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

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer back in 2015 whose boss tripled her workload after she gave notice? Here’s the update.

I always enjoy reading updates on your site, so even though it has been years, I thought I’d shoot a note.

I am delighted to say I have a happy ending! Taking your advice, I did push back about the amount I was being asked to accomplish and listed what I felt was reasonable during my remaining time within a 40-50 hour workweek. I was told that if that was all I was going to complete, my salary would be cut in half. I said, fine, if you want to cut my salary, you can have 20 hours of work out of me per week and I will get done what I can in that time. So, that is what we ended up doing through my end date.

Also, while I was prepared to be unemployed for awhile, I ended up with an amazing job opportunity. I wanted to stay in my (specialized) field, so was applying to any job in this field, even if it wasn’t in my areas of expertise (e.g. I’m an expert in teapot production, but applying for teapot billing). I got brought in to interview for a job in “teapot billing” at an awesome company, and they pulled (the good kind) of bait and switch on me and after my interview, let me know that there was a position opening up in “teapot production” that wasn’t advertised yet, but would I be interested? I literally ended up receiving (& accepting) an offer for new company, in teapot production, on my last day at old toxic job.

New Company has been life-changing. My new boss has become a true mentor to me. Through time (and a lot of therapy) I have come to realize how emotionally abused I truly was at my previous position. It took time to recover from that, but recover I have. In the past 3 years, I have grown, learned, and blossomed professionally. This year, I received a promotion that came with a hefty raise and was also selected for a national Leadership Institute in my field. Life is good.

Two big lessons I learned from that period in my life: 1) sometimes it’s worth leaving, even without something else lined up and 2) sometimes it really pays off to apply for the job that feels like a stretch. Even though I know my hiring situation was highly unusual, it never would have happened if I had talked myself out of applying for the teapot billing job.

P.S. Not that these details matter anymore, but since there were lots of questions in the comments: the hiring of vacation covers was paid for by the company, but I had to find the money for it in my own budget and it was never budgeted for, meaning that when I “chose” to do so, it impacted my ability to accomplish other things–a fact which old boss never let me forget. I was also the only one on the (6-person) staff required to do this. Also, regarding the long notice time, in retrospect, I do somewhat regret it, but the work that I do is extremely seasonal and project-based, so it was a matter of timing my exit between the end of one project and the beginning of the next. It’s generally frowned upon to leave within a season cycle, so I was already risking reputation by doing so and therefore was trying to mitigate that circumstance.

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Cassandra

    OP, I am so glad you got out of that dumpster fire of a company into someplace so much better!

    Amazed at how your old boss cut off their nose to spite their face — if they wanted more work out of you, they actually ended up with LESS. Heckuva job.

    1. Pebbles

      Yeah, I had to read that line a few times to understand what was happening. Like, you want to cut my pay in half to “entice” me to work more hours when I’m already halfway out the door? Uh, how about no?

      I’m glad that OP was financially able to say no to that!

      1. Cat Meow

        Just wondering since it has been a few years are there any sort of protections in place to help prevent things like this from happening?
        So absolutely horrible but what an incredible update and such resiliency shown by OP.

    2. Hills to Die on

      Yep, good for you for staying strong and pushing back.

      Why does old boss have access to you to keep reminding you of what he thgouht you did wrong? Block that guy!

      1. Hills to Die on

        Upon re-reading, maybe you are saying he never let you forget while you werer there? In any case there’s no good descriptor for him that I can think of that won’t get me thrown in moderation, so good job and I hope he steps on Legos.

    3. hbc

      That part really was a thing of beauty. I was halfway expecting it to turn into a race to the bottom. “If you’re only doing 20 hours, then I’ll pay you a quarter of your salary.” “Okay, then I’ll work 10 hours.” “Then I’m paying you…” etc etc..

    4. Artemesia

      I’m sorry you couldn’t just walk out the door when they came up with the ‘have to cut your salary in half comment.’ Yikes.

  2. Amber Rose

    Umm, IANAL, but isn’t cutting your salary… illegal? :O

    Good on you for standing up for yourself in the face of that incredible bullshit though LW. I’m so happy things have been going well for you.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s legal as long as it’s not retroactive (so you have a chance to say no, I won’t work for that) and as long as it doesn’t take you under minimum wage or, if you’re exempt, under the threshold for being exempt.

      1. Psyche

        What does it do to unemployment eligibility? If they want to cut your salary in half and you say no does that count as you quitting or being fired? Or is it more like a layoff?

        1. Natalie

          In most states I think it would be considered constructive dismissal, which preserves your eligibility. In my state and probably others, you can also collect partial unemployment for significant salary reductions or cuts in working hours.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch

          Echoing, it’s dependent on state.

          But usually they don’t expect you to accept a drastic cut or a job you’re not equipped for. So they can’t say “we’re cutting your sales job! But here’s a job offer to be our janitor at 1/3 of your previous salary.”

  3. The Big Cheese

    Wait, they were going to give you half your salary during your remaining time there for working 40-50 hours a week? I’m assuming that isn’t legal?

    Regardless, I am so very happy that you are out of that situation and in a much better one!

    1. Kyrielle

      Not if it doesn’t take them below the exempt threshold (if exempt) or minimum wage (if non-exempt). My company could pull that on well over half its employees and have them still be exempt.

      Well, briefly. Then most of them would be ‘gone’ rather than exempt, because yeah, that’s completely ridiculous.

    2. Antilles

      It’s legal, it’s just really dumb.
      Think about it: The reason they wanted OP to work so many hours rather than just telling her to leave early is because they (think) they NEED a lot of work done before she leaves. Trying to cut her pay leads to getting even *less* productivity when OP pushed back and said “Half pay gets you 20 hours a week”…and could easily have led to zero productivity if OP had chosen to just walk out.

      1. Marthooh

        I guess what they really wanted was the satisfaction of doubling down on their original BS. Or halfing down. Halving? Whatever. They just really wanted to be stupid.

        1. Natalie

          Pretty much. It serves no purpose except to “punish” someone just because you can. I guess when all you have is a hammer, you just want to hit all your employees with it.

    3. Applesauced

      I’m confused too… you said I can do X in 45 hrs/week, they said we’ll pay you half your salary, so you agreed to work 20 hrs/week, but did you do the X originally stated? or did they come down on the amount of work?

  4. Augusta Sugarbean

    “I was told that if that was all I was going to complete, my salary would be cut in half. I said, fine, if you want to cut my salary, you can have 20 hours of work out of me per week and I will get done what I can in that time.”

    That. Was. Awesome. OP, I’m proud to (virtually) know you.

    1. BRR

      While this update had some stinky parts, I loved this response. I hope I can reply with such an awesome response some day.

    2. Observer

      Totally awesome! I’m so glad you found it within yourself to do that. It can be so hard when you’re beaten down.

    3. You go OP!

      OMG Yes.

      First they have her doing so much work she has to hire her own vacation cover and leaves without a job lined up. Then, they double down and increase that crippling workload. And then they go for the triple crown of stupid and want to get that comically excessive work done for half price!

      Mic Drop Indeed.

    4. Bulbasaur

      This mindset can be really helpful for toxic jobs – I’ve used it in the past. There is a certain mental detachment involved. I am selling the services of Work Me, who is a robot that is really good at the job in question. In exchange for $X per year, they get the services of Work Me to employ his best efforts on their behalf. Up to Y hours per week, that is (usually 40) after which I need him at home to do Important Stuff.

      If you decide you need more of Work Me’s time, then we can talk about that. No, I don’t want to know why you need it. I don’t care. If it’s about your business then it’s Work Me’s problem – bring it up with him, during work hours of course. All I care about is how much more of his time you want, and what you’re proposing to pay, and I’ll give you a decision. So you need… 40 more hours for… no extra money? Ha ha ha! I’ll pass, thanks. Ask one of your other robot suppliers to bid on that one – I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance!

      (NB: You don’t actually say any of this stuff, you just use it to achieve a proper mental framing so that you can respond the way OP did. For non-toxic jobs you can afford to take more personal ownership, commit to outcomes rather than hours etc., but toxic ones get the robot and the letter of the employment contract).

      1. General Ginger

        This is a really great mental prep exercise. I am stealing/borrowing it to install into my Work Me’s interface, with big thanks.

    5. EinJungerLudendorff

      I could hear the movie orchestra swelling to a triumphant crescendo when reading that line.

    6. Flash Bristow

      Absolutely. OP, you are awesome.

      “You’re gonna halve my pay? Im gonna halve my work!” Nice one.

      I mean, they expected you to work what, 80-100 hours and were thrown when you said you’d stick to a regular working week? so they wanted to halve your pay because you were ONLY gonna do a full week?

      You handled that fab.

      What would’ve been funny is if they’d said “what? Only 20 hours? I’m halving your pay again then!” and you’d said “OK… So now I’m doing ten hours!” and it had got smaller and smaller til they gave you pennies for one minute a week. Heh. I think they realised they were being dicks, and couldn’t get what they wanted out of you either.

      Well played! So glad there’s a happy ending, too.

  5. Bunny Girl

    I am so glad you got out of there! This happened to me when I gave notice at my last job. Luckily I had a good relationship with my boss’s boss and I went to her and told her what was happening and let her know I was doing my best but wouldn’t be able to get every single little thing done. I also confessed that I was quitting pretty much entirely because of my boss. That’s what I said in my exit interview to HR, but I wanted her to know too. She was really receptive and appreciative and it was nice.

    Good luck with your new job!!

    1. College Career Counselor

      I think it’s great that your grandboss was receptive and appreciative (because that’s not always the case). I often wonder what tangible result occurs from telling HR or a higher-level decision maker that you’re effectively quitting your boss. Maybe that’s a Friday thread conversation…

      1. Bunny Girl

        Personally I’ve never seen it do any good. In this instance both my grandboss and HR didn’t seem surprised that I was quitting because of my boss (there has been a really, really high turnover rate for my position) and HR even admitted that a lot of the problems that I brought up she was aware of and other people had complained to her about.

        1. Observer

          So then knew about the problems and were “appreciative” for the feedback, but weren’t going to do anything about it? Brilliant /sarc

        2. Glitsy Gus

          This has been my experience with exit interviews as well. A few times a couple of small, detail minded things were received with, “oh, yeah, that would be an improvement, thanks!” but most of the time pointing out someone is a crappy manager or that the structure is inherently flawed or anything that would be an actual improvement that might have stopped me from leaving is met with, “oh, yeah, OK… Bye…”

          I may still say it, just so it’s on record somewhere, but I really consider it to be for my own satisfaction, not because I think anything will actually come from saying it.

      2. misspiggy

        In my case the situation was a surprise to management, and they made some changes immediately after I left which made things a lot easier for my colleagues (which was my aim in being so open in the exit interview). It could have undermined my future career in the field, so it was quite a risk.

      3. That girl from Quinn's house

        I had a boss get a branch transfer on what turned out to be a PIP-to-termination plan after I told HR honestly why I was leaving. He’d done a bunch of shady things (messed with my pay, personally insulted me and my staff, actively impeded me doing my job, and caused a bunch of safety violations up to and including refusing to report suspected child abuse to child services) and I left a log of events with HR on my way out.

        At another job, I was actually asked by HR to gather and submit a similar dossier for my supervisor, who they had put on a PIP and were actively trying to terminate.

  6. Ginger

    I love the long-view updates with lessons learned. Really helps put things into perspective and just shows how big of an impact a toxic role/company/manager can be.

    Kuddos to you OP for getting out and moving onward and upward!

  7. animaniactoo

    OP, I’m really glad you came back to update! Yours is a letter that was published before I started reading, but I was aware of it cuz I followed one of those “You might be interested in…” links and I remember looking at it and going “um. no. That’s not how this works.” and I’m SO glad to hear that you got the confirmation you needed to just go back and tell them “Yeah, that’s not going to work” and refuse to knuckle under. Congrats on your new job and mentor and all of it. I love a good happy ending. :)

  8. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    “I was told that if that was all I was going to complete, my salary would be cut in half. I said, fine, if you want to cut my salary, you can have 20 hours of work out of me per week and I will get done what I can in that time.”

    MIC DROP!
    So glad the OP stood up for herself, and had a happy ending!

  9. MassMatt

    So many companies/managers are horrible to employees that move on, from firing on the spot, refusing to provide references, to acting as though it’s some sort of personal betrayal and being nasty. Piling on more work or demanding more time to get a replacement seems like a symptom of not being aware of how much the employee was actually doing and how valuable they are until too late. Read several letters here about employees leaving due to low pay or getting no raises for years, the company finally being forced to either pay much more or hire multiple people for replacement.

    Congratulations on getting out, op, old job sounds terrible.

  10. The Man, Becky Lynch

    You’re a badass for telling them you’ll only work part time for part of your salary. What a bunch if fraudsters.

  11. CatCat

    “I was told that if that was all I was going to complete, my salary would be cut in half.”

    Whuuuuut. I love how OP was so smooth in the “two can play that game” type of response. Glorious.

    1. RoadsLady

      So fair, so beautiful, so nasty.

      The book Boundaries had an non-toxic anecdote where one of the authors hired part-time help, gave her the work… she walked into his office and told him he either needed to hire her full-time, hire another part-timer, or reconsider the work he needed done.

      Y’all are my heroes.

  12. Quake Johnson

    *claps for OP*

    I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when you shot back at your boss. Or when he had to explain to other people why you weren’t there half the time and less work was getting done.

  13. Chriama

    So you mention you were the only one with the bogus vacation coverage policy. Was your boss a jerk to everyone or did he have it out for you especially? I get that assholes need no motivation but I’m curious if you have any idea of whether he did have any motivations.

  14. RoadsLady

    This year I left Toxic Job… with not a darn thing lined up. Part of my bravery to leave was the advice and comments I read here. I was depressed, stressed and even having suicidal thoughts. This site helped convince me those aren’t normal work feelings.

    I found a better, higher paying job a few weeks later.

    OP, I am happy for you.

  15. Penny

    I’m so happy to read this. I too found myself in an emotionally abusive work situation that I left without a backup plan and realized for long periods after, that it was in fact abusive and I had some PTSD to work through. It’s wonderful to move on and be somewhere healthy, congrats to you!

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