is it okay to let your organization manage you out of a job you hate?

A reader writes:

Is it ever ok to let your organization manage you out of your current job? I am in a position which has seen a significant increase in both tasks and expectations and yet has made no staffing or salary accommodations to support this situation. In short, I feel as though I am in a firefight which is rapidly becoming an inferno, the hose is out of water and it is taking everything I have on a daily basis not to put it down and walk away. If you knew me in real life, you would know this is so not who I am — I am an extremely dedicated worker who gives it all I’ve got — I have simply allowed this job to squash my soul and now have nothing left to give to it. (My boss has told me I am numb and also a whiny babyhead, and the phrase “I’m done” keeps ringing in my head so I’m guessing it’s time to move on.)

I am starting my job search but would like to take my time to find the right position. In the meanwhile, there are tasks (goals — nonsense goals that to my mind only serve to put management in a position to receive a bonus, not actually effect any change to the service of our customers — not bitter, just sayin’) which I have no interest whatsoever in completing. Should I decide to let them truly drop, I suppose they could start the process of terminating my employment (large corporation which moves at the speed of a glacier, with an additionally bad track record of managing out bad employees so at least I would see it coming for a mile before it actually happened) but at this point, I’m not sure it matters to me what they do. All I want is to be left alone to do the best work for our customers and for my coworkers until I find something else.

In order to not be too much of a trouble maker in the interim, shall I just let it ride and see what happens with my current gig or would you recommend I give notice and take up temp work while I look for something permanent?

It tends to be easier to find a new job while you’re still employed, so if you can stomach staying where you are while you search, I would. Yes, you can take up temp work, but getting full-time temp work (or even part-time temp work) isn’t as easy as it used to be. We’ve had plenty of reports here from people who have tried to temp and never gotten any work. So don’t count on that as a sure thing unless you have reason to be certain of it. And even if you do temp full-time, it won’t give you the same job search benefits that staying at your current job will — you won’t be considered “currently employed” in the way that you would in a non-temp job, you’ll be facing questions about why you quit with nothing lined up, and it might even be harder to take time off for interviews (since temp jobs are often less flexible than others).

However, in the meantime, you can’t “let things drop” at your current job and allow them to start the process of managing you out. You might think that it’ll take a long time and you’ll have a new job before they get to the end of the process, but there are several pretty big problems with that thinking:

1. You have no way of knowing if you’ll have found a new job by the time they’re ready to fire you or not. Job searches in this market are often taking a really long time — in some cases, a year or more.

2. More importantly, you will do fatal harm to your reputation. You don’t want to be known — to coworkers, managers, vendors, and others who interact with you — as the person who fell apart, let goals drop entirely, got sloppy, etc. You may think you don’t care what they think of you, and you might not right now — but reputation has a way of following you about. You don’t want to make your escape from this job only to find that your reputation at it gets in the way of you getting a job you really want in the future. Your reputation has a huge bearing on what options are available to you in the future — don’t cripple yourself by letting yours slip.

So if at all possible, stay where you are and continue to do a good job while you look for another. Do not decide that being managed out — i.e., fired — is a solution, because while it might solve your immediate problem (a job you hate), there’s too high of a chance that it will cause you far more in the future.

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. Sasha*

    OP, I was in a similar situation about a year ago at my job (things have gotten better after some conversations). I was ready to just quit, or stay and do the bare minimum. I’m glad I did not for a couple of reasons:

    – I interviewed at a company and got at tentative job offer that seemed very promising. I was told plans were in motion to create a position for me, and had regular updates from the HR director for a few months. One day it dried up and I haven’t heard from the company since.
    – I finally had conversation with my director about my responsibilities and he is now fighting to get me a promotion/raise and moved to a different area where I will be more effective/happier. Had I just let everything slide and done enough to eek by, he would not have considered my request.

    Please follow Alison’s great advice. I think there are just too many unknowns to risk it at this point.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. I too hated my last job and thought I was THISCLOSE to an offer at another agency, so it was really hard to keep caring. It’s a good thing I didn’t let my work slide, because not only did the job offer not pan out, someone at the no-longer-hiring agency told my then-boss I was interviewing, and all of a sudden I had to have a difficult conversation with my boss far sooner than I wanted to. If I had slacked off, he might have decided, “she’s about to leave, and she’s obviously checked out so she’s not any good to me anyway, so I might as well let her go,” whereas the conversation was more like “how can we make you happier here?”

      …and then I really DID get a job a few months after it all went down (thank Cthulhu). But it could have gone much worse if I’d sandbagged it.

  2. Katie the Fed*

    OP – have you been evaluated for depression?

    You sound incredible burnt out, which can go hand-in-hand with depression sometimes. It might not be a bad idea to talk a professional to see if there might be some of that going on, and to help sort things out.

    I hit a period of serious burnout a few years ago and I was ready to up and quit. I also recognized that I was spiraling into depression. Talking to a therapist helped me separate out the problems (what was external and I couldn’t affect, what was coming from me, etc) so I could cope in the interim. But it also helped me identify more appropriate work conditions in which I could thrive, and learn to set some boundaries in my professional life. Everything’s not perfect now, but I’m doing a lot better than I was.

    Just a thought.

  3. Eric*

    Is “managed out” are common phrase in place of fired? When I read it I thought it meant have the organization reorganize and eliminate the position.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve rarely heard a non-managerial employee use it — I usually hear it in the context of managers talking about how to handle someone who isn’t performing well. It can cover a couple of different options: outright firing someone, or “coaching them out.” The latter is basically a candid conversation (or series of conversations) about the job not being the right fit, and talking honestly about how to proceed — when handled right, it can lead to the employee making the decision to leave themselves.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s also used at firms where there are a set number of specific ratings they have to hand out – say 10% Good, 50% Mediocre and 40% Does Not Meet Expectations. Those who get the low end of the rating scale are basically put on a Personal Improvement Plan and end up fired or leaving anyway.

        It’s like Roman Decimation, without the blood.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve always heard it used as a euphemism for firing someone, although I believe it can also include cases where people have gotten a couple of promotions but are told they aren’t going to advance any further so they need to look at going elsewhere.

      2. Elizabeth*

        These remind me of the euphemisms that private schools sometimes use when they decide that a kid/family shouldn’t be at the school any more: “counseling the family out” or “not inviting the student back.”

    2. KarenT*

      I always thought it meant putting someone on a performance plan and firing them if they didn’t meet expectations.

    1. De Minimis*

      I actually was in a similar situation with a previous position, knew almost immediately it was a “poor fit,” had a lot of trouble getting established [it was in professional services and you had to market yourself to find work] and just never got going there.

      I didn’t really have the option to perform to the point where they would keep me, but if I had been able to make it there I would have stayed until I found a job someplace else. I did end up being fired after my first year and did not find even part-time work again for nearly three years.

      So yes, try to hang on until you find something else.

  4. David Kemper*

    Wise counsel, and I think there are possibly some other options to take as well…

    IMHO we need to pay attention if it’s a job we hate. If it’s a toxic work environment, then as the saying goes, “when you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change HIS step” and we need to get out to preserve and not corrupt what is good in us. Or if there are extreme circumstances (illegal behavior, personal threats, etc.) There are options if this is the case. We all already have a permanent employer who will take care of us, no?

    That said, I think it’s wise to get counsel from friends and be willing to hear their counsel. Pray. It is SO hard to be objective in the “fog of battle.” If/when you leave, it should be a cool and reasoned decision, based in the wisdom of whatever group you have, not a compulsive leap.

    That said, if we’re going to be managed out, we also need to study what happened. What went wrong that I can control? It may not be much, but it’s the part I can affect. (and mostly, it’s bigger than we think at first…)

    We can also try other tactics like switching departments. I’m told that “we join because of the company and quit because of our boss.” Is there another alternative between staying and going?

    Lastly,and maybe in the case above, maybe it’s a time to experiment with something totally new. Try on a new work style – be more assertive. Negotiate the task list based on time available. Make the boss choose and at least be proactive about what is going to slip. It may turn the situation around. And, after all, if you’re going to go anyway, why not go while learning something (and hopefully doing something positive for the company to enhance your brand)

    Grateful for your voice in here.


    1. Worker Bee*

      Try to stay till you have something new. It seams your boss a jerk calling you babyhead. There might not be any reasoning with him. But maybe there is. Ask him for advice on handling your job. Or if he drops another task on you ask him “I am busy with xyz, can task a wait or has this one high priority? If so the are stuff has to wait..? How should I handle this”This takes a way the “whiny” part, you are not complaining but just giving the facts and asking for advice..

      Good Luck!

      1. Sasha*

        So in the past few days we’ve had one adult ask another adult if she “liked him liked him,” and then another adult call someone a “babyhead.” Sigh.

            1. Jamie*

              I actually had the weirdest AAM dream the other day.

              Elizabeth West, a regular poster here, showed up to conduct a surprise ISO audit of my plant. Part of this audit was several people in costume dressed like Sesame Street characters would be silently walking through the company and we’d be scored on the employees reactions to them. It was Cookie Monster and Harry and some orange one I don’t know the name.

              I tried to argue with her saying that muppets weren’t covered in my quality statement and I thought they were outside the scope of the audit. She wouldn’t budge, so I played the AAM card…hey we both post there cut me a break…but no dice…pretended she had no idea why I was.

              It was so freaking real I can still see Cookie walking through the press brake department checking product ID and traceability.

                1. Heather*

                  I’m impressed with your versatility…you can be a Muppet, ISO auditor & ninja all at once. That really should go on your resume. :D

  5. Jamie*

    There is a lot I can say here – but suffice to say I totally understand.

    Don’t get sloppy. Continue to take pride in your work because that’s who you are…which stays with you no matter for whom you’re working.

    Just beginning the process of looking for a new position can be ridiculously empowering. It’s your secret, you’re planning an escape, and it can make it MUCH easier to go through the motions once you know it’s temporary. It’s like any other painful process – we can endure almost anything if we know there is a finite duration. It’s when it feels like this is it for the rest of your life that the soul sucking becomes unbearable.

    I don’t have a lot of knowledge on this topic, but Katie mentioned depression above. It’s my understanding that that’s a chemical thing and while it can be exacerbated by circumstances, it can’t be caused my them. So if feeling like this is a pattern it’s something I’d encourage you to explore – but if it’s situational…well, I’ve had times in my life when I felt completely defeated and like total crap but they could all be traced back to a specific stressor: 1. the loss of both my parents and a miscarriage within 4 months, 2. my divorce, 3. a toxic job. Once I went through the healing the emotional symptoms went away…so there is a difference between being clinically depressed and life just kicking your ass for the time being.

    Good luck – I know this sucks.

    1. Been there!*

      I wholeheartedly agree with proactively looking for a job being empowering. It’s like in unhappy marriages where you’ve both agreed that, after all the arguing and fighting, the relationship is over and everyone is kinder to one another because the end is near. See the end, OP, by working hard at getting a new job (take your time to find a good fit, but stay on top of applications) and work on doing a SPECTACULAR job at your current place so that you can be proud of the way you exited this job and what you’ve left them with.

      1. Jamie*

        And the better you are at your current job the more they will kick themselves when you’re gone.

        Even though none of us are irreplaceable, some are less convenient to replace than others. This may not work if you’re less motivated by universe smackdowns than I am – I am fully vested in the whole living well is the best revenge thing.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Jamie, really great point. There is so much out there that we cannot change- it just happens and we are stuck with the fall out. I think any normal, thinking person would find the setting you describe to be absolutely CRUSHING.
      We dog-paddle, we ask for help, we work at all the issues and some how we do move out of that circumstance. But boy, when it is unfolding it seems like rolling thunder that will never, ever end. The level of activity required almost feels paralyzing. Where do I go now? Which ten problems do I take on in the next five minutes?
      I went to a shrink for grief counseling. What I was looking for was an action plan. I should have gone to a life coach, instead. They know how to talk a person through writing an action plan. And cheaper than a shrink….

      1. Jamie*

        You hit the nail on the head – five minutes.

        Great jobs you can have a 5 year plan. You get excited thinking about what’s happening this quarter, etc…

        When life is not that great take it in five minute chunks. I got through some dark times by promising myself I would allow myself to have a nervous breakdown just as soon as my youngest started college. Well – that’s coming up next year and that’s not on my bucket list anymore.

        The thing is to find the line where you allow yourself to feel bad about things that suck…but not to wallow in it as that only hurts you. So you worry about what you’re doing for the next 5-10 minutes all the way through each work day. At the end of the day decompress and start it up the next day. When I was in the midst of this I ended up feeling sorry for the “lifers.” My co-workers who were as miserable as I, but had no plan of escape. I felt like the one on the cell block that was getting a file smuggled inside a cake and everyone else was being left behind.

        Mental gymnastics – they sound crazy when you try to explain them to others sometimes, but they absolutely keep me sane.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          More good stuff, Jamie.

          Two things pop out at me:
          “Great jobs you can have a 5 year plan. You get excited thinking about what’s happening this quarter, etc…”

          I have never had a job with a five year plan. Never. uhh… makes me ask what else am I missing?
          Alison, perhaps we can do a little discussion about what a great job looks like?

          Second thing- “wallowing” occurs in part because of not knowing how to handle a situation and not having resources to aid in figuring it out. Yes, this could be called “belaboring” too. But I tend to think of wallowing as a longer time frame. Sadly, some folks enjoy wallowing. We have to move away from those folks- they will not be of help.

          That five minute plan is a heck of a way to work/live. The sheer desperation of hoping that we are hitting the important stuff. (“There. I got 3 out of the 10 things taking care of- whoops here comes my next group of 10. Wait. There is 7 from the last group that need work…. Hope I got the most important 3 out of that last batch!”)

          1. Jamie*

            Not all of them do – I know at my first performance review we did talk about the next five years to make sure that both my boss and I were on the same page for what my trajectory would like if I was successful in the position.

            And I don’t think I’ve ever had a firm 5 year plan in my own head- I landed into my career itself assbackwards…so I’m not the most organized about this.

            I’m more of a let things play out and then see what opportunities are best for me as they present themselves.

            But I do like that my company has long range plans and in a job you like you get excited about the new whatever you’ll be installing next year, or the path to expansion, or new markets to conquer…where in the lousy job I would just pray that I wasn’t there when any of that came to fruition.

            I do think it’s important to note that you can have a great job and still have a rough patch where you feel overstressed and overwhelmed and some days it can be hard to remember that overall the job is pretty great.

            I don’t get the sense from the OP that this is a temporary rough patch, but in general I do think it’s important to remember that there is no job which will feel like the proverbial unicorn riding a rainbow eating a cupcake every day. It’s so individual but it’s important to differentiate what is a truly lousy job and what can be salvaged and what isn’t really so bad and you’d realize that if you weren’t so freaking worn out and tired at the moment.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “It’s so individual but it’s important to differentiate what is a truly lousy job and what can be salvaged and what isn’t really so bad and you’d realize that if you weren’t so freaking worn out and tired at the moment.”


              But now, in hindsight, I think that coming home falling-down exhausted is the ONLY cue one needs to realize – changes have to happen. Whatever that means to each individual… “Something needs to change, I cannot function when I get home.”

  6. Dianne*

    I was in a similar position once – my company re-organized and I ended up in a job that I just didn’t want to do. I wanted to quit every day, or do a crap job because I couldn’t bear to do the work assigned to me, but I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I gave myself 6 months to find a new job, and in the interim I saved every possible penny just in case I wasn’t able to find a new position. Whenever I got overly frustrated or depressed I thought about my savings account.

    The money thing helped me personally but overall I think having a goal outside of ‘find a new job’ was what made every day tolerable. I lost a lot of weight too, because to save money I started eating lentils every day. My boss never called me a whiney babyhead though, I might’ve lost it completely if that happened.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    Yuk. This is soul killing.

    It will rot you at your very core, erode your principles and your ethics, take away your work standards, and lastly take away YOU!
    You become a person you do not even like.

    I know a bit about this topic. sigh.

    OP, let’s look for a minute at what is right here: You have a very clear (and probably accurate) description of your situation. (Don’t take that for granted- many employees have NO clue.)
    You realize you need an action plan. ( Again- good awareness.)
    You found this blog to write into and decided to write for help. (HUGE. Reaching out, taking a proactive step, etc.)

    These folks here are probably going to pour on tons of rich valuable advice. We will all learn something.

    My one contribution to the subject is this: If your employer does not invest in you and treats you like dirt that is one type of problem. If you do not invest in YOU and you treat you like dirt that is a whole much bigger problem.

    I know how crippling a situation like this can be. OP, invest in you at home. What would you like to do to fortify yourself before you are totally depleted by this draining situation? I would look at diet- how about some salad, fish etc. Drink plenty of water. I watch what I read- news will pull us down even further, so will crappy novels. Do you have books that are uplifting to read? How about exercise? Ten minutes a day? What about your friends- are some more positive than others? How do you reward yourself when you accomplish something that was difficult to do? (I thought an entire box of cookies was a reward…. no, it added to my problems.)

    Yeah, all this stuff does make a difference. We have to tell ourselves that we are worth it. And this is how we do it- we commit to an activity that makes us stronger in some way. “Yes, I am worth it!” (Not just for hair coloring, either!) Just mull over inside your mind- what ways are you willing to invest in yourself? Pick one or two ways that you think will have the most impact.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One thing I’d add is that it doesn’t have to be soul-killing or turn you into someone else! If it feels like that’s happening, it’s time to step back and distance yourself emotionally. There are strategies that you can use to get through this time with your core self intact, like the ones suggested by commenters above — and putting emotional distance between yourself and your job (which, after all, is just a job, although sometimes we forget that) can be enormously relieving.

      1. yasmara*

        I was thinking this too – emotional distance is key. That said, I think it’s a lot easier for some of us to do that than others. I’m an INTJ…emotional distance from my job is my *default* and I have to stretch myself to understand it when people I know (colleagues, people who work for me, husband, etc.) have trouble with this.

        I really underestimated the emotional toll on my husband when he was going through a tough period of work recently…it was a growth experience for both of us. He did learn some emotional distancing strategies & his situation improved & I was reminded that not everyone finds it so easy to emotionally leave work at work.

        I think that if the OP is an ENFP or other personality type that is more geared to extroversion and outside affirmation, she may have a lot harder time with this than some people do.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Oh my, how true, Alison. I think one way the problem mushrooms out is a person goes home so tired from the day that they fall into a pattern of work-sleep, work-sleep. Think “robotic”. And that is where the wheels really fall off.

        Having goals-targets with deadlines is a hugely helpful tool, also.
        Personally, I feel much better reading about other people’s experiences here. I wish this forum was alive when I was getting depleted years ago. But even now, there is something uplifting to know that other people see the same thing and they know what is being said here.
        When we start feeling like a robot- it is time to start making adjustments in what we are doing. And OP seems to be on track with this. As you are saying- there are so many tools to use here that will work.

      3. Joey*

        This is similar to my advice. People don’t control your happiness. If you’re unhappy you’re allowing yourself to be unhappy. I think a lot of us could find reasons to be unhappy with our jobs, but we make a decision to let the crap roll off our backs. Sometimes its tough, but a good place to start is to leave work problems at work.

        1. Dan*

          I’ve had a lot of crappy jobs over the years (they actually involved cleaning certain types of toilets, but that was one small aspect of the job) but I’ve always chosen (been able?) to look at the bright side. They really were fun and had positive aspects, so there was no need to dwell on the fact that it was grunt work while trying to figure other things out in my life.

      4. Anonymous_J*

        This. Exactly.

        I am getting through this by investing in myself when I am away from work . When I am at work, I’m about the WORK, and I do my best to ignore the people who give me trouble.

        Makes life a whole lot easier.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, very true. The thing about chronic stress is that it heightens your sensitivity to other stressors, and then you overreact to things that normally would roll off you. So you have to disengage to a point, or it will make you crazy.

        That was part of my problem that got me put on a PIP. I learned not to care about stuff I didn’t have to care about. Maybe it was an extreme reaction in the other direction, but it helped me be able to show up and do my job without ripping people’s heads off.

        1. Anonymous_J*

          Yeah, this is about where I am. Just not caring (beyond caring enough to get my job done well.)

          It’s a crazy world!

  8. Blinx*

    My soul was squashed at a few previous jobs. Some I left in time and with others I got swept up in layoffs. My last job I purposefully stuck it out in order to pass a milestone birthday and service anniversary which kicked me into lifelong benefits from the company (as well as generous severance benefits from the inevitable layoff). However, I was absolutely clueless as to how tough the job market actually was. I’d always found temp work before. Not this time. I’d always found a permanent position within a few months. This time, it’s more than a year later and I’m still looking. I’m staggered!

    If you’re unhappy, take the above advice and job hunt. You may find a position and company that you’ll be wildly enthusiastic about and can’t wait to get to every morning. Or, you may find that pay/benefits/challenging work a little hard to come by. If so, take a second look at what you’ve got. Approach it as if you’ve just replaced yourself — what’s not working, how can you tackle things differently? But do your best, regardless. You’ll be even less happy if you just let things slide.

    1. Anonymous_J*

      Yes. Temping is definitely not what it was in the past!

      For a while during my job search, I was talking to agencies and to people who were temping. I was seriously thinking about jumping ship to go back to temping. I was happier as a temp.

      After some investigating, I realized that that is no longer a viable avenue for someone who wants to leave a job. Too bad. :(

      I hope you find work soon!

  9. Amouse*

    OP you obviously have cause to be unhappy there. I cannot imagine being called a “whiny babyhead” by anyone over the age of 10, maybe even 8 or less.

    The worst thing you can do when you hate your job is let things slide. You will make yourself even more unhappy there. Find little things to take pride in and try to compartmentalize your tasks into manageable chunks. You don’t have to like the overall job but finding little daily goals, no matter how small, should help. Also, make sure you have a support network in your life; people who love you unconditionally and will listen to you talk about it until you are out of there. If you don’t, lean on a therapist. A lot of workplaces offer them for free (at least here in Canada), through an employee assistance program. Also taking care of basic health needs like getting enough sleep, vitamins and exercsise can help. Kickboxing can do wonders for stress relief. If you’re healthy and leading an otherwise happy life, you’ll also be in a better position to handle job-hunting and interviewing.

    Hang in there, I know it sucks. But hang in.

    1. Jamie*

      A lot of workplaces offer them for free (at least here in Canada), through an employee assistance program.

      Really? That’s awesome that it’s commonplace up there.

      I should look into a move north.

      1. Amouse*

        I’ve been lucky enough that’s it’s been common place at almost every place I’ve worked. They call it EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and you can just call a toll-free number and tell them your situation. They will counsel you over the phone or refer you to a therapist that is registered as part of their program and then the cost is covered for you. It is pretty awesome.

        Other than my current residence being situated in a place in Canada that’s -20-30C on average in the winter,I have no complaints about Canada :-)

      2. fposte*

        We have them here at the university, and that’s separate from the student support. It used to be severely limited (mostly a substance abuse referral, from what I gathered), but now it’s really broad and capable.

        I’ve mostly heard of them in government/university workplaces in the US, but I imagine they’re not the only examples. It’s a great idea if the organization is big enough to justify it and confidentiality is taken seriously.

        1. COT*

          I work for two private employers (a social-services nonprofit and a retail chain) and both offer EAPs. I think a lot of folks have this kind of program and just aren’t aware of it–so it’s worth looking into.

  10. fposte*

    In addition to the excellent points above, OP (especially about depression), I’ll note this: mediocrity becomes a habit. Disgruntlement becomes a habit. You will find it harder than you currently realize to let those things go when you move on to your shiny new job. If you can find ways to acknowledge the suck but find meaning for yourself amid it–make your own goals and don’t worry about ridiculous self-serving ones from on high–you will be in a much better position to kick serious ass at a place that deserves you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That habit thing- yeah, like ducking because the boss is going to start yelling. Ducking gets to be an automatic response. When my husband changed jobs years ago- he arranged to have a few days off between jobs. This helped him to blow out some cobwebs and lighten up a little. Yes, a bit of a risk to have no job for a few days but so worth it to clear out the fog banks and start fresh. He came home the first day at the new job walking three feet off the ground.

    2. Anonymous*

      +1. I’m going through this too, and if I let my own work slip it just makes me feel worse. I need to be able to know *for myself* that I’m doing a good job, in order to write good job letters, etc. for the next thing. If I let things slip, I become more depressed about future job prospects because I’m falling into negative habits. I also notice that a lot of my colleagues are basically living in those negative habits, which makes it easier to fall into them… and probably even more important that I don’t.

  11. Dan*

    The OP talks about how it takes “forever” to get managed out at his/her company. The thing is, money talks. If I had an underling who I caught wind was actively trying to prevent me getting my bonus, I’d manage them out at record breaking speed.

    If that sounds vindictive, I can’t see how. Bonuses are set up as a performance incentive to management, and part of management performance is managing out low performers. That manager would be doing exactly what s/he is supposed to be doing.

  12. Anonymous*

    [Not the OP, but escaped something similar within the past year.]

    I don’t think the advice to “stay and do a good job” reflects the dilemma OP faces. OP wrote in because “stay and do a good job” was what they had been trying to do, and things are only getting worse. OP is describing a situation where their reputation is going to fall one way or the other: Either they cannot meet management’s expectations, or else they will not be doing the best work for customers/coworkers.

    I read OP as asking which was better: to stay *or* do a good job: Should they stay but not meet goals (because management has made that impossible) until, OP presumes, they get “managed out”? Or should they leave, trying to find anything elsewhere, where they would be able to do a good job?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is how I read it, too. That management has decided OP is done here and it is just a matter of time. Since OP said this could take a year- I thought “try to hang tough.”
      But if OP is interfering with the boss’ potential bonus, as Dan mentions- whoops — need to recalculate that response. The moves everything up a notch.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s “stay and do a good job”–I think it’s “don’t lose yourself while preparing to leave.” Consciously prioritizing in a way that means lesser stuff doesn’t get done is fine; deliberately, passive-aggressively letting stuff drop because you’re sick of the place isn’t good for the OP and his/her future.

  13. Anon*

    I feel you OP, oh do I feel you. “So done” is my watch word right now. Normally, I’m a give 150% because that’s who I am. Now, it’s give 100% and try not to laugh as the higher ups sabotage themselves because they are ignoring advice for down here. I was so angry the other day I asked my SO if I could quit. I’ve never felt that way before and had the economy not been the way it is and I knew I’d get a job within a month, I would’ve walked out.

    Take AAM’s advice. It’s good as always. Do your job and look for a new one. I know I am.

  14. KayDay*

    Focus on doing your job in a way that will prepare you for your next job. (Do this as you are searching for a new job.) What can you accomplish in the short term that you can add to your resume/talk about in an interview? What skills should you beef up to help you with your next job. If you are able to frame your current job in a way that makes it part of your “plan” for getting out of the crappy situation, you will find yourself more motivated–both to do well at your current job and to deal with all the headaches of a job search.

  15. Lily*

    When you are overwhelmed by your work, then you have to stop doing some tasks. However I hope you will consult your boss about which tasks. After all, if your boss’ bonus depends on X, then someone above him decided that X is important! Was there a shift in company priorities?

    Customer and co-worker gratitude is also very satisfying, but some are surely more deserving of your best than others, so maybe you can pick and choose who gets your “best” service and just offer good service to others and even eliminate some services. This would also reduce your workload and give you time to work on your boss’ priorities which may even improve the atmosphere.

  16. TP*

    Take Alison’s and others sage advice. I’m in a similar situation. I got extremely resentful due to a number of reasons and it showed that I just didn’t care anymore. I couldn’t keep it in check mainly because I started job hunting and was so sure I would be able to find a new job right away. Well, what I didn’t realize was how tough the market was and still is. Two years later, I’m still looking – partly because I’m not looking to get just any job, but I also do believe during the interviews I’ve had, that some of this showed through as much as I tried to not let it. I don’t know how things are in your area and whether you would have a hard or easy time finding something else, but one lesson I learned was you just never know what is going to happen and it does hurt your reputation. As hard as it is to step outside, take a deep breath and “get over it,” you don’t want to end up in a stickier situation. My workplace is a highly toxic environment so it has been a rough ride. I let things spiral out of control and it has been tough patching things back up, but I’ve learned to detach and let go and I feel more at ease. All I know is that I’m going to use this place (which has good name recognition) to help me transition into a job I’ll actually enjoy and I’m now confident I will be able to present myself better at future interviews. Just keep telling yourself that this too shall pass and sooner or later, you’ll be waving it goodbye, but on your own terms, not theirs.

  17. Anonymous_J*

    I could have written this letter. Due to changes in my life circumsances, I have even had to put my job search on hold for the foreseeable future. Coming in here every day is TORTURE!

    That said, I went through the same thought processes you are going through, and I came to the conclusion that my work ethic would not allow me to do that. No matter how much I may want to just say “eff it!” and slack off until I get my severance package (no guarantee of that,) I continue to do the best work I can. Just because they are being jerks, that does not mean I have to stoop to that level.

    What I do NOT do is give them any more than I need to. I also am using the HELL out of my benefits (I’ve suspended my job search, because my boyfriend is having surgery, and we need the insurance for that.) I am using up my leave (though not disruptively). I am getting away from my desk every day for lunch. I am NOT interacting with the people who have made me miserable (mainly my boss) more than I have to.

    It sucks. It is MISERABLE, but I’m keeping my skills up (and hopefully my reputation.) I am networking with coworkers in other areas. I’m nurturing my work friendships, and most importantly, I am reminding myself each and every day, “It’s JUST a job.”

    I wish you the best of luck on your search, OP. I hope you find something worthy of you one day soon!

  18. Whiny*

    OP, I feel your pain. I work in a place that’s so poorly managed it’s painful. Upper management values appearance and consensus, but can’t make a decision or communicate at all. The next layer is green, naive, used to working the system, and actively contradicts the experts in the middle. Poor performers get shuffled or even promoted. Effective, competent people are stuck in their roles or leave if they can. My current manager in a string of supervisors contradicts me, ignores my recommendations, makes decisions about my department without informing me, and when she does commuicate, she tells me to do things that are so contrary to best practice that it would erode my department even faster. I’m worried that if I stay, my reputation will be tarnished no matter what I do. So like you, OP, I’m struggling to show up and serve my internal customers and colleagues without appearing to upper management to be insubordinate or ineffective. I’ve been direct, made five-year timelines of projects we must do, askes repeatedly for permission to proceed on institution-wide projects that I cannot take up on my own, tried to create smaller projects, even met with the VP of Consensus and Likeability that I don’t have what I need to do my job effectively so I want honest feedback so I can move up or out.

    I’ve been looking for another job for a year.

    I’ve finally been able to find some emotional distance when I saw my partner nearly die.

    Nobody has called me a whiny babyhead, though.

  19. clobbered*

    I am kind of confused. The way I read the OP, she wasn’t suggesting not doing a good job, she was suggesting not completing the non-customer-focus meaningless tasks. I envisaged this being the equivalent of “saves people lives in the ER but doesn’t turn in their paperwork on quality metrics”.

    In which case she would still be doing excellent work, have at least some people to provide good references , etc.

    But maybe I misunderstood.

    1. NicoleW*

      I’m with you – I got the impression that OP was struggling with certain metrics that didn’t have anything to do with customer satisfaction. A retail example would be giving awesome customer service, but refusing to push the store credit card.
      OP, you still need to protect your reputation, and ignoring what management wants won’t do that, even though you know you are doing your best at what you think are the most important parts of your work. Can you have a discussion with your manager? Express your concern that these metrics are hindering what you thought was core to your job. Maybe you can get a little closer in priorities after a conversation.
      It sounds like you still need to look for other work, but at least maybe the meantime can be more bearable.

  20. Caroline*

    A tip: When I was in this situation (this time last year) I got friends to call me every day at 6pm and make me leave the office, regardless of what I was doing. They organized evenings out – easy ones, like watching rom com DVDs and cheap meals out – to take my mind off the situation and make me feel a bit more human. I will be forever grateful to them for that, because it gave me time to save up some cash, pay off my debts and look for a new job while the old one went into tailspin. I got laid off before I found a new job, but at least I had some funds to tide me over and made some useful contacts. If I’d walked out like I’d wanted to I’d have been in real trouble.

  21. BW*

    I’m another person who was in a similar situation. My work environment was intolerable and I wanted to just up and walk out many times. I could have done it too. I calculated I had 8+ months worth of living expenses saved, but really the better option was hanging on until I could get another job. So I hung in there. I did like my other co-workers and the one client/project I had left, and I did not want to screw them. My issue wasn’t with them. I focused on those people, knowing that I was actively looking and was bound to land a job sooner or later and avoiding the problem person as much as possible. Also, I couldn’t in good-conscious just slack. I take some pride in my work and the reputation I had built over many years. I wasn’t about to throw that away over abusive and dysfunctional senior management. Oh heck no!

    It was so bad that it was affecting my physical and mental health. I *had* to go back medication because the environment exacerbated existing conditions. That really pissed me off. I work hard to protect my health and minimize the amount I rely on physicians appointments and pharmaceuticals. So that just really added to my displeasure with that job and my motivation to do something about it.

    I was really fortunate in that it only took me 4 months to get out. I have been at my current job just over a year, and I <3 <3 <3 it even with a huge workload. I'm busy and stressed in a *good* way now.

  22. Heather*

    I couldn’t get past “whiny babyhead.” Unless you work in a preschool where the inmates are running the asylum, this is insane.

  23. NoName*

    OP – It sounds like you are trying so hard not to let your emotions get the better half of you. On one hand, if you stay, you run the risk of your professional reputation being damaged. On the other hand, if you quit, you run the risk of facing an extremely difficult job search and being financially ruined. You are in survival mode. Its hard to plan for a future, when all you can focus on is staying alive another day. Here is some advise from a seasoned manager who has seen a thing or two; Don’t get fired. Don’t stay till you get laid off – only folks not contributing to the profitability of the company get laid off – it screams you were not work the money you were making. Make a plan to get out and put the plan in writing
    Quit while you still can get a decent job reference regardless if you have another job or not. Trust God to provide for you a job in a timely manner.

  24. lily*

    Thanks so much for this…just stumbled upon this by luck today and it helps tremendously for my current situation. Just wanted to thank you!

  25. rusty w*

    I have the same problem here in the uk , I have just had a meeting with my manager and staff rep ,about my line manager not wanting to be a line manager , he kept telling myself and my collegues to ask someone else for advice as he isn’t in charge , my manager told me in the first 30 seconds of the meeting ,they had reached a conclusion to remedy this but then turned the meeting into a savage attack on my work, and the staff rep joined in with them shouting and being abusive , I couldn’t believe it I thought he was on my side ?????? , so I left the meeting and im now on long term sick with stress unavoidable .

  26. Tess*

    My story: I went through a similar event at my workplace this year, and knew I was being managed out. I easily worked 12-hrs per day, plus Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes both.
    I did everything I could to keep up and was successful in maintaining deliverables, but at the expense of my health and my family.
    My requests for vacation time off were denied.
    I literally did not have the time to find another job.
    It all ended in August when I was blindsided by a meeting with my manager and HR, where I was presented with an Employee Corrective Action Plan. The letter listed completely false claims against me, and was marked “Final Warning Before Termination”.
    Interesting that my “performance issues” were never communicated to me before.
    I have documented evidence (emails, text messages) that disprove everything stated in the letter, and as I started compiling everything to respond, I also knew that my manager was on a mission to get me out no matter what.
    The following day, without another job (temporary or otherwise), I handed in my resignation, and provided the customary 2-week notice. My colleagues were all surprised that I resigned. I told them I was looking for a change, and was going to do some consulting. I received nothing but warm wishes of success in my future endeavors and that I would be missed.
    At the end of the week, the unexpected occurred.
    My father passed away.
    It was a final blow to a year of hell I endured.

    It’s been 3 months since I left, and I did manage to find a short-term consulting job, but I’m still searching for a permanent job.

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