I’m interviewing for a job that the last three people have been fired from

A reader writes:

I just started a new job about six months ago. When I got here, I noticed a lot of staffing changes. Apparently the company has had a high turnover of both firing and people leaving after only a year or two. Subsequently, I have gone without direct supervision, since my boss resigned after hiring me.

I haven’t had much issue and have thrived pretty independently and taken on some pretty high-level tasks. I was approached by a higher-up and asked to apply for a pretty big role at the company that would have been more than two to three steps up the org chart in another department. I applied right away and thought, “What a great opportunity.” But since then, I have heard from many folks (water cooler talk — no one knows I applied) who have told me that the last three internal promotions in this role have been fired within the first year. I am really terrified of the role and may not want it.

How can I get more insight on why people left this role (assuming the rumor they were fired is true)? And if I am offered the job, and don’t want it, how can I respectfully decline?

Yeah, you’re right to proceed with real caution. There are multiple signs of danger here — not just that they keep firing people from this role and have high turnover throughout the organization, but also that they offered you a job that’s such a jump up the ladder. That’s not inherently a problem — people can make those jumps and have it go just fine, but when you look at the picture as a whole, it seems like they might just be grasping at anyone who seems plausible for the role without doing rigorous, thoughtful screening.

I would do a few things here:

First and foremost, it’s absolutely fine to ask how long the previous people stayed in the role and why they left. If you’re told that they didn’t work out, it’s fair to say, “So that I understand what the challenges are with the role and what it will take to succeed in it, are you able to share with me what didn’t go well with previous people and what the new person will need to do differently?”

Second, you want to make sure that they’re doing a really thorough assessment of your fit for the role. If your interview seems perfunctory or you get the sense that they’re looking for a warm body / aren’t able to convey a clear picture of what success in the role looks like / don’t know what it will take to do it well, those are big danger signs. And is it clear how your skills match up with the needs of the job? Do you have a thorough understanding of what it will take to do the job well and reason to be confident that you have those skills? (Don’t bluff here, including to yourself.)

Third, you want to get a really good sense of what the manager for the position is like. Is she a tyrant with unreasonable expectations? Impossible to get along with? Just bad at hiring? Has she been thoughtful about making changes to the role or the selection process after the previous people didn’t work out? Does she understand went wrong there (and acknowledge her own role in it) or is she blowing off three successive hiring failures as no big deal?

Those three things should give you a pretty good idea of whether this is a risk or a solid move. Honestly, right now it seems more likely to be highly risky — but it’s possible that there’s more to the story than what you’ve heard from coworkers, and it’s worth getting more information. It is possible for three people to fired in relatively quick succession and not be a sign of an impossible job (for example, if the first two hires were made by the current manager’s predecessor and the third was pushed on her for political reasons, but now she has better control over the process and a more nuanced understanding of the profile of the person she needs to hire). But possible doesn’t mean likely, so bring some skepticism to this.

If you do decide that you want to turn it down, I’d say it this way: “Based on what we discussed, I don’t think it’s a role that will play to my strengths and I don’t think I’m quite what you need. So I’d like to stay where I am for now, but I really appreciate having the chance to talk with you about it.”

It can be tricky to turn down an internal promotion — in a lot of cases, it’s assumed that if you apply internally, you’re going to accept it if offered to you — but the circumstances with this one change that calculation a bit, and you’d be better off holding firm than putting yourself in a job that you don’t think will end well.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

    1. LSP*

      If OP is #4 in this role, than that would make her Mad-Eye Moody, I believe, which means she might already be locked up and replaced by an impostor with a large supply of polyjuice potion.

    2. Amadeo*

      We speculated at one of my past jobs that our supervisory position had this problem. Each person that held the position while I was there only held it for a year, and then left it (though not always the company) after a year. It’s rough when Voldemort has it in for you.

      1. Lefty*

        This whole chain just makes me wish that we could have a series of letters from the Ministry of Magic…

        Things like- “My coworker Dolores constantly redecorates my office in pink while I’m away- sure it just takes a wave of the wand to correct, but I’m really sick of it!”

  1. Leatherwings.*

    Proceed with caution, OP! It’s possible there’s a totally reasonable expectation for turning over three people in a year, but it’s an equal (maybe even more so) possibility that this is a red flag.

    You mention that there’s been a lot of turnover in the org as a whole though, which I’m curious about. Is it because of low morale or leadership issues? Bad pay? Or is it relatively normal for your industry? If the entire org has those issues, it might not just be about the one position which is worth thinking about.

    1. Ama*

      Seconding all this — I stepped into a role where I was the third person in two years (with the previous two people lasting 18 months and 8 months, respectively) and it was really because it was an odd hybrid role where each of my predecessors had interest/skills in one side of the role but not the other. I was hired largely because I had experience in both parts of the role, and I’m now starting my fourth year here and thriving.

      That said, the fact that the org has a lot of turnover across the board is a bit concerning. It was actually quite unusual to have that kind of turnover at my employer and was more an issue of my specific role being an unusual one that was hard to hire for.

      1. Kira*

        That’s a great success story! And you’re spot on that the overall high turnover isn’t helping here.

    2. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Point of clarification: OP said that the previous three each left within their first year, not that all three were turned over within a year.

  2. Moonsaults*

    I know the fear coming into a position that others before you have apparently miserably failed at.

    My advice is to see if there’s a way to scope out the job, asking more questions and gathering your own information prior to making any long lasting decisions. My boss had a terrible time finding someone for my job because he had trusted the wrong people, ones who looked okay on their resumes and assured him they could easily pick up the tasks necessary. He’s great at understanding most things need to be taught to someone who comes into a company, only you shouldn’t have to teach someone with years of experience basics like turning on a computer, pulling up a website, etc. I’m not joking about those basics being hard for some people who are trying to get a bookkeeping/office management job to grasp, this is what he had fallen victim to prior.

    It could be so many things and only fishing around to make that informed decision is the way to know for sure. It depends on how much room you have to dig around and question the opportunity. It’s also about your own personality and abilities.

    1. copy run start*

      I think many people underestimate the computer skills required to be a bookkeeper or administrative assistant or office manager. In my experience those roles are often filled with people with the highest computer and program knowledge in the office.

      1. Moonsaults*

        I don’t think a lot of people really know what a bookkeeper or office manager’s job is, let alone that being comfortable and skilled with computers is critical.

        Someone just looked at me and was like “Oh they have you doing everything don’t they!” All I did was write an order ticket, plug it into a computer, swipe a credit card and print a receipt, while throwing a pick-ticket at one of the guys. They think I’m a rare genie and are used to something hitting five hands before their items get thrown in their truck, I guess. I get this frequently they are all wide eyed and excited, like they’ve met a real life unicorn.

        Granted this happens in many positions, lots of people misinterpret the job descriptions. I had a hell of a time working with the employment department, trying to get applicants for a front desk position that also will morph into much more of an administrative position with time with the company. They acted like I should be happy hiring someone who can answer phones because “it’s a front desk position”. No, it’s really not just someone answering the phones or directing traffic, that’s just how we start them out to warm up to the business :( It’s detailed in the job description and why the payrate is what it is, etc. So yes, they really do need computer skills, ffs!

        1. copy run start*

          Sounds like they were hung up on the job title. But you’re stuck because if you billed it as an admin position then you’d get a lot of experienced admins who might not want to do front desk in the beginning.

          Honestly some of these new phone systems through me through a loop, especially the switchboards with the computer-based management software. I long for the days of rows on rows of extensions attached to your analog phone.

    2. some1*

      I’m an admin, too, and I think part of the problem with hiring admin roles is that in some orgs, the hiring manager/supervisor has never worked as an admin and doesn’t know what to what the day-to-day of the job actually looks like, or what skills are required. I have worked with admins who don’t know how to cut & paste text, do an internet search or bookmark a webpage.

      1. Moonsaults*

        My boss hired a person to do very basic bookkeeping and it turned out that she didn’t know the difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable. It’s in the name…it’s in the name!!! :'(

        1. Clever Name*

          I think AP and AR should be called “we write checks to other companies” and “we get checks in the mail from other companies that we then get to deposit”.

          1. Moonsaults*

            “Checks?! People still use those?!”

            I’m going to crawl under my desk and cry a minute, be right back.

            I know businesses who would bawl at me and be shocked we didn’t take credit cards, when I worked for a manufacturer, who only sold to retailers. So you’d think that retailers would you know, have a business checking account but nah.

            1. Lance*

              Sounds like they’re forgetting that the ability to take credit cards is an extra expense in itself (last I recall, at least).

              1. Moonsaults*

                Large extra expense. Especially if you’re working in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, when you’re selling stock loads to retail outlets.

                My standard response was to mention the extra cost, they’d cry about it anyways, then ask about paypal. Paypal for business is an extra cost too, argh.

      2. DoDah*

        Oh–this for sure. At OldJob admin could just about send an email. If she needed to type up a Word Doc–she would send it to Marketing to format. She was eventually terminated. One of the reasons was she refused the MS Office training that the company offered to pay for 4x.

  3. Charlie*

    There’s a LOT of ways this could be spectacularly awful, and not many ways it could work out fine, in my view.

    1. my two cents*

      On a personal note, the job I have now (and love!) had previously been held by two different guys that had both been canned.

      The first was let go for (severe) anger issues, after being passed over for a promotion to the general manager of our small office. This guy seriously sent out a response to our then-newly-appointed general manager (with the upper-management team on copy) asking if he was ‘drunk’ because he has vehemently disagreed with his email. The second was just so so so useless they cut him loose after 6mo. I mean, I’ve found this second guy’s notebooks…he literally did next to nothing for months.

      1. Audiophile*

        If anyone looked at my notebooks, you’d think I’d done nothing in my last job either. I’m not a great note taker, I’ll jot down a few things here and there, just enough to job my memory for certain things.

        My current role, I’ve only written down about 4 steps for two different processes.

        1. my two cents*

          This role is a lot of answering support calls from engineers, where you’d have to jot down some notes. It was funny flipping through and seeing the first couple of weeks with stuff, and then it just…trailed off into just a date at the top of each page. haha

    2. neverjaunty*

      Exactly. It’s certainly possible that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation and that the job is fine. It’s just not very likely.

  4. Polly*

    If there’s been a lot of staffing changes, look to see if there’s any information posted about the organization on Glassdoor. While like all anonymously contributed communities, take comments with a grain of salt, but it may clue you in to what is going on there. I’d seriously wonder why 3 people, one after another, had been fired from a position. It seems more than just sheer chance.

    I considered applying for a job at a place where I had already heard about the high turnover. The position had looked great on paper, but I went over to Glassdoor to be sure. It appears that there was a major shakeup from the top down a few years ago and if the reviews are to be believed, management has been scapegoating lower level employees, firing them whenever they didn’t feel they were up to snuff. Everyone else who has been witnessing this behavior has gotten out as quickly as they could.

    I ran for the hills. As of now, the position has been open for over 6 weeks and I’m thinking word has gotten out on what has happened there!

    1. Misteroid*

      While the other things you talk about sound like red flags, a position being posted for 6 weeks is not necessarily a red flag in and of itself. Sometimes, hiring processes move very, very slowly.

      (Of course, I don’t know what field you’re in. It may be possible that there is a field where taking 6 weeks to hire someone is a red flag!)

    2. BK*

      Sometime it becomes clear what the problem is during the interview. Five years ago, I saw a position advertised that seemed advanced for my career level but was written in such a way that I met the qualifications. I applied with the philosophy of “why not?” and got invited for an in-person interview that consisted of meeting with various staff for half-a-day. During the interview, it was immediately obvious to me that the hiring manager and her director were both very difficult personalities to work for and also disliked each other. I politely withdrew from consideration afterward. The exact same position has been reported at least once every 12 months since I interviewed there. No surprise, really. As long as the

  5. Anonsydance*

    I’ve learned the hard way to listen to people when they tried to warn me against something. There was a well known store in my area that was looking for full time employees and I was stoked about it. People told me not to do it because the environment was highly toxic. During my interview, I asked about the turnover and they said it was normal, etc. Turns out that they had no clue as to what was normal and that it was incredibly toxic and the only job I left almost immediately. I spent 6 weeks in total there. It was awful. So as long as it isn’t just petty gossip, I’d listen.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I’ve learned the hard way to listen to people when they tried to warn me against something.

      You and me both. People were warning me about my last manager before I even went to work for her, and I brushed it off thinking it was just gossip and no one could be that bad – I was wrong.

      1. Anonsydance*

        I didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was. First day, the manager made one of the “long term workers” (she had been there for a year so she was considered long term) cry on the floor because she was late. He later put down other workers to me and I was like, this is not good.

  6. Harper*

    I am just here to say good luck to the LW and hope for an update in which things worked out great for LW, either in that position or not!

  7. OP*

    OP here!

    I am proceeding with caution – which is why I wrote. Haven’t heard much in the last two weeks since I submitted my application. this place is having a huge turn over. Most people are leaving after one year. In fact my position I found out has had similar turn over. However, I think they were hiring under qualified people – and people who could not say no to projects professionally and balance things well. I have succeed by delegating tasks out, finding resources where projects i had would have a better fit, and frankly sitting with my managers and prioritizing projects. I think the word got around about how I work, which is why i was approached.

    That being said, I am not ready to jump just for another promotion. The job seems great but I am looking carefully this time in my search. Appreciate all the feedback.

    The one tempting thing is that the role would manage more areas and people. I know there is a huge retention and staff morale issue which is causing people to feel stuck and want to leave. I would be in more of a position to enact change in the new role.

    1. copy run start*

      A word of caution: I watched a wonderful budding manager burn out trying to stop the poo from rolling downhill onto us. If the poo is coming from above, there may only be so much you can do before you do more harm to yourself than good for others. And your staff may end up staying longer than they should in that environment if you shield them from the worst of it.

      1. Bob Barker*

        Although watching your supervisor take the beating that was meant for you is — I tell you what, those are the supervisors I would work for again, or possibly give a kidney to (without their even demanding it). Not-coincidentally, the bosses who protect their people in a bad workplace are, IME, the bosses who encourage their people upward and outward in their careers.

        (And then, in my case, my supervisor followed me out. She had a lot of weaknesses as a worker and a manager, but she not only fomented our escape, but delayed her own escape till everyone else had made it safely out.)

        1. What's In A Name*

          I was just looking into buying a book that spoke to this, “Leaders Eat Last”. It basically looks into the effect of leaders actions – the best leaders show time and time again to sacrifice their own well-being for those they are in charge of as opposed to those who offer incentives, prizes, etc.
          I know my best managers have been the ones who fought for me or our team, not the ones that gave out atta boys but never fought the good fight or made us feel like they were on our side.

    2. Anon Always*

      Repeatedly hiring people who are under qualified for a specific role, is in itself an issue. To me to tells me that they either don’t want to pay the market rate for someone from outside the organization who is qualified, or they don’t understand what is needed in the position, and so will never be able to hire the right kind of person.

      However, with that said, when i joined the organization I work for now, there was a staff turnover of 50% in the organization during my first year. A few departments had 100% turnover. It was kind of insane. But, a lot of it was that there was a newer CEO who was dealing with hires from the previous CEO, and who didn’t believe he had the right people in the right roles. Is there some sort of larger explanation for why this role keeps turning over? Is there turn over at higher levels of the organization that may explain some things?

      1. Joseph*

        I always wonder about the other side of these interactions. Hiring manager (or HM’s boss) doesn’t see the pattern? I mean, having an employee get fired once in short order is itself pretty iffy. But having it happen three times in a row? The HM/company really needs to take a long, hard look at the way they hire and evaluate candidates, because clearly they’re Doing Something Wrong.

        1. Bob Barker*

          One wonders what kind of firing each one was. It’s possible there’s just some Megaboss out there who fires people on Thursdays when his lunch disagrees with him, in which case there is nooooothing anybody else can do.

          It’s like that joke about how many psychologists it takes to change a lightbulb: the lightbulb has to want to change. Lesson #1 of dysfunctional workplaces is, even the lightbulbs that recognize they’re broken (a minority) may still not be willing to change.

    3. JOTeepe*

      This could have the potential to be really great or really terrible. It will be great if they empower you to make the changes that need to be made. I took a role once at a place that was struggling, thinking that I would have the chance to really make a positive impact, and while that was true to an extent, I was not at a level where I could really make some much needed culture changes, and without going into specifics, there were some things that were so deeply entrenched no one at that level – or even a few levels up – would have had the power to change it. However, having said that, you are already in this organization and have some insight as to what you are getting into. I’d be more wary if it was a role in another organization.

    4. LCL*

      I wish I could send you this pin that I have. It reads
      ‘Change is good. You go first.’
      Seriously, it sounds like a great opportunity, and you sound like you have analyzed what the problems will be with the new job. And you already know how to delegate,e which is huge when you are managing a lot of people.
      As long as you can avoid falling into self loathing if it fails-I have seen more than 1 manager be brought on board to change things, and when they tried to actually make changes they were blocked. And if having to look for a new job won’t destroy you financially.
      I say go for it, but on the condition that they agree to let you return to your old job or a similar one if this doesn’t work out.

      1. RVA Cat*

        That, or have your raise go into savings and live off your current salary for as long as you can. You can increase it incrementally every few months but I’d say don’t take the full amount until you’ve been there a year.

    5. GiantPanda*

      “I would be in more of a position to enact change in the new role.”

      Be careful with that. Unless explicitly told it is your job to make changes you probably should assume that things will remain as they are and proceed very slowly. Too much enthusiasm to improve things is a quick way to burn out or get fired.

    6. neverjaunty*

      Managing more areas and people is a bad thing if it means you just have more personal responsibility for bad management above you, or are deprived of the tools you need to fix things and then blamed for them being broken.

    7. AFT123*

      Best of luck with your decision! My gut reaction was actually to look at it as an opportunity to get your foot in the door at a higher level, but only if you’re comfortable with the possibility that this company/position may be a stepping stone that you can leave sooner rather than later. It can be really difficult to break into higher organizational levels, and sometimes “taking what you can get” to get some experience under your belt can really pay off. Personally I’ve found that in orgs that are somewhat dysfunctional, I am the most stressed out, but I sure do learn a ton, and I’ve felt like those environments are the ones where you have the freedom to try things out and experiment.

    8. What's In A Name*

      Just a question: you said the last 3 internal promotions to that position left in less than a year, but not that they were the last 3 to hold the position. I also was wondering if they left due to another promotion or if they left the company completely?

      Now, that question being asked the company-wide turnover is a bigger concern to me. Did they recently go through a merger, hire a new CEO, change office structure? Is the turnover due to these reasons or is it just a bad culture in general? Those are the questions I’d be asking myself in relation to the job.

      I have seen people fast-tracked before after proving themselves valuable after 6-12 months, so to me that part is not as big of a concern and I wouldn’t spend much of my time on that particular aspect.

    9. Act*

      Can I ask what state this company is located in? It sounds so much like my old job that it’s freaking me out.

    10. M-C*

      Well OP, I know everyone is telling you to be cautious, and there are lots of red flags in what you describe, but I’m going to advocate for the opposite. So maybe you’re not quite qualified yet for this new position. But it sounds like it’d be a huge promotion, one that might take your years to achieve otherwise in a saner environment. Why should you pass it up? It sounds like your expected departure date in your current position would be in a year or so, so that wouldn’t be so different. And you’d be looking for your next job in a much better position…

      That said you have to get into this with your eyes wide open, at least you’re warned, and just consider that you’re paid for training yourself.. As long as you’re doing your job conscientiously and paying a lot of attention to learning as much as possible, I think this could turn into a wonderful opportunity.

  8. Milton Waddams*

    Be very careful. most of the time, HR will unconditionally assume that in a firing the problem was you, and are unlikely to question that assumption.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious — despite regular reminders from letter-writers here and dumb moves from competitors elsewhere, there always seems to be this unspoken assumption that management is a synonym for competence; if only Nixon had called himself “Manager of the United States” rather than President, I’m sure that people would have come to understand that his side of the story was the most reasonable one. :-)

    1. JOTeepe*

      Eh, not necessarily. If I see a particular role has high turnover (whether it be from firing or voluntary resignation), it raises my eyebrows as to a larger problem. Three people in less than a year? HR should be concerned.

    2. JOTeepe*

      I just realized I misread the OP – the last three people lasted less than a year. This would still raise my eyebrows, though maybe less so than 3 people in 1 year!

    3. Anon Always*

      That really depends on the HR department though. I worked for one organization that had a ton of turn over, people resigning and people quitting left and right. And it got the point where no one could be fired or could resign without meeting with the head of HR and the acting CEO, because they knew that there were major issues going on with some of their managers and leadership. Of course that also means that the people ultimately in charge need to recognize that the turn over is a major issue.

  9. Lily in NYC*

    I had a job where a recruiter never bothered to tell me it was a revolving door position – they fired three assistants in 6 months and the 4th one walked out after three days. I guess I should be proud I made it 5 months but honestly, it wasn’t worth it. I woke up miserable every single day I had that job. I complained to HR about my abusive boss (the president) and they retaliated and fired me. I found out that a week later, the president was extremely abusive towards the very same HR rep, which made me laugh. The president got demoted back to partner and quit. I hated everyone in that stupid place. OP, I would be very, very wary if I were you.

    1. Biff*

      We had an assistant at my previous (totally toxic) job that called in alcoholic. As in, she was a recovering alcoholic and working at the company reminder her of why she wanted to drink.

      Te company was full of semi-functional alcoholics, as well.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, I worked in a place once where we had to interact with one person in the morning because after lunch, she was blasted.

      I was once in a job – in a “small world of IS/IT” that I was virtually fired from – although, when I gave my notice – I was on “Probation” – they now call that a PIP. They tried throwing money at me to get me to stay.

      I later learned that I held the longevity record – 13 months – for any outsider who came into the company to take that role.

      Usually – when you move into a role where the previous holder was fired, or internal people were passed over for promotion into it – you get a honeymoon period – where you walk on water. This is because management has to justify their position on a passover shuffle or previous firing.

      But it’s not always so. If you have a boss who treats people in a position like that – and it’s a revolving door – and it’s allowed to go on, it’s their standard modus operandi and you’d be best to steer clear of the position.

  10. C Average*

    I just need to say that “don’t bluff, even to yourself” is the best job-searching advice ever. Having charmed and wishful-thought my way into a couple of jobs I was not, in fact, actually prepared to do properly, I wish I could offer my younger self those words of wisdom.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      I was just thinking this same thing. My own personal corollary: “and don’t let anyone talk you out of ‘don’t bluff.'”

    2. TootsNYC*

      especially never bluff to yourself.

      This was one of the pieces of advice I gave to my high-school-age son. Never lie to yourself, never make excuses to yourself.

      If you make excuses for yourself, you will deny yourself the opportunity to improve, to learn about yourself (even knowing your weaknesses is a way to manage your life going forward), to get better, to head off problems.

      You don’t have to beat yourself up–that’s as bad as lying to yourself!

      If there’s only one person you should never be less than honest with, it’s yourself.

  11. Willis*

    This sounds like the last company where I worked. People moved up quickly…and then they moved out. (Seriously, like half the company turned over in my 2 years there…) I think the problem was that management moved people pretty quickly out of administrative positions but didn’t give much training on the new roles. Then small problems weren’t handled correctly and became big problems, to the point that people were pushed out. Honestly, it was pretty awful to see happening, especially when folks were doing well in their original roles. I’d definitely take Alison’s advice to heart and really try to understand why previous hires in that role didn’t work out and what would be different in your case.

  12. Product Person*

    OP, another thing you’ll need to keep in mind as you proceed carefully:

    If the pattern in the organization is to hire people who are a bad fit for their positions, this may become another hurdle to overcome if you take the job, as you may inherit a whole group of underqualified employees to manage, which adds to the challenges of the job (not impossible to overcome, but if the role is already a stretch for you, it may add a level of stress that you may not be interested in gaining.

    Good luck!

  13. Not So NewReader*

    I was employee number 4 inside of 8 months.
    I have been at the job for over four years and I have no plan of quitting.

    Here is what I saw that helped me decide to go forward:

    My boss was new at the job also, but she clearly had the background to master the work.

    My boss lined up a mentor for me, well, for the new person. She did not wait until she picked candidate, she knew she needed someone to help train so she just went ahead and lined that person up.

    Through talking with my boss, I could see she had a plan to handle all the balls in the air- her training, my training, the work itself plus some side projects. I did not fully understand her plan but I could see that SHE knew it would work.

    What I am listing off here, OP, are things that lower the risk of failure/job loss. While there are no certainties, I felt that it was a reasonable risk to accept her offer, so I did. I knew before I accepted the job that she had two people before me, I later found out she had a third person briefly. I was not upset to find this out because I saw enough and heard enough to know that I would not have the problems the previous people had.

    If you can’t figure out how you are going to lower your risk of becoming yet another person who has left, then don’t take this job.

    And all that to one side, DO NOT put yourself in a place where you feel you must shield your people from upper management. That will turn into nothing but just using survival skills and you will miss out on developing your professional skills.

  14. Chaordic One*

    In my former toxic job, the volume of work had increased as the business grew, additional tasks had been added to the job and then we replaced our old computer system with a new, less-efficient one and no one would provide additional support to deal with it. I really couldn’t think of any innovative way to deal more effectively with all of the paperwork, but in retrospect, I think I did a good job and was able to keep up with the increased volume of work, although the filing fell by the wayside. After hanging on for two years, I was demoted back to my old job in a different department.

    The first replacement quit after a week, the next after two months, and the third replacement after four months. (I heard through the grapevine, that one of them did not do all of the follow-up nagging that I did, and as a result certain people did not get paid on time.) With the fourth replacement the head of HR took it upon herself to revise the work load and to provide a lot of additional training. It bothers me that they wouldn’t do this for me and instead just blamed me for not being able to keep up.

    After I was gone, I heard from the other admin that one of the hiring officers was really talking me down and making comments about my competence after I was gone. The other hiring officers would then join in (mean girls style). Not too long after the fourth replacement was hired, the mean hiring officer (and his spouse who also worked for the company) resigned to relocate. Strangely, there was no farewell party for the mean hiring officer or his spouse, which was strange for the company. I sort of think there was something weird going on, but I don’t have any idea just what.

  15. Seianus*

    “or you get the sense that they’re looking for a warm body” I’ve never heard this expression before, could someone explain it please? Not a native English speaker here

  16. Cochrane*

    For roles that are expected to turn around performance problems in an area, I’ve heard the term “the curse of being first”. That is, the first person brought on to fix a bad situation is pretty much a burner that’ll set the stage for a successor to eventually succeed at the task.

  17. Allons-y*

    I’m glad this question got asked – I’ve been in a surprisingly similar position at my current workplace (minus the higher up directly asking me to apply (though he’s hinted several times), and I have not yet applied). In the year since I’ve been here, 2 people in that role were fired, and 6 people quit (this department has 12 people in the same role. So, since I’ve been here, more than half are gone). It seems like the company in general has a very high turnover, and it’s made me really uneasy in wanting to apply for other positions. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this, and will be sure to be cautious when considering moving up.

  18. Diane*

    I’m a web content manager and my first two jobs (both at nonprofits) had major turnover before I arrived. In both cases, I think they didn’t really understand what the job functions were supposed to be, so they were hiring people who were unqualified or people who became quickly dissatisfied with the day-to-day tasks (writers or graphics people who naturally wanted to be doing writing or design work). I stayed in the first of these jobs for four years and only left for pretty typical nonprofit “we can’t promote you/pay you more” reasons. I stayed just under two years at the second job, but the reasons I left were definitely more to do with organizational problems that the previous people who held the job wouldn’t have stayed long enough to see.

  19. Kira*

    Oof, be careful. My last job was just like this, there was really high turnover and no one lasted in my boss’s position for more than a year.

    In our case, I think the Executive Director refused to accurately describe what she wanted from the person in the position. The job description sounded completely normal for the role, but repeatedly my managers expressed that they weren’t being allowed to do the job as described. The ED added on so many “other activities as described” that it was a mess. There was a lot of other miscommunication coming from the ED, such as telling the new hire to shake things up and make changes, then vetoing every decision.

    I’d look for recognition from your hiring manager that things are different. Did the turnover levels lead her to change anything in the role, or the type of candidate they’re looking for? Does the explanation pass the smell test (my latest boss was told that she would succeed where others failed because she was so experienced in the field, but she got fired the fastest because her confidence and expertise wasn’t in line with the yes-man culture)?

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