t want them calling her, since this is a woman who has told callers she doesn’t even know you, when you’re sitting down the hall from her).
None of this means that you can’t decide that quitting now is the best option for you anyway; it very well might be. But if you can stick it out until you have a new job, I’d try to, and meanwhile kick your job search into high gear.
But wow, your boss is a horrid, horrid person.