since I gave notice at work, my boss has tripled my workload

A reader writes:

At the beginning of the year, I gave notice at my current position. The decision was necessary due to severe burnout issues (to the point where I have been having anxiety attacks) and a terrible boss who, despite 6+ months of repeated, documented conversations about my burnout levels, only continued to increase my workload, micromanage my every move and consistently make everything as personal as possible.

My end date is March 6. This is not a job where a transition of workflow could happen with 2 weeks notice, as there is no one internally to take on any of my work (every time I have taken PTO, I have had to hire someone to be on call while I was away, or be on call myself).

Ever since I gave notice, demand on me has tripled. I am being asked to complete projects that normally would not be addressed till after I depart. I want to do my best to make this a smooth transition and leave things in good shape, but I just can’t accomplish everything I’m being asked to. When I say that, I’m ignored. My overall job performance is suffering as the burnout increases. It feels like a never-ending cycle. How do I survive the last few weeks?

Also, what advice do you have for interviewing for jobs with this level of burnout? I try to hide it as best I can, but this level of stress has had physical manifestation–“worn down” has come up more than once about my appearance. I worry that when I have been interviewing, I am not effectively hiding the burnout, which surely isn’t attractive to hiring managers.

You had to hire someone to be on call in order to take vacation? With your own money? I’m hoping that you mean that the company hired someone to be on call, and you were the one who arranged it, which isn’t unreasonable. But if you actually mean you yourself had to pay to hire someone so that you could take vacation time, we have a whole different letter to answer here. For the purposes of answering your questions here, I’m going to assume that’s not the case, lest my head explode before I can give you a useful answer.

So here’s the deal: You’re not an indentured servant. You’re not required to work around the clock, or even beyond normal working hours now that you’ve given notice. You might have been required to work insane hours to keep your job earlier (although often there’s a way to push back on that too), but certainly now that you’ve given notice, there’s zero need for you to do that. In fact, you hold the cards here — you’re the one who’s walking away, after all. They don’t have much to hold over you at this point.

Say this to your manager: “You’ve asked me to do X, Y, and Z before I leave. I’ll only have time to do about half of that. I could do X and some of Y, or I could do all of Y and some of Z. Doing it all in four weeks isn’t possible. I’m going to plan to do ___ unless you’d like me to prioritize differently.”

If your boss tells you that you have to do all of it, then you say, “I have four weeks remaining. That’s 160 hours, which is far less than would be needed to do all of this. I want to help you have a smooth transition, but I can’t be working around the clock during these last few weeks. I can do ___ or ___ but not all of it. If you’d like to tell me what order to tackle it in, I can do that. Otherwise I’ll just do as much as I can before I go, but I want you to know that there isn’t time to do all of it.”

Also! You don’t have to stay for the full remaining month if they mistreat you. If they’re rude or hostile to you, you get to say this: “I’d like to work on a smooth transition, but it’s clear that you’re upset with me. I think it would make sense to move my ending date up to ___.” (Ideally you’d still give two weeks from this point so that they can’t later claim that you walked off the job … but that also depends on how rude they’re being. There’s a certain level of rudeness where it’s reasonable to leave earlier. More on that here.)

Also! If this job is truly affecting your health (and it sounds like it might be), you can reconsider the amount of notice you’re giving. You’d say something like this: “I’m so sorry about this, but I have some health issues that I need to take care of and I’ll need to move my ending date up. I’ll need my last day to be ___.”

You sound like you don’t want to do that because there’s no one to cover your work if you leave. But that’s not your problem. That’s your company’s problem, and they’ll figure out a way to deal with it. They’re not going to fall apart (and if they do, that’s not because of you — that would be the sign of some serious mismanagement that you can’t ameliorate anyway). Your obligations here are to give notice and work a reasonable number of hours in good faith until you leave. Your obligations are not to extend your notice at the expense of your mental health or to work unreasonable hours just because they want you to.

And if you can, I’d get yourself some distance from this job before actively interviewing for another. Take a week or two off and relax and recharge; don’t try to perform well in interviews in the middle of all of this, when you can tell that you’re not at your best.

{ 142 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG*

    Also consider working from home, so that if you don’t want to deal with a bunch of flack over leaving, you can manage your communications with your boss a bit better. You’ll also be in a more relaxing environment.

  2. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    Great advice from Allison. This is an assumption on my part, but I’m guessing the employer is going to give a poor reference, especially if the OP takes the advice and leaves earlier because of health concerns. How should the OP address that while interviewing for other jobs?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      First, I’d avoid listing the boss as a reference, especially if there are others at the same company who can vouch for OP. This is especially true if this boss is not the only manager OP has had at this company — many applications offer enough room to list only one supervisor per company, so take advantage and list the one who will speak most highly of you!

      If you can’t avoid listing this person, then I’d wait until the stage where you hear that they’re likely to make an offer but want to check references. Then I’d say, “When I left Teapots Inc., Wakeen took it really personally, and I know that might color what he has to say about me. But Jane, Lucinda, and Fergus have all said they’d be happy to talk to you as well.”

      I can speak only from my own experience, but I’ve never checked only one reference when I check them — it’s always two or more. Usually when someone is crazy-pants, her reference doesn’t sound like the others. If I hear two references and they are polar opposites, then I call more references and usually that reveals what’s going on. (And, in fact, my industry is so small and insular that the references will often correct each other, as in: “I spoke to another supervisor of this candidate and he indicated that she was disloyal. Can you comment on her loyalty?” “Oh, you must have been talking to Wakeen. He’s an ogre. Don’t listen to anything he says!”)

  3. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    Also, what crazy pants field do you work in? These sort of working conditions i.e. being constantly on call or having to hire someone to cover for you, sounds so strange to me.

    1. Artemesia*

      Several decades ago working at a University, I was told that if I needed a substitute to teach while out delivering a baby, I would have to pay for it. There was NO sick leave or maternity leave. One did have the option of finding a colleague who would fill in which was what I did. I also taught a graduate seminar on Wednesday after delivering my daughter on Sunday. My work provided health insurance also did not cover maternity care and I had to pay out of pocket for the delivery and pre-natal care. I shared a 4 bedroom ward with 3 teen unwed mothers. (luckily this was before the huge explosion in health care costs but it was still pricey — I had unwisely not switched myself onto my husband’s health insurance before getting pregnant — his would have covered it) I was a full time tenure track professor.

      1. Judy*

        I remember a friend’s mom who was a full time tenure track professor mentioning that she was lucky that friend was born on Thursday evening and she didn’t have classes on Friday, so she didn’t have to be on campus until Monday. (The birth would have been in the early 1970s.)

        1. The Strand*

          If it makes you folks feel any better, reading this, I am forgiving my dad for not being present at my birth, and spending the time teaching a class.

          That said, I think things are a lot better now but the mommy track still lives in higher education, especially in the sciences.

    2. Ann without an e*

      Depending on the industry, specialty, and facility engineers can be on on-call lists with a rotation or on call all the time to provide maintenance support.

  4. Satanic Mechanic*

    OP, I know you say that there was not enough time for the transition of your work over a 2-week notice period. But, really, this is not your problem. There is never enough time for a completely smooth transition. Two weeks notice is the standard across the business world. There is never a good reason to give more than two weeks notice. Never ever.

    (OK, I’m sure “never” is a bit strong. Let me say “almost never”. Like you know, with an extremely high degree of certainty, that your boss will be totally cool with the transition. In my experience, though, this almost never happens. Even managers you have great relationships with, you have to recognize that the dynamics of the relationship changes completely once you give notice, and they will start to treat you differently whether they mean to or not.)

    1. Olive Hornby*

      I think it depends on the field — it’s pretty common for entry-level people in my field to quit to attend graduate school, and they often give a month’s notice or sometimes more. But that’s so that they can give themselves time to wrap up the projects they’re working on in order to *avoid* the problem the OP is having. (And “problem” seems like a huge understatement here. OP, I’m so glad you’re getting out of this horrible job!)

        1. Satanic Mechanic*

          And that is perfectly fine if people wish to do that. I’m just basing my opinion on my own personal experiences and those of friends and colleagues. I’ve never seen it work out well for anyone to give more than two-weeks notice for the simple fact that once notice is given the transactional dynamic of the business relationship changes. The employer knows from that point forward that they no longer need to do anything to retain you as you are already on your way out. At this point, they are focused on making things as beneficial to themselves as possible. Even well-meaning managers are going to be more concerned with their own hide than inconveniencing you for a few weeks.

          That said, I haven’t worked in every industry or field in the world. But, across several private sector industries, I have never personally witnessed those that gave advance notice NOT being taken advantage of during their remaining time. Again, my opinion is based purely on my own experiences.

          Just a little thought experiment: Say you regularly put in 50-60+ hour weeks for years with a company to earn bonuses and increase your odds of promotion. Say they told you that you were going to be laid off 3 months from now. Would you continue to put in all those additional hours for the remaining 3 months? I can’t imagine anyone would. There are a lot of good reasons most employers don’t give employees advance notice about layoffs…

          1. Purple Dragon*

            Just a comment about notice times – in Australia the standard notice period is your pay period. So if you get paid weekly – you give a week, monthly – you give a month etc.

            I’m paid monthly so I’d need to give a months notice. However others in the manufacturing side of our business get paid either weekly or fortnightly so that’s the notice expected.

            I know some industries differ as well. I’d love to know what the standard is elsewhere – maybe we’re just being gypped here !

            1. Verde*

              We need to start bring fortnight back into style in the U.S….sounds so much better than bi-weekly. :)

              1. Ann O'Nemity*

                I have to agree!

                There doesn’t seem to be much consensus if bi-weekly means twice a week or once every two weeks.

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  What? There are people who insist is means twice a week? They are wrong. I really didn’t realize this was something people debated.

            2. Long time lurker*

              Pssst – I’m sure you’re unaware so this is just a genuinely friendly note. But the term ‘gypped’ is racist; it derived from the term Gypsies and is related to racist ideas as to how the Roma and related travelling peoples behave. Just for your information so you can use a different word in future. :)

              1. Aussie Teacher*

                I grew up hearing this term and always thought it was spelled ‘jipped’ – meaning to be hard-done by or short-changed. I had no idea of the context/origins until I read AAM!

                1. NoPantsFridays*

                  Me too. I thought it was a variant of ‘ripped’ aka ripped off, like you got a bad deal on something. I only learned from this blog the origin of the word and I’ve since informed one person in an in-person conversation, who was horrified at the word’s origins and thought it was ‘jipped’. So this is a common misconception, and the friendly correction (assuming a mistake rather than malice) is appreciated.

              2. Mar Bucknell*

                I understand that gypped is a term loaded with racism, but my understanding of its origin is different. I was told that it came from the same root, Egypt, the supposed (but not actual) origin of the Rom (Gypsy) people. I understood it to be British colonial military slang. To be gypped was to be swindled by an Arab in British colonial Cairo in the late nineteenth century. Not unreasonably, many Arab traders resented British colonialism and would routinely charge the colonists the highest prices they could get away with for just about anything. Once the colonisers realised they were being ‘overcharged’ (or taxed for the privilege of taking over someone else’s country) they coined the word gypped to mean being robbed by an Arab.

                1. Not telling*

                  Does this explanation for the term somehow make it better? It’s still an insult and to use an insult against a race as slang is still a slur.

            3. Jen*

              Fun fact, in the UK a 4 week notice is pretty standard (and is written into contracts, so if you quit and just ‘walk out’ in a huff, that’s job abandonment). For more senior roles, there is usually a 3 month notice written into employment contracts. The first time I saw that, my jaw hit the floor. But it doesn’t seem to phase people here. And employers do just wait 3 months for a good candidate.

              It seems completely insane to me (having come from Canada, which tracks much more closely to the 2-weeks standard), but nobody whose career has been based entirely here seems phased about it at all.

            4. Annonymouse*

              Actually I looked it up on the Government website about how much notice was legally required (4 years working with an @ss hat of a boss).

              In Australia the amount of notice you need to give is related to how long you’ve worked there and what type of employment (casual, part time or full time).
              Worked up to a year – 1 week
              1 year up to 3 – 2 weeks
              3 years to just under 5 – 3 weeks
              More than 5 – 4 weeks notice

          2. jag*

            We had layoffs at my organization when the economy tanked a number of years ago, all announced at once. And the time people were scheduled to stay with us varied from about 3 weeks to more than 3 months. I think most were about six weeks. This was a fairly well-run organization. Some left earlier (giving a shorter notice themselves) because they got other jobs lined up.

            People kept doing a good job and management treated them OK (apart from the layoff itself!!! – but our budget was dramatically reduced) because we’re professionals, we wanted to get the job done, and people wanted to maintain good reputations.

            Yes, I am doubtful we could have someone putting in massive hours in anticipation of a raise/bonus/promotion when they know their time is limited. But that’s not the sole motivator for good peformance.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              In some situations you continue working through a notice period. One reason – your layoff could be cancelled. In a place where you have a “right to recall”, the layoff can be temporary and you don’t want to tick anyone off. In fact, I had seen people laid off – yet find another job within the company, or be “recalled” before they’re out the door.

              Also – if you work in the defense industry, you may have a security clearance. You want to get along, and go along, because you don’t want to jeopardize that.

          3. Lanon*

            On my last job, I gave half a year notice. Standard notice period here is 1 month.

            Nobody had any issues with it.

        2. Vicki*

          I think it also depends on whether a person is a manager or an individual contributor. I’ve known managers to give a month’s notice, but in all jobs I’ve had, ICs never gave more than 2 weeks.

    2. Sadsack*

      Yes, I believe that I read on here recently that the two-week period isn’t necessarily a transition period, but a period given so the pay of the person leaving is all caught up, or something like that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s a transition period so that you can transition your work over to someone else to handle, but not to find and hire your replacement (which usually can’t be done in that amount of time).

    3. Marzipan*

      Two weeks may be the US standard, but that’s not the case everywhere – it always surprises me to see it referred to as an expected notice period as it seems so short to me. My contractually-expected notice period (in the UK) in all my previous jobs (the real ones, anyway, maybe not so much temping or whatever, though I think I treated leaving those jobs in the same way) has always been a month; in my current job, it’s three months. (I grant you I did freak out a bit about that last figure when I first started the job…)

      1. Heather*

        Yeah, but the difference is that you have a contract. In the US most jobs are at-will, which in most cases means either party can end the working relationship at any time. So the OP probably hasn’t signed anything saying that she’ll work through the end of March, or whatever.

        1. Marzipan*

          Oh, absolutely, there are significant differences between typical practices in the UK and US – I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to respond to the whole ‘never, not ever, no one anywhere does this at all’ sentiment which seemed a bit blanket, to me.

          1. Heather*

            Yeah, I think people sometimes forget that people outside the US read this blog!

            Probably because it’s less painful to stay in denial about how crappy our labor laws are in comparison to just about everywhere else ;)

        2. Vicki*

          Such an interesting thing about “At Will” employment.

          The polite employee gives the company a 2-week notice period.
          The company, on the other hand, tells the employee: We’ve eliminated your position. Please log out now and turn in your badge on the way out the back door.

      2. Elfie*

        I was desperate to get onto a contract with a three month notice period. I figured if I was made redundant then at least I had some time to start looking for another job! Then I did…now, not so much. My last place made me work 8 weeks, and boy did that drag after the first 4 weeks was up! My current job has a track record of making people work their entire notice period – Yay.

    4. jag*

      “Two weeks notice is the standard across the business world. There is never a good reason to give more than two weeks notice. Never ever.”

      This is simply not true. Even “almost never” may not be true. In a well-managed organization, several weeks can be common, and even months of notice can happen and work well with very senior positions.

      “I’m just basing my opinion on my own personal experiences and those of friends and colleagues. ”

      You should be careful about generalizing from limited experience. Or, to be precise, limited experience can prove that something does happen. But it’s not a good basis to prove something does not happen.

      “There is never enough time for a completely smooth transition” You don’t really know this. You can know that sometimes or even often there is not, but you can’t know that there is never enough time unless you have surveyed a huge range of organizations/workers to find out.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        There also are industries where long notice periods are common. In independent schools, teachers’ contracts for the following school year are given out in April-ish, so teachers who decide not to sign on for another year are usually teaching for around 6 weeks after that to finish out the school year. This means that the big hiring season for schools is late spring, which is nice because candidates can be brought in to teach a demo lesson with actual kids before summer vacation.

        Often notice periods are even longer, though – I have two colleagues who have already announced that they are retiring at the end of this school year, which means they’ve effectively given a 5-6 month notice period. I’ve never known a school to retaliate against someone for moving on, and the long notice is great because it means there will be lots of time to hire excellent replacements for 2015-16.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I work in independent schools as well, and it’s definitely common to give months of notice. In the past, I’ve given up to eight months’ notice to the head of school. More recently, though, when I was at an office job, I gave five months’ notice to the president of the company, and it was fine. They totally expected me to slack off, but I chose on my own to ramp up what I was doing to go out on a high note. I’m sorry that so many times it seems to go the other way for people.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        “[L]imited experience can prove that something does happen. But it’s not a good basis to prove something does not happen.”

        Well said! Or, my favorite way of putting it: absence of proof is not proof of absence!

      3. notanexpert*

        Yes – thanks for articulating this.

        I gave 5 months notice at my last job and not only was my supervisor incredibly supportive of my needs during that time, but I was also able to be involved in the hiring and training process for my replacement which made the transition A LOT easier than it was for me when I came on board. Not all workplaces are unsupportive and not all managers only think about the company.

    5. Erik*

      “There is never enough time for a completely smooth transition. ”

      Typically there isn’t enough time for a completely smooth transition, but that depends on the role. In my last role, I was a senior level engineering manager that could’ve easily taken months to transition. In some roles, two weeks is plenty.

      “Two weeks notice is the standard across the business world. There is never a good reason to give more than two weeks notice. Never ever. ”

      Wrong – if the company is doing anything illegal or unethical, I’m gone. This also applies to any abusive relationship that must be ended immediately.

      1. Zillah*

        Mostly agree, but I think it’s worth pointing out that Satanic Mechanic didn’t say there was never a reason to not give two weeks notice, just that there was never a reason to give more than that.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Absolutely, Erik. Usually when you’re asked to do something illegal – if the plan falls apart, it’s every man (or woman) for himself (or herself).

        If you’re asked to commit a crime – take note,

        1) “But my boss told me so” is not an effective legal defense. Just following orders is not defensible.

        2) Note that only the “el stupido de stupido” managers will put such an order or directive in writing. A criminal order will never be written down.

        3) the note above “every man for himself”….

  5. Iro*

    I had something similar happen to me at a previous company I gave a 3-week notice to. Once I put in my notice they dumped about 3X the normal workload on me. Not only did they want me to train someone on everything I did and document all of my work, they also wanted me to complete a project that was not even set to be started until month’s out, document the new process for completing that work, and then train on that new process!

    I sat down with my supervisor and was polite but direct. “I have serious doubts about my ability to complete all of these tasks over the next three weeks and I will not be able to put in significant overtime during my notice. Can we sit down and identify the priorities so I can be sure that I’m working on what’s most important to the team moving forward?”

    It was met with a decent response. They did not realize just how much had been piled on me (since several managers were involved with the piling) and laid out a clear list of priorities for me that I steadily worked though. There were a couple of “to dos” when I left, but those were their wish list and I still got a good review from thim since I worked hard in good faith to complete all I could.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yep, something similar happened when a very key person left our company last year. Unfortunately, we hadn’t done nearly enough cross-training before that point, and his notice period simply wasn’t long enough to train a replacement and finish current projects. Several managers panicked when they heard he was leaving and tried to add their projects to the list. Even with strict prioritizing and a lot of long days, not everything was done before he left. Since then, we’ve really tried to improve cross-training so we don’t end up in this kind of position again.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    Yeah – I get the sense you’re approaching this as a 2-way negotiation. It’s really not. Tell them what you can do, and that’s that. This isn’t a nuclear strike – you don’t both need to turn your keys to strike. You are allowed to set the terms, or leave earlier. I’m guessing you just don’t realize that because you’ve been in such a toxic workplace for so long.

    But, you know, make sure it’s not the Hotel California. Once you check out, make sure you (emotionally) leave.

    1. Leah*

      Exactly! They don’t get to say, “Just get it all done” or “Just deal with it.” They have no power over you. Remember that Miss Manners quote “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    It is ALWAYS your prerogative to draw a line in the sand and say “this far, but no further.” Of course, when you want to keep your job, if you draw that line in the sand and you’re called on it, you have to then decide whether you’re willing to walk if they don’t respect your boundaries.

    But you don’t want to keep your job! You are leaving! So you’re in a great position to tell them exactly what you are willing to do. Then do it, and if your boss complains that you’re not doing more, Alison’s suggestions for how not to get steamrolled are great.

    What are they going to do at this point, fire you? I think that as long as you’re polite and work hard during normal hours, you don’t need to worry about a reference. Either the boss will recognize deep down that she was being unreasonable and give you a good reference, or she’ll give you a crappy one — but if the latter, as other posters have said, I don’t think it matters how hard you work, you’re already going to get a crappy reference because this is an unreasonable person who takes resignations personally. So you might as well enjoy these next few weeks instead of working your fingers to the bone!

    1. Not an IT Guy*

      I’m under the impression that the OP doesn’t have another job lined up…so wouldn’t it be in their best interests not to get fired to avoid that stigma?

      1. Artemesia*

        I think since she has resigned, she cannot ‘get fired.’ If it comes up, it can be in the context of ‘I gave my notice and than was told if I couldn’t work another 6 weeks, I was fired.’

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Wai…..ttt — YOU FIRED THEM.

          If you give a two- or three-week notice, and they tell you to go now – you can’t be “fired for resigning”.

          So you resigned and they told you to go immediately. They can’t turn that into a firing. Go immediately, file for unemployment and wait your start time at your next position.

          I worked at a place where a guy resigned, turned in his letter, and the manager ripped it up “I am not allowing you to quit.” So he was forced to send it to the HR group in company HQ via registered mail-return receipt.

      2. BRR*

        I would go with something like “I gave four weeks notice but my employer chose not to keep me my entire notice period.)

        1. Jo*

          But that sounds to me like code for “I gave notice and my boss said good riddance.” I wouldn’t say it. I think you need to give more detail, like Turanga Leela suggests below, so that prospective employers understand you weren’t pushed out due to bad performance or other issues for which you were at fault.

          1. BRR*

            Being fired during your notice period doesn’t seem that bad to me (opinions will vary). With Turanga Leela’s you’re complaining way too much about your old boss.

            Something also like ,”I gave a four-week notice period but after I finished organizing my transition my boss chose to let me go early.”

            1. mel*

              Hold up, at one point does this come into conversation anyway? How does the future employer find out you didn’t finish the notice period and have been recovering at home during that time? Someone bitter enough to “fire” someone after resignation isn’t going to be a good candidate for a reference…

          2. Vicki*

            Bosses do this All The Time. For many reasons.
            You gave notice. They said “Thanks but no thanks”.
            You left two weeks early. There’s no more detail required.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        This seems like it would be a pretty easy firing to explain, if you had to. “I gave notice, and my boss dramatically increased my workload, including moving up deadlines for several projects. When I told him that it was not possible to complete the work in my remaining time, he became angry and told me to leave ahead of schedule.”

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Or just use BRR’s phrasing. Mine is probably more info than you need unless someone specifically asks for a detailed explanation. (I was thinking of explanations that you have to give on bar applications and similar.)

  8. long time reader first time poster*

    This right here: “This is not a job where a transition of workflow could happen with 2 weeks notice, as there is no one internally to take on any of my work (every time I have taken PTO, I have had to hire someone to be on call while I was away, or be on call myself).”?

    This is not your problem anymore, OP.

    And unless your job description includes ‘rescuing children from burning buildings’ or otherwise saving the world, don’t let it give you a moment’s worry. Walk away from that job as soon as you can.

    “As you know, I gave notice that I’m leaving six weeks ago. I’m not going to be able to continue working after this Friday. I have three days left, please let me know what you think is most important for me to wrap up in those twenty four hours.”

    Don’t explain or make excuses. Just go. And enjoy your newfound freedom.

    1. JMegan*

      I agree, I think the best option is to work out the week, and go. (Assuming that’s an option for you financially, of course.) The transition period is not your problem, and you need to protect your own emotional and physical health.

      Look at it this way. The work is not going to get done, the transition is not going to be complete, whether you leave now or on Friday or in March. And there’s nothing you can do about that. Your boss has shown himself to be actively hostile (not in the legal sense, just in the pain-in-the-ass sense) for at least the past six months. That’s not going to change either. There is literally nothing you can do to improve the workplace in the next four weeks. So from that perspective, there is really no point in sticking it out. Pack up your office, tell your boss your last day is Friday, then go.

      And I hope you can take some time to rest and relax before starting your job search again!

  9. TOC*

    So much great advice here. OP, you made a bold (and good) decision by resigning this stressful job. Summon that same strength to set boundaries and take care of yourself in the next few weeks. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.

  10. alma*

    My sympathies OP. I was in a burnout-inducing job a couple of years ago — long hours, perpetual urgency, weekends shot — and then I got laid off. Total shock to the system. It took me a month to find another job, but that actually turned out to be a blessing because it was a month I sorely needed to spend recovering. I realize that I was extremely fortunate to have enough of a financial cushion/severance package to do that, and not everyone does. But you may simply need time to yourself, away from this toxic place.

    My mom had a co-worker who liked the expression “Do my 8 and hit the gate.” Maybe not necessarily the best attitude long-term, but in a case like this it might be your best philosophy. I know it is SUPER hard not to do this when the workplace is that toxic and nuts, but don’t take it home with you. Of course you should be as professional as you can, but it’s ultimately your boss’s responsibility to manage the workload transition and you’ve given ample notice. Make self-care your priority.

  11. Take this job and*

    OP, I’d like to emphasize the health aspect of this: I’m reading between the lines of your letter, but I definitely sense that you need to get out of there as soon as possible. I don’t know what, if anything, you might have negotiated with your boss about a reference, but – again reading between the lines – I get the sense that your boss wasn’t negotiating in good faith. Frankly, it sounds more like they’re playing a game of Now I’ve Got You, You #%@$ on you, loading you up with an impossible workload and dangling a “good reference” carrot in front of you.

    Honestly, I don’t know the details. But I do know that your health is way more important than this job. If people have been telling you that you look “worn down” – that is not something you should ignore.

    1. maggie*

      You bring up an excellend point that made me think ‘and what do we know about his behavior that he’s likely to even give a good reference as it stands now?’ Not much. Knowing that it’s unlikely for him to go out of his way to help others, regardless of their efforts, I say do what you think is best FOR YOU, and do no more than that. And know that you did a great job getting out of a hellish situation. I was there two years ago, I know what you have been through — it does get better, and there are much better places to work. You’ll see. :)

  12. V*

    My 4 step plan, developed over several years with program managers who think there’s a giant pile of skilled employees with all the system access and program specific knowledge who are teleported on site when needed:

    1) Write up a list of everything that you’ve been asked to do, and estimated time each will take.
    2) Prioritize it as you see fit.
    3) Send it to your manager, and ask if you’re missing anything or the priorities should move.
    4) Work through that list, working normal hours (no more than 40 hours a week unless you have a 9/80 schedule) then go home every night and turn off your phone/email.

    Key points to remember:
    – It’s not an emergency if it happens on a regular basis.
    – If it’s really an emergency, they’ll pay overtime or offer comp time to offset the hours (don’t take comp time you can’t use).

    I only work uncompensated overtime for production outages or when I promised to meet a deadline (and wasn’t pulled off on another task).

    1. Clever Name*

      Yes, this:
      – It’s not an emergency if it happens on a regular basis.

      Seriously, if the same “emergency” happens over and over, then it’s just crappy planning and not a true emergency.

      1. alma*

        I once had a coworker with a little sign taped up in his cubicle that read: “A company that rewards fire-fighting creates arsonists.” I’m sure there are places where that’s not true, but it was sooooooo applicable to that particular workplace.

        1. Fee*

          >“A company that rewards fire-fighting creates arsonists.” I’m sure there are places where that’s not true<

          Like the actual fire service, hopefully :)

        2. Heather*

          Wish I’d heard this when I was still in my old position. I would have made that little desk sign for everyone in the group.

        3. Vicki*

          One department I worked in had an all-hands meeting in which they rewarded the developers who had fixed the most bugs in the product in the past month. The “funny” part? The “winner” was fixing his own bugs.

          He wasn’t a very good developer, so his code had a lot of bugs. Put ’em in, someone else finds ’em, take ’em out, repeat.

          Code Arsonists.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I need to embroider this on a sampler for a friend of mine. Her job is like that all the time. She’s been working there for probably 10 years and they’re never not having an “emergency.”

      3. Liane*

        Yes! My husband used to have (no, probably still has it tucked away somewhere) a little cubicle poster that said, “Lack of Planning on Your Part Does Not Constitute an Emergency on My Part!”

    2. RR*

      – It’s not an emergency if it happens on a regular basis.

      That’s a really great point. This is the normal, they are working as if you are in constant crisis. It’s a way to keep people off balance and too busy to think about why they’re being kept in crisis mode.

      OP, you can walk away. It might be a good idea if you actually do leave earlier than you intended, and take those couple extra weeks as a vacation/total break to help start to come back from the burn out.

          1. Tagg*

            I’m 99% sure that’s a picture of a Sand Cat – an adorable little wild cat that lives in deserts :)

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      “It’s not an emergency if it happens on a regular basis.”

      This is bloody brilliant. I want to embroider it on a sampler, right underneath “Never be good at anything you don’t want to do.”

  13. Artemesia*

    Wow. The first time I got rebuffed when I noted that I could not handle the increased workload would be the day I gave 2 weeks notice. All the issues of transition are NOT YOUR PROBLEM. You owe two weeks notice; you have kindly given much longer and they are abusing your good faith. Move on. Not your monkey, not your circus. Someone here is being considerate and that isn’t them — they are simply taking advantage of your sense of responsibility.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      OP, hopefully you will be able to follow Alison’s advise and confront your manager about the workload. Having the conversation may give you boost of confidence and taking control of the situation may but you in a better place emotionally. Good luck!

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Ops, didn’t mean to reply to Artemesia. But to echo her comment, the company isn’t your problem anymore. Take care of yourself.

  14. Ed*

    This is why I would never give more than two weeks notice unless my current boss was awesome (which is rarely the case if I’m leaving). You say your work couldn’t be transitioned in two weeks but that’s technically true of most jobs. I would totally rescind your lengthy notice (or at least threaten to). I once quit a job from hell, offered to give a lengthy notice and they walked me out me on the spot because they thought it would screw me financially (couldn’t have been more wrong). Given the chance, most managers/companies will gladly remind you why you’re leaving in the first place. I know OP is trying to do the right thing but no good deed goes unpunished.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      “Given the chance, most managers/companies will gladly remind you why you’re leaving in the first place.”

      Truer words…

      1. worked for the devil*

        Dear OP,
        it sounds like your job is hell. I was there once. I had stressed for months about giving my notice, but I was not a “quitter.” I was eventually backed into a corner and resigned, sort of. Thankfully, by backing me into this corner, they gave me my freedom.

        It wasn’t until I was out the door that the true realization of how soul-sucked I had been came through. Almost a year later and I am just starting to truly get over the psychological strain and emotional manipulation. It takes its toll.

        Leave the job, if you can afford to. you don’t need to keep working in a hostile environment any longer.

    2. ReanaZ*

      The only time I’ve ever given more than 2 weeks’ notice is when I really valued the organisation I worked for and got along really well with my boss, who I thought was great. There were definitely problems there, but the main reason I was leaving was because I was moving country. I gave my boss approximately 3 months heads-up from when I was originally planning to move to give plenty of time to train up my replacement and because they were planning to put me on a huge, strategically important project that would last around 12 months.

      …and my normally level-headed, helpful, supportive, all-around good manager boss said horrible, personal, sexist things to discredit reasons for leaving and to try to get me to stay. Severe enough that I walked out of the building and didn’t come back that day. And contacted HR the next day to see if it was possible to call in pissed-the-fuck-off to work. (It was!) I made it through the rest of the week, sort of reconciled with the boss, who apologised, and then went on already-scheduled leave to visit my family. I put in my 2 weeks’ notice by email while I was out of town, so they got me for about 3 working days to wrap up and transition rather than 3 months, and I learned to never give more than the professional or contractual obligation of notice.

      The last time I left my job, I knew I was planning to leave for a long time before I did, but also that I was planning to stay to finish the major project I was on (it was for an external nonprofit, and I would have screwed them hardcore if I left. It’s a niche industry, and this would have screwed my professional reputation as well). It would have been better for all if I had given more notice, but nope. Exactly 4 weeks of notice, for the day after the project Go-Live day.

  15. Macedon*

    Please do as Alison suggested. Take it from someone who was in your shoes, let loyalty intercede, worked a month of 16-hour days, incurred the obligatory health & stress damage and squandered a solid few alternative professional opportunities in the process. The emotional, mental and physical fatigue aren’t worth it, and an employer willing to push you to an unhealthy brink is seldom likely to appreciate your effort, anyway.

    1. TOC*

      You make a great point–if OP’s boss is as difficult as she says, he’s not going to magically become nicer if she continues to follow his orders. Nothing she does is going to make this job any better at this point. OP really can’t win here unless she sets some firmer boundaries to take care of herself–that’s the only outcome she can really control.

      1. Macedon*

        Pretty much. As with everything, though, easier said than done.

        I think a lot of us dance uncertain steps between exclusively looking out for #1 and letting perfectionism and team loyalty dictate unhealthy commitments – if OP manages to hit that fine line of prioritising themselves, while still respecting their work, that’d be ideal. But it’s certainly a matter of attitude and mentality shifts, which are both far easier in hindsight. OP, good luck.

    2. Windchime*

      Yep, I did this too, although not for 16 months (that would be truly intollerable). I would work a full 10-12 hours at the office, then come home and work some more. I was the only person trying to meet a completely unreasonable deadline. One night, I was so tired that I was working at the dining room table on my laptop and I just fell off my chair. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even stay sitting up. It was only a few months after that when my current job threw me a life preserver. I still gave 5 weeks notice after everything they put me through. In retrospect, I should have taken two weeks and then had a rest period in between. But no…I left the stressfull job on a Friday and started the new one on the following Monday.

  16. soitgoes*

    Based on all of these responses, I have a question about references (as in, the OP doesn’t want to get a bad one by angering her current boss). Is it wrong to list people who are your superiors or managers but aren’t necessarily the highest-ranking person that you’ve worked with? I’ve always done that without thinking, listing the people I worked closely with (again, making sure that they were my superiors or at least had seniority) or who I could easily contact to ask permission for listing them.

    A former coworker recently told me that she’s planning on giving her two weeks notice soon and was worried that she’ll never get a good reference from those people (and I’d agree – I hated that job). She doesn’t have a lot of work experience, so I told her to put my info down. I wouldn’t misrepresent myself or my position at that company, but is it wrong to make references of people who were only coworkers?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      When I hire, I absolutely want to hear more from the people who worked closely with you than from the people who are more highly ranked but didn’t interact with you much!

      In my experience, most hiring managers want to talk to your direct manager the most, and then less so with your peers. I think that’s a mistake; it’s not that the manager isn’t important (and probably the most important voice, if he or she is an objective person), but that including peers with whom the employee worked with on a regular basis can provide an important perspective on how the employee is likely to fit into the team *I* work with.

      1. Stevie Wonders*

        I would think this would be more common in software development, yet it isn’t. Because my managers rarely saw my work output, but my peers, who reviewed or integrated with my code (and vice versa) did. They were in a much better position to understand my work quality and soft skills.

  17. Jerry Vandesic*

    It appears that you don’t have your next job lined up. This needs to be your TOP priority. Focus on identifying new potential employers, work on your resume, go on interviews. If you need to take vacation time from your current job, do it. The time remaining (up to 40 hours/week) should be spent on a prioritized list of tasks that you and your employer agree can be done before you leave.

    1. SR*

      I mean, I think OP’s priorities as far as that goes are a personal decision for her to make, not one we can necessarily determine from the outside. Maybe she does already have another job lined up (though I agree it doesn’t sound like it); maybe she has enough of a financial cushion built up it’s not a big issue for her; maybe she has kids or personal projects she hasn’t had enough time for lately or is just plain burned out from this very stressful environment and is purposefully taking some time off before jumping into a new position.

  18. Cristina in England*

    OP, I am wondering if you have some issues asserting yourself? I may be projecting here, because I sure have this problem. When someone asks me to do something that I feel is unreasonable, I don’t just say “that is not reasonable”, I get really flustered and angry and say anything BUT that. Something about your letter struck me as maybe being in that area. I hope the excellent above advice will help show you that not every request is a requirement. Please please write back with an update. Good luck!

    1. RJ*

      This is a great point. Many bosses who steamroll subordinates are the type who only hear what they want to hear. It is really important to advocate for yourself.

      Particularly because this employer and dysfunctional work environment has caused so much physical and emotional distress in your life, you may find it worthwhile to work with a coach or therapist so that you can successfully move into your next role free & clear. Best wishes to you.

      1. RJ*

        Sorry, I hit “submit” too quickly. My comment was intended for the OP. These types of environments can be extremely draining and fatiguing, and it can be very beneficial to work with someone to help you through it.

  19. Jared*

    OP –

    Please, if you do amend your notice (which you should), be prepared to be walked to the door upon request. I’ve been in jobs that affected my health, and it’s just not worth it.

  20. Jake*

    6 months of burnout! After 3 i basically started to shut down. Not intentionally of course, but still.

    You’re well within your right to call it quits at this point.

  21. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I’d add to Alison’s excellent advice that you should say the things she suggests in person, or at least on the phone. I know in your shoes I’d be very tempted to do it by email because I hate conflict, but you don’t want to give your managers the opportunity to ignore you. If you’re having the conversation “live,” they can’t just put you aside – they have to respond.

    Then, especially if the conversation doesn’t seem really conclusive (like they sigh and say, “…welll…. okay… I guess you should focus on X, but we really want you to do Y and Z…”) then document with a follow-up email, stating what you’re going to focus your energy on and what you’re going to drop. Then just hold yourself to your stated plan, work on what you said you’d work on, and leave at the end of the workday like a regular person.

  22. Rich*

    It’s been a while, but glad to be back here. :)

    I completely support taking time off before interviewing or starting anything new. It’ll probably take a full week to unwind, so hopefully you get a true 2-3 weeks to relax. And yes, if they keep trying to pile the work on, pushback and/or cut your time there short. It is NOT worth your health!

  23. RO*

    When I gave my 2 month notice the work was piled on, including new work that had been on someone’s plate for a year (she did not know how to do it). I met with my boss to discuss what was feasible, and pushed back on the new work. He insisted with an argument that since I am exempt, I do what needs to be done. My response was “I can do a horrible job like everyone else who has left which will frustrate whoever takes on the work or we can discuss this with your boss. We compromised on me teaching an intern how to do the work that had been sitting for over a year.

    The person who quit right before I gave notice did not do much once he knew he was leaving and that was a disaster.

    1. Stevie Wonders*

      I just don’t get how a company would think overworking a soon to depart employee should succeed. No different than expecting a laid off worker to work overtime, where is the motivation?

  24. Kat A.*

    I went through something similar. Finally, I called in sick really early so I had to leave a message. I then turned off my ringer and did not answer any office calls — not even from friendly coworkers’ personal cell phones. The next day I emailed that I was still sick. I was… sick of my boss’ treatment of me. But one could also say migraine and sick in the stomach.
    I don’t normally advocate dishonesty, but those 2 days gave me a chance to sleep, eat some good meals and cry on a friend’s shoulder. I needed that. It gave me strength.

  25. Shabang*

    I was working at a utility company awhile back, had had numerous (greater than 5) conversations about pay and benefits being very low for the norms within our industry. They took no action, and after giving them a large lead (a year or more) finally found another job (STARTING at about 1.5 times the salary I was making plus a medical plan that was reasonable) and gave notice.

    The Department Director got WAY UPSET and started yelling and carrying on – I stuck out the two weeks, but honestly, I wish I had just left because after he freaked that I no longer felt comfortable (or even safe) being there. They forced me to sit in a bunch of counter offer meetings where they weren’t even close to matching what I was getting for making a move.

    That was one awkward two weeks. I’d never subject myself to it again. Ever. EVER.

    1. Hlyssande*

      Wow, they really failed at understanding the concept of “counter offer.” It should at LEAST be the same or somewhat better than what you’ve been offered outside.

      The unmitigated gall of some people. I cannot countenance their buffoonery.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    If you gave management a year or more to negotiate — and they refused, you should not expect them to counter-offer. Or to extend one that you’d accept.

    In my business, advancement via resignation/counter offer is commonplace. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

    Twice in my career – I had to do that. Once – I had been in a place for 10 years. Identical situation. We had suffered through massive inflation (early 80s) and my pay was actually REDUCED. I entered “negotiations” – I thought I should be raised $5000 they thought a token $500 would suffice. I cut off all negotiating. I certainly would listen to any unilateral offer on management’s side but I was not going to waste time in talking about it. No need to go forward. There had been too much time wasted, my family was still suffering, and we were OK but would be entering financial ruin had I not jumped. That resulted in “no counter” when I did resign. I was getting a 40% increase and better medical plan.

    Another time – a scurrilous review – which I refused to sign – my attitude had changed from “goody goody two shoes” to anger, over one egregious management action (won’t discuss it here but it is in the “I don’t believe it” category). I refused to sign my performance review – noting that if I had, it would not do anyone any good. Translation = “you @#$%^’s! You do this, I’ll go down the drain , but you’re coming down with me. I just want to do my job.” HR got involved – and while I would not detail the bad action “was there something?” – yes but I think we shouldn’t discuss it — an overdue promotion WAS discussed. But I still had to resign to get that, four months later.

    The counter-offer was already prepared. That’s how they did business there.

    1. Shabang*

      I definitely would not have accepted a counter offer – but they were nicer while they thought there was still “hope” that I’d stay. The second I said that I think I’m still moving on the mood of the room changed dramatically and I was given an expectations list of things to hand off, which I did not mind doing. Just way more drama than I needed.

  27. Wren*

    LW, I can totally sympathise. I have this problem at my place of work in cycles. Because it’s in cycles and not all the time, I haven’t hit my limit yet, but I’ve just got over a hump of it happening to me, and it has definitely had an impact on my health in a number of ways.

    I work for a sort of family business. The admin is married to the Chocolate Tea Service Designer, and I am one of two Chocolate Tea Service Makers. Designer is our boss due to the nature of our roles, but Admin is our boss by virtue of being married to him. It’s not that I can’t see an admin in a position of authority, but she has no understanding of how workflow works. During a multi-month period when I was the only Maker because the other maker had quit and the were dragging their feet on making a hiring decision, she breathed down my neck every day for not being able to complete the work previously handled by two Makers. I was already putting in longer hours, but it wasn’t possible to stay late every day, but every time I left at my old usual time, I’d get a snippy, “Oh, so early?” every time I said bye at the end of the day. We most commonly have orders for just teapots, but when we have orders for a full tea service, she doesn’t understand that it takes longer, nor does she understand general tasks not specific to any order like that preparing a large batch of chocolate from scratch takes time out of filling orders.

    The latest hump of stress has been that we’ve had an unusually high year end volume, and it has doubled the time needed to fill orders, and she literally thinks it is because we are slacking off and not making things fast enough, and no matter how many times Designer tries, he can’t get her to understand the relationship between the volume of orders and the time it takes to fill them! She’s also worried that when Designer joins her on vacation that us two makers will slack off, because she can’t understand that if we slacked off, it would be obvious because we didn’t complete a reasonable number of orders. We’ve finally worked through the backlog and she went on vacation this week, so things are (temporarily) returning to sanity.

  28. Vicki*

    I have a friend who, when he started one job, said “We need more documentation.”
    Management said, “Nah, not really. Just do the work.”

    Occasionally, my friend would mention documentation. They’d always tell him that wasn’t a priority.
    One day, tired of that, he found another job and gave his two-week’s notice.

    Management’s reaction? “OMG. We need Documentation! Write All The Documentation!!!”
    My friend: “It won’t be possible to document everything in two weeks.”

  29. Not telling*

    The purpose of two weeks’ notice is NOT to give the employer time enough to hire and train a replacement. Nor is the notice period intended for the departed employee to finish up everything the company can throw at them. It’s simply to give the employer an orderly means by which to gather information about what the employee was working on.

    It sounds like OP has been working in a very toxic environment for a long time and actually believes that they have to put up with this kind of treatment or that they are obligated to fix the company’s problems. OP should adjust their departure date, giving only two weeks’ notice and spend the remaining time dealing with their health issues.

  30. Kidd*

    If you live in AT-WILL state you can leave right away. The way I see it is that you owe them nothing and they owe you nothing it’s a mutual agreement.

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