I asked for a lower-stress job and my workload got worse

A reader writes:

I was transferred within my company earlier in the year to a very challenging role which was understaffed. I tried my best, but work-related stress and my pre-existing mental health issues got the better of me and I had to take sick leave as a result. On returning, I took my doctor and therapist’s advice and said I needed to move to a less demanding role as it was seriously affecting my health. My bosses seemed sympathetic and agreed, but said it obviously couldn’t be straight away as they would need to interview to replace me but would probably be in about two months time.

It’s four months later and things have just gotten worse. The new department wanted me by now, so I am currently fulfilling both roles, instead of just one. My experienced assistant has moved and has been replaced by one very junior so I am trying to train them up as well. All the outsourcing resource we previously used has been taken away and my immediate manager has been largely absent on other projects.

Every month, my full move away just gets pushed back. When I ask why it is taking so long to get a replacement, they tell me it is because people with my level of experience generally expect a much higher salary and they need someone experienced for the role.

People keep telling me to just job search, but I have not been able to successfully. Firstly, I am working long hours to keep on top of everything so most places simply aren’t willing to meet me. Then those that do, I am so tired and stressed that I am given bad feedback and told I did not come across well. Can you suggest a way forward at all?

Wait, so you were promised a transfer because of work-related stress, but now they have you doing the original job plus another one? So they’ve actually made the problem much worse? And then they told you it was hard to replace you because they’re paying you much less than your experience warrants?

At a minimum, you should say this to both of your bosses: “Since I asked for a transfer for health reasons, my workload has actually gone up significantly. I’m now doing two jobs, training a new hire, and covering work that used to be outsourced. The problems have gotten worse, not better. In order to do everything that’s on my plate, I’d need to work X hours a week. For health reasons, I’m only able to work 40. That means that I can do X% of what’s currently been assigned to me. My plan is to do (fill in with specific projects) and put (fill in with more specific projects) on permanent hold until my replacement is hired. If you’d like me to reprioritize, let me know — but my health means that I can’t continue working more than 40 hours a week.”

But frankly, I think you should consider taking a harder line: “Four months ago, I was promised a transfer for health reasons. I agreed to wait two months so you could hire a replacement. It’s now been double that, and my health is continuing to suffer. I need to finish the move now, so effective on (date two weeks from now), I’d like to move fully into the new position. My health is such that I can’t wait any longer.” You could add, “You’ve said that the delay is because you can’t find someone as experienced as me who’s willing to accept my salary. But if I have to leave the organization because I can’t continue to work these hours, you’d have to do that anyway, and without someone covering my work in the meantime.”

If your manager stonewalls you, talk to HR and lay all this out for them. And keep job searching meanwhile — but take off the time you need for interviews during the workday. You are not obligated to juggle a wildly unrealistic workload at the expense of being able to take normal amounts of time off. Take the time you need, and inform your manager of what that will mean for your projects.

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    When you’re in a situation like this, start letting balls drop. What are they going to do, fire you? They haven’t bothered to replace you in your old role yet, so that means they’ll be doubly screwed if you leave. So if you tell them “this is what I can and cannot do in a reasonable amount of time,” you’ll probably get some squawking, but the squawking is unlikely to turn into real consequences — because they know they can’t afford to lose you.

    That includes just taking time to job hunt when you need to, even if it means some of your work doesn’t get done. Again, what are they going to do to you?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Yep. they clearly need you more than you need them – but are managing to make you feel the opposite. OP, you have more power here than you might think.

      1. Allypopx*

        +1. It’s easy to feel helpless in these situations when you’re overwhelmed and feel like you’re in a corner, but the message you need to take from this is that they need you. That means you hold the cards. You’ve been incredibly accommodating. You can make demands on your own behalf now.

        1. Specialk9*

          Here’s one way to look at it.
          You made a health based request for medical accommodation. Work agreed, then not only violated that agreement but retaliated against you for your request by forcing you to do two jobs, while stating that they can’t do the accommodation because they are underpaying you for one position so you need to cover two.

          Here’s your form.


          1. MommyMD*

            Employer’s are not always legally obligated to accept doctor’s notes or recommendations. Yes, she’s being treated poorly but if she does not have a verified disability it’s not an ADA issue. I think the best path is finding a new job that’s a better fit for her.

            1. Specialk9*

              I wasn’t sure if ADA applies if they’re not actually disabled. But I suspect the workplace wouldn’t either. Especially since the OP requested and was granted a medical accommodation. I think if not applicable, a letter from a lawyer should suffice.

    2. Bea*

      I let balls drop and they got angry, wrote me up for bullshit reasons and threatened to terminate me. Yet were in complete shock when I gave notice because I found a new job immediately.

      I agree to drop the balls but there are consequences, they can make her more miserable. I know that getting a write up caused me more emotional distress.

      Nothing like busting ass only to get smacked down for admitting defeat.

      I absolutely agree to take time off to search. I sure did.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Yup. This happened to me. Not only did Get written up, I got chewed out for not asking for help (I did and have the paper trail to prove it) and for not working overtime to catch up (I did and have the time cards/paychecks to prove it).

        I agree to let the balls drop but only if the additional stress won’t further impact your health.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          I got dinged on my performance review because I “needed to be better about asking for help”. After asking for help for a year, telling them things were going to get dropped, documenting everything I do for 15 minutes, then being told I took too long to do the very thing I said I needed the most help with. I can only get told “no” so many times before I give up asking.

          I’ve been job hunting since my review.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Seriously, what the hell is this? “You need to ask for help, don’t be a hero.” “Well, I came to you in tears because I need help, and you told me to just handle it.” This happened to me at my last job. I asked for help, they complained that I wasn’t working around the clock. I was told in one team meeting that we should be on 4 projects maximum at a time, I ended up on 13 at once. Ridiculous.

            1. 2 Cents*

              My workload should be, max, 6 projects, for the work I do. I have 12. Then they wonder why certain things don’t get done.

            2. Totally Minnie*

              I had a conversation with my old ToxicBoss in which I told her the stress was getting to be too much and was starting to affect my health. I watched as she wrote it down in the notebook she used to track what we talked about in meetings. She said she’d do whatever it took to help me, but every time I asked for a specific bit of help, she waffled and said she might be able to get to that, but never did.

              And then she called me on the carpet for using sick days when the stress finally broke me. I told her that I tend to get sick when I’m under a lot of stress. Her response? “Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling stressed? I would have helped you!”

              I left that job as quickly as I could.

        2. Bea*

          I was chewed out for failure to run a department I took on as a favor and for blaming others instead of coming up with solutions…my solution was hiring another person because it’s a two person job and seasonal help is a real need for the industry. Along with a few things previously addressed and fixed months ago.

          Dysfunctional mess. I’m on rays of sunshine dancing out of the place.

        1. Fluffer Nutter*

          I agree Mommy MD. I expect most [US] employers would just let you go if you said you couldn’t work extra hours. at least if you’re salaried. I can’t IMAGINE ever saying either of the ecripts that AMM suggests, medical not or no. Maybe it would be a little messy to let OP go, but then they can find someone else to grind into dust, and they’re hoping she’ll quit and clear the way.

          1. designbot*

            The money issue makes me think otherwise. If they can’t find someone else who’ll accept pay as low as hers, what would the benefit from her quitting? Then they’d need to pay TWO people more!

          2. Bea*

            It’s true everyone is replaceable but many employers value long term invested workers. This is the first time in almost 2 decades of working that I’ve had a boss who views people as disposable. The place is crumbling and money leaks out because the low wages offered pulls in unskilled workers who then create a lot of costly errors.

            You get what you pay for comes to mind here. A skilled employee like the OP needs to pack her bags and bounce.

        2. aebhel*

          No one is irreplaceable, but if they want her to quit and are willing to grind her to dust in order to facilitate that, maybe she should give them what they want.

          It’s true that no one is irreplaceable, but that doesn’t translate into ‘…therefore you should put up with any outrageous treatment your employer wants to heap on you.’ The flip side to ‘no one is irreplaceable’ is ‘this isn’t the only job in the world.’

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I let balls drop and was terminated. They had to replace me with two people.

      On the plus side, my mental health has drastically improved.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        It is just a bit satisfying to be replaced by two people though…after you get through the anger and BS.
        I was written up for letting balls drop. Gave my notice the next day, had a job offer in hand in less than 2 weeks. Pay was higher, better benefits. They did me a favor in hindsight. In the moment, it was gut wrenching on a daily basis.
        Good luck OP

        1. Mrs. Coach Taylor*

          At my last job, I was replaced by 2 full time employees, a food stocking company, and an events management team.

          I am much much happier now.

          1. Athena, once Persephone*

            WOW. My gosh, did you ever get to leave the office? That’s insane.

            One of my old colleagues (left a workplace after me) was replaced by 3 full time employees and a contractor. When she’d asked her manager for help, the manager told her she was being lazy and had poor time management skills.

            Another former colleague stayed about another month after this one, and she told us the manager attempted to take over, lasted two days and admitted defeat. Didn’t stop her accusing everyone else of poor time management and poor work ethic.

            Thankfully, I had a good manager in house. Freelance… nope. Glad that one’s in the past.

            1. Mrs. Coach Taylor*

              Similar situation.

              Terrible manager, CEO who had her favorites and mean girl-ed everyone who didn’t fit in. If I asked for advice, it was interpreted as me saying I couldn’t do it, which was unfortunate because I tend to be a pretty methodical person and no one has time to reinvent the wheel.

      2. Artemesia*

        I think this is what commonly happens. Even though they need to pay for a more expensive replacement or two or 3 people, an unreasonable employer will never respect the person they have who is flailing under ridiculous demands.

    4. J.B.*

      If OP is as conscientious as she sounds, I don’t know if totally letting things drop is the way to go. I would take a long hard look at what is good enough, and follow Alison’s script for being clear about it. And take sick, vacation time, whatever is needed for searching.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I think it’s good for you TELL them which balls you are going to drop, but the important part is that you follow through and drop them. Don’t just threaten and then keep juggling while they pitch even more stuff at your face.

        1. OverboilingTeapot*

          Yes, I wouldn’t call it dropping balls, but update your manager: “I’m at capacity, and won’t be able to complete X and X. What would you suggest?” If you’re friendly enough, “I think it’s pretty clear that I’m overbooked, and it’s having a very negative impact on my stress levels. Can we discuss some options?”

    5. JokeyJules*

      I had a coworker give me similar advice when I was feeling overwhelmed after my director left. They had no interest in hiring a replacement for them because I was somehow managing to keep everything together but it was killing me. As in, “Jules, you have very abnormally high blood pressure for someone your age and of your health”
      I was venting about this to a coworker and her response was “you’re rising to the occasion and you need to stop that. they’re never going to hire a new director because you’re doing it for much much cheaper.”

    6. Winger*

      I have been in a very similar position in my current job. This is pretty much what I did. I didn’t purposely let any balls drop, but I did not kill myself to ensure it didn’t happen – I didn’t come in at 7 and stay until 7 and come in on weekends. I am actually starting a new job in 2 weeks time so everything worked out for me, but I did NOT appreciate having to decide which major projects or deadlines might just have to fall by the wayside.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yeah, I didn’t let them drop on purpose either, but I told my direct supervisor in March that with the way my workload was increasing, things were going to get missed because I was essentially doing 2 full time jobs. I got a warning in September and reiterated to my manager and HR that the workload had tripled and it was unreasonable for me to continue. Got canned in October.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Oh, that was two years ago :) I’ve been at my current job for a year and a half. My mental health has improved VASTLY.

    7. Fortitude Jones*

      What are they going to do, fire you?

      I thought the exact same thing. OP, watch how quickly they hire someone to fill in your old role when you start letting the old job’s tasks lapse. You’ve been entirely too accommodating to these people, and they’re taking advantage. It’s time to loop HR in here, especially since your request was due to medical issues.

    8. oranges & lemons*

      I’d consider just prioritizing the new role and doing the bare minimum in the old one, for motivation.

    9. Atomic Orange*

      I let the ball drop (not even a full drop… I took a week pto due to a family death. It was approved but meant I wasn’t around to do a project that apparently my previous boss got major flak for.) He terminated me the day after I got back. The person that replaced me had no idea what he’s doing (confirmed by former coworkers and the new hire who actually got my email and asked for help).
      I am now working for a bigger corporation, with higher pay, and with a great boss who is not only highly skilled but also goes to bat for all of us.

    10. Nita*

      This. I was in a similar situation once, and while my manager claimed he’s trying to find me a replacement, he actually wasn’t – someone with my qualifications would have cost him twice what he was paying me. Thankfully I had a hard deadline for leaving, which he was aware of. He didn’t start interviewing people for real until I walked out the door (with a very generous two months’ notice). Being nice and reminding him that I’m leaving just did nothing. He only scrambled when work was not getting done.

    11. Athena, once Persephone*

      This, do it. I didn’t let the balls drop. I let my mental health drop. It took me two years to recover from it fully, and I can’t remember chunks of that time – but friends and family have given me an inkling and it was wildly unpleasant. I couldn’t go near my former workplace for six months without having a panic attack (and that was unfortunate because my best friend and my favourite bookstore were one street over).

      So, don’t be me. Let some balls drop and look after yourself; you’re the only one who will look after yourself, and it’s the most important thing.

    12. aebhel*

      Yep. My spouse was in a similar situation with his job; they’d lost three of their senior people within the span of a couple of months (and this is a 13-person company, so that’s a big deal), and since he was the most senior person remaining, everything got piled on him and the boss kept hiring people without experience to replace the people who left, because anyone with the experience they needed wouldn’t work for the salary he was offering.

      My spouse just finally started refusing jobs. It was physically impossible for him to complete everything they scheduled him for, even if he worked 60+ hours a week (which, at $35K a year, he sure as hell was not going to do), so he just started letting things drop. His boss finally hired some experienced people–and gave him a raise. This is the best-case scenario for something like this, but if managers and bosses aren’t feeling the impact of their poor scheduling and management, they have no incentive to change it.

  2. GG Two shoes*

    “They tell me it is because people with my level of experience generally expect a much higher salary and they need someone experienced for the role.”

    I am starting to honestly suspect that between 60% and 80% of work issues could be resolved by paying people what they are worth. Employees were spoiled by the recession and haven’t come to term with the fact that people will leave (or won’t come at all) if you don’t pay enough.

    1. Snark*

      Preach it. I’ve been saying this for years now. Employers got into this habit of underpaying experienced people, and now expect that to be status quo, and employees got into the habit of thinking “this is the best I can get so I should just take what I can,” but that’s not actually the reality of the labor market these days.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Yes, and at one time employers got used to “there’s always another boat full of desperate immigrants, who cares if you lose a few to the Deathgrinder every now and then”? Until they got un-used to that.

    2. Lil fidget*

      This was SUCH a weird comment for them to have made, I can’t imagine what they were thinking. What else would OP think other than, gee, I am clearly underpaid and underappreciated?

      1. Infinity Anon*

        I agree. They either need to pay more or settle for less experience. But from their point of view they also have a third option which consists of piling more work on the OP.

      2. Agatha_31*

        Underpaid AND underappreciated AND disrespected SO MUCH that they had the unmitigated gall to TELL HER THAT TO HER FACE. BOO. That is a terrible workplace and should feel ashamed.

      3. Antilles*

        Yeah, that was my reaction too. I can’t even imagine why you’d say that.
        1.) It’s not actually an excuse or justification. This is in no way OP’s problem and doesn’t justify her working two jobs. If the company can’t find someone to work for that level of pay, they need to solve their own problem (presumably by either accepting less-experienced people or by raising the pay).
        2.) How in the world is this going to make OP more likely to accept it? Like, are you expecting OP to show gratitude for being underpaid and therefore suddenly be fine with being wildly overworked? “Oh man, I was irritated at being overworked, but now that you tell me you’ve been screwing me financially, I see your point and I’m totally OK with working two jobs!”

      4. LBK*

        Right? These people are either oblivious or flat out cruel. How can you say with a straight face that you can’t replace someone because people who do that job normally get paid more?

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Oblivious. My company has been having the same problem.
          HR Director: “I don’t know why we can’t hire an in-demand specialist with 8 years experience, unique licensing, and a Masters Degree for under $60K?
          Do they not hear themselves?
          But I also believe they are stuck thinking that managers are the only ones who should be making good $$. No specialist should earn more than the lowest paid manager. But that is a discussion (complaint) for the Friday Open Forum.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, that line made me do a double-take! …Did you just announce to my face that you’re underpaying me?!

      1. Overeducated*

        Yeah, my eyebrows almost launched off my face. What were they thinking saying that out loud, to OP? It’s basically like saying “you’d be paid way more anywhere else!”

        1. depizan*

          Which, is a super good reason to do that job hunting! (And makes me think that the OP’s workplace has problems that go beyond sticking them with two jobs and underpaying them.)

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Pretty much. People who have no problem saddling their ill employee with double the work after she already told them she couldn’t handle the amount of work she was doing before (!) typically have no qualms about being jerks across the board.

    4. ArtK*

      I’m impressed that they can say that with a straight face — it’s a total lack of self-awareness. The best response in my opinion would be “Great, then let’s start paying me market rate.” Or “So you admit that you’re exploiting me?”

      But then, I’m not a nice person.

    5. Mike C.*

      Every time someone says “we simply can’t find the people we need” always, always remember that the sentence should be finished with, “at the price we’re willing to pay them.”

      1. PB*

        So true. I think this goes a long way to explaining why my old job still hasn’t filled my position, a year and a half later.

      2. willow*

        We had a person interview for a position, she was perfect, willing to work the really wacky travel requirements, they made her an offer, she said she needed $1 an hour more, they said nah. That’s $2080 more for the year! I would have written her a check on the spot if I had known that was the decision they made!

        1. The Strand*

          That’s truly amazing. All you can do is shake your head at that, because it just comes off as a power play. It’s as if they don’t understand that the search, hiring, and onboarding process also cost money – as does the time without a person in the position.

      3. Artemesia*

        This. We don’t have to import people because ‘no one’ is available; we need to start paying those who produce what they deserve. In almost every industry the very top are grossly over paid and high producing people in the middle grossly underpaid — and it gets worse as you go down.

      4. KellyK*

        Absolutely! Even if your main problem is geographic, people will move or commute *if* you pay them enough to make it worth their while.

    6. Anon for This*

      I find organization’s who don’t pay market wages, also don’t provide reasonable benefits, or have reasonable expectations for workload.

  3. Catalin*

    As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. LW, I know it’s so hard right now to remember that a job is a choice you can make or change at any time. It is okay, good even, to stand up for yourself because the company isn’t the least bit interested in your health, well-being, balance, nothing. They’re sucking you dry and you have the option to pull out the fangs and walk out. That could mean leaving the company or setting hard boundaries and holding them.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      This is so true! I went from one bad situation to another—I ignored the warning signs. I am walking away from it and will be unemployed next week. The nightmares and crying have stopped, and I already feel like a human again. It’s so hard to get perspective when you are in the thick of it, but take care of yourself, let things go, show up at your job interviews, get some rest, and to hell with them if they don’t like it! You would never do this to another person, so why on Earth would you do this to yourself?

      Hang in there and give us an update!

      1. MilkMoon (UK)*

        This happened to me last year – take heart, I’ve now been in a job where I’m very happy and appreciated for almost six months :)

    2. Louise*

      I actually want to push back on this phrase, it’s got really heavy victim-blaming to it. It implies that if you feel bad, it’s your fault, which is absolutely not always true.

      I think it’s really valuable to recognize the things that are within your power to change, but blaming yourself for being upset because other people are taking advantage of you is not helpful and can actually be pretty harmful. I always prefer the “accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can’t accept,” since it’s a lot more about self-empowerment, and less about self-shame.

      1. Kathlynn*

        Yeah, I also have an issue with this commonly used phrase. And I’ve had people use it and similar phrase to dismiss my feelings.

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s very much my feeling about that. I just imagine Eleanor standing over someone whose arm was just pulled off, spurting, and saying that… No, really, it’s on other people not to be jerks, not on us to build an unnatural wall against other humans in case they act badly. We are social beings, if we don’t care about how others act, we won’t thrive in society.

      2. NaoNao*

        *Totally agree*
        People can create situations in which there are *severe* consequences for not doing fulfilling unreasonable requests.
        People can be in situations such as:
        They desperately need life saving health care/insurance (diabetes, etc) and can’t be without coverage for any length of time
        They are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t just say “the hell with it”
        They are caring for dependents and can’t “take care of themselves and let things go”.
        I appreciate the sentiment but DAMN I am tired of hearing “feelings are a choice” and the similarly themed “uplifting” stuff.
        How about we stop asking people who are genuine victims to shoulder the blame and the repair for damage someone else inflicted?
        How about we stop telling people they’re “doing this to themselves” when they may genuinely have no choice?

    3. Trillian*

      That’s a great quote. When I left my last job, I was having thoughts along this line and obsessing over the “do you have a problem in your life?” flowchart. I would repeat it to myself like 20 times a day. Every time I started feeling stressed out by the perceived unfairness of my job, I would redirect my thoughts into actually doing something about it instead.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah, I hated that quote when I first heard it as a teen but the more I get older the more I like it! I don’t see it as victim blaming at all.

        1. sstabeler*

          The problem is the corollary (and FAR too often people assume the corollary is true) is that if you don’t quit, the situation clearly isn’t that bad, when it might well be that other factors mean that you can’t quit.

    4. Candi*

      Note that Eleanor Roosevelt died in 1962.

      I think her quote is great for when it was said, but today, I think it’s time to level up.

  4. Snark*

    That is, as my grandfather would have said*, a load a’ goddamn horsepuckey.

    *he probs wouldn’t have said that, but I wish he would have.

    1. VermiciousKnit*

      Mine definitely said that on multiple occassions. He’d agree, so you can borrow him for the day.

  5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I’m in the middle of this right now, too. (My transition wasn’t explicitly because of stress and mental health, but it was the result of a year-long negotiation to move me back into the department that originally hired me.) Still responsible for both jobs. Empathy, OP!

    1. Demon Llama*

      Me too… I was meant to be moving away from managing a really stressful area that I frankly don’t have the experience or the skillset to handle, and so far I seem to be picking up the new area without the people being hired in / redeployed to take over the old one.

      I have started sending blunt emails saying “if x, y and z isn’t handed over to A. N. Other by year end, balls will be dropped.”

      Jedi hugs to the OP and to you, Victoria!

  6. Bea*

    Dear God, I’m shivering at your situation OP. PLEASE take Allison’s advice. I just got a new job after months of being over worked and losing 20lbs due to all the stress piled on. You can escape this place and you deserve better.

    They are taking advantage of you and are disgusting for disregarding your health.

    1. Roz*

      ^^ This

      I also was being overworked and underpaid, and when I asked for proper compensation I was balked at. I left for a job making 40% more and with half the stress and a proper workload.

      F-Them. At this point they’ve made it clear they don’t care about you, so let them balls drop and focus on getting yourself a better fitting job that won’t hurt your health.

  7. Falling Diphthong*

    Their excuse to their highly frustrated employee is that people with her level of experience can make a lot more money elsewhere? That seems short-sighted…

    1. Snark*

      I’d have just leaned forward and grinned evilly. “Oh REALLY. People with my level of experience are getting paid more elsewhere? I find that fascinating.”

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Right? I’d be like.. “wait, tell me more about this. What… sort of places pay more for these skillset and experience level? Be specific now!”

    2. paul*

      You should *really* raise that with them…yeah, still try to leave but try to eke out a pay raise too for your last however many weeks/months.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Right? Are you sure you want to tell your already overworked and struggling employee that someone like her should be making more money than you’re paying her? That seems…counterproductive.

    4. Lil fidget*

      Yeah OP if you’re not looking externally, I would start. This transfer seems shaky and if it depends on your current boss letting you go (internal transfers here do, for example) this may be a catch-22 for you where you’re too valuable to be promoted. The way to break out of that cycle is to find a better paying, less stressful job somewhere else. Those things don’t always come together but in your case it sounds like there’s a decent chance that they would!

      1. Alice*

        Not only might the transfer never come through — but at a larger level, would working in the new role solve the whole problem? I mean, sure, you might have less stress in a different role, but as long as you’re at this organization you’ll have senior management who are Not Doing It Right.
        Good luck with your hunt for a job elsewhere (making lots more money!).

      2. MommyMD*

        Yes a new job. If she asked to be transferred out of her current position there may not be a place to easily put her. They may want her to quit and are quite happy to overload her.

        1. Liane*

          She HAS a new internal position, it’s just that because her company “Sucks and isn’t going to change” she has New Position on top, rather than instead of, Old Position.

    5. k.k*

      And that people are getting more money to do just OP’s original job. They’re flat out saying that OP is doing two jobs, for less than one of them should pay. I’m shocked no one wants to work there, it sounds like such a lovely and not at all red-flag filled workplace (◔_◔)

  8. Rebelina11*

    I really think you should bypass your manager – this sounds like a job for your friendly neighborhood HR person. I do hope you have one. They agreed to move you to another position for health reasons; therefore, this has now become an ADA accommodation. Guess who handles that? HR! Failure to give you the accommodation they agreed to means that they’re on shaky legal ground. You can put in an EEOC complaint right now and they would be up $hit’s creek – because you would win any legal action taken against your employer. Okay, that said, go to HR and lay it all out. Tell them you were promised the move due to your mental health and stress, and that it’s worse. They will go to bat for you. And if they don’t, get yourself a lawyer right quick. Your situation is very textbook.

      1. MCM*

        I was wondering if this was payback. She thought she was overworked, we’ll make sure she is even more so. OP, do the ADA paperwork if you haven’t, see if the doctor can state that you cannot work past 40 hours per week. Question, have you taken short-term disability or FMLA within the last year? If not I would look into it, you may be able to get short-term disability for mental health issues. I knew someone years ago that had a horrible boss that refused to give her vacation. HE was verbally abusive on top of it. Her doctor wrote up a two week disability note / FMLA type of thing for her so she would get a break. You might want to go that route. Go out on short-term disability or FMLA and use the time for a mental & health break. Do some job searching towards the end of the timeframe if you feel up to it.

        1. Stilettoes*

          OP, if you do take a mental health break, be brutal. Turn off your phone, lock up your house, go stay with a friend for a week or two, leave your laptop at home. Make utterly sure that you are Not At Home to visitors, or coworkers, and especially not to pestering bosses!

          Go and do things that you enjoy, for no other reason than that you enjoy them. Be kind to yourself. Read something like “The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying” (Not as depressing as it sounds, I promise. It’s more about… thinking about your priorities and learning from others’ examples.)

          We are all mortal. Every minute of our lifespan is literally irreplaceable and precious beyond price – to us. Stop thinking of your hourly rate by the measure of how much your company wants to (under-)pay you, and look at it from your own perspective. What price would you put on a single irreplaceable hour of your own lifetime, every bright-shining minute of it more precious to you than diamonds?

          Spoiler: “I wish I’d worked more for less money, suffered more stress by working harder for ungrateful people who abused me and broke their promises, and spent less time being happy and having friends” is NOT one of the top 5 regrets!

      2. Kathlynn*

        Even if it’s not retaliation it, the accommodation is not being initiated in a timely manner, which iirc ADA also requires. And given that they’ve actually increased the problem she needs accommodated, yeah that would not look good for them.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      DING DING! This was my first thought too.

      Then, I wanted to ask what OP does and where so I could crawl job boards and find something better for him/her.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily become an ADA issue just because they agreed to move her for health reasons; qualifying for coverage under ADA rules can be a lot more complicated than that.

  9. Chriama*

    I like Alison’s second statement. They’re clearly taking advantage of OP, and I think pointing that out to them might help them pull their heads out of their rear ends. OP, if you’re ready to walk away from this, let them know that!

  10. Amy*

    They basically admitted that they are underpaying you. If I were you I would be pretty liberal with taking time off for interviews. And I’d work exactly 8 hours a day, 5 days per week, no more. You keep doing the work and busting your butt and that’s what they’ve come to expect. It’s not going to change unless you leave or change what you’re willing to give.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Sadly this is often the case. By giving more, you just lead them to undervalue you. Once this is established it’s hard to make the case for a raise or promotion because, after all, you’ve been performing at this level for this long at your current rate, so they want to see you DOUBLE that before they reward you. Good organizations don’t do this to their high performers, but it’s definitely A Thing some places.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        I used to work with someone who very much reminds me of OP. It was at a private university where we were severely underpaid for the area. My coworker had been in the department for ~13 years, was promoted to a senior position, and then given a massive workload. As the Dept reorganized, her workload got higher and higher. (Taking on training duties of new staff, managing others, student emergencies, and anything else the managers didn’t want to do.) Plus, she was trying to start a family. The stress of everything made her so sick (ex. coming in with the flu because she had so much work to do and the managers expected that kind of behavior, etc.). She had to be told to go home on the day when her doctor gave her bad news, because she was going to stay at work otherwise.

        She kept saying that she hoped things would get better soon and had extreme loyalty to the school. I stayed for two years and then left. Last I heard, she was still there and I really hope for her mental and physical health that things are getting better.

        OP, don’t be like my coworker. Your health is suffering and it shouldn’t. Not for work. My motto is “Work to live. Don’t live to work.” It’s the only way I stay sane. Good luck!!!

  11. Jam Today*

    I actually weirdly admire their honesty about telling you that they haven’t hired your replacement yet because people with your experience usually ask for more money, and they don’t want to pay it . They’ve just announced to you that you’re worth a lot more elsewhere. My advice — pursue that.

    1. Amazed*

      Honesty like Dan Savage telling an LGBTQ domestic abuse victim who survived via concealed carry “I want to ban your gun”… they have the stones, but need the brains.

      OP, how many people have quit already? The new department couldn’t wait for the move, your assistant moved too, the outsourcing went away, who have we missed?

      They’re telling you that they need you, without offering you any recompense for what they’ve inflicted on you. They’re even affecting your ability to get other jobs, if I read right. These don’t sound like things a workplace does. They sound like domestic abuse tactics.

  12. Will's mom*

    I have been in a similar situation more than once. Twice, they had to hire two people to do my work. The third time, they gave me a nice raise and actually gave me some help. Sadly, 6 months down the road, they were bought up by another company and I was let go; however, I DID get 3 months pay AND I was able to keep my insurance with them at the same cost to me until my insurance kicked in at my new job. It was nice to get double pay checks for a while.

  13. bopper*

    I would just tell my old boss that my new boss wants me full time and he can talk to new boss if there is any problems. Then say that you agreed that you could transfer and it has been 3 months now.

  14. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

    I could have written this letter three months ago. I did basically what Alison suggested, and included a bit about how it was negatively impacting our clients to have me juggling two completely different sets of tasks and having the quality of both suffer (though this may or may not apply to your situation). They didn’t know how bad it was until I pushed back. Now, I am very content with a compromise: all of the tasks for the less stressful job, and one thing from my stressful job that takes only a small sliver of my day to complete. Good luck, OP!

  15. Antilles*

    Every month, my full move away just gets pushed back. When I ask why it is taking so long to get a replacement, they tell me it is because people with my level of experience generally expect a much higher salary and they need someone experienced for the role.
    The real answer is because they actually love the situation right now: They get to leave a job unfilled, they’re wildly underpaying you, and you’re making sure everything still works. They have might sorta try to fix things, but they have no zero incentive to really push to fix it.
    If you don’t push back hard, I’d bet the rent on this situation perennially being “we’re working on it and it’s only a month away” until you keel over. Then the company will suddenly decide that they should modify their standards of pay/expectations to fill that opening.

    1. Tin Cormorant*

      I was strung along like this once, until my manager got promoted and my new manager told me the truth that my promotion the other guy had been “working on” for years was never going to happen. Put in my two week notice the next day. Wasted enough time at that dead end job to waste even one more day.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I wonder if OP would create any urgency if they announced their departure date for like, two weeks from today. I feel like that transfer would suddenly clear up real fast. (Of course OP would need to be prepared to actually walk, which is why I feel like it’s time to start job searching if they haven’t started already).

  16. Lady Phoenix*

    I would be making my way to HR with everything, and job hunting in the meantime. If hr can’t fix this so that you are given the PROPER pay and working conditions, then this company can go fuck off.

  17. CatCat*

    Wow, pretty ballsy of them to tell you to your face that the job pays better elsewhere! Great information, use that to your advantage when you find a better opportunity.

  18. MCM*

    OP — are you in the US? state? If you work for state of federal your employer is supposed to give you a short-term pay band adjustment temporarily if picking up your supervisor’s duties. It would require them to give a deadline to fill your supervisor’s position.

  19. Fact & Fiction*

    I haven’t made it through every single comment yet, but isn’t what basically amounts to FMLA retaliation illegal? I’d be discussing this with HR and/or an employment attorney in addition to taking the time you need to interview, even if balls drop. This company is being BEYOND ridiculous.


      OP, Please, please, please, take some more leave. This is a situation crying out for FMLA leave (if you are in the US). I took FMLA leave for stress-related reasons and two weeks off helped a lot but three weeks would have been better. I was with Kaiser at the time and my doctor was reluctant to approve more than two weeks. I also met with my HR dept about this and they were very kind and helpful. They even told me that stress is a legitimate reason for taking FMLA. My supervisor was supportive as well.

      It sounds like it’s been at least four months since your last leave. If you take another leave it might force them to face the situation. It will at least force them to get some procedures in place for when you’re no longer in that job (or no longer working all that overtime).

  20. Nita*

    OP, hang in there and do whatever you have to do to take care of yourself. Most likely, that means limiting yourself to a 40-hour work week, and only getting done what you have time to get done. Things are going to fail, but this is not your responsibility any more. You’ve had multiple conversations with management, and even had to take a medical leave, and now it’s on them to figure out how to staff the second position that you’re transitioning out of. Just plain Not. Your. Problem.

    Presumably you’re not the company president or senior VP, so you’re not the person who makes the call about whether the company’s personnel strategy is sound. The people that do make these decisions should be the ones responsible for their own bad calls in handling the workload of their staff.

    It also does sound like they’re underpaying you, but at this point that’s a secondary concern. Take care of your health first.

  21. Newt*

    LW, I don’t know what the laws are like where you live.

    But if your health declined to the point you had to leave this job, would the medical reasons cover you for getting unemployment benefits? Or would you otherwise have access to unemployment or support for a short-term?

    I know that the thought of losing the stability of a job can be terrifying. Even when the situation isn’t actually stable. Believe me, I know it. But in this case it may actually – if you can be sure you’ll be able to get benefits after – be better to leave without something new lined up.

    The best thing that my employer did for me, after 18 months of failing to help me cope with my ever-worsening mental health that was exacerbated by the strain of the role I had there, was fire me. They did it once the decline in my mental health got so bad I was basically incompetent for the role, unable to complete a full week without taking unpaid sick time, barely able to work when I was there, barely able to turn up bathed and in clean clothes even. I dragged it out far too long because I was too afraid to change anything and clinging on for survival. They failed me again and again and then threw me out.

    And it was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.

    I got on unemployment. I got my health back. I got my life back. And I got a new job. A better one, that paid better, had better benefits, more flexible hours and a position that suited me better. In a company that was able and willing to make some accommodations for me. Turns out I was being underpaid and poorly treated for my skills. If there’s any way you could survive handing in your notice now, without another job lined up, take it. That job search you can’t do right now due to exhaustion and stress and a lack of physical not-at-work time? None of those barriers will be in place any more.

    1. Natalie*

      This is definitely worth looking into. My spouse was able to collect unemployment for a medical quit in our state with just a letter from his doctor. It’s obviously not the same as a salary, but it’s at least some cushion while you de-stress and job search.

    2. OverboilingTeapot*

      A suggestion reflecting the sad reality of our society: emphasizing negative impacts on physical health rather than mental health may get more results. Mentioning long hours/stress are causing ~physical~ symptoms (migraines, intestinal problems, something like that) may unfortunately get their attention more successfully. (To be clear, I absolutely think it shouldn’t. But it might.)

  22. Not a Fergus*

    I think as long as they have you working both positions, they don’t have a ton of incentive to move the process along. If it were me, I would take lots of time on my job search and time off for midday interviews. They can’t ask where you are, but I’ve used doctor visits as my cover. I think you’re waaaaay too valuable to them to do anything about it. And yes, I agree with everyone here, starting now, limit yourself to a 40 hour work week. If things don’t get done, they don’t get done. This doesn’t reflect negatively on you, it reflects poorly on them.

  23. AudreyParker*

    Ugh, I have been in a similar position before (twice, unfortunately), totally understand being so strung out and exhausted that it’s difficult to even look for a new job. The last time, I ended up quitting outright because my health had deteriorated so much that the whole situation became untenable. Prior to that, I took short term disability leave (it was a long long time ago, so I can’t remember the specifics, other than having a doctor sign off) – perhaps this is something you can look into? When you’re not worried about just coping with the day-to-day, it’s a lot easier to have the headspace for finding something more suitable and come across at your best, and it sounds like you have a skill set that is in demand.

  24. Yams*

    This gave me flashbacks to my last job. I literally worked 13 hour days for about three months, until I just stopped caring. I managed teapot orders for the whole midwest, and engineering samples for the Americas, both North and South! I tried so hard to make sure it all got done in a more or less timely manner (all orders were supposed to ship within 24 hours!). I basically spent months in a panic with an extended nervous breakdown, until my coworkers pulled me aside and basically told me to start letting the balls drop since my superiors didn’t seem to care about how understaffed we were. I began to feel so much better afterwards, I could actually focus on my work search and got an amazing work offer where I’m wildly happy! I was actually so angry about how they treated me I quit without notice and just left them to pick out the pieces. Apparently ex-boss went on a 1 hour rant about how irresponsibly I behaved, and my name still sends him into a frenzy.

    After I left, they replaced me with three people.

    1. pope suburban*

      That was a very satisfying read, and I’m glad you’re better now. I had fantasies of just walking off my last job, which sounds a lot like yours. I ended up not doing it because I couldn’t afford to (They paid burger-flipping money for bookkeeping), but…the temptation was immense. I know it’s not the professional thing to do, but when you know that a place won’t be a good reference for you no matter what (How dare their favorite whipping person quit?!), there’s a poetic-justice element to leaving them hanging the way they’ve been leaving you hanging. Bravo, and thank you for letting me live vicariously through you. :)

    2. MilkMoon (UK)*

      How satisfying. I love when you reach that ‘plane of calm’ where you just snap and stop caring; you just float around doing what you can be bothered with then float out the door bang on 5pm, and it gives you this impervious shield against the simmering rage you can see building in your shitty manager. Ahhhh, memories.

      I too quit that job without notice. My old work BFF informed me that – as I warned them – everything I was working efficiently, fell apart very quickly because no one else had my skills. What a shaame :)

  25. Granny K*

    I’ll repeat what others have said but in a different way: by continuing to deliver all or most of the projects on both jobs, you are enabling your company to push off hiring a new person because from the executives’ standpoint, they don’t really ‘need’ anyone. I’m an overachiever myself so I know how hard it is to let things go, but start prioritizing with your manager. If those projects are a priority in your old job, someone will finally get off their behind and hire someone. (Perhaps if you wrote a job description for your old job it might hurry things along as well?) Good luck.

  26. Must Love Cats*

    I hope I’m wrong but my first thought was that the company decided to get rid of the OP when she told them that she needed less work responsibilty for health reasons. At that point, she became a liability so they gave her more responsibility instead of less hoping that she would get stressed out and frustrated enough that she would quit. Their comment about hiring someone else for more money may have been part of the plan. I suggest that she file for fmla ASAP and follow Alison’s advice.

  27. Princess Cimorene*

    Hi LW!
    You’re worth more, your boss has explicitly told you this while refusing to pay you and you’re doing TWO jobs at less than what you should be making for the market, and someone else will hire you. So take the time off whenever you need to so that you can have a good interview and get moved into that new role at that new company, doing ONE job and getting paid what you actually deserve.


  28. Guitar Hero*

    Where is your New Boss in all of this? The last time I transitioned, Old Boss tried to drag it out but New Boss put an end to that nonsense. New boss made it very clear that the agreement was for me to move to a new team, so I could no longer continue to do projects for the old team.

  29. Lil Red*

    I’m not the OP, but I could have been.

    I work in a *high* stress, front line non-profit property management industry in Canada (so no ADA or FMLA). I was covering one location by myself 20 hours a week (which really needed someone there 40 hours a week, plus a project manager for construction issues), AND managing the company’s Occupational Health and Safety program 20 hours a week for a company of 200+ people, including training and policy writing, AND covering vacations whenever time allowed. One day I got up for work, decided to go to my doctor instead, and she put me on stress leave.

    I was on leave, in intensive therapy, for 2 years. The roles ended up being divided between 2 people, both full time.

    When I returned, things started ok, but after a month I was working alone on a property that is best described as a dumpster fire: massive debt, legal issues, high crime area, building was *literally* falling apart, and I was working 10 hour days to keep up, and everything from my integrity to my personal safety was being threatened by the people I worked with. I asked for help, and my manager promised to take a few things off my plate, but he had 10 places like mine to manage, so things didn’t happen. I told him if someone wasn’t brought on to help me a month’s time I’d resign, and the response I got from corporate was “well, we can’t afford to hire someone else, but we’ll try, but things don’t get fixed overnight…”

    I broke. I ended up in the ER.

    I couldn`t leave the job for financial reasons, so I told my employer that I would be reducing myself to part time, reducing my position to “assistant”, I would refuse to work alone, and I would have to be moved to another site, or I would quit. Because they’re having staff retention issues (no, really?), they accepted. They hired 2 people to replace me, again.

    I’m hoping 3rd times a charm. I’m taking better care of myself, I’m setting better boundaries, and I’ve basically negotiated 2-days a week to job search, so hopefully I can have a happy ending like many of the above commenters have had!

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