what employer behaviors should be deal-breakers for employees?

A reader writes:

I’m new to the working world. While some jobs have inherent drawbacks (long hours, high stress, etc.), what actions or requirements are generally unacceptable from management? In short, what are your “deal-breakers”?

Different people have different deal-breakers. Some people won’t work for a manager who yells, while other people aren’t that bothered by it. Some people won’t work for a micromanager, while others roll their eyes and get on with the work. Some people won’t work for a company that doesn’t provide health insurance, while others suck it up and deal. Some people won’t work for a company that bounces paychecks — something that you might think would be an obvious deal-breaker for everyone — but some people will. And so forth. It just varies.

Moreover, what you will and won’t accept usually changes during different periods of your life. When you have plenty of options (whether because of your excellent reputation and in-demand skills, or your finances, or whatever), you might take a harder line on deal-breakers than when you don’t have as many options. It’s easy to say you’d never work for a company that breaks the law, for instance, but it’s a lot harder to say that when you don’t see other immediate options to pay your mortgage next month.

It’s also really easy to tell other people what their deal-breakers should be, but when you’re not the one paying their bills, it doesn’t really matter.

That said, I’d suggest the following as deal-breakers to people who have at least decent options:

  • a pattern of not being paid when you’re supposed to be paid
  • managers who break clear and specific promises without acknowledging that it’s a really big deal to do so (I added in that caveat because there are times when you might be promised, for example, a raise and then the company needs to freeze salaries … but your manager should show that they take the broken promise seriously)
  • managers who won’t address serious problems (such as not taking on performance problems within your department)
  • managers who regularly make you feel awful (varies by person, but it could include yelling, overly personal criticism, etc.)
  • work environments where you feel unsafe

There are all kinds of other things that could go on this list too — lack of feedback, lack of monetary rewards, treating everything like an emergency, overall incompetence, etc. — but then we’re getting into areas where some people will care a lot and others won’t be as bothered.

What else belongs on the list of things that should be deal-breakers for anyone with options, stuff that doesn’t fall in the “eh, plenty of people don’t get as bothered by that” category?

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. A Bug!*

    A work environment where you’re asked to do things that are illegal, I would say.

    I know of a person who ended up going to jail while her employer skipped the country. The person didn’t benefit at all for having done it (and in fact she was paid pretty terribly while her ‘creative accounting’ made her employer very wealthy), but while the judge took note of it still sent her to the pokey.

    1. K-Anon*

      Good one, but I’d add just plain unethical to this. There have been moments where I was sure someone was about to ask me to report something incorrectly just so they would look good… I’d definitely draw the line on this.

        1. Jessa*

          Absolutely. Creative accounting, lies about product readiness, not over my signature, ever. I had one job where I was preparing customs documents and someone was all over “make it a gift,” and I’m like you wanna sign that be my guest, but I’m not committing international fraud. This is a business we send a metric tonne of stuff overseas, it’s not we send one thing every few months.

    2. anon-2*

      As I said down below – “just following direction” — if you know it’s wrong — IT IS WRONG and you are equally guilty if you play along with the plan. You have no defense.

        1. A Bug!*

          Bingo. She was the bookkeeper for a strata management company and defrauded various client stratas of somewhere around a million dollars. Related to anon-2’s comment, the judge found that even though her employer profited from her employee’s action and left her holding the bag, the employee wasn’t a victim; she was a willing participant in actions that she knew to be wrong.

          If you’re interested, you can look the case up. The cite is 2004 BCPC 189 and it’s available for free at CanLII.

        2. anon-2*

          Cookin’ the books. Also known as jugglin’ the books.

          Whether you pocket the moolah or not, you face going to the Big House. Try to get to the federal system. I’ve heard the food is better there.

          1. Bea W*

            My aunt’s ex chose a lovely country in South America where he was safely able to pursue a career in politics.

    3. Bea W*

      Or an employer acting in a way that’s illegal even if you are not being asked to break the law yourself.

      Asking you to do things that, while not illegal, are dishonest or unethical, or harmful.

      1. Kat M*

        This, for sure. I held a part-time contractor job for about two months with a terrible company. I put up with the unreliable, unethical coworker and the hands-off boss, right up until the day the cops showed up and confiscated all our files. I noped on out of there as fast as I could, and mailed back my resignation and my key.

        1. Jessa*

          I worked for one place less than two weeks, went through training that was all about “we don’t do this and this and that unethical thing,” and got onto their call floor and it was all “do this do that do the other unethical thing.” I walked into the manager and basically said, not going to do this. And quit on the spot.

  2. K-Anon*

    I love that not getting paid consistantly and accuratly is your first item. I’ve hard arguements with co-managers who downplaid this part of thier job… until an employee started having re-occuring check problems and they discovered every conversation became about thier money.

  3. Elizabeth*

    I would say that it should be a deal-breaker to work for a company that asks you to take legal risks personally. I might take a job with a company that did something illegal if I were desperate, but I would have to be several orders of magnitude more desperate to take a job where I personally might face jail time or hefty fines if what I was doing came to the attention of the authorities.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s a good distinction. The reality is that there are plenty of people who work in businesses where some laws are being broken, sometimes knowingly so, and few people are concerned enough to quit over it. (For instance, having unpaid internships that don’t meet the legal standard, or treating everyone as exempt. The latter is really common in smaller nonprofits.)

      But being asked to put yourself at legal risk is a whole different level.

      1. A Bug!*

        Yes, I agree; there is a difference between a company that breaks the law and a company that asks you to break the law, either explicitly or implicitly.

        Take those ten-minute oil-change places, for example. Their compensation structure basically rewards employees for defrauding customers. If you do your job ethically at one of those places, your performance numbers look low, you’re less valuable to the company, and your job is at risk. Corporate would never tell you to defraud your customers, but they effectively reward you for it with little risk to you if you choose the right marks. (And if you are caught, they claim ignorance and fire you.)

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          It’s the same way at fast food places: it’s virtually impossible to follow all policies, guidelines, and metrics and still get food out to customers quickly, keep the place clean, and finish the close in a half hour. It’s not a matter of following policy to a t, it’s a matter of picking which policies to ignore at which times.

    2. Lisa*

      Like I9 forms – My signature was on them, so I made damn sure that our illegal employees gave me the acceptable backup docs (employment card, student ID, etc.). I knew they each paid a shady lawyer to get those employment cards, but my job wasn’t to vet the docs as valid, it was to photocopy them and file it away in case we were raided.

      1. dejavu2*

        Indeed, it’s actually illegal for you to question the validity of their documents. You did everything by the book.

      2. Lillie Lane*

        I know a guy who collected his [illegal/undocumented, you decide] worker’s fake driver’s license to photocopy, then *lost it*. He ended up paying the guy a bunch of money so he could get a new fake ID.

      3. Jay*

        RE: I9 forms: Keep in mind that you may not require a specific document from within the list of acceptable documents, and if you are going to keep copies of those docs, then you must do so for all applicants–not just the ones you “suspect” are undocumented or unauthorized to work. Otherwise, it becomes discrimination and a shady laywer’s dream case (depending on the depth of the pockets involved, of course).

        You may be protecting yourself in the unlikely event of an INS raid, but exposing yourself and your employer to the wrath of the EEOC and/or the state agency equivalent. All it takes is one complaint and the EEOC investigation process itself is stressful and potentially expensive.

        It is also my understanding that plausible deniablity is not a (solid) defense in immigration cases, but an employment attorney would have to explain that…

        1. Lisa*

          I did I9 forms for everyone even the owners. And no it wasn’t an unlikely event of getting raided, two competitors were raided within a month of each other.

          At the time, it was not a requirement to confirm validity of employment cards, and honestly how would I? They had cards. Even checking the social security numbers was a suggestion not a requirement according to the state website 10 yrs ago.

    1. TL*

      This is going to sound horrible – but sometimes, especially if you’re in a heavily majority-dominated field, that’s just the price of admission you’re going to have to pay to keep that job.

      Some people would rather soldier through, trying to make changes, than leave the field entirely. I can agree with that.

        1. TL*

          Absolutely – but sometimes it’s deal or leave the field entirely. Like if you want to be a female soldier. You can find pockets of the military that are less sexist, but for the most part it’s all rather egregiously sexist. So you can leave the field (completely understandable, don’t get me wrong) or you can stay in the field and have to deal with it.

          So that may not be a deal breaker with everybody because they really want to stay in their -ist field.

    2. AMownLawn*

      This was my first thought, as well. Check the company’s website to see what their non-discrimination policies are. Of course, some of those classes are federally protected, but others (sexual orientation, for example) are not.

      During my search last summer, I immediately weeded out any organization that didn’t clearly include sexual orientation in the list. It eliminated more opportunities than I would have thought, but clearly not any place that I would want to work!

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I don’t know that that would be well advised. In my experience, a stated policy doesn’t often have anything to do with what happens in practice. Mostly because those policies are legal boilerplate, and probably not written by anyone that works there. I have no idea what policy is actually posted on our website; I’ve never looked. But there is very little, to anything, by way of discrimination at my office.

        I think you’d be much better off asking specifically about those issues during an interview, or even just taking cues from how people act and react around you and their co-workers.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. The written statements on this on mean very, very little (in either direction, good or bad). I would absolutely not make job choices based on what is or isn’t in them.

  4. Just a Reader*

    A company or manager that discourages use of benefits like vacation. Given that benefits are part of an overall package, this is essentially shorting the employee on agreed compensation. Plus everyone needs a break…it sucks to get the stinkeye for taking a vacation day, or worse, being called on vacation or straight up asked to cancel.

    1. holly*

      +1 being questioned about my use of sick/vacation is not ok. i’ve accrued the time, i get to use it. never being “approved” for vacation would be a serious dealbreaker.

  5. Lora*

    In the small company field – lack of funding or the specific source of funding. I won’t work for companies that are paying for their R&D pre-commercialization using bank loans. That tells me they are not in good financial shape. Likewise, some VC groups are worse than others at picking the companies to bet on.

    There are certain companies in particular fields whose alumni I don’t like working with. If their previous employer of 10 years was a notoriously hidebound, behind-the-times, anti-innovation, paperwork-choked place characterized by the belief that he who shouts the loudest, wins–it’s going to take me an awful lot of positive experiences with that person to outweigh that. Some companies put out good alumni, and some companies turn employees into burned-out angry zombies. I don’t want a pissed-off zombie manager.

    High turnover rate. Whether it’s the whole company or the department, if they have a high turnover rate, I run the other way. Nothing good comes of that.

    Clock-watchers who don’t do flexible hours. I like to get in super-early, beat the rush hour traffic, and I normally put in way more than 40 hours. I’m the one who gets called at 2am when stuff breaks down, and I come in like a good girl. If I need to leave a couple of hours early to make a dentist appointment or drive through a snowstorm, I expect that to be no problem and not come out of my PTO. I’m a grownup, jeez, you can complain that I wasn’t at my desk at 4:59 when I start missing deadlines.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Not disagreeing, just curious: What constitutes a high turnover rate (in your opinion/field/etc.)?

      1. LeeD*

        I’m not the OP, but I know of an office that’s had four admins in the last five years. I don’t know what they do to their people over there, but I certainly don’t want to find out first hand!

        1. Ruthan*

          Obviously I don’t know the situation at the place you’re talking about, but I’ve adminned for companies where being an admin wasn’t much different from being an hourly worker at the mall or a supermarket. The turnover is high not because there’s anything wrong with the workplace necessarily, but because it’s a job, not a career.

          1. LeeD*

            Unfortunately, that is not the case in this office. Other departments within the same organization keep their admins for years, and folks often move up to a higher classification of admin. To give some context, one of the admins who left the office above had been in her previous position 5+ years and the move to the high-turnover office was a step up.

        2. tcookson*

          Many admins at my university have been in their positions for years (7 for me). One department in our school has high turnover, and I think it’s because 1) they hire people who are overqualified for the position and then 2) don’t let them have the degree of autonomy that people with that level of education and competence feel they should have.

          Now that we’ve all moved in to the same office suite together (after having been housed in separate buildings until recently), I can see that I have way more autonomy in doing the same job than the other two have. They are treated more as entry-level reception workers, and I’m treated as an advisor.

      2. Lora*

        In my field, anything in the double digits annually is considered on the high side. When I got one particular position, they had 3-5% annual turnover, and getting any job there was like a gift from the gods (also my favorite job ever). They’ve just had lots of massive layoffs though, so it kind of no longer applies, but if you compare the turnover rate to the number of new products, you can get a sense of whether people are being laid off or quitting. Also, if they perpetually have tons of jobs posted on LinkedIn or trade websites, that’s a bad sign.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Thanks! I’m very interested in the general trend toward shorter tenures at jobs, and curious about the varied repercussions of that (including higher turnover rates).

          My current role is highly relationship-based and there is next to no redundancy (new organization, slowly growing our staff coverage, etc.). ANY turnover is pretty detrimental to the work, and I’m interested in how we’ll prepare for and manage that challenge as we grow.

      3. some1*

        At my last workplace, just before I started another company (A) acquired mine. The company maintained two separate accounting departments after the merger.

        Everyone in A’s Accounting Dept when the company merged except the Controller and CFO (20-30 people) had been canned or quit within a year.

      4. Chewbecca*

        I’ve been at my company a little over 3 years, and there have been 2 departments that have turned over completely, save for maybe 1 or 2 long-haulers. I think that qualifies as high turn-over.

    2. E.R*

      All good points, but i especially agree with the clock-watchers. Having found myself in such a job last year, I hope im never desperate enough to have to work for such a place again. They noted if you were one minute late, and by extension, were stingy on all PTO, accused you of be deceitful if you called in sick, everyone was nervous all the time. That kind of culture is a definite deal-breaker, and I think now I know all the signs.

    3. Allison*

      Clock watchers are awful. I had a job where our working hours were (unnecessarily) strict, you had to be in the office *before* 8:30AM so you could start working at that moment, and you couldn’t leave a second before 5:30PM without permission from your manager. They expected us to come in on the day of Hurricane Sandy and Snowstorm Nemo.

      I’m still hourly in my current job, but at least I get to put in my hours anytime from anywhere, so I’m able to work in doctor’s appointments, lunch dates, etc. pretty easily, and I can beat rush hour traffic and find a decent parking space in my neighborhood by leaving the office at 3pm and working another 2-3 hours from home. My mornings are also much less stressful knowing that while I may want to be in the office by a certain time, I don’t NEED to be in the office by a specific time.

      1. AMG*

        I know of a company where the CEO would hang out in the parking lot and write down the license plates of employees coming in even 5 minutes late. You would get written up on your first offense, and fired by your 3rd. He finally had to stop because it was affecting their talent pool. They did some things that were pretty radical for them, like allowing the day after Thanksgiving to be a paid holiday.

        He won’t give in on working from home though: He also felt that if there were a blizzard, you had to come in or stay the night ata local hotel, reasoning that it’s not his fault you chose to live where you do.

        I wouldn’t go work there for all the tea in China. nope.

        1. Yup*

          THE CEO?! I am… stunned at this.

          I seriously question the basic life competency of a chief executive who thinks that hanging out in the parking lot to catch latecomers is a good use of his highly paid time.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I knew a CEO like this also. Smallish company, but he didn’t trust people to complete a timesheet honestly, didn’t trust department managers to track time or ensure timesheets are accurate, and was too cheap to buy any kind of timeclock. So he would come in a little early, sit in his car, read the newspaper, and mark down anyone that drove in late. Good use of the CEO’s time, I think.

        2. Chewbecca*

          Are you by chance referring to Cerner? They’re a huge employer in Kansas City, but the burnout rate there is really high. It was on my no-list from the beginning when I moved here.

      2. voluptuousfire*

        They expected you to come in the day of Hurricane Sandy?


        God forbid you lived in Staten Island or the Jersey shore and you’re at work that day and have to worry about whether your house is still standing or not.

        Skewed priorities.

  6. A Teacher*

    A place where scare tactics are constantly employed, former job liked to have meetings and forecast all of the bad and tell us we were lucky to have jobs but one slip up could take that from us.

    Second one: a place that bashes employees while they are there or when they move on. Former job did this all the time by sending out emails that would single out and bash each employee for leaving and then bash employees at meetings. It was great.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I had a job like the first one. It was a large nonprofit that I’m sure business majors would be familiar with. The CEO would say things like that in meetings. He actually laid someone off in an all-company meeting once–he said “We are restructuring the X department. Sue has been a great worker, but we’re going to have to let her go.”

      No one told Sue that was going to happen prior to the meeting. I thought she was going to faint dead away.

      We were stunned, especially those of us in the same department. Everybody agreed that he did it to intimidate us.

    2. K Too*

      Ugh, I worked for a place like this. A former co-worker who became a friend of mine forwarded me a team e-mail after I was 2 weeks fresh on my new gig. I found it hilarious and cherish that email as a reminder of bosses I never want to work for again.

      The CEO sent out this weird, long passive-aggressive e-mail explaining why the team was experiencing some turmoil with the turnover and proceeded to explain his POV of what was happening. Apparently, my leaving in a week ( I did give notice and the atmosphere was too toxic for me stay) was unprofessional in the professional world despite my strengths as an account manager and since I was leaving the team would be better off.

      A week after I left, a new team member proceeded to leave the company in the middle of the day. The employer she originally wanted to work for offered her a gig and BOOM just like that she left. He noted that they most likely dodged a bullet. The third person they wanted to hire excepted 2 counteroffers from his employer. He then stated his opinion about accepting counteroffers.

      I don’t miss that place at all and every 3- 6 months I continue to see ads on Craigslist/LinkedIn for my former role.

  7. Karyn*

    At LastJob, I was told we were to be paid monthly, on the second Monday of every month. Except for a few things…

    1. I wasn’t told about the monthly pay cycle until after I’d accepted the job.

    2. We weren’t paid via direct deposit, it was handwritten checks – which are fine, except that when the owner isn’t there to sign them, they just sit in her office until she comes in – which sometimes wouldn’t be til two or three days after we were supposed to be paid, and then we’d have to wait for check to clear our banks.

    3. When you’re not paid on the day you’re supposed to be paid, your bills all bounce nicely down the street and your landlord tends not to be happy when you tell him rent is going to be a few days late.

    4. A monthly pay cycle is actually against regulations in my state, which I found out later after having a hell of a time trying to collect my final paycheck.

    In sum, I will never again work somewhere where A) direct deposit is not an option, B) the pay frequency is less than semi-monthly, and C) only one person in the whole office is authorized to sign checks.

    1. AMownLawn*

      Can I ask what state you’re in? I never would have thought monthly pay would be illegal. That’s how I’ve been paid for the last six years or so, and while there’s an adjustment period, it has worked fine for me.

      That being said, it needs to happen like clockwork, with direct deposit, and no disruptions. The situation at your last job sounds insane.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Some states require shorter pay periods, but some do allow monthly. I’ve never understood why people object to monthly — yes, it requires you to budget for a whole month rather than two weeks, but I would hope people are paying attention to how they spend their money anyway.

        Anyway, to find out your state’s paycheck laws, Google this:
        STATENAME paycheck laws

        You’ll usually find all sorts of things!

        1. Karyn*

          The thing is, I would have no objection to it if we had been paid the day we were supposed to be paid! The problem came in when the checks would be three, four, five days late. It doesn’t matter how well I budget, if my check is late by that much and my bills are on autopay, it’s not going to help. It was just very frustrating!

        2. Kevin*

          I am on my second professional job and one was bi-weekly and one was monthly. I just like when my spending is more rationed automatically with the bi-weekly, same as having my retirement contributions taken out automatically.

          I now but half in my savings and withdraw it half way through the month but sometimes that is done before the 15th. On the pro monthly side it sucked when rent was due the day before I got paid.

          1. Anon*

            My workplace has a great arrangement, a step up from bi-weekly: We are paid twice a month, once on the 15th and once on the last day of the month, direct deposit, and never late – sometimes even early! Not that I couldn’t structure my finances just fine on a monthly paycheque, but this makes it very easy for me.

        3. TK*

          FWIW, I’m a public employee of a state government and am paid monthly. I agree with Alison– as long as you’re paid regularly and accurately, if you’re an adult who knows how to manage money, I don’t know why it should make any difference how often you’re paid.

          I’m in my first professional job and don’t make much, but I’ve never had to structure any of my financial decision-making around the actual date I get paid. I just check my bank account the last day of every month and make sure my deposit has gone in for the correct amount and that’s all I ever think about it.

        4. Elizabeth*

          It could be hard on someone starting a new job, especially if they really need it financially, to wait an entire month after beginning work before getting their first paycheck. But for people who are established, it shouldn’t make a difference.

          1. Karyn*

            This. For instance, that first month was a really long, stressful month switching from semi-monthly to monthly. I got my last paycheck from my prior job on May 31, and started the new job June 3, but didn’t get my first paycheck for the new job until July 8.

            I didn’t really mind the monthly schedule, it just would have been nice to know going in, and it would have been nice if it had been on time, every month. Had that been the case, I could have just had all the bills set to come out the day I got paid, and whatever was left, was left.

            1. Anonymous*

              Growing up, my parents got paid 10x a year. No check in July or August. They were college professors. And they could handle their money. The only thing I ever noticed was that the fridge was really sad by the last week of August. And then there was the Great September Harvest on the 1st when all the food showed up. :)

              1. Karyn*

                LMAO. The Great September Harvest. I love you.

                That’s basically what happened with me though – I ate a lot of ramen that month!

        5. Anonymous*

          I’ve always been paid monthly and I prefer it. Almost all of my bills are due monthly, so I can budget for them as one chunk out of my monthly paycheck and know how much I have left for the rest of the month. Plus, the biggest expense (rent) is always due on the first of the month so if that was coming out of a 2-week paycheck, my spending money for those 2 weeks would suddenly seem like a lot less. A while ago, my employer considering shifting everyone to biweekly and people flipped out!

        6. Catherine*

          For years, our sole household income was my husband’s monthly paycheck. I did find it convenient because all the bills were monthly–he cashed his check, I paid all the bills, and we were done for the month.

          But I did always feel that we were being screwed out of half a month’s interest on the money, which we could have been earning but instead the company was. Interest rates are so low now that it wouldn’t amount to much for an individual, but at the time they were higher. And even now it’s not zero.

          Now my husband gets paid twice a month and I get paid every two weeks. Annoying, but not either company’s fault or problem. Someone else said they like having two months in the year that have three paychecks, but I don’t. I budget by the month and you almost have to budget those two paychecks separately or feel like you’re a little skint every other month. I’d rather just work out every month to be the same and then not think about it.

      2. Karyn*

        I’m in Ohio. Keep in mind, I’m no lawyer, so this isn’t legal advice, but I did complete my J.D., and I spoke with the Department of Commerce about it.

        Here’s the statute: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4113.15


        “4113.15 Semimonthly payment of wages.
        (A) Every individual, firm, partnership, association, or corporation doing business in this state shall, on or before the first day of each month, pay all its employees the wages earned by them during the first half of the preceding month ending with the fifteenth day thereof, and shall, on or before the fifteenth day of each month, pay such employees the wages earned by them during the last half of the preceding calendar month. If at any time of payment an employee is absent from his regular place of labor and does not receive his wages through an authorized representative, such person shall be entitled to said payment at any time thereafter upon demand upon the proper paymaster at the place where such wages are usually paid and where such pay is due. This section does not prohibit the daily or weekly payment of wages, the use of a longer time lapse that is customary to a given trade, profession or occupation, or establishment of a different time lapse by written contract or by operation of law.”

        The key is that a lot of employers try to skate by this by saying that it can be a longer time lapse that is customary to a given profession or by written contract. Some employers will say that the handbook is a “written contract.” But when I spoke with the Ohio Department of Commerce, they said that because Ohio is an at-will state, unless you are a contract employee, an employee handbook (especially one that specifically states it’s not a contract, as mine did) would not be considered a contractual basis for creating a longer time period.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Interesting! Looking at this, there’s no specific prohibition of monthly payments. For instance, my workplace pays monthly, on the last business day of the month, and would not run afoul of this policy, because we pay for the whole current month for each paycheck.

          1. Karyn*

            The way the DOC explained it to me was, as an example:

            You need to be paid for hours worked February 1-15 by March 1. You also need to be paid for hours worked February 16-28 (or 29) by March 15.

            The reason my employer was in the wrong was because we were being paid from the payday through the Friday before the next payday, and those semi-weekly pay periods overlapped. For example, the September 9 payday covered time from August 10 through September 6. Legally, August 10-15 should have been paid to me by September 1, and August 16-31 should have been paid by September 15. Sometimes there was more overlap than others, depending on how the calendar days fell. It wasn’t a huge difference, but when you live paycheck to paycheck, and the checks are late anyway, it’s difficult to manage. It was also a difficult pay schedule because if there was an error on someone’s check, there was almost no time to fix it before the check was cut.

            Before I left, I pointed out the statute and apparently they have switched to a bi-weekly paycheck schedule. I hope it has at least helped some of my former coworkers who I know struggled with monthly, not-always-on-time checks.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Ah, but if you paid on the last day of the month for work done that month (as Kim said her employer does), that would be legal under this statute. So it’s not that they can’t pay monthly — it’s that their paydays were too late.

              In other words, they could have paid you on March 31 for all work done in March and that would be legal.

              1. Karyn*

                I agree. It’s such an underused pay frequency that I don’t think most people/businesses ever have to even THINK about this statute!

                For those of you who’ve had monthly pay periods, do you think it also would have helped if the DATE had been set, not the day of the week? In other words, if they had paid us on the 1st of the month every month for work done the previous month, rather than “the second Monday of each month?” I’m curious as to others’ thoughts on this.

                1. anonintheUK*

                  Monthly pay is pretty standard in the UK, I think. Everywhere I have worked has either had a very specific day (usually the 28th, because there always IS a 28th) or the last working day of the month.

                2. Jen in RO*

                  In my country monthly pay is the norm and I too was wondering what the big deal was – it’s the same amount of money after all, and an adult should be able to hold on to the money for two more weeks… At all my previous (decent) jobs I got paid on the same calendar date (e.g. 8th of the month) and it made planning very easy.

                3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  Ours is the last business day of the month, which you would think would be very easy to remember and deal with, but I still have employees asking me what day it is every single month.

                  I personally have a much harder time with bi-weekly pay! Somehow, keeping track of every other Friday is just too complicated to me. I have this problem now with WeekendJob, but I had the same issue when I was bi-weekly at previous jobs. So every two weeks, I get a pleasant surprise of free money. Then I pay my bills with my Real Job that pays monthly.

                4. chikorita*

                  I get paid monthly as well, I can’t say I ever really thought about it. Then again, my office is reliable and pays us by direct deposit. We get our pay on the 28th of each month, and if the 28th is on a weekend, we’re paid on the Friday before instead. I.e. if the 28th is a Sunday, we’re paid on Friday 26th (because our bank is ridiculous and won’t do anything at the weekend- not even automated deposits).

    2. Kevin*

      ugh I started a job this year where I get paid monthly and I am not a fan. I will say it did make me happy because they list the per paycheck contributions for insurance on their website so it was half as much as I originally thought it would be.

      On a side note it was really nice that my company publicly displayed all their benefits in terms of what they offer, what it costs, and what it covers on line for me to see.

    3. AmyNYC*

      I worked at a company that didn’t do direct deposit and I hated it! We’d get pain on time (great), every other Friday. My bank puts a “hold” on large deposits (say, over $500) so I’d only have a part of my paycheck available until the next banking day which was Monday. This is really really annoying in a day and age where everything else (my rent check, utilities, loans) are automated.

      1. Anonymous*

        I quit my last job because they only did paper cheques. The company always gave them out late, and then my bank held the whole cheque for a week.

    4. Riki*

      I am okay with monthly pay periods, but I stay far away from any company that does not offer direct deposit. To me, it just stinks of cash flow problems.

      1. Katieinthemountains*

        Sometimes there’s a different explanation (which may come with its own set of problems)…my boss really liked walking around and handing out paychecks. I think it made him feel like the beneficent ruler of his little fiefdom. Direct deposit started earlier this year, and not interrupting my workday to go to the bank is so much better.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I worked for a small company where the owner did that – walked around handing out paychecks. I think she got off on doing that too. I would have much preferred direct deposit.

          1. PJ*

            No reason whatsoever she couldn’t walk around and hand out pay stubs. I’m with you — direct deposit is the only way to go.

            1. Judy*

              I’ve always had direct deposit for my post college jobs, but in the beginning, they still walked around with the same envelopes, you couldn’t tell if was a check or a pay stub.

              Then I was transitioned to mailed statements.

              Now I’ve transitioned to online statements.

              I remember when I was preschool (in the 70’s) and going with my mom to dad’s school to pick up his signed checks right after lunch every other Friday. We’d then go to the bank and I’d get candy. ;)

              1. Liane*

                Important Tip: If you have direct deposit and still get the paper stubs/receipts that look a lot like the company pay checks (Many places still do that) **always** open & read those ASAP.
                A former boss of mine suddenly had his checks/auto-payments bouncing. Turned out there was a payroll glitch & his previous pay period’s salary wasn’t direct deposited, but issued as a check with no notice. I felt so bad watching him frantically searching his piled-up desk for an envelope with what he’d assumed was “just” the latest direct deposit receipt, but was really a check. Thankfully he found it within a few minutes & I hope the company covered any fees the bank didn’t waive. (It was a very good place to work so I’m sure they did.)

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  This. We’ve never had that exact thing happen, but I can see how it would, and honestly, anything to GET PEOPLE TO LOOK AT THEIR D$@M PAYSTUBS! I just can’t get people to do it. It’s your money, you should understand it!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Exjob’s wifeowner did that but she passed out the pay stubs. She got to feel important and we got our damn money on time.

          To be fair, she always said thank you to US when she did that. They seriously drove me crazy when I worked there, but–and I never thought I’d be saying this–they actually weren’t that bad.

          *sky falls*

        3. Claire MKE*

          Both of my works hand out our direct deposit paystubs personally. You can have the best of both worlds, bosses!

  8. unimpressed*

    An employer that uses labour law as a blackmailing tool to hold an expat employee hostage within that country’s borders. Until the employer grants permission, that employee literally cannot return to their home country.

    1. LOLwhut*

      Does that happen in the US? I know it happens in Qatar. Can’t say that’s a deal-breaker for me, because no way in hell am I ever going to Qatar, but I agree, it’s despicable.

      1. anon-2*

        Here in the United States – no such restriction exists.

        I once had a manager who said “I WON’T LET YOU QUIT. YOU CAN’T QUIT.”

        So when I resigned – he ripped up the letter — I said “I’ve got another one, I will mail it to HR, reg-mail, return receipt, no problem” — “BUT YOU CAN’T QUIT”.

        I had a copy of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution because I knew this was going to happen. I handed it to him. I said – “If you can’t figure out what this means, call legal, OK…?”

      2. Jay*

        If the State Department happens to be made aware that you are not complying with the terms of your visa they will probably be happy to revoke it and help you find your way home.

        1. unimpressed*

          But that’s the thing, Qatar DOESN’T do that. Even if you break the law/the terms of your visa/offend the boss in some way/stand up for your human rights, etc, their response is, illogically, to prevent you leaving. Guess it’s deportation in reverse.

      3. unimpressed*

        Yep you’re right, I was talking about Qatar. Good to see that place’s reputation is starting to get ahead of it at last. My advice to anyone: don’t go there, don’t be tempted by the fat salaries. It’s not worth it.

  9. Shuvon*

    Being hired at X rate and promised a salary review in 6 months — this was written in the offer letter. Then receiving a performance review and pay cut at 6 weeks and being told that my new salary will actually be X – 30% because “they can’t afford to pay the full rate while I’m in training.” Surprise! (in the worst way).

    But don’t worry, in 6 more months (not 6 months from hire), there will be another salary review to restore my pay back to X if I work “hard enough.”

    1. PJ*

      Ooh, my evil side would love for them to find out you quit by going by your desk the next morning and finding your badge and keys sitting there and your family photos gone. Unless there were serious performance issues, in which case a) you’d know about it and b) they’d have fired you instead, there is no excuse for this.

  10. Anonymous*


    and bosses who follow you into the bathroom, and peek through the crack in the door, to see if you’re texting or actually or actually peeing.*

    I’ve had that happen at two separate jobs and one wasn’t even a call centre!

    1. Meg*

      Uhhhh how in the hell is that not sexual harassment? Or harassment of some sort?! That’s beyond insane.

    2. AMG*

      I would want to take a stick in the bathroom and jab it in the crack of the door if someone tried to do that. What a creepy jerk!

    3. Chriama*

      OK that *must* be illegal. There HAS to be a law preventing people from looking at you in the bathroom. Maybe not a corporate law, but I bet some govt. agency somewhere would be interested to know that company management knew about this and didn’t do anything…

      1. Tax Nerd*

        You would be horrified to know how little is actually a crime when it comes to workplace privacy. Civil matter, yes, but criminal matter… not so much.

        When I studied business law many many years ago, there were cases of hidden cameras in women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, people’s offices – and there was never a specific law against it. Employees who felt violated when they found out had to go to civil court, instead. Nevermind reading emails from your work computer, tapping your work phone, etc.

  11. LCL*

    Working off the clock. The way this happens is not that the employer asks for free time. What they do is, tell you that your shift isn’t over until these duties are done, and you won’t be paid past a certain time, so you’d better get everything done.

    1. Natalie*

      For whatever it’s worth, it doesn’t matter how they phrase that particular request. It’s still illegal.

      1. LCL*

        I think everyone who reads AAM knows it is illegal. I was illustrating how ‘the kids’ get sucked into this for their entry level jobs.

    2. Chriama*

      Oh, oh I know the answer to this one!
      Employers have to pay you for all time worked (with the usual nuances for exempt vs. non-exempt workers). They can discipline you or fire you for not getting your work done at a reasonable rate, though, so it’s probably a matter of work off the clock or get fired, and whatever you get through suing wouldn’t be worth it.

  12. some1*

    A family business when you are not in the family.

    I’ve never worked for one, but I have heard horror stories from friends who have about family members getting away with murder, family members holding positions that have neither the skill set, degree, training or qualifications to hold, and family members getting over-compensated.

    1. Lillie Lane*

      I know there are exceptions, but THIS times a million. Plus, in 99% of these situations, it’s a dead job with zero upward mobility.

    2. Just a Reader*

      I once worked for a husband and wife who owned the business. I made an error and the wife got in my face and screamed that I was taking food from her kids’ mouths.

      The husband would instruct us to ignore the wife’s directions and the wife would say the same about the husband. It was literally a no win situation. Horrible.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve worked for two husband-wife team business owners, but they weren’t the kind who employed their kids / tosspot uncles. That said, I don’t know how they did it. I’d get sick of seeing my husband in my face all day, especially if I were mad at him.

  13. Yup*

    There are levels of things that I can put up or not with depending on frequency, intensity, and prevalence. And there are differences between what I’ll look for in a new job versus what I’ll put up with in a current job. But if I get right down to the absolute, bright line, I-will-walk-out-the-door-without-a-new-job-if-this-happens-even-one-time dealbreakers? For me, it’s two things: paycheck/benefit shenanigans, and physical working conditions.

    The occasional payroll goof or 401k deposit error is livable. But if I find out you’re fiddling my paychecks or not paying for coverage you claim to provide or dropping a key benefit right after the enrollment date or anything along those lines, then I’m done. There is no coming back from that breach of trust.

    For the physical environment, I won’t stay in a job where it’s in a neighborhood or building so bad that I’m afraid to be there. And to clarify, I’m talking about things like I’m afraid there’s going to be an electrical fire any minute or the ceiling is going to cave in, or I’m constantly afraid to walk to my car alone or work in the building without a ton of people around. There’s just no way around it on those types of things for me. The upside is that it’s easy to opt-out on this from the hiring phase, but I would leave an otherwise great job if the conditions suddenly changed to be really bad.

    Pretty much everything else, I feel like I can deal with on a case by case basis as it happens.

    1. AMG*

      this is a perfect example. I used to have to travel to a neighborhood famous all over the country for how dangerous it was. I came in at 9 am, and left at 5pm. I had co-workers from another country not familiar with its infamy who wanted to stay late at work to wrap things up. I threatened to pick one of them up and carry them to the car if I had to but We. Were. Leaving.

      It wasn’t ideal, but it was fine because I managed it properly and had my eye on the situation. But I can see where someone else wouldn’t do it.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      +1 to the physical working conditions.

      I’m even add comfortable climate. I once worked in a beautiful historic building with poor insulation and flaky heating and cooling. In the winter, I’d wear my coat and fingerless gloves in my office and I’d still be too cold. In the summer, I’d sweat miserably. Meanwhile, the conference room was always too cold in the summer and too hot in the winter. Over time, it became a deal-breaker for me.

  14. AMG*

    Here are some of mine, plus some others that I can think of:

    1. I would say yelling. I don’t put up with it, but to my husband it’s part of the environment/industry.
    2. I know a lot of people who don’t like having to deal with a place where things change very quickly and the pace is fast, but I really like it. They want stability and consistency, and an emergency should be one a year, not twice a day.
    3. My husband is in sales, and God forbid someone gives him reporting/spreadhseet tasks. I couldn’t make it through an hour without Excel.
    4. I would be very selective about taking a job with union workers at my company. The union here is very powerful and some employees behave horribly because they know that they can get away with murder. I would turn down a promotion in a second if it meant having direct reports that are union.
    5. Travel. varying opinions in general.
    6. having direct reports in general. Lots of people want to be individual contributors.
    7. I second the clock-watching thing. Hate it.
    8. being on-call/working outside of 8-5
    9. Small businesses, family-owned businesses or large corporations
    10. Anything that involves manual labor of any kind
    11. too many rules. I would absolutely despise a place where I couldn’t have food at my desk, couldn’t have water at my desk, had to request sick time in advance (I have young kids), couldn’t wear jeans, was micro-managed, was run by clock-watchers, etc. Any one of these is ok, but if it’s a place with all of those and then some, I’m done.

  15. Lizabeth*

    Any place that you interview with that gives you the impression of a constant fire drill for a work atmosphere. This did happen with one place and I turned it down. Was called shortly by the head of the firm for a meeting that started with “I think you got the wrong impression of my firm…” WRONG! He was a very, very, very, very smooth salesman and I changed my mind based on that meeting. Needless to say my first impression was right and I bugged out (9 months later) as when I got another offer. But I was able to add “Experienced cat herder” to my resume :)

  16. anon-2*

    Oh boy, reaching into my “Dinner Table Stories” (was the working title of my book, probably will change)

    1) – Being asked to do something illegal.

    This happened to me several times in my career. I also noted that the requests for the illegal actions were never in writing. Remember two things here —

    a) “I was just following orders” is NOT a valid legal defense and
    b) When a criminal enterprise breaks down, it becomes “every man (or woman) for him/herself”… you will have NO defenders. Even your company’s HR and legal department will throw you down the stairs in an attempt to protect the company, if they have to.

    I’ve actually liked some of my managers, but I wouldn’t go to jail to protect any of them.

    2) – Being asked to do something unethical.

    I was once asked to assist in falsifying an employee’s error report – “because that’s all I’ve got to get rid of her”… also, to put my name on the bottom of a statistical study that was bogus. Had to resign, get brought back with managers apologizing…

    3) = Not getting paid, or weirdnesses surrounding the pay process.

    ’nuff said by others. I have a friend, who wasn’t getting paid — because “his company is broke”. He had to contact his two superiors –one was in vacation in Europe, the other on a mountain expedition out west somewhere. Broke. Yeah. Right. Uh-huh, there’s no money to pay you but when we get back from the Riviera, we’ll talk, OK?

    I have dealt with the occasional lost paycheck — but that has to be contrasted with not getting paid because there’s no money to pay you, or owing to nefarious management actions.

    4) Putting up with lying.

    Others have better examples.

    5) Being blamed for things that went wrong that you had absolutely nothing to do with.

    Did you ever see managers bray like donkeys? I did, twice. Once I was accused of botching a project — while I was on vacation 2000 miles from the shop! They had even written up a threatening letter for me! Replying to that was frustrating – but I did in a registered letter to human resources!

    BOY DID THAT HIT THE FAN….we had a few long conferences on that incident –

    6) Being asked for a monstrous personal favor from people who refuse to give you a living wage.

    I have some outlandish examples — won’t reveal them here. But really wild-assed requests, given the circumstances, would be insulting to one’s intelligence.

    7) Being excluded from critical training resources, etc.

    Be sure to document these. And – do not hesitate to say “I was not allowed to attend that training session – and I asked.” Don’t be afraid to call out a manager who does this. Directors don’t like to hear those things.

    1. anon-2*

      to add to this

      1a) To work in a place where your physical safety is in jeopardy. Examples can run the gamut from not being allowed to pee, to having a “cop happy” security guard who boasts of carrying a .457 magnum with dum-dum bullets . Or locks you out of a building on a sub-zero night.

  17. AmyNYC*

    I’m not sure it’s a deal breaker since I’m currently putting up with them, but something thing I’ll look for in the future – work life balance.
    I understand that working late sometimes is going to happen almost everywhere, but working 10 to 11 hour days everyday is just not for me.
    How do you find out about these deal breakers before accepting a job?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      This is a big deal for me as well, and I’ve been burned before by asking about it in the interview process and getting all kinds of assurances — “Yeah, we LOVE work-life balance!” Then I get there and people TIPTOE out the door if they have to leave before 6, even if all the work is done, because they don’t want anyone to see them leaving “early.”

      Someone — it may have been Alison herself, but I don’t remember exactly — posted here once that instead of asking, “What’s the work-life balance here?” which is likely to provoke answers of “It’s great!” because they’re trying to sell you on the place, instead ask as many of your interviewers as possible, “What time did you get in yesterday? What time did you leave?” It makes sense that that question might be less of a trigger for your interviewer to get all Pollyanna on you if the place isn’t, in fact, terribly interested in preserving employees’ work-life balance. But I haven’t tried this one in practice yet.

  18. Rebecca*

    No cost of living increases, no annual reviews (merit increases are dependent on reviews, so no reviews, no merit increases), and much higher health insurance deductions for next year. Oh, and the company president bragged about what a profitable year it’s been.

    Gee, thanks. I had already committed to looking for a new job in a less Kindergarten type of environment, this just put the icing on the cake for me.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ooooo, you reminded me. Here’s one: Being forced to ask for your annual review repeatedly before receiving it.

      I felt like I was a puppy begging for a treat. Literally, had to follow the boss around and pester him. Then I find out- this isn’t personal… no, it’s NORMAL. That did not make me feel better.

  19. Erin*

    Being required to do something that threatens my license. I’m a lawyer, but I think that would probably apply no matter what the profession.

    1. Karyn*

      As a notary, I’ve been asked to notarize things that I haven’t seen signed in front of me. Absolutely positively not.

    2. Cat*

      Yeah, I think that for lawyers, because you have independent ethical obligations to your clients, it’s a dealbreaker any time you can’t meet those obligations because of what your workplace is doing.

    3. Tax Nerd*

      I’m a CPA, I’m not going to sign a return knowing there are some “creative” deductions on there. I usually tell clients that I’ll rely on the numbers they give me, as long as they appear reasonable, because I’m not here to audit them. If they do get audited by the IRS, they better have the backup details, and if they don’t, that’s not my problem.

      However, some clients will get their return, and then ask if I can just deduction of some round dollar amount, just to lower the amount due. If it’s something they genuinely forgot, sure. If it’s something that they want on the return just to save themselves some money, then hell no.

      I don’t know what kind of money I’d need if I were to lose my CPA license and be forced to do something else. But I know it’s a huge huge multiple of what the client is paying me.

      1. azvlr*

        I was once referred to a “really great tax prep guy” by some folks at work. When I sat down with him, he was all about inventing receipts for deductions. I walked and invested a few dollars in tax-prep software. I was able to get back more money legally than the guy was trying to get for me illegally! He apparently upset a few other folks, because he is now in jail and the couple that referred him got audited big time and slapped with a lovely fine. Karma!

  20. Anonymous*

    At this point, no employer provided insurance or bad insurance. The job better have good insurance, and cover everything ACA mandates, and not one of those health savings plans with high deductibles.

  21. The Other Dawn*

    I have nothing to add to the list, but I do have a personal deal-breaker. For me it would be a company that won’t hire a replacement when someone leaves and instead makes someone else absorb that position. I don’t mean not replacing someone because it’s just not in the budget or the job is no longer necessary. I mean when they just decide that they can save a few bucks and have Jane work longer and harder, even though she’s already wearing several different hats. And they don’t provide the proper training.

    Yup, that happened to me. Management just decided I could take on the position since I learn fast, know the systems, etc. It’s not that they didn’t have the money, they just figured since I excelled at everything else I was given that I could do this too. Didn’t ask, just told me this is the job. Didn’t matter that I had never worked in that area, knew nothing about it, cared to know nothing about it, and had lots of other things to do. Didn’t get any training either. Just had to figure out for myself, which is how I learned my other jobs. On the plus side, it helped me gain a better understanding as to how the business made money and helped to build up my resume a little more. On the minus side, I became the go-to person each time the position was vacated (high turnover in this department) and I grew to resent it. Big time. And I eventually burned out. Also, because I had never been trained, only knew enough to get by, and had a manager that basically relied on me to do everything and didn’t double-check anything, many mistakes surfaced years later. I did the best I could with what I had at the time.

  22. Ann Furthermore*

    A company that breaks the law is the only deal-breaker I can think of. I worked for a small consulting firm years ago, and they sent me up to a client’s site in Canada for a couple weeks. They told me not to tell the immigration people that I was there for work, because Canada apparently has some strict rules around ex-pats coming into the country to work…something about how they want to make sure that work is not being taken away from/denied to Canadian citizens. Or something like that. Technically, a non-Canadian should get a work visa, but my company did not want to spend the time or money to do that.

    Anyway, my first trip up was fine. On my second trip I was asked if I’d been to Canada before, and without thinking I said yes, I’d been there the previous week. This led to all kinds of questions that I had to answer less than truthfully, or outright evasively. It was unnerving and incredibly uncomfortable. As soon as I got to my hotel I called the sales rep for the account and told them I would not return to Canada unless the proper paperwork/documentation was in place, because I was not being paid enough to lie to immigration officials.

    I quit soon after that, so it never came up again, but that was my line in the sand for what I’ll tolerate.

  23. Elizabeth West*

    1. Illegal stuff (working off-the-clock, fudging numbers–not like I could tell–and the like).

    2. Dangerous stuff. No PPE for handling hazardous materials? Even if I’m not in that position, that’s a big no.

    3. Bullies, and wimpy managers who won’t deal with them.

    4. No health insurance. I ended an interview over this once. When she mentioned that, I politely said “I’m sorry, but I can’t accept a position without health coverage. I don’t want to waste any more of your time.” She was very nice about it.

    5. As someone said above, I hate workplaces where you’re treated like the bad kid for actually taking your time off or being sick. It happens, people.

    6. Live paychecks, especially when you don’t get them until the end of the day on Friday. >_<

  24. FlorenceFearne*

    How about a company that’s in a line of business you personally disagree with? I’m thinking working for a tobacco company when your parent died of lung cancer, working for a women’s clinic that performs procedures contrary to your religious views, etc. You could do it to pay the bills, but you’d be miserable.

    1. Bea W*

      Research & testing on animals. I couldn’t work on a project that involves this even though I deal strictly with data. I think a little piece of my soul would shrivel each day. I do work for a company that does animal testing. They all do because that is how drug development happens in the US, but I work only with projects and groups who do only human subjects research where participation is voluntary, often beneficial to the partucpants and there are all kinds of protections in place and they are not simply discarded when the study ends. I understand it has its place, but that place is definately not fi r me! I’d would work for politicians before I could even think about accepting a job that involved animal testing. *cringe*

      There are certainly other companies I would choise not to apply to, but I’m not sure I coukd do the above even out if despiration whereas others I could suck it up short term in an hour of desparation.

  25. WorkerBee*

    Hi, I’m the letter-writer. Thanks for offering your suggestions, Alison and commenters.

    My workplace is dysfunctional beyond belief. A whole bunch of people have quit, and we’ve been told they’re not going to be replaced, so now we’re taking over all the extra work of those who left (not that I blame them). Right now, I’m working with no breaks (and I mean literally no breaks, which means not eating for eight hours and having to time your bathroom dash when the boss isn’t looking), workweeks that are increasingly becoming six days long, and now getting the stinkeye for daring to ask for time off over the holidays. (“Not impressed,” my boss literally said.)

    Furthermore, boss never actually bothered to check out if the quitters were doing their work, so we’re stuck with literally months of backed-up assignments, which neither the new hires nor the old hands (I’m getting to be one of the latter after a few short months!) are prepared to deal with.

    If it were a temporary crisis that would be one thing, but we have been told, repeatedly, that there will be no more new hires and the situation will not improve. Think this is a time to give my notice and flee?

        1. WorkerBee*

          What complicates this is that I’d have to return to my home country. Many companies aren’t going to go through the hiring process long distance. If my current situation is that bad (and yes, it is getting that bad), I may just have to leave even without a job waiting. Better to flip burgers for a few months than go completely insane.

    1. AMG*

      Time to go. And when you resign, if you said, ‘Not Impressed’ to the boss, I don’t think anyone would blame you. But don’t, because you always want to leave with dignity and professionalism even in teh face of buttheaded behavior. :)

    2. Yup*

      Do you have something else lined up? It’s sounds like it’s time to get away from Dysfunction Function Inc. but it might be worth sticking it out while you search. Being employed makes you (weirdly) more appealing to new employers and avoids a future resume gap. Plus the continuing income & benefits aspect.

      Don’t force yourself to stick with anything that’s making you unwell etc. But for me (and this is totally a personal thing) the act of job searching improves my ability to deal with the day-to-day of a crap job. I’m better able to shrug off the awful when I can look at the ‘not impressed’ boss and think, “You will no longer be my problem very shortly, buddy.”

      1. anon-2*

        The funniest thing I ever saw was a manager screaming, to a fellow manager, in a discount store, “HAROLD’S BEEN WARNED! (about coming in late). ” When the other manager commented, that Harold was in the middle of his college exams, the other manager said “I DON’T CARE! He’s got to decide what’s more important – those exams, or this job!!! (stocking shelves).”

        I overheard. My wife did too. Boy, did we laugh at him. I also saw a youngster rattled – at a fast-food joint, over a manager yelling at him.

        I asked him, “Son, are you in college?”
        “Yes, sir.”
        – “Where?” “Carnegie Mellon”.
        – “What are you studying?” “Engineering”.

        “Swell -good luck. And, think of where you’re going to be in six years, and think about where (your boss) will be — probably still here chuckin’ french fries.”

      2. WorkerBee*

        Thank you. I did apply for some jobs in my home country, and even if I don’t get hired by these initial applications, it does give me a great amount of hope!

    3. Chriama*

      I think you know the answer to that question. If you’re wondering whether or not you’d be justified in leaving before you have another job… only you know the answer to that question. I’ve stuck around in some tough situations where, looking back, it would have been better all around if I’d just left. On the other hand, we all know the economy is tough and if you can hang on while really ramping up your job search (which might make it easier for you to tolerate work or even just give you more courage to take back your bathroom breaks), maybe you could make the best of a bad situation

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      Are you in the US? I thought breaks were a federal requirement, and you couldn’t be required to work for 8 hours with no breaks at all. If you’re under OSHA, then perhaps you can anonymously ask for them to check out your workplace, which might make it a little better while you look for a new job.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Wow. I laugh at some of the “is it legal” questions, but I had no idea that working for 8 hours straight without any break could be legal anywhere in the US. (Or perhaps it isn’t legal, it’s just not OSHA that does the specification.)

          1. Wren*

            They can make you work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as long as they pay you. The Federal govt only cares if you get paid for it.

      1. WorkerBee*

        I’m not in the US, I’m in a country where labor laws are both iffy and rarely followed. If I quit, I’ll have to go back to my homeland, which is complicating my decision – and also makes it more difficult to apply for jobs from here.

  26. KJR*

    I have been in HR in the manufacturing field for most of my career. A dealbreaker for me would be an unsafe workplace.

  27. Anonymous*

    Not having a safe workplace when not required to by law or knowing if caught the business won’t suffer any repercussions. Academic research is basically exempted from most OSHA mandates.

  28. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    My #1 deal breaker is when a boss routinely delays feedback and then finally provides it the 11th hour with the expectation that the staff will keep to the original deadlines. I’m not willing to scramble because of someone else’s bad planning.

    1. Sweet and Petite*

      I asked my boss for feedback. Didn’t get it. She moved me up instead. When I mentioned wanting to fill in the gaps in my training, this is not what I had in mind. I’m flattered she thought that highly of me, but I wasn’t ready to move up. Yeah, I wound up making what she considers a huge mistake and now I’m suspended until further notice(I was told to call back in two weeks about the schedule.). Perhaps I didn’t make my request sound urgent enough. I really needed that feedback, so I know where I’m at verses where I need to be. If I do get to keep my job after this is all over, I am definitely requesting a meeting before my shift even starts. This time, I’m going to tell her why I need the feedback. If I don’t get to keep it, well at least I got a head start on job hunting and I’m taking the skills that I learned with me. They’ll be very useful.

    2. AmyNYC*

      This makes me SO NUTS! I’ve been working all day on scheme A which I will be presenting to the client the next morning. Done come by my desk at 5:45 pm to tell me you now want scheme B!

    3. MR*

      What’s that phrase? ‘A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine?’

      Sounds like that applies here.

    4. WorkerBee*

      This is one of the big problems I’m facing at my job (I sent in the letter that started this post). A bunch of our employees quit, and during their time here, my boss never actually bothered to check if they were doing their work. Now we have a whole bunch of deadlines with no data to go on, having barely even met the clients – and we have to get everything done within a few days. It sucks.

  29. JustMe*

    I would second many of these, having experienced them.

    One that I would add, though, would be a lack of basic management knowledge, coupled with no desire to become educated.

    For example, especially in small companies where there may be no HR department, I think the person who is performing those functions should know things like privacy laws, or how vacation time is given, etc.

    Nobody can know everything, but to me, especially if you are performing those duties within a company, you should take the initiative to be knowledgeable in those basics. Otherwise, the company runs the risk of legal issues (as several others have listed).

  30. Liz*

    If it turns out your company’s owners are heavily in debt to the Mafia, I recommend quitting.

    (Didn’t happen to me, but my BFF. The business was dysfunctional in all kinds of mundane ways, but when the heavies turned up to demand their money back, she skedaddled.)

  31. Kathryn T.*

    I discovered after six months at a job that my personal dealbreaker is having a boss repeatedly change the requirements on a project, solely for the pleasure of being able to correct me in front of my peers when I do it “wrong” (i.e. the way he told me to do it, rather than the way he plans on telling me to do it next).

  32. LadyTL*

    The deal breaker I would add is the job physically endangers you. I quit a job with no notice after I burned myself severely on the job and they still wanted me to work with my burn over the food and then days later demanded I stand and work in raw bleach in a corner with barely any ventilation for hours.

    1. Liz*

      Yes! When I worked in a supermarket bakery, a couple of colleagues decided to throw large blocks of cheese around. We’re talking a few kilos here.

      When one nearly took me out, and no one saw that as a problem, I knew it was time to move on.

    1. anon-2*

      In some professions it’s necessary.

      Particularly health and public safety. In college, I helped manage a gas station, but we all took turns working three hour shifts — AND our boss threw us one hell of a party. Loved that guy. I was scheduled to work 9-12, I worked 8-1. Too much fun that day.

      1. Pecan Muffin*

        Also broadcasting. Some of my favorite Thanksgivings were the days I had to work that day. Plus, holiday pay! Win/win esp. if you have an understanding family.

      2. Catherine*

        It seems like all aspects of the passenger and freight transportation industries keep going on holidays, except for home delivery.

        Clergy are another profession that are required to work on all of their own major holidays.

        Of course, no one has to work in these industries, but it’s interesting with current media coverage about the upcoming holidays to think about the history of why we consider that offices and shops should close on certain days–I think it’s more rooted in ideas about the uncleaness of money transactions than it is in worker rights. Not that I don’t enjoy my holiday time.

  33. Katie in Ed*

    An observation: many folks here have written posts along the lines of “x is a dealbreaker, and I would never work in a place like that…again.” So many posts seem to be speaking from unfortunate experiences with workplace dealbreakery. Some have mentioned the terms under which they left their dealbroken workplace, but I’d be very curious to hear more real-life scenarios. How long after the dealbreaking did you leave? Under what circumstances? Did you do this pre 2008 or post, and do you think it made a difference?

    Also, I’d like to say that I truly appreciated the pragmatic tone of this post. Many of us have to endure work situations that are less than ideal – sometimes even illegal – because personal circumstances demand that we do. As Alison wrote, “It’s also really easy to tell other people what their deal-breakers should be, but when you’re not the one paying their bills, it doesn’t really matter.” I imagine many lurking job seekers will be comforted by this tender common sense. Kudos!

  34. Tara T.*

    I went to an interview in which the interviewer said I would not get any vacation days for a whole year, and then only 5. No health insurance for a year because supposedly a person could only sign up during open enrollment. And for the first 6 months, I would not get any sick leave and holidays would be unpaid, and no vacation, and I would be hourly. Does that mean he is trying to pass new employees off as independent contractors for the first 6 months and might try to evade paying taxes?

    1. Sweet and Petite*

      I know of a business where the benefits took two years to kick in. They wanted to make sure that their employees were going to stay awhile(Before, employees would get plastic surgery or something then quit without so much as a days work.). Employees did get a week’s paid vacation once every year, though. All they had to do was notify the boss when they wanted to take it.

  35. Tara T.*

    If he tries to pass me off as an independent contractor, that would be a deal breaker for me. No taxes, no deal. I do not own a business and I would be under the direction and control of the boss, doing the work on his premises, with his equipment – no way am I an IC. And I know there is a form S-8 that someone who was misclassified can fill out when doing taxes that reports it to the IRS when tax time rolls around.

  36. Pecan Muffin*

    THANK YOU FOR THIS — “a pattern of not being paid when you’re supposed to be paid” — because my now ex-coworkers looked at me like I had two heads when I tried to contain my outrage at what was going on with my ex-asshat employers.

    1. Pecan Muffin*

      (I mean, I seemed to be the only one there thinking “This is not right and I’m out of here” when things clearly weren’t going to improve with not paying us on time.)

  37. alli*

    wow. I just left a gig bc they didnt respect my religious beliefs they refused to work my schedule the sabbath and told me well i could just resign then.

  38. alli*

    I mean there was no deal i could work evenings or whatever but they said i had to work weekends and since the sabbath falls on a weekend i had to quit

  39. Karen*

    There are some definite deal-breakers.

    Being asked to break the law would be one. I’ve never encountered it, but my Dad did a long time ago. He was promoted into a position where he would have to sign off on some documents–which were fudging the numbers, and which would then be submitted to an agency of the federal goverment. He resigned rather than do it and for a couple of weeks my parents lived on savings and Mom’s small secretarial salary (no kids yet). It was the 1950s and this was a big deal. Dad got a new job very soon, same industry, no illegality.

    I once left a job because of safety issues. I received repeated threatening phone calls from a would-be client. He yelled at our receptionist because I was at a meeting out of the office and couldn’t be reached, then left a message along the lines of “I know where you work and I can hunt you down.” I forward the message to my boss, but no action was taken. After three more security issues within a month, I submitted my letter of resignation explaining that I could no longer do my job, as it sometimes involved meeting with people outside the company and I could not assure their safety when they were on our premises.

    On my last day I went to the HR manager to do my end-of-employment paperwork and hand in my employee ID badge. She wouldn’t take the badge, told me to hang on to it in case I wanted to come back and visit or something. It assured me that leaving was the right move.

Comments are closed.