speaking up when you’re unhappy and overwhelmed at work

I thought I’d print this exchange I recently had with a reader, to demonstrate why it’s often helpful to speak up when your unhappy. Here’s the reader’s initial message to me:

I left my job of five years — right decision. I accepted a new job. It’s a better cultural fit, I love my team, and I’m proud of the work we’re doing. The boss is brilliant and I’m learning a lot. High-prestige position, one of the senior members of the company. In many ways, it’s a dream job. I’ve been there for a month.

Unfortunately, despite me asking questions in the interview process about work/life balance — and explaining that if this is a “no personal life” job, I’m not the right candidate — but there is none. NONE. I’m pulling 70-hour weeks, which is not what we discussed during interviewing. I am so busy that I eat only two meals a day (delivery—yech), I barely have time to go to the bathroom, and I still can’t finish the tasks in front of me. I don’t read websites or go on Facebook, I don’t chit-chat with coworkers, I just WORK all day. Very fast pace.

I’m becoming depressed, I’ve snapped at my boyfriend (who I love dearly—I NEVER snap at him), and I’m perpetually exhausted and anxious. I get maybe half a day off each Sat/Sun and I spend most of that time trying to catch up on sleep. I cry at least a few times a week. This is not who I want to be.

I just need more time to adjust, right? Except the other people are working similar hours, even those who’ve been here for a year or two. There are problems in processes and in the inadequate staffing. The only silver lining is that a new high-ranking colleague wants to create work-life balance. She understands that this workload is not OK, and I have calmly told her that I’m happy to be there, but that I physically and mentally cannot continue to work like this. She’s wonderful — if it weren’t for her, I would have quit in the first week. I know she can’t change things overnight, but I also don’t know if she CAN change the culture there. Sometimes, it’s just the way a place is. Staffers have told me that “a lot of people quit after two or three months” because they cannot handle the pace and workload.

I love the work and I like the people. But I don’t like working all the time and on a fundamental level… while I work hard, I don’t live to work. My gut tells me that I should leave now before I become miserable; I’d like to stick it out for at least six months, but I don’t know if I can keep going like this. And if I quit, I worry that my professional reputation will be damaged.

What do you think I should do? Leave now, inflame my boss, and eat the $2,000 moving stipend I’d have to repay? Wait it out until, say, June, and hope that the sympathetic bigwig can effect change by then? My ego, reason, and pride (ok, and bank account) all say “stay in the job” but my gut says “run like hell.”

I replied: “If you’re going to leave anyway, I don’t think sticking it six months is any more useful than just starting to look now. But I’d talk to them about that fact that you were clearly told one thing in the job interview process and another is true, and that you’d like them to waive the repayment requirement because you were very clear that they shouldn’t offer you the job if it was this type of thing!”

Here’s her response:

I wound up talking with my boss and pretty much laid it out (without implying that I was going to quit immediately). I took your suggestion to heart and mentioned that in the interview process, I’d specifically been told that the hours were NOT 75-80 hour weeks. She agreed that my workload is too heavy, and she posted job listings for two new staffers who should be able to help me out. She’s already been interviewing people, and she’s been checking in to see how I’m doing.

So, for the time being, I still feel like this is not going to be a long-term job, but since she is clearly trying to improve things, I’m going to stick it out and see if things improve. And if not, then…time to move on for sure.

Thank you again for your smart thoughts. You really helped me get perspective.

Speaking up often gets you what you want, or at least closer to what you want. Not always, certainly, but enough that it’s an option that you should at least be considering when you’re unhappy — not assuming it’s not even on the table, as so many people do.

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. Sam*

    Has the OP considered working fewer hours? What’s the worst that could happen if they cut back to 50 hrs/wk?

    1. The IT Manager*

      That was exactly my thought too. Presumably it’s a salaried position, but can’t the LW just leave work everyday after working a reasonable 8-10 hours and not go in on weekends? It’s the epitomy of telling your boss you only have time for three tasks and which of A, B, C, D, E, F, G is most important.

      Now my suggestion sounds like its outside the company culture, but if you’re that stressed out (understandable) it’s better to keep getting paid and hope for a change in culture while taking care of yourself rather than quit or burn yourself out first and then quit.

      I am not opposed to having to put in extra hours when needed, but 70 hour a week should not be the norm especially when you made it clear what you were willing to accept.

      1. fposte*

        My guess is, since it’s a pretty senior position, that would mean axing projects and/or clients, which is a pretty serious move that can have considerable repercussions.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Ahh. I did miss or forget the point that it was a high-prestige position, one of the senior members of the company, when making my response which does make a difference.

          It still seems an option, though, if she’s at the point of quiting it’s could be better for her and the company to keep her around at least until they find a replacement for her.

      2. books*

        Uh, no? You have work to get done and leaving because I’ve been at work for 8 hours is not a good excuse.

        1. Vicki*

          But in the modern “Information Age”, the work is _never_ “done”.

          And there are plenty of studies that show that after 6 hours your brain starts to turn off. Going home because you’ve been at work 8 hours IS a good reason (not an excuse).

        2. Joe05*

          Yeah, sorry, I have to disagree. Leaving because you’ve been at work for 8 (or 10 or more) hours is a perfectly good excuse. Everyone has busy times, and everyone has to stay late now and then, but unless this was explicitly part of the deal when you signed up, you should not be spending more than 8 hours chained to your desk buried under mountains of work.

          1. OleanderTea*


            Over the years, I’ve learned to draw strong boundaries around “work time” and “not work time”, thanks to some bosses who had no concept of boundaries (i.e., would call employees at home on Saturday afternoon, and get mad if they didn’t answer; I got caller ID just for this boss!).

            I am very clear that because of other committments, I have to be offline after 6 pm. End of story. No details necessary.

      3. Sam*

        “It’s the epitome of telling your boss you only have time for three tasks and which of A, B, C, D, E, F, G is most important.”

        Yes, this!

        In almost all cases, I would not recommend leaving work without completing essential tasks. This situation is different, though, for a few important reasons. First, the OP specifically asked about life-work balance during the interview and the company deliberately mislead her/him. Second, the OP is dropping balls, even after 70+ hours. Should they work 80? 100? How much is enough? Third, the OP is already looking for an exit after a month. That means no line on the resume and no references from this job. Getting fired for putting in 50 hours instead of 70 isn’t all that different from quitting after a month, unless the employer is particularly vindictive.

        1. fposte*

          If you take the company down with you, it’s not vindictive of the employer to say so.

          I don’t know what the OP does, but if her just going home earlier means that, say, government contract deliverables don’t get met, that could savage the organization, tie them up in audits, etc. The thing about senior level is the buck stops with you, and it doesn’t matter if you were there when the buck’s trajectory was planned or not. In situations like this it is actually much worse to stay and not deliver than to leave early, because it looks like you don’t understand the obligations of your position.

          The OP’s situation sucks, but she’s doing exactly what she should do in saying “This isn’t what we agreed and I’ll give you a good faith chance to fix it” while fulfilling the obligations of the role. I agree with commenters upthread that this is a time-limited thing and that the organization needs to step up if they want to keep her, but unfortunately working fewer hours in this situation would mean doing your job badly and possibly catastrophically badly.

          1. Sam*

            I’m not advocating that the OP should sneak out at 5 or accept work that they know they can’t complete. As IT Manager suggested upthread, it’s about knowing your own capacity and asking your manager to prioritize accordingly.

            I’ve worked for companies that will pile work on employees until they push back or quit in frustration. The only employees who stayed around long term were those who could push back assertively.

            1. fposte*

              And the OP has pushed back, so we’re in agreement there–I’m just saying she doesn’t have the option of working fewer hours in the meantime. It also sounds like you’re talking about less senior positions there–in my position, for instance, there isn’t somebody I’d ask about prioritizing. That’s my call. There isn’t a cutback I can make if there’s a deliverable or deadline due, and it would be a death knell for my aspect of the organization if I don’t make it. A person who walked into my position wouldn’t have the option of not fulfilling those obligations. They could leave or they could try to get support staff, but if they accepted it and then didn’t deliver, it would be a really bad history for them.

    2. K*

      I think this sort makes sense under certain situations where you’ve decided to quit and are biding your time. It stretches out the paycheck as long as possible (they may fire you but presumably won’t do so for at least a bit). Granted, you may be torpedoing your reference with them but if the only other option to maintain your sanity is quitting after a few months, you likely wouldn’t have a good reference from them either. So not the best course of action normally, but I can see the appeal under certain circumstances.

    3. Kerrie*

      What a lot of fairy dust! Speaking up to supervisors beholden to managers will not necessarily get you grace or favour or fair. Even if you apply reason, stress on the worker counter-productivity in a written format…..bottom line and bonuses for outcomes, $ signs and looking good in managers eyes is all that matters these days. I am 55 and life experienced professional. Being a hardworking reliable thorough up-to-speed and loyal productive employee can mean being exploited. The world has changed unfortunately, sorry. It is all to do with employee equivalent numbers etc Of course the companies are cheating themselves and the employee but some number cruncher wins over personnel officer as equivalents are key. In the nineties there was a cultural push for the valued employee with much data to back their value, but the noughties brought lip-service without back-up action – “oh you are so valued here – but we will not any more increase your pay even with the CPI and guess what! you need to do more and we are cutting staff – so you will Have to do more to meet requirements” Businesses have myopia in the tensies.

  2. fposte*

    Wow, that’s tough. I’m sorry. I’m curious–do the people who assured you in the interview that it’s not a 70-hour-a-week workplace not know what hours people are working, or do you think they just answered what they thought you wanted to hear? That seems a really odd thing to misrepresent, especially in a senior position with a moving bonus invested.

  3. Frances*

    If you have a decent manager at all they should want to hear about situations like this. I am currently at a job in which my workload has more than doubled (including being asked to take on a bunch of new tasks when my supervisor already acknowledged I was at full capacity). I would have never made it through the last six months without my supervisor being open to hearing me when I’m overwhelmed and empowering me to look for and propose adjustments to our workflow that will keep me from going crazy.

    Of course, there’s really only so much your manager will be able to do if the people above *her* are continually pushing work at your department — but it bodes extremely well that she even went ahead and started interviewing (which is something my manager can’t do without permission and which her superiors are just now starting to come around on).

  4. Jamie*

    I was wondering if perhaps this was an anomaly and maybe you just joined during a spike that only happens a couple of times a year, but then I re-read the post and it seems like this is a constant state.

    It does suck to be told one thing and then to find out reality is different – I really hope your colleague can affect some real change. It sounds like that would be appreciated by more than just you.

    Good luck.

  5. Malissa*

    I have never regretted speaking up. I Almost always do it in a professional manner. The only thing I ever regret is not doing it sooner in some situations.

  6. Rin*

    I just had a similar experience: one aspect of my job was giving me panic attacks, and I kept thinking about how miserable I was. Well, I finally talked to my boss, and she said that she could tell I wasn’t very happy, though I don’t think she knew about the anxiety. She switched around a few of my duties, exchanging the stressful task with something that I think I will enjoy doing. I feel so much better being there, and it’s nice to know that she would rather adjust my work than lose me.

    In short, if you have a good relationship with your boss, communicate. Do that, even if you don’t have a good relationship. Nothing can change if he or she doesn’t know that there’s a problem. That goes for personal relationships, too.

  7. Anonymous*

    I started a new job right in the BUSY period. I was overwhelmed, felt stupid, like I couldn’t do anything right. My boss touched base with me and I told her I am feeling really overwhelmed with all this new information and the complexities of each task. She assured me it was just busy. I should take my time, get it right, get into the groove and I’d have it down in no time. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get everything done RIGHT THIS INSTANT.
    6 months later, I am so happy. I know the flow of work and how to prioritize when I have too much on my plate.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m hoping this is the case with my new job. Right now I don’t have much to do, but I can tell I will; also, I’m new to the field (financial) and most of the terms mean absolutely NOTHING to me. Also, I don’t have full access yet, and can’t even see some of the things I’ll be working with. I think it will be okay, though.

      Also, I think I’m going to really like my boss and the company. I got a care package today with a mug, a stapler, squeezy ball, etc. :)

  8. AnotherAlison*


    Speaking up seemed like a good choice in this situation – the OP was willing to leave, the workload was killing her, and as a senior-level person probably would find other opportunities.

    I too have spoken up, with good results, but it was when I knew that if “X” doesn’t change, then I’m going to have to do something else or go nuts, AND I knew that there was “something else” within my own company that I probably could have been assigned to.

    I’m wondering about speaking up if you have an unreasonable manager and really need the j-o-b. It seems like the triangle of doom: you have a problem that keeps you miserable in your job, you need the job (and aren’t well-positioned to find another one easily), and the boss can’t fix the problem.

    1. KellyK*

      I think it’s always the balance of “What’s likely to happen if I speak up?” and “What’s likely to happen if I say nothing?” and which of those is worse. And for whichever one you choose, what you can do to mitigate the negative effects.

      Sometimes all your options suck…but you can at least try to find the least sucky option and look for ways to have things suck less or not suck forever.

  9. Brittany*

    The OP is SO LUCKY that her boss is reasonable. I worked at hospital in clinical trials for breast cancer, which is notorious for long hours, lots of (unpaid) OT, and pennies for a salary with no hope of a raise. It’s also very thankless.

    I went a year with being okay and then the shuffle happened. CRC job’s are high turnover since most people do them before medical school or grad school. When this happened, the work load blew up. What was a normal workload of 5-6 clinical trials exploded into 12. 12! That is a highly unreasonable amount of work considering almost all of them were Phase I, thus weekly appt’s to book with labs, shipping of study tubes, etc. It was exhausting. I was answering emails at midnight, pissing off my then boyfriend now fiance, and crying almost every single day.

    I ugly cried in my boss’s office more times than I want to admit merely because I was ready to crack. Every time, I got re-assured that they were hiring more staff and it would change soon. Months later down the line after absolutely no resolution and being told to “deal with it and be a team player”, I started my job search. I got out January of last year.

    Even though I had been working my butt off and could have easily done the Sr role I would have been slated to fill, my boss rather offensively said, “Well I hardly thought you were ready for that.” which was baloney, especially after the head of the oncology department told me he was “flabbergasted” that I resigned because I was so good at my job. I never knew that because no one ever told me, even if I asked for feedback.

    My advice is if it doesn’t resolve within the next few months, get out. It sucks your soul and life is too short to be working a crappy job that makes you depressed. I hope your boss stands by what she says and that things get better!

    1. Kaz*

      While it has not been my experience as a CRC that this is not a career, the other parts are true. You have to love what you do and be committed to making a difference in the world to get past a lot of the other stuff. But as with any other workplace, management that values its staff and recognizes the true cost of turnover will keep people from getting to that point.

  10. Esra*

    she posted job listings for two new staffers who should be able to help me out.

    This always blows my mind, when you have a person doing a job till they break, then hire 2-3 replacements. Maybe those people should’ve been hired sooner, rather than sticking someone with the job of three people.

    1. DA*

      In situations like this, senior management doesn’t care about their staff. If they can get the cost savings of doing more with fewer people, then great!

    2. Sharon*

      That’s been the way of corporate America for the last two decades. In my first full time programming job after college, I was hired into an IT department of 11 people. Two years later when I resigned, we were down to three.

      It’s pretty common to see job ads for combined jobs, for example the title is business analyst but the description includes project management tasks, or the title is project manager and the description requires development experience and says it’s “hands on”. I’ve also seen job ads that want candidates to have networking, development, database administration, and project management experience. My theory about these is that the company downsized it’s IT dept to one or two people who ended up doing everything, burned out and so the company tries to replace them not understanding that they burned out because they were doing 4 or 5 full time jobs.

      And this isn’t even in senior leadership level, like the OP is!

    3. Lulu*

      I’m amazed they actually are going to hire more people! I’ve been in this position and it just was what it was – you don’t like it, you can leave. I had a job where I got to the point of having my panic attacks at work (boss was very aware, as I’d end up sitting under my desk trying not to have a total breakdown…), I was so overwhelmed, but there was no budget or interest in adding headcount. Great way to lose weight, but finally had to quit because I was spending more time at the doctors’ than in the office (of course, I was on the cell phone/pager there, too, as with every other second of the day).

      My impression is that the companies who think that they can maintain high productivity with fewer workers don’t care that those workers are suffering while trying to fulfill their new job descriptions. Despite the initial nightmare, sounds like the OP found a really great manager/company if they’re actually willing to listen and act on her concerns!

      1. Annoyed*

        Yeah, and then they complain that their health insurance costs are too high, or that people call in sick too much. Stupid employees, what with their human limitations and all!

    4. anon-2*

      Burn them out. Throw them out.

      Burn them out. Throw them out.

      Burn them out. Throw them out.

      That’s the way some managers think.

  11. Ash*

    Like Brittany said up-thread, you have to know that your boss is open to hearing such things. In my previous position, my supervisor was the worst when it came to asking for help. If you got behind for any reason whatsoever, it was a personal failing and you were on her Shit List for weeks afterward. She would help you out (or have someone else help), but she always held it against you, would be passive aggressive about it, and bring it up for any reason at all. This was all irrespective of how good you were at your job, or how much work you did, or why you needed help; the fact that you needed any help made you little better than pond scum.

    She was surprised when I gave my two weeks after four years of that treatments…

  12. PEBCAK*

    I was once in a situation like this, and I approached my boss with the message that “I can do this right now during this crazy time, but this is not sustainable in the long-term”. He agreed, and we figured out how to make my workload more manageable. I think a key part was the idea that “hey, I’m willing to work hard, but I am going to leave/snap/stop doing good work if you burn me out too quickly”.

  13. MJ*

    I’ve actually just got home after bursting into tears at work following a week of 10-hour days with no lunch and no break, and had been planning on asking Alison something pretty similar to this question on Wednesday. I’ve been working since I graduated three years ago but I changed roles completely six months ago, so am still very much learning my job. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks after I joined, a couple of seniors had to go on sick leave, and have only just come back. I’m pretty tech-happy, so I’d been covering their major projects by automating most of their reports as well as doing my own projects. Everything was going okay until this week, when it turned out that one of my projects was actually three projects starting in quick succession, and another one was going to have new software and new processes as well as being the type of project I have zero experience with. By Monday I was feeling a little worried, Wednesday afternoon I’d realised there was no way I could do it all, but my line manager was so busy I decided I’d suck it up and try anyway. I failed to check some of the reporting on the New Complicated project on Thursday because I was so tired and so stressed trying to deal with the other projects I wasn’t seeing anything straight, so the team lead on the project called my manager up and complained at 6pm, when she thought I would have left work, but I was still sitting a desk over from the call.

    So I decided to talk to my line manager on Friday morning. Turns out she wasn’t in, and also that something had gone horribly wrong with one of those Big Automated Projects (further up the line than me). I spent the morning trying to sort out the Big Automated Project, then the middle of the day trying to figure out the report for the New Complicated Project, and the rest of it trying to fit in everything else for another project starting on Monday that has a client who’s been let down in the past so needs extra looking after. At 5:30 I thought I had everything done, but then we got an urgent email saying that our timesheets had to be updated this weekend, and our timesheet system is the worst designed in the world. When I was nearly done, at 6, I got an email from the team lead for the New Complicated Project asking me to notify her when the report was ready. The report had been sitting in the folder where we’d arranged I would put it, clearly labelled as ready to go, but I’d forgotten to notify her. Cue tears at all that wasted time (plus the worry for my little sister who’s been in and out of A&E several times this week).

    As soon as I’d sorted myself out, I went to talk to my director, who was wonderful – the department managers had noticed that I had way more work than I should have done earlier this week when doing the monthly schedule, and had been planning on moving a couple of my projects out next Monday. If I’d just mentioned it this Monday, I could have avoided a lot of the stress, but because I didn’t say anything (and everything was getting done on time with no problems until Thursday) my line manager thought it was okay.

    So, yeah… say something!

  14. Jill*

    I’m happy for the OP that she’s at least getting some kind of positive response from her boss. I’d like to offer another side to the value of speaking up. I’ve spoken up on at least four occassions about how dissatisified I am that my work is different from what was discussed in my interview. I got three “we’ll see what we can do’s” and the fourth time I got a sigh and a response that was basically “if you don’t like it, leave”.

    So, the other good reason to speak up is that you just might find out that things definately are not going to change and that you definately should move on. Sucks, but it’s nice to get feedback that lets you know for sure rather than wondering if things will get better.

  15. Sara*

    This a great thing to hear and see a positive outcome. Sadly I had a situation that didn’t go so well, like the reader during interviewing I was very clear on the right fit for me and part of what I was seeking in a new role was more work/life balance and that part of why I was leaving my then current role was to avoid working 70+ hours. Well after 3 months of the new job and working 70+ hours I inquired if this was going to be the norm of if it was just the current workload, and I did bring up my interview questions and what I was told, but my manager then told me that I should really know better than to think this is a job with work/life balance and that regular overtime was required. It was awkward to point out her answer during the interview was that no one ever worked overtime and that the company culture very much catered to work/laugh balance. And then she laughed at me for taking her seriously! Argh! Needless to say I quit, but after staying in the role for 7 more months. So be weary of bad managers who lie! And just a note I did interview with 7 people and thought I got a good idea after meeting them all but sadly I was mislead.

  16. mia*

    I am in a similar situation….4 months into the new job. The owner has very unpleasantly commented or yelled about people not working late. I always put in over 40 hours even though I was told in the interview OT was not required or normal there. I am disappointed in the lack of training that was supposedly provided (complex sw system, applications, etc). I feel if anything I sold myself short on my skillset at the interview. the epectations are unclear and vary by manager. I dont like being told to do one thing by one manager and fussed at by another for doing it. Nor do I care for the way we are spoken to and practically yelled at by two of the managers. the work environment stinks and I don’t feel comfortable speaking up about certain issues … i dont want to get yelled at. The irony is I left a miserable job for less pay/benefits for this experience. I am concluding that the limited number of employers and lack of competition in my area has allowed employers here to treat employees however they want. Praying for a new job or contract opportunity fast.

  17. AB*

    In cases like the OP’s, I don’t see much downside to speaking up. I think that it’s different when the type of work turns out not to be what originally discussed during the interview, because in the latter case, it’s probably because someone was mistaken about the actual need during the hiring process, and little can be done to fix the issue to match the expectations to the reality of the job.

    When the problem is the amount of work, however, like in the case of the OP, speaking up normally works because smart people know that very few people would be able to continue working 70 or more hours a week in a stressful situation for a long time. Smart management would know they’d better fix the problem rather than just keep hiring replacement after replacement in hopes someone will get used to so much work.

    In fact, if after speaking up and being very clear about the need for change (and the fact that you are willing to quit over this), nothing changes, well, that’s very useful information that shows the organization is not smart enough to retain talent (or at least be very straightforward during the hiring process of how demanding the hours will be).

    Armed with this knowledge, I’d start aggressively looking for another job. But in my experience, senior management is typically just clueless about the situation, and would be willing to work something out if only the employee is direct about how unreasonable the expectations are.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    I’m glad you talked to your boss.

    I was in a similar situation a few years ago. It was getting physically ill from the work load and pace and things that kept getting dumped on me. I was pulling 80 hour weeks on average, coming in at 4 am for a briefing, staying until 5 – it was awful.

    What changed was when my boss discovered I was interviewing for new jobs. He was shocked and told me he didn’t want to lose me. I almost started crying (not my finest moment) as I frustratedly explained just how overworked and unhappy I was. He was surprised – he didn’t realized that I had a problem with any of it. I thought he should have know, but he thought I was just a real go-getter. He immediately removed a couple of my big responsibilities so I could work a more normal schedule, and I stopped interviewing elsewhere.

    1. EM*

      This drives me nuts. The boss assumed you were cool with 70 hour weeks? Do they work 70 hour weeks? People are told not to complain, and in this economy, people really don’t want to be out of a job if they get fired for complaining. Howabout management assumes that the vast majority of workers wants to work a maximum of 40 hours per week.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        I can’t help wondering, in the OP’s case as in Katie’s, whether the boss could reasonably be expected to know that the employe was working 70-hour weeks.

        Perhaps I’m biased, though, coming from an industry (software) where the prevailing wisdom is that a really talented developer can easily be ten times as productive as a middle-of-the-run, nominally qualified guy. So if someone seem to get a lot done and don’t give any outward indication that they’re burning out, it’s not an unreasonable assumption that they are Just That Good.

        I mean, if you called my boss, I’m sure he couldn’t tell you how many hours I work in any given week — he’s an early riser and I a hardcore night owl, and our arrangement is that I’ll be in the office by 13.00 each day or notify him in advance if I can’t make it. So the most he can say from personal experience is that I’m at work not less than about 20 hours per week and seem to get my projects done within time estimates that sound consistent with full-time effort to him.

        That’s the flip side of trusting your employees to manage their own working hours — you need to trust them to speak up if they have too many things on your plate to get them done in a reasonable time.

  19. N.*

    I really feel for the people who were lied to during their interviews, I don’t feel so bad now… Once upon a time I was working 70-90 hours a week, 16 hour days for two months 12 the rest of the year, and I got chewed for “not making an appearance” on Sundays (it was the least I could do you know). I was told I misled the company when I said: “I would do whatever it took to learn the job and succeed” because I stayed home one day a week.

    My boss also told me my second week on the job that he had feared my predecesor, and until the man walked out one day, secretly thought he was going to hurt him. He said he hoped I would be more “stable”. 3 months into the job and I no longer wondered why.

    Whenever I told him I was overwhelmed he assigned hours of extensive but otherwise useless online training – (to be completed in addition to my other duties), and when I asked him which projects were priority it only reminded him to assign more, and tell me they were ALL were a “priority”. His deadlines reflected complete disregard for logistics (ie. wanting something accomplished after business hours when that vendor was closed, my fault for that of course) and he Loved waiting until Friday afternoon at two o’clock to assign a project over the weekend. Only to tell me on Monday that the 12 hours of Saturday work was useless, because he had changed his mind after leaving Friday, (didn’t bother telling me) and that it had to be completely redone by the end of the day, in addition to Monday duties.

    Four months in, I received a poor performance review, because “being new to the field and position was no excuse [for not knowing the position]” and I should have known what I was getting myself into.

    Soured me for salaried positions, and I don’t know for how long. Unfortunately it is an in demand field, so competing companies are watching me, but I am terrified of doing this work again. Former coworkers who defected to these companies, tell me its different, but I am afraid I will be repeating the experience with less of an excuse: “you knew what this was like before you signed on, what did you expect?”

    After resigning, his pet scored my position. All told the pet is superior in every way, and though he was new to the position also, the boss being more comfortable with him, he isn’t required to keep ridiculous hours. That priviledge was just for me…

    Op thank you, you have lent me hope that maybe the world isn’t just a big bag of dirty tools. Maybe things can get better; if one boss can be reasoned with, maybe my next one can…

  20. KS*

    Lying to potential employees during the interview process is actually embedded in the culture of my current employer. The strategy behind it (straight out of our VP’s mouth) is “they are lying to us –why shouldn’t we lie to them?” Crazy, no?

  21. S.*

    I don’t normally speak up because I always do my best to manage the situation. But one time it got so bad that I did talk to my boss about my workload… Her answer was ‘may be you are not managing your time right’ …. shut down…. and she advised me to prioritize my work…

  22. MB*

    I think the reason that some employers lie to perspective employees during the interview, is because they want to fill the job vacancy so badly,that they’ll say just about anything to get people to join their company. I’d never work for any boss who felt that the company was more important than worklife balance. Mia, some people may speak ill of it, but if a boss yells at you over trivial matters, if you feel it necessary, yell back. I’m not saying swear at him/her with every nasty name from A to Z, just let them know that you aren’t going to put up with their behavior. No matter how much power they have, no boss has any right to yell at employees. If bosses don’t like the way an employee does his/her job, then they (the boss), aught to get off their lazy you-know-what and do it themselves. That’s what’s wrong with Corporate America, its filled with stupid managers.

  23. Aless Ricci*

    When you are asking questions during an interview, the interview or employer must disclose the truth. For example, ask about the culture of the company, walk around the premises ask them if you can do that. If you see employees miserable, or you can notice a fast paced environment then you got your answer. It is up to you whether you take the position or not. Employers are at fault these days because they expect an employee to wear many hats (meaning many positions for the pay of one)! This is a huge problem, as it costs money for the company should an employee need to go on stress leave. Work/balance is a must do everything you can for your sanity to achieve this. The company will survive long before you get sick or die of stress related diseases. Do you due diligence and research the company in which you want to work for. Ask questions that are important to you and your well being before you accept the position. Speak up at work if you are over worked and overwhelmed. Write it down on paper all your concerns with a solution if possible and present it to your boss, you never know what may happen if you don’t ask or discuss your issues.

  24. Bon*

    My last job my boss kept piling the work on me ie: everytime someone else complained about having too much, he would move it from their plate onto mine. He seemed to have this idea that I was a super woman who could do anything in any amount of time and I was always taught not to complain. During this time period, I saw him fire a co-worker simply because she asked for a raise!!! (she was promoted to a position that should have paid her a good 10K more, but he merely increased her salary by 10% of what she was previously making as a clerk). This made me afraid to say anything to this jerk. I stuck it out but eventually quit. When he asked why, I told him I didn’t want to do x,y, etc. To which he said if that’s the way they want it they want it (“they” being our corp office). So, even upon exiting the company, this jerk STILL wasn’t willing to listen and change things to make it better.

  25. In it for the long haul*

    My boss is constantly saying “if you’re not happy here quit” she never provides suggestions to resolve why employee’s are unhappy is that wrong?

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