update: I’m scared to tell my boss how behind on work I am

Remember the letter-writer earlier this year who had fallen way behind on her work (due to a lot of factors outside her control, like bad management decisions and a husband with cancer) and was afraid to tell her boss? Here’s the update.

I am sorry I didn’t take your advice. I was too chicken to bring it up to my boss, because I really feared that I wouldn’t get additional support; just more blame. A few weeks after my letter was answered, my boss asked who was behind in their work in a staff meeting. Most hands went up. Then she asked how far behind and nobody would answer while I tried to remember, so she asked who was behind at one, three, and six month intervals, and if anyone was more than six months behind. I kept my hand up, and I believe I was the only one. She sighed and dismissed us.

A bit later, she asked us to record exactly where we were in a spreadsheet and I was the one who was the most behind, by many months. Then in a staff meeting, she asked us about each individual client, and whether there were issues. I couldn’t remember any issues except on one client, because I had been working on their file the most, and when asked why I was so far behind, I reiterated (a bit emotionally I’m afraid), the same reasons I’d been giving her when asked before why we were groaning about being behind: more work, more project assignments due immediately, and no overtime. She was visibly frustrated and I thought she was going to yell at me. She went through each office with a huff and then moved on to another coworker. At the end, she reiterated what we’ve heard before too – get it done, no overtime. (Now there’s push to revoke our privilege to work remotely too, which feels like a further constriction on our ability to “get it done.”) After that meeting, she ignored me for the afternoon (and I got some work done!).

At the next meeting, she announced that a coworker had given her notice and was leaving at the end of this month and then announced that I was going to train a new remote employee. I was so surprised I didn’t push back. In order to improve the processes, my boss is taking on half of the departing employee’s load and I must say, it is satisfying to see her get as frustrated as we do with the problems she’s encountering. Along with the process improvement, we’ve been tasked with quantifying the tasks, and qualifying the clients, so that those that are more time consuming get distributed better.

But today, the hammer came down. There are new protocols to standardize our work and we were informed specifically that failure to adhere to these standardized protocols will lead to termination of employment. Hard deadlines were established for work that previously didn’t have any deadlines (the stuff on which I am behind). She said to prioritize the most recent months over the oldest months and to stay current, pushing the old stuff to when you can get to it. She reiterated that our jobs are on the line, and that there was no overtime authorized. Our superstar overachiever spoke up that if we’re unable to get overtime, she won’t be able to make the deadlines, and when our boss asked why, she looked incredulously at her and said because the workload is too much. She gave an example and our boss responded, “You’ll just have to figure it out.” I spoke up that in calculating the time it was taking to complete tasks averaged to a month’s workload was more hours than the available working hours in a month without overtime. My boss said just to email her that spreadsheet and then reminded everyone else that she needs the spreadsheet completed and sent to her. More “get it done” statements. No acknowledgement that our workloads are too much to complete in a month, especially now with new hard deadlines, announced on the 22nd day of the month. One colleague blurted out that she’s so burnt out before she turned her face away and dabbed her eyes. I was looking down at my lap, so I didn’t see anyone else’s reaction, but I imagine they were all feeling as demoralized as me.

A colleague offered to do a lot of the data entry for anyone behind in their work and I jumped on that offer. She got started this afternoon.

Training the new employee is time consuming – about three hours of each day. I turned down training the next new remote employee, which starts next week, citing my workload, but offered to help as able, and I think the CFO was disappointed that I said no. This is terrible timing to be remembered for saying no, because our mid-year reviews are coming in June or July. I’m going to polish up my resume and keep an eye out, because losing my job now would be devastating.

At home, my husband is near the end of his chemotherapy treatments! His oncologist said he may be able to do one more, but if he develops problems before the next round, then no more chemotherapy. He is job hunting, and I am worrying about our diminishing savings lasting until his first paycheck. I am hoping he finds a good fit soon.

{ 329 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    Your boss and company suck. I have all my fingers and toes crossed that you can get out of there safely.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. This update shows that the manager, possibly the employer, is grossly underestimating the amount of time required to do the job (and has now layered additional administrative requirements on top of it). I can fully understand why OP was hesitant to go to her manager – “just get it done” and “find a way” is not leadership or management.

      I hope OP is able to find a new job where she’s set up for success and not constantly under pressure to do the impossible.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        Is the boss under-estimating or is she basically trying to make them work unpaid without coming out and saying it?

          1. hiptobesquared*

            It is possible I am misunderstand but if they are exempt, they are paid for the work they do, not the hours, so the amount of time is moot?

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Even exempt employees cant be expected to work more hours than actually exist. This is soooo bad. My jaw is still on the floor.

              1. Fergus*

                Yea I had a boss, I just started and I had an issue and when I brought it to his attention he stated you need to put your big boy pants on and figure it out. The answer is this place is failing

            2. Mike C.*

              There are also places where even exempt people are paid overtime, but this is niche.

            3. Amy the Rev*

              Oh I interpreted “no overtime” as in the boss wasn’t approving them to work overtime (and that they’re non-exempt).

              1. Hey Nonnie*

                I can’t see another interpretation. If they are exempt, why does this boss insist they can’t work overtime to catch up? Boss clearly doesn’t care about burnout or morale, so that’s the most obvious — if terrible, but this whole thing is terrible and unrealistically managed — solution to the not-enough-time issue.

        1. Observer*

          Well, duh.

          But that could come back to bite them, because the law is that even if the boss “didn’t know”, if they SHOULD have known, that’s a problem. And multiple conversations of this sort lend strong credence to the “should have known narrative.

          I hope someone goes after them. This is insanity and just flat out awful behavior.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m reminded of a line from one of the articles about the spectacular failure of FyreFest, by someone who I think lasted a week before bailing. There’s a meeting in which the junior people lay out all the ways everything is a gathering disaster, and one of the senior people suggests “What if we pull it all off, and are heroes?” As a direction to the junior people on how they were to fix everything they’d just outlined.

        1. Jaydee*

          This sounds like my 8 year-old’s logic when his dad or I try to explain all the reasons a thing won’t work and he says “But what if it works?” See also, wishful thinking. It’s frustrating but understandable (and sometimes irritatingly adorable) in a young child. It’s the literal antithesis of good leadership in an adult with leadership responsibilities.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, I can’t stand bosses that simply say “get it done, no overtime.” They clearly don’t know what it takes to “get it done” and don’t care.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is how junk work goes all the way through the process with no one fixing it or reporting it. People also use shortcuts that may or may not be cool to use.
        I remember years ago a big news article about some 1040s had been thrown in the garbage at the IRS. And right here is one of the reasons these things happen.

        1. Connie*

          Wasn’t there something about work being hidden in the ceiling tiles too? Or was that the post office?

          1. Amber Rose*

            I worked in document control for the government for a bit, and the previous manager had been fired for hiding work in a locked room that only he had the key for. There was like thousands of dollars worth of checks in there.

            1. Emily K*

              I honestly feel like one of the biggest obstacles we put in our own way as a species is our fairly consistent bias when we’re operating in large groups towards punishing people for wrong-doing vs preventing wrong-doing and minimizing the harm caused by wrong-doing. If forced to choose, most people would rather punish someone than rehabilitate them, even if they’re 100% certain that rehabilitating the wrong-doer would lead to a better overall outcome for everyone involved.

              So we end up with situations like these, where people are so afraid of punishment that they cause more problems trying to hide their errors. The policy-setters will say they’re afraid that without punishment, errors would skyrocket because there would be no negative consequences – but that relies on the assumption that external negative consequences are the only thing that discourages people from making mistakes, as opposed to “pride in one’s work” or “reputation” or other more internal motivations, and requires that you don’t consider whether the negative consequences themselves have consequences just as bad or worse than the errors. At its core I think it reflects a fundamental mistrust between the policy-setters in management and the employees – the one place in human interaction where you don’t see the bias towards punishment over results optimization is between people who trust each other. When you trust someone, you’re more willing to give weight to their internal motivating drive to do the right things, but when you don’t trust someone, you feel that only external incentives and penalties can be trusted to shape behavior.

              1. Mary*

                I used to do management training with medics and this kind of stuff came up constantly, because it is widely recognised within sectors like medicine, aviation, construction and so on that the cultural response to mistakes is a *huge* factor in safety, but it doesn’t mean that the sector always gets it right. There is a lot of careful process design to try and support the idea that mistakes happen, and that what matters is the response and the learning to ensure the mistakes don’t happen again, and when that works properly for both medical professionals *and* patients, it’s just beautiful and *so* affirming. But there are multiple ways for it to fail, and it often does.

              2. Mike C.*

                Yeah, this is why good systemic process improvement focuses on process and systemic issues, not individual screwups. Even if folks did make a mistake, it’s usually due to bad training or bad processes. Punishing the individual does nothing because it’s literally just a matter of time before someone else rolls snakes eyes and screws up.

                It feels “just” and “right” to punish the “bad” person, but if you want long term improvement, you have to look at the process, not on blame and punishment.

                1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

                  When I worked for the military after each big project there was a “lesson learned” meeting. Blame wasn’t assigned, the idea was to see how things could be improved.

              3. Gail Davidson-Durst*

                Beautifully put!

                I just read about some companies firing people for repeatedly failing phishing exercises. I get the frustration, but you have to ask yourself what you want to incentivize:
                1. Someone clicks a link, realizes that email did not seem kosher, and immediately reports it
                2. Someone clicks a link, realizes that email did not seem kosher, is terrified to tell anyone lest they’re fired, and proceeds to infect the entire network with malware that might not be discovered for months and months

                1. TootsNYC*


                  My small co-op apartment building has expensive locks, and my purse was stolen with my keys in it, so I reported it to them. Bcs whoever took it had my address AND my keys.

                  We replaced all the cylinders and keys, and I was relieved at not being made to pay for the whole thing. But then the co-op president said, “In the future, if someone loses their keys, they’ll have to pay for the whole expense–new cylinders AND new keys–themselves.”

                  Our VP pointed out–this was a great incentive for someone to decide that they just wouldn’t report it. Because it would be upwards of $1,000, and I could very easily have said, “I’ll replace the cylinder to my OWN apartment, so nobody can rob me, and I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that the thief just wants the cash and threw the keys in the garbage.”

                2. Atalanta*

                  Speaking as someone who investigates those reported phishing emails daily, I’d much rather tell a user it wasn’t malicious and thank them for reporting then deal with a large scale phishing incident. I’ve had users apologize for wasting my time and I always tell them that’s what I’m here and how much I appreciate their diligence. Even our repeat offenders, I tell them we’re good, keep sending them on. Luckily my boss backs me up on this and we’re always trying to find new and creative ways to educate users. We really work hard to make sure we don’t have the reputation as the Department of No.

                3. Jerusha*

                  (Replying mostly to Atalanta; can’t nest that deeply)
                  If I wanted to run phishing exercises and provide the correct incentives, I think I would set up the results like this:

                  1) Reported, didn’t click: Praise!
                  2) Reported, clicked: Praise for reporting; reinforce “please don’t click on that, you don’t know where it’s been”.
                  3) Not reported, not clicked: Praise for not clicking; inform/reinforce that they should report even if they’re sure that 7000 other people have reported it too – better that than have one not reported because everyone thought that someone else had already reported it.
                  4) Not reported, clicked: This is the only group I’d consider to have truly “failed” the phishing exercise, and that I would consider firing if it happens repeatedly.

                  I might consider managing out people in group #2, but I would want to make it clear that while repeatedly clicking and then reporting might get you in trouble, clicking and *not* reporting is much, *much* worse. (I would also, in the process of possibly firing group #4, let them know that they would be in much less trouble if they had reported having clicked before we found out. And we /will/ find out. But if they get fired, it’s more for the “not reporting” part than the “clicked the link” part.)

              4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

                This is such a good discussion! Anyone who has been working for a while has seen this play out so many times.

                In fact, I was just coming here to tell the OP not to beat herself up for trying to hide how far behind she was. This is clearly not a safe place, she knew that instinctively, and she made the right choice for survival for herself and her family.

              5. Bopper*

                Sounds like Wells Fargo…you have to sell so many new accounts or get fired…so people started falsifying new accounts to make their numbers.

              6. Mongrel*

                I also think there can be issues with employers abusing their staff or encouraging illegal actions because the higher-ups only care about results.

                Jim Sterling has done many videos regarding abusive employers in the video game industry, this is a fairly representative example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN1uV57hE_w&list=PLlRceUcRZcK0E1Id3NHchFaxikvCvAVQe&index=9&t=0s . He does play up to a character and gets quite salty so YMMV but sums up as “While the management would never force anyone to work overly long hours the management culture quickly weeds out people who won’t, any request is a thinly disguised order”
                As for illegality, just look at Wells Fargo, the higher ups set nigh impossible targets and didn’t care how employees got there.

                1. Anon for this*

                  I work in the video game industry and hoo boy, can confirm. The industry is RIFE with examples of management expecting illegal and unethical things, but not having to actually say it out loud because the desires manifest themselves in hiring and firing. “Crunch” (excessive overtime in the last-ish period of a game’s development) is probably the biggest one of those things. In the hypothetical three-year development cycle of a game, management/leadership will spend 2 years talking about how we won’t be doing crunch like the last time, four months talking about how much they hate crunch and don’t want it to happen but sometimes it’s a “necessary evil,” two months getting everybody ready for the inevitability of crunch and then the last six months tacitly expecting and enforcing crunch upon people. It’s subtle things like ordering food and drink for people who come early and stay late and making oblique comments about “valuing” people who are “all hands on deck,” “team players” and “committed to the success of the project,” and also less subtle things like doing rounds to see who’s around on weekends or late evenings.

                  It doesn’t help that a large proportion (50% or more) of video game industry workers are actually contractors on term-limited contracts, and refusing to do the illegal or unethical thing may result in their contract not getting renewed or even being terminated early, to say nothing of damaging their potential for getting a full-time role in the field.

              7. Kathryn T.*

                I’m not a manager, but I am a parent, which also involves ample opportunities to screw this up. Recently my 12-year-old came to me white-faced and red-eyed and looking like she was about to throw up, and in a strangled and desperate voice told me that for the past three weeks, she had been lying to me when she said she had gotten her homework done in school and in fact she hadn’t done any of it and her midterm grades were going to be terrible and she didn’t know what she was going to do. Reader, the impulse to shriek at her like a furious harpy was strong, particularly since we had had discussions about this *every day,* and I had asked how it was she was getting her homework done in class and she told me a very elaborate series of dictions to explain it. But instead I said “Ok. This is a big problem, but it’s a solvable one. In fact, we can start solving this today — we can start solving this right now. Let’s put together a plan.” She promptly burst into tears.

                We did put together a plan, and that plan included more accountability for her and more oversight from me, and it’s involved a little griping from each of us and a little backsliding from her that she quickly fessed up to. And now she’s current on her homework, and while her midterm grades did suffer, her final term grades are going to be fine. (And also, we had a long talk about whether the fun she had in the time when she was supposed to be doing her homework was worth the weeks of stress she had been carrying around in her belly.)

                1. LondonBridges*

                  Man I wish my parents had been so understanding. I still have some hellacious anxiety around messing up and having to tell people, thanks to the screaming over homework.

              8. Tom & Johnny*

                “If forced to choose, most people would rather punish someone than rehabilitate them, even if they’re 100% certain that rehabilitating the wrong-doer would lead to a better overall outcome for everyone involved.”

                Rehabilitation is hard. Punishment is easy. Of course that doesn’t make it okay.

                Rehabilitation requires introspection into the systems and culture that created the option for what went wrong, requires self-examination, and a willingness to be part of the solution.

                Punishment involves offloading all the bad feelings about what went wrong onto the punishee and assigning them the blame and the responsibility to carry away when them when they are removed.

                Similar to parenting. It’s easy to punish your kids, yell at them, and formulate external consequences that are supposed to force them into an outcome. It feels righteous to come down on people. And it’s irresponsible.

                It’s hard work to teach, train, and evaluate. To bring people to new awareness, exert fair authority, and examine yourself in the process. That requires real responsibility. And is damn hard work.

                Nah, let’s just tar and feather the malfeasor and run them out of town.

                Culture will default to what is easy first. It takes extraordinary leadership to do what is hard.

        2. Ann Nonymous*

          This reminds me of that terrific AAM story where an employee went out burned the silent auction certificates she was told to deal with but the task was way over her head, and she lived happily ever after. I couldn’t find that story right now, but it was the greatest.

          1. Luna123*

            That story was amazing – they told the new owner that there was some paperwork thing holding up the transfer, then the person said, “Eh, I wasn’t that into a timeshare anyway” IIRC.

            1. Former Employee*

              Thanks for the link – that was great. Of course, once I was there, I started sampling. The first comment was from someone who told their CEO to grow up because he was yelling at a temp over a fax she sent because it didn’t have the date centered on the page! The employee was fairly new and did not know the guy was the CEO because he had been out of the office for the duration of the new person’s tenure.

        3. TardyTardis*

          This reminds me of the Star Wars movie where the Death Star was *clearly* not finished, but had to be operational in time for the Emperor’s visit. Color me surprised that anything on the place actually worked…(yes, there are dangers in pencil-whipping inspection reports when Darth Vader is a telepath, but that can be worked around).

      2. CatCat*

        I expect that the “it” is going to be sub-par (because reality of rushing!!). I also suspect some people will work unreported overtime, which I cynically believe the company is secretly hoping people will do. UGH.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          This. Get it done = work overtime but don’t expect (or ask) to be paid for it. And people will do it because their jobs are at risk.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I second what Amber Rose said. OP, I’m sending strength and healing to your husband, too. Please send us an update when you can.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      Right? My god – I don’t know how the letter writer is able to get through the day without flipping a desk in that cesspool, so I applaud her will and perseverance.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I kept reading waiting for her to say the she just told the boss, “fuck you I’m out” and walked out of the door.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          I guess you’ll put up with a lot when you have a sick partner who’s out of work and on your insurance :/ I hope she’s able to move on to something much, much better very soon. She’s really doing a LOT to hold things together for her family, and I hope the universe pays her back for it.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh I do know that…BTDT. Sometimes though people just *can’t* anymore. I also hope she gets good karma back. This is just …untenable.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Not with company insurance paying for chemo–and I bet the boss knows it, too.

      2. Snorks*

        Add it to the spreadsheet.
        11:01 – 11:02 Flip desk into cesspool
        11:02 – 11:47 Pick up desk and continue working

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously—they are the worst. This is such b.s., all while OP has to worry about things like caretaking, childcare, and maintaining health insurance.

      OP, I’m so sorry. I hope your boss’ experience covering a partial case load opens her eyes to how untenable this is. But even if that doesn’t change, I hope you’re able to exit at your own pace and on your own terms when you’re ready.

    6. Artemesia*

      This, I wanted to cry reading this and I am sure you have often — this is a nightmare — Kafka wrote this. That your hope is that a seriously ill husband will get a magic job to bring in enough to live on is tragically sad. I hope you can get your head far enough water to figure out a way to find something new to do yourself. It is hard to find a new job when things are so difficult where you are — but it seems like a more realistic possible hope than somehow doing more than anyone can do or your husband getting a great job with the stresses he is under. The fact that everyone is behind and stressed about this, means that this is a systemic problem, not a problem of your competence. You might be (or might not be) a little slower than your colleagues, but it sounds like everyone is in trouble. This has to be horrifying on top of the stress of your husband’s illness — I so hope you will find a path out of this to a job that doesn’t make you feel hopeless.

    7. Noah*

      The letter gives me the feeling that the boss doesn’t have any choice about what she says. I think she’s like the guy in star wars who gets appointed general after darth vader chokes out the other guy.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That’s what I was thinking. The Boss is not in control of the situation either, and has no power to really help, so is stuck saying, “get it done.”
        That’s a bad position for him to be in, but it doesn’t alleviate any issues on the LW and her co-worker’s part.

    8. MommyMD*

      I feel so very bad for OP. here’s wishing a great job opportunity falls into her lap and husband has a quick recovery.

  2. Jenn*

    This situation is untenable, and I think it might be time to find a new job, OP. Good luck to you and your husband.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      While I totally agree, I get why people are leery of jumping when they have an ill spouse who’s out of work.

      OP, I would still try to look, because I don’t see your office changing until it’s wild dogs scavenging through the flaming remnants of cubicles–whether that’s a bunch of unserviced accounts blowing up, the most qualified people all bailing and not being replaced, or the two happening simultaneously.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff*

        I wouldn’t reccommend jumping ship immediately, but I think that looking for a new job is an excellent idea.
        For one, this job doesn’t look like it’s going to last very long. Either the company folds due to all the consequences for overdue work piling up, OP is just going to collapse under the pressure, or they start firing people who can’t reach their ridiculous standards (and OP made it sound like she would be high on their kill-list).

        Either way, I don’t expect OP to have this job for much longer, one way or another.

        And even if she was guaranteed this job, i’d still reccommend to look around if she can. The mental and phyiscal health benefits alone from a non-toxic job would be tremendous, and leave her more capable to handle everything else.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Wonder if there’s a legitimate chance of a job with one of Crummy Job’s clients?

  3. boo bot*

    It sounds like you’re aware of this, but this is a no-win situation for all of you – there’s no magic thing you could have done to prevent this from imploding. Someone whose solution to an overload of work and no possible overtime is, “Get it done anyway,” isn’t operating from a rational or compassionate space.

    Good luck, I hope you’re able to find something else soon.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yeah, the company’s stance is mind-blowingly counter-intuitive. If they start firing people because they can’t get all the work done, who’s going to do it? New hires aren’t going to be any bit faster.

      1. Autumnheart*

        That’s what I was thinking. Are they seriously going to terminate people for not completing work by time machine? Who’s going to train the new people, then? This is a boatload of “The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

      2. Tessa Ryan*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking!

        The fact that the employees stated they would not have enough time to get their work done without overtime, and the company won’t allow overtime to get said work done, but they are told to get EVERYTHING done anyway, or they are gonna be fired… that blows my mind. Sympathies for you, OP.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—they’re circling down a drain of suck. Something has to be happening up the chain (a merger on the horizon? embezzlement?), but this is designed for everyone to fail and then fail harder.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Yes, that’s similar to what I was thinking. There’s got to be something going on up the chain.
          I’m wondering if the boss is trying to cull the herd?

          1. BeenThereOG*

            Winner winner chicken dinner! I’d put money on this being a strategy for attrition rather than having to deal with the expensive of layoffs. As a bonus the people who are still there can be put on PIPs because everyone will have poor performance.

          2. Lavender Menace*

            It’s either this or they’re trying to get free work out of everyone. My money’s on free work, but it could be either.

      4. Pilcrow*

        It’s a classic death spiral. Productivity is down so they have a hiring freeze. Employees are overworked and start to leave. Productivity goes down because there aren’t enough people to do the work. More employees leave. Productivity goes down and they start firing the “dead weight.” Productivity goes down. More employees leave. And on and on until someone in upper management gets a clue that 3 employees cannot produce the work of 30 and does a major overhaul or until everyone gets laid off or the company/department goes under.

        Substitute “profit” for “productivity” and you can apply this to almost anything. An example is public transit. Profit/ridership is down. Services are cut. People stop taking public transit because it doesn’t provide the service they need. Ridership goes down…

        1. Bostonian*

          Ooooh that public transit analogy is a good comparison. I’m also somewhat happy to hear that’s not just a thing the MBTA does.

        2. Bopper*

          and then they raise the fare…and remove the weekend discounts..and then you realize that it costs over $100 for your family of 4 to take a train into the City, you drive because even with tolls and expensive NYC parking garage, it is quicker, more convenient and cheaper.

      5. a good mouse*

        Especially when it takes 3+ hours a day for a period of time for a worker to train a new hire.

  4. Catleesi*

    OP your workplace is absolutely insane, and the management is terrible. My jaw was dropping as I was reading this. I hope you, and the rest of your coworkers, are all able to find something better soon.

    Also sending best wishes for your husband’s health.

  5. rmw1982*

    When the team says there are not enough hours in the day, and the boss just repeats “get it done without overtime,” do they really think getting out of the hole is a realistic outcome?

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      In that situation, what they’re looking for is a scapegoat. Someone, somewhere up the chain of command (boss, grandboss, CEO) allocated inadequate resources to the task (not enough staff, not enough funding, taking on too many projects/clients) and does not want to admit that and make changes. So they push the problem down to the lowest level possible, and then scapegoat those employees when the plan fails. “Oh they just weren’t the right fit,” or “They didn’t have the right skills for the job,” or whatever. Morale plummets, staff quit or get fired. Then, rinse and repeat until someone wises up and either terminates the person creating the bottleneck or the company goes out of business.

      1. Scarlet*

        This is so spot on it hurts. Unfortunately this is how much of the corporate world works.

      2. OhNo*

        Yep. And I can almost guarantee that by putting these hard deadlines on you, what they’re looking for is for someone (maybe multiple someones) to quit or get fired. Then whenever a client complains about old work not being done, or delays, management has a scapegoat ready of, “Oh, we actually just let so-and-so go for being behind on work for you, things will get better now.”

        Things will not get better without big changes in management, OP. I’m so sorry that your management and your workplace sucks like this, because it puts so much pressure on you and other coworkers at your level, and it’s really not your fault. Even Superman wouldn’t be able to work hard enough to get everything done that you are expected to do without overtime.

    2. irene adler*

      “Okay, how? How do I “get it done”? ”
      Yeah, I know saying this will get one canned immediately, but really, the burden here needs to be squarely on management.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’m sure the answer they’re hoping to imply is “Work off the clock because you’re afraid to lose your job,” but I absolutely would not suggest doing that. Don’t burn yourself out even more because management is incompetent. Do exactly what you’ve been told and go home without putting in any overtime.

        1. Natalie*

          You definitely don’t want to be OT (especially unpaid) when you need as much free time as you can scrape together to look for another job.

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          I agree. I’ve totally done the unofficial unpaid overtime before and it suuuuucks.

          “Your efficiency and output has really improved” “Yea I’m dead inside but I’m glad your bottom line is better.”

          1. Pommette!*

            It does suck. I did it for about a year, with no end in sight. And then I had a bad health scare (that luckily turned out not to be anything serious). My first reaction, when faced with the prospect of terminal illness, was relief that I wouldn’t have to be working, and feeling guilty about work, all the time anymore. I am not the smartest or the most perceptive of women, but that was a clear enough sign that I had to get out.
            (And I hope that the OP gets out too, and find work in a more humane environment!)

        3. Clorinda*

          Yes. Use those “unpaid overtime” to search for a new job. You work for YOU.

          1. Lexi*

            Isn’t a company legally required to pay for overtime worked even if it isn’t authorized? I’d work a week or two of overtime and if they tried to fire me, I’d remind them that unpaid work needs too be reported to the Labor Board . They probably would pay you, at worst you’d get a nice little severance.

            1. Silver Radicand*

              Not if you are salaried, but I’m not sure why the company would care about OT if they were all salaried.

            2. Fortitude Jones*

              There’s no guarantee she’d get severance – I could see these people firing her, not paying the OT they owe (because they’re already making unreasonable/insane demands, so I can see them thinking she won’t fight back or make waves since she hasn’t done so already), and not giving her severance. Nah, OP just needs to keep her head down, do as much as she can in 40 hours, and job hunt like mad. She does not need to do anything that would put a bigger target on her back.

        4. mark132*

          And if they are “asking” for that, they are idiots. Not paying for OT is very illegal.

      2. fposte*

        Though if they do, then they’re more overstretched, so who knows, maybe they’ll tolerate crap they otherwise wouldn’t.

      3. DerJungerLudendorff*

        “Just find a way”
        “It’s your job to figure that out”
        “Just work a bit harder”

  6. Elizabeth*

    It sounds like you had reason to be scared. Your boss sucks. I’m so sorry.

    I wonder what would happen when everyone fails to meet deadlines…

    1. Dragoning*

      They’re not giving them much motivation to try, to be honest. They try, they’ll fail, they don’t try, they’ll fail. Same result.

      1. Connie*

        I really how this person sends in another update. Hopefully saying they found a new job. If they do, but keep in touch with any of their current co-workers, I’d still love to hear an update on what happens.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Ideally the update would have “all my coworkers and I found new jobs and we all left at the same time”. I would guess that Get’Er’Done Boss will just dump the extra work onto the remaining staff members as people leave.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I hope she finds a job that will allow her to put her husband on insurance right away.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      THIS. Your boss sucks, as does your company. I hope you can find a much better job very soon.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      My group was in a similar situation once, except with direct managers who were sympathetic to our situation. Basically, we were told that the hiring freeze and budget cuts wouldn’t change until people started failing to meet deadlines (which would go up the chain to the people in charge of division budgets), and no one wanted to fail because that would tank their annual review. However, OT was actually approved which at least made it tenable, and no one was under threat of being fired!

      1. Malty*

        You said it Amber Rose.
        So sorry to read this update OP my stomach just dropped. Please know that shame you’re feeling? They WANT you to feel that. They want all the staff to feel like they are underperforming, need to work harder, can’t get overtime but risk losing their jobs and so work overtime but don’t claim it. I won’t be at all surprised if the next step is a ‘don’t talk about it’ initiative. Either don’t ‘complain’ about your workload because it ‘brings down morale’ or no more discussions about overtime simply ‘get it done’ with the outcome being everyone is doing secret overtime and can’t communicate about it. IMO companies that work like this always screw themselves in the end, not realising or caring that burnt out demoralised employees make more mistakes, produce lower quality work, and that employee turnover costs the company over time, but in their heads they want to spend less money now so give you unworkable conditions and tell you to just magically work harder to get it done and voila they’ve solved it. The human cost is you and your colleagues, burnt out and treated less than human. I really hope you can move on to a new job soon.

        1. seller of teapots*

          This this this.

          The shame is not deserved! It is the product of a toxic work environment.

          Hoping hoping hoping you get a new job asap.

  7. Former Retail Manager*

    I remember your letter and Alison’s advice, but to be honest, it really doesn’t sound like it would have made a difference if you had followed Alison’s advice. Your boss is setting unrealistic goals and she is refusing to listen to reason, backed up by clear factual calculations, regarding why those goals can’t be met. It is time to leave. At some point, this will all blow up on her/the company because as people continue to leave they will fall farther and farther behind. Hopefully, at some point in the future, someone will realize that the expectations set for the departed employees were unrealistic, but it doesn’t sound like that time is now. Best of luck to both you and your husband in finding positions that are a good fit. And wishing him good health in the future.

    1. animaniactoo*

      This. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like having that conversation would have helped, and in fact it might actually have hurt OP. It might have set them up as an easy scapegoat for why *they* can’t complete their work, rather than the unreasonable workload and deadlines.

    2. TheOtherLiz*

      Yep. And because this isn’t a place worth giving your heart and soul to, burning out on a daily basis, I encourage you also to do what you need to do for what matters in your life. Take sick leave to care for your husband, be with him at appointments, and be unapologetic about it. Take mental health days to work on feeling good about yourself AND to work on job applications. I know that you may need to keep a job to keep healthcare for you and your husband, but if you have sick leave available to use, then I think that’s what I would do – take a day off here and there for what’s important. And, as so many others have said, do NOT be bullied into working free overtime. This is a good time to tick all the “good employee” boxes like arriving a few minutes early, being pleasant, and doing your work as well as you can, but it is not a time to lose a part of yourself for a company that doesn’t deserve you.

        1. Camellia*

          Just remember that FMLA leave is not paid leave unless you have vacation or sick days you can take for it.

          1. AFPM*

            But they can’t fire you for it (as mentioned elsewhere) and she could keep her benefits. I am so sorry about this OP. This is absolutely horrible – I am going through something somewhat similar, and even on intermittent FMLA, it’s really really hard. Best wishes to you and your husband!

            1. fhqwhgads*

              They can’t fire you for taking FMLA, but they can fire you for being six months behind, which she is and they already know about. Even if they didn’t suddenly decide to fire her because of the performance the second she brought up FMLA, she’d keep her benefits but be responsible for the full cost while on leave, not just the normal employee portion. So if they’re already struggling financially, an unpaid leave with extra health insurance costs is probably not feasible.

    3. Pommette!*

      There is a kind of comfort in knowing that there is nothing you could have done to improve the situation. This is 100% not your fault, and it’s not something that you need to feel ashamed, guilty, or regretful about. (Not that it’s the kind of comfort you would choose, if you had a choice).
      I hope that things improve for you, both on the work and health fronts.

    4. mark132*

      I suspect that the LW boss is being told the same thing. Get it done or you are fired.

  8. Lucy*

    Another good reason to job hunt promptly and assertively is that everyone else will also be doing so – you can’t afford to be the last!

    I’m sad to read this update as there’s no win in it for anyone. I sincerely hope LW’s husband comes through his chemo well and that they both find suitable new jobs (in functional workplaces!) very soon.

    1. triplehiccup*

      Another vote for job hunting proactively. The upside to no overtime is at a protects your job hunting time.

  9. Jennifer*

    Well, one good thing is that your boss has to take on some real work and see what you guys go through every day. That had to feel good.

    I hope things get better for you and your husband soon.

  10. Granny K*

    So the OP isn’t the only one who’s behind…EVERYONE is behind. And the boss’s answer to their questions is “just figure it out”… ?!?! It seems like this management is setting everyone up to fail. (and hiring a bunch of new people isn’t going to solve these issues.) Personally, I might have quit during the staff meeting.

    1. BRR*

      Yeah if everyone is behind, that’s a sign you need to look at this and change something . (There are a lot of signs).

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, and not only behind, but months behind. OP might have been the only one publicly admitting to six months, but (a) people aren’t always honest about stuff like that, and (b) one and three months behind are also a LOT – if the whole staff is “only” one month behind, something is wrong!

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, when even the team’s superstar is saying this is an impossible amount of work, the problem is 100% not on you.

      1. Antilles*

        Which, if the company is smart (they aren’t), should be especially worrying. If even your best employee is upset and unable to keep up, then the less stellar employees are going to struggle even more.
        And longer-term, the first person to bail out is often the superstar, because they typically have the most experience / skills / whatever. Then their work also falls on already-overworked and less-starry employees, who can’t handle it, so there’s another wave of people looking to leave, and it just snowballs. It’s a vicious cycle.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah that’s the absolute clincher that this company is not being run by rational people. If it were more like the top 2-3 performers were just barely getting by, but everyone else were behind, they could kinda sorta make a case that if those people can do it, everyone else should be able to also. I’m not actually saying that’s reasonable, but they’d have some foundation that the standards were feasible if anyone were able to do it. But if even the top performer says it’s not mathematically possible, everyone, including management, knows they’ve got an impossible ask. And the shitty management doesn’t care.

    1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      It will happen. At my job, we’ve lost 12 lawyers in our department alone since last April due to excessive workload and salaries that don’t match up to that workload. We’re averaging one a month and our department isn’t that big; one didn’t last 6 weeks. Last April, we got a new General Counsel. *cough*

      It will circle around.

      1. Heidi*

        It’s too bad that people sometimes have to learn things the hard way. I wonder what the boss thinks is going to happen. Does she really think that it will get done? Or does she anticipate getting enough of it done to get by? Is everyone quitting even on her radar?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re assuming they learn from this kind of turnover, I’m glad your heart isn’t as black as mine [no joke, seriously].

          These rinkydink setups rarely learn or change, they’ll just keep slogging along until they financially crumble or just keep dragging themselves along, it’s incredibly sickening.

          Unless maybe they get new ownership/management, then that’s when reorganizations or overhauls may be put into place but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

          1. TootsNYC*

            it’s not just rinky-dink places that don’t learn.

            Do you think Wells Fargo has learned anything?

  11. Aunt Helen*

    This is the sort of situation unions are made for. I don’t know if formally unionizing is a possibility for you in your situation, OP, but what would happen if every employee stood up and walked out together?

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yup! I bet the AFL-CIO / OPEIU would be VERY interested in talking to OP.

      But they have so much on their plates, it’s not likely to be a realistic plan of action. I also wouldn’t be shocked if this were a workplace that would rather shut down than let its employees unionize.

    2. Anonyna*

      I came here to say the exact same thing. This has “mobilize and organize!!” written all over it.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’d be curious to know how often office workers are unionized, I wasn’t aware that was a thing but see that I was wrong, thankfully.

      1. Camellia*

        The union kept trying to get in at the large insurance company at which I worked in the 80’s and 90’s, but the workers kept voting them down. One year the company changed how sick pay worked for the non-exempt folks. For sick time, they would NOT be paid for the first TWO days they were off. If they took sick time after that, then they would be paid sick days.

        I was dumbfounded at this policy and thought for sure the union would win after that but, no, they never did. And the sick-time policy stayed in place. Oh well.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          OMG I thought your story was going to go “They voted them down! Then they jerked our sick pay around and then we brought them in!”, darn it.

          I think in jobs where we have more power to “negotiate” for salary and PTO at times, people see a union as a handcuff situation, so they hiss at the idea. However if it’s an office of underpaid workers who are being paid pitiful wages even if you “negotiated” a less pitiful one, it’s cutting off our noses to spite our face

          Granted, I’ve seen some really horrid CBA’s that help nobody and still let the company get away with so much malarkey. I’m actively trying to learn about unions and wash my general disgust for some of their ball-dropping ways out of my not so distant memories!

  12. WellRed*

    In my fantasies, every single staffer member gets up and walks out of that meeting. This situation is untenable, the boss sucks, the company sucks.

    1. Why isn’t it Friday?*

      +1 to that. This company deserves to lose all their overworked, under appreciated employees.

    2. Ada*

      In mine, they all start job hunting and find jobs around the same time. Just imagine it: a veritable PARADE of resignation letters. And when the last remaining employee drops her letter on the manager’s desk, the manager asks, “How is everything going to get done with no staff?”

      And that last employee, nearly out the door, stops and slowly turns back to look the manager right in the eyes: “Figure it out.”

      1. Clorinda*

        Warm fuzzies to you, Ada. That would be the best possible outcome for everyone!

      2. InsufficentlySubordinate*

        I kinda picture it with a line from Letterkenny that’s used often, “Sort yerself out.”

      3. Fortitude Jones*


        Alas, life is not a movie, and we most likely won’t get that good an ending here, but it’s nice to think about.

    3. TootsNYC*

      every single staffer member gets up and walks out of that meeting.

      And that is called a strike

    4. TardyTardis*

      But the OP *can’t*. Even if she finds a new job right away, there is likely a waiting period before insurance kicks in.

  13. Veryanon*

    I had a manager like this at my last job. She wouldn’t let anyone on the team work overtime (I was salaried but my 3 direct reports were all hourly). She wouldn’t let anyone work remotely ever, even though the work we did could easily be done remotely. She insisted that everything be done on time, but would get annoyed if I would pitch in to help the other three if they fell behind (and they were all good, conscientious workers, so it wasn’t like they were slacking). She had a very unrealistic idea of how long it actually took to process the work that we did; she had built numerous unnecessary steps into it, and would attack anyone who suggested a more streamlined way to accomplish the same goal. She was just terrible.

      1. Veryanon*

        The company was acquired by another company, but I managed to leave before the transition was final (they only offered me 2 months severance to stay through the transition date, not worth it). One of my coworkers left as well. As far as I know, Horrible Manager is still there, still making life miserable for everyone around her. Originally they had told her her position would be eliminated along with mine, then they extended her date. I was able to give her notice of my resignation *on my birthday,* which is definitely in the Top 5 best birthday presents I’ve ever received (even though I gave it to myself!).

        1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

          I made it a habit to give myself a present on my birthday every year. You deserve to celebrate yourself. :-)

  14. Bryce*

    One big thing to take away from your update is that it’s not just you. Even the star get-it-done-er is pushing back on this. When you’re under constant pressure it can be easy to blame yourself, and while your guilt at falling behind is understandable it seems to have been made crystal clear that it is not you that is the problem.

  15. Amethystmoon*

    If I were you, I would be looking for a new job. A company cannot possibly expect the impossible. Is the expectation that you are supposed to be working through lunch as well and not taking any breaks? If so, that’s not a long-term solution. Reasonable managers would look at the workload calculations and possibly shift some things to employees who can handle more, like data entry. Or at least hire a few more people.

    1. Connie*

      Working through lunch would mean unauthorized overtime, though. And a manager can’t really claim she didn’t know they were working off the clock if they were always at their desk at lunch time.

      It also sounds like the more they get done, the more they will be expected to do in an unrealistic time frame.

    2. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I’d sooner work at Burger King than this hell hole. I hope the OP finds something soon.

  16. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I would be so tempted to take a big batch of FMLA and get some job search done while giving yourself and your husband some time to get your physical and emotional health sturdy again.

    You will not be able to solve this in the current situation. And it sounds like the whole team has spoken and has not been heard, so banding together won’t help in the least.

    Take care of yourself.

    1. Connie*

      10 years ago I took a month of medical leave. 95% of my work was left untouched by other employees while I was gone, and was waiting for me when I got back. My boss refused to allow a co-worker who had plenty of time to help me do any of the work.

      The 5% of the work that was done by other people was done incorrectly, and I had to fix it all. Then I got fired because of customer surveys that had terrible scores and comments on them about the work that had been done in my absence. They were listed as my clients, so I got the blame. My boss didn’t bother to tell HR that I wasn’t the one who had done the work incorrectly. (The clients knew that I hadn’t done the incorrect work, because I discussed it with them when I fixed it. They weren’t complaining about me to the company, but my name was attached to the survey.)

      I sued. I won.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The last part!!!!! I was clinching reading your comment and then saw that you won your case, sweet sweet victory.

      2. Perpal*

        Now I’m really curious; what did you sue for, and what did you receive? If you can share. I can’t imagine wanting that job back; I hope it was enough $$$ to make the company decide never to do that again.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m curious too! If this is the U.S, it’s not illegal to fire you for ridiculously unfair reasons like this, but I imagine it might have been connected to the medical leave in some way.

          1. OrigCassandra*

            Any chance it came down to the false attribution becoming part of a reference –> defamation or slander? That’s about the only other thing I can think of.

            1. JustMyImagination*

              I wonder if unemployment and other lost benefits came into play. If you’re fired for-cause or misconduct you may not be eligible to collect benefits immediately and may lose out on PTO pay-outs.

          2. Connie*

            Yes, it was related to my FLMA leave. I was still only supposed to work 40 hours a week when I came back, and there was no way I could meet government deadlines doing that. The fact that my boss not only discouraged but forbid a co-worker to help me play the big part.

            I initially just wanted to get out of my non-compete agreement, but my attorney said let’s throw some monetary damages in there to give them something to negotiate down from.

            When they came back with a settlement offer to let me out of my non-compete and pay me only a slight rejection of what I’d askedpoo+ for my attorney was like “wow, they did mess up didn’t they?”

            I’m sure it helped that I had 9 typewritten single-spaced pages of things that my boss had done related to my medical situation both before and after my leave.

            I was awarded $15,000, which was equal to three months pay. That was how long it took me to find another job. I did also receive unemployment benefits. They didn’t challenge that. It’s not a fortune, but I did feel vindicated.

            1. Connie*

              Re typos, FMLA, of course. And slight reduction, not slight rejection. I think you can figure out what I meant on the other ones.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I imagine it was classified as “retaliation” for using her medical leave.

          They held her job but in terms of they held it so that she had a massive pile of “this is impossible” to return to. Then terminated her for it.

          I saw a similar story about how someone was terminated after FLMA was used and they cited that it was due to performance issues. This is abundantly clear that these performance issues were not hers to begin with and she was essentially terminated due to the fact that she was put in an impossible workload situation, which if they then tried to also fight her unemployment, would them up for even more of a loss in an employee friendly area.

        3. Connie*

          You’re absolutely right that I didn’t want that job back. I wrote a more detailed response below.

  17. Hello!*

    I am sending lots of positive thoughts this way. I fell behind on work when my grandpa and a longtime family friend were diagnosed with cancer. My grandpa is in remission, the friend died last year. It is hard to fall behind regardless, and is made even worse by adding family health issues on top of it. Try to stay positive. I’m not sure if you are one for poetry, but when I am having a difficult day, I look at myself in the mirror and recite “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. I’m actually considering getting the word “Invictus” tattooed, but that is a whole different thing.

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate,
    I am the captain of my soul.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I do the same thing but with Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot speech. It never fails to help me refocus myself and detatch myself from a situation causing me stress.

      1. Hello!*

        When even Invictus doesn’t work for me, I watch a video on Youtube that compiled all of the greatest sports pep talks from movies. But that is only for emergency situations.

        1. AppleStan*

          Going to need a link to that…or tell me what to search for…because I could totally use that now.

    2. Another Manic Monday*

      I do have a tattoo of the last two lines of that poem on the inside my left forearm. I got it last year as constant reminder to myself.

    1. Common Welsh Green*

      All that’s missing is the gruel and the oakum. They’ve sure got the treadmill covered.

  18. Serin*

    I agree with everyone who says this is a no-win situation. Your company should be allowing overtime. Even that is a second-best solution; what they really should be doing is hiring enough people to do the work they want done. It’s nuts, and you should get out before it completely destroys your self-esteem.

    I noticed a couple of places in your update where you said your boss asked for information (about how far behind you were, about which specific problems you’d had with clients) and you couldn’t remember. I want to reassure you that that’s common; lots of people (including me) have trouble accessing information (1) based on hearing as opposed to reading, (2) without time to gather facts, and (3) when emotions are running high.

    It sounds like you get no slack from your current manager, but with *normal* management, you’d be fine to say, “I don’t have it off the top of my head, but give me half an hour to pull that data together for you.”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “… give me a half hour to pull the data together for you, so I can fall even further behind… “

      1. animaniactoo*

        “I don’t have it off the top of my head because it would take too much time to remember it… there isn’t any room left in my brain for details like that. Can I go now? I have to try and at least get the Johnson report done today.”

    2. 2 Cents*

      I had no idea that normal managers didn’t expect you to have *all* the answers all the time with no notice till I left my last job and got a new one with a normal manager who expects me to be human (and not a walking database). At Old Job, it was seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence if you didn’t have all the answers immediately or if you tried to answer, only to discover you were mistaken.

  19. AnonMurphy*

    I just came by to say I’m sorry, this sounds exhausting (and that’s not even counting what’s going on outside work).

    I’ve gotten by a lot lately on telling myself ‘you can’t do everything at once. you have a lot to do. what is the most important thing to do next?’ and then when I get stuck I go back to that reframing statement.

  20. Holly*

    Sounds like the employer is hoping that people will just quietly do work in their personal time, off the clock. I hope no one falls for it! Best of luck to you and your husband, OP.

      1. Tigger*

        Yes, I have been in this situation where that was the expectation. It never ends well because on paper you are getting everything done in 40 hours so why would they ever approve ot?

    1. TootsNYC*

      Much like Wells Fargo hoped their front-line employees would break the law and sign people up for accounts the customer never asked for, even though the company explicitly forbade that. But, you know, if they didn’t make those unrealistic numbers, they WOULD get fired; people did.

  21. TeacherLady*

    Reminds me of a former boss who would ask how long I needed to complete an assignment, and then ask for it in a tiny fraction of the time frame I gave him (as in, I would say 2 weeks, he would give me one hour). The problem (among many, many others) was that he did not understand what I did, assumed it was really easy and refused to believe it could possibly take so long.

    Another issue was that he could produce work, but the quality of his output would be embarrassing to an elementary school student (and at one point, involved plagiarizing an entire website), let alone a paying client, but he didn’t seem to realize how bad it was. Basically, he thought that because he could draw a stick figure, I should be able to paint the Sistine Chapel in a similar amount of time.

    The root cause, I think, was a firm belief that any problems the business encountered must stem from irresponsible employees somehow.

    Whatever the reason, it was a really untenable situation, and did a lot of damage to a lot of people’s well-being. I hope you are able to get out quickly!

    1. Hello!*

      Oof I feel you on this one. I was working on a big project with my coworker. Like creating 132 unique Excel reports. My coworker had done it before, I hadn’t. She asked if we would be able to work from home to avoid distractions since it takes an hour for each report. He just scoffed and said that she was being rude and that the reports take 10 minutes each. Sometimes they just don’t get it.

    2. oh my actual god*

      Holy cow, was he a movie villain? I’ve always wondered if anyone has ever tried that in real life (only to discover, of course, that that *doesn’t actually make anything go faster*).

    3. Brogrammer*

      I can’t comprehend the thinking of people who assume that anything they don’t know how to do is easy. It seems fundamentally backwards. I generally assume something I don’t know how to do is hard, because if it were easy I’d know how to do it!

    4. Frankie*

      I had a boss who approached workload as a negotiation process…in a bad way. Like she would play hardball and open with an unreasonable timeframe, knowing you’d ask for more time, but you’d be tied to what she initially suggested and ask for less than you were comfortable with.

      Unsurprisingly everyone in that group burned out and no one stayed longer than a couple of years!

  22. King Friday XIII*

    OP, I’m so glad to hear that your husband is doing well! That’s got to be a huge relief.

    I would look at your boss’s flailing as a kind of relief too: you may be the most behind, but it’s *NOT* just you. Your boss has given you permission to not care, because it’s like ordering you to maintain a golf course with a plastic sandbox shovel and a pair of safety scissors. You may be a hole behind your coworkers, but nobody’s gonna make it through the back nine.

    Take care of yourself as much as you can, job hunt as much as you have the energy for, and if you’re gonna hope for anything, hope that the hammer comes down on your boss before it has a chance to come down on you. ;)

    1. Happy Lurker*

      I love this: “ordering you to maintain a golf course with a plastic sandbox shovel and a pair of safety scissors.” and will be borrowing it. Thank you.

  23. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    My God…you work for absolute jackholes. I am so sorry and I’m glad you’re going to start looking. You’re in accounting and hopefully in an area that’s not economically depressed at this time so you should have a good amount of openings to look into. This is not normal and they are evil, they deserve failure and you’re not to blame a bit for that.

  24. Blue Bunny*

    I suggest making a plan with your colleagues in regards to references, particularly with the colleague who has already given notice. Your manager is not reasonable, and you are all going to need a sane resource from this company as you job search.

  25. Hiya*

    Is there an owner or a grand grand boss. Sometimes in these situations the uppers don’t know what the manager is doing. They just see profit because not enough employees are hired. The manager wants to look good and hiring more doesn’t do this. Since your situation is no win it can’t hurt to go up the chain as high as you can and let them know what is going on.

  26. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

    This is an awful update! I’m so sorry OP. :(

    I think at this point you should show up, do what’s a reasonable amount of work and then leave for the day. Your company clearly has no plan to fix this, you can’t fix this, so you need to just let it go.

    ‘Just getter dun’ is such a failure at management, you have no culpability here. While everyone likes to feel successful at their job, your crap boss/company have made that impossible. All you can do is plod along and apply for every job that comes up.

    Good luck OP.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I agree with this. Do what you can during the day, and then put as much energy as you can into getting out of there. Don’t trust your boss…is there a recent former coworker who might be a reference for you? Or are there other references you could use?

      Also try to put a plan together for what to do if you do lose your job. Is temporary work an option? Is there somewhere you might be able to get a job that would at least keep some money coming in until you find something else? It can help reduce the stress of “WHAT IF I LOSE MY JOB?” if you have at least something of a plan in place, even if it’s not a particularly complete plan.

      I wish you and your husband all the best, OP. If/as you’re able, please do keep us updated!

    2. the_scientist*

      THIS. The company has no plan to fix the problems, and is setting this entire team up to fail. What happens if OP does put in unpaid overtime?? It’s still not going to be enough to get her to where she needs to be, and it’s probably not going to be enough to salvage her job anyway.

      OP, in this situation I would put in your 40 hours and use that overtime to pay yourself first– by starting a job hunt!! What are they going to do? Let you go sooner than they otherwise would have? If they let you go, they won’t have you around to train the new people…so that’s a point in your favour. You need to look out for your best interests here!

  27. A Simple Narwhal*

    I agree with the people saying that the company wants you to work unpaid, off-the-clock overtime, but can’t come right out and say it.

    I used to work for a company that had billable hours to clients and towards the end I was constantly getting yelled at for billing too many hours, and then getting yelled at some more when I stuck to the hours but my work output was less/worse. I thought I was just stupid or bad at my job until I realized the secret to success – work 12-14 hour days and only bill 8. Naive me thought everyone else was better at their jobs instead of just lying on their timesheets.

    It was completely untenable, and I’m glad I don’t work there anymore. I hope the OP finds something better soon and that their husband continues to improve.

    Side note for Allison, is there anyway to send the OP some money/giftcards/something else they need? I’d be happy to contribute to a GoFundMe or something similar. I don’t know if they’re interested in help from an internet stranger, but I’ve been in a similar situation (fortunately without the financial concerns) and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be.

  28. Sharikacat*

    At first, I was hopeful in reading this update. The boss saw that most people were behind in work and appeared disheartened to learn that it was a widespread problem that would require a systemic change to fix. Tough to hear that sort of news but necessary since so many people were in trouble. But then she double-downed by setting deadlines and putting jobs on the line. Such a terrible place.

    1. Alianora*

      Same here. If literally everyone is months behind, the logical conclusion is that they need help. Not that they’re all slackers who should be fired.

  29. Auntie Social*

    But not all of you are exempt, you can’t be. I don’t recall you describing managing other people as a large part of your duties so no OT is illegal. Can you go as a group to HR??

    1. Amber Rose*

      It’s not illegal if they aren’t working over time. It’s only illegal if they work over time and don’t get paid. Since over time isn’t authorized, that’s why they’re so behind.

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t see what’s illegal. Companies are fully allowed to bar non-exempt employees from working more than the set number of hours. They aren’t saying “work as much as you need but we aren’t paying OT” (which would violate wage laws), they’re just saying that you only have 40.00 hours to work and we will not authorize you to work more than that (which is legal).
      The fact they’re expecting 70 hours of work in only 40 hours of time? Insane, yes, but legal.

      1. dealing with dragons*

        to me (and other commenters) it feels like the boss is saying “are you SURE you can’t get it done? Even if you’ll get fired for not doing it? No ~~official~~ overtime *wink*”

        1. boo bot*

          Yup. They’re putting the employees in a position where the only way to succeed is to work unpaid overtime, but they’re not admitting it outright. That way when they get caught, they can fire everyone instead of paying a fine.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Absolutely how I read it too. Sadly though, the laws don’t read between the lines. So right now, there’s nothing for them to hang a hat on legal wise. It’s just a “figure it out” and a “no win” situation if you follow the law.

        3. Antilles*

          The company was very clear that they do not authorize overtime and all work is expected to be completed within a 40-hour workweek.
          If you work unpaid OT and the company finds out, they will be shocked, shocked that you violated their clearly stated policy and clearly emphasized directive, then pay you the overtime from that time period as required) while simultaneously firing you immediately for violation of the policy.
          The practical reality may be that you’re only getting it done by working unpaid overtime, but legally, the company can create a “40 hours only” and “all work must be completed on time” policy, even if such policies conflict.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Much the way Wells Fargo issued completely unrealistic “new account” goals for their sales folks, issued company policies about how people weren’t supposed to break the law by signing customers up for accounts they hadn’t requested–but oh, if you don’t make those unrealistic numbers, we WILL fire you (and they did–that was not an empty threat).

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re not exempt. That’s why they’re banned from OT. You MUST pay OT if it happens but you can be fired if up work any unauthorized hours. So it’s a case of say, if they clock 45hrs, they get paid 5hrs OT. Then they’re terminated for breaking the rule of No Unauthorized OT.

      Just like if they break an attendance requirement. Or they break a no cell phones policy. Or they don’t show up, etc.

    4. animaniactoo*

      Depending on the type of work, they may be. There are some categories that allow you to be an exempt employee in a “learned profession” or “creative profession” without managing other people.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is a good point!

        However it sounds like the OP works as some kind of “bookkeeper” or accounting clerk given her original letter. They are not classified as exempt, even staff accountants are rarely exempt but if you have a certification and are working as a CPA, that’s exempt. This is why tax professionals rake in the big OT bucks during those long AF tax season life.

        It boils down to how much do you get to exercise judgement, level of autonomy and how big your decisions are. If you’re following strict procedures, see ya exemption.

  30. SaffyTaffy*

    Oh my God I wish I could just give you a new job, or some money, or something. I wish I could make it so you can give your notice tomorrow morning and just figure the rest out next Monday.

  31. M from NY*

    Is the CFO aware of the challenges you and your coworkers have shared. Disappointment over an untenable expectation is NOT your concern. When time comes share specific data points on why you’re frustrated (for example no overtime, 65 hours of scheduled work in 40 hour work week etc). If CFO is part of problem don’t take on absolving their disappointment and use your energy to look for new job while supporting your husband during his recovery.

  32. Archaeopteryx*

    Please promise you won’t do any unpaid overtime! Here’s hoping you find a sane job straight away.

  33. voyager1*

    I think you need to realize that you are probably going to get fired LW. It isn’t right at all; management is out of their rocker. Like others have said the “get it done” could be code to work off the clock.

    This situation is a total Kobayashi Maru, but the photon torpedos are real.

    Hope you can find another job soon.

    1. Foreign Octopus*


      Move forward thinking that you’re going to get fired (through no fault of your own) and work off that assumption, i.e., revamp your CV, start applying for jobs, get yourself involved in the job application process so that when it does happen, you’re already full-steam ahead.

      And in the happy event that you get a job offer and accept it before they do fire you, give them hell in the exit interview.

  34. The Tin Man*

    “The LW is the furthest behind, so let’s have her train the new employee”


    The only thinking (and I don’t think this is the reason) is that if LW is doing doing work at a slower rate then less work overall gets missed if LW does training for 3 hours instead of the star employee losing 3 hours to training?

  35. Matilda Jefferies*

    Good grief, that sounds like actual hell.

    I know job searching takes a ton of emotional bandwidth that you may not have right now (see: working in hell, husband with cancer). But I hope you can start the process and get yourself out of there sooner rather than later. In the meantime, for as long as you need to hang in there, just know that this is not normal, it’s not okay, and you deserve so much better.

    Best of luck to you and your husband!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I too recognize that job hunting is just a HUGE amount of emotional bandwidth–but at the very least, go through LinkedIn and find everyone you have ever interacted with, and email them to say, “Hey, I think I need a new job, would you think of me if you hear of anything?”

      ANY step you take to make yourself feel more hopeful is a good idea.

  36. glitter writer*

    I’m sorry, being set up to fail, and then being told failure is your fault, is incredibly exhausting and demoralizing. I hope you can keep taking their paychecks just long enough to find a rational, reality-based, non-toxic place to work. And I hope your husband’s health continues improving!

    1. motherofdragons*

      “being set up to fail, and then being told failure is your fault” – yes, perfectly put. That’s EXACTLY what’s going on here. OP, I am so freakin’ angry and sad on your behalf. I hope things improve soon, and that you are able to take some small comfort in knowing that this corner of the internet has your back.

    2. JM in England*

      At OldJob, “Setting someone up to fail” was listed as one of the unacceptable behaviours under the company’s anti-bullying policy.

        1. JM in England*

          I would like to think so. However, like anywhere else in the world, we have our mix of good and bad companies…

  37. Drew*

    I’m put in mind of a former project manager position (at a company that doesn’t exist anymore, and for very good reason) where I was given a budget and told not to exceed it or dire consequences would ensue.

    I crunched numbers and realized they were allocating less than a minute for each step of the process, which involved writing, editing, checking against project parameters, and so on.

    I pointed this out to my boss and said we were basically guaranteed to lose money on this project (with a side of “why the hell did we bid the contract this way — we’d be better off not having the job at all”) and was told, essentially, “Bill the number of hours each day that the contract will pay for and then switch to overhead for the rest of the time necessary to get it done.”

    Had another coworker at another former job who proudly told us that after six weeks of work, he had reduced our unit cost for the new line of teapots by three cents. I asked whether he thought that losing six weeks of sales plus paying for all his time was worth the cost savings. He did not like that one damn bit and our working relationship never warmed past “icy” the rest of the time I was there.

    OP, don’t work unpaid overtime and don’t hold it against yourself that you can’t complete 60 hours of work in a 40-hour week. Your boss sucks and clearly isn’t going to change. Work on getting yourself out of there.

  38. GiantPanda*

    OP, stop trying to get your work done. Seriously.
    Prioritize to the best of your ability (since your boss won’t help) and drop the rest. Do not work (official or unofficial) overtime. Focus on not burning out, your husband and getting out as fast as you can.

    This situation is going to get worse (due to your coworkers quitting) before if it gets better (if it ever does).

    Best of luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also–stick a piece of paper on your desk, and write down everything you do each day and how long it took you, as documentation that you’re working as fast as you can.

      If only so you can say, “wow, this took a long time!” and “I got a lot done.”

  39. CupcakeCounter*

    Talk with your coworkers and make sure none of you are going to do any unpaid OT and just work your 40 hours to the best of your ability and mental health.
    If you all get fired, file for unemployment and fight for those benefits. They are either going to back down or fire the whole team (which makes fighting for unemployment easier).
    Best of luck to your husband – hopefully he will get a good job with benefits and take some of the load off of your shoulders.
    Stop training new people and if the CFO makes a sad face or says something about being disappointed, fill them on very explicitly as to why. “Well because of the new system and these other changes, the entire department is behind to the tune of 3-6 months and boss won’t let anyone work OT to try to catch up. Not that Sheila left we have even more work since her position isn’t filled yet and according to boss we are also taking over the work from Team A. We’ve repeatedly told her that we cannot get caught up and stay on top of our current workload in 40 hours/week at our current staffing level so taking on new tasks is a hard no.”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It also depends on your state but if you’re fired for not being able to keep up with the work demands, you’re still eligible for unemployment. If you simply cannot do the job, you’re eligible. You’re only not eligible if you are found to have committed gross misconduct [basically you commit a crime and you better have the police report for that too, since I’ve seen embezzlers get unemployment and never get punished for it] or if you abandon the job, since that’s viewed as quitting on the side of the employment securities department.

      1. LQ*

        Yup! (It does depend on the state so definitely check the laws.) But in most states you’d be totally eligible if you were fired for not being able to keep up with an impossible workload.

        Now if you worked OT, they found out and paid you and then told you to never do it again and you did it again and they paid you but fired you? You may not be eligible in that case, depends on the state again, but you’re less likely to be eligible in this case than in the you just can’t keep up case. Don’t work the OT!!

    2. WellRed*

      Unfortunately, unemployment doesn’t pay well and it doesn’t come with health insurance in many states so she may be stuck, especially with an ill husband.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Also depends on the state. If you lose your job here, you go on the state healthcare plan because “life changing event” has taken place. Which her husband may already be on if he’s not working, since a lot of employer healthplans are insanely expensive ot add a spouse to, so you’re eligible to use the state healthcare marketplace. I actually figured that he wasn’t on her healthcare plan, so that never even dawned on me. Nobody has their spouse on our plan, they have their own through their own employer or the marketplace given the prices.

  40. Daphne Moon*

    OP, you’re going through a rough time a lot of us can relate too. Having this 24/7 stress isn’t normal. Are there going to be stressful times at work? Of course, but it shouldn’t dominate your life. If you can, I’d start approaching the situation more light-heartedly. If you’re not going to be paid for overtime that they expect then they reap what they sow.
    Your boss sucks. A good boss, having seen that the workload is unreasonable, would go to bat for employees. When your coworker mentioned burnout the response should have been “I am committed to avoiding that on my team. Let’s work together so no one gets there.”

  41. Sara without an H*

    OP, you didn’t say whether you were job hunting. If you’re not, you need to start as soon as possible. Alison has a lot of good information in her archives about resumes, cover letters, and strategy. Can you and your co-workers agree to act as references for each other?

    You sound like someone who cares about doing a good job and who invests a lot of emotional energy your work. Try to put that on hold for a while, since it’s clear that your company doesn’t appreciate it. Do what you can in 40 hrs/week and put the rest of your energy into hunting for a new job working for sane people.

    Don’t hang around waiting to get the last possible drop of agony from the situation. It sounds as though your company is both organizationally dysfunctional and critically understaffed. This does not bode well for its future. Don’t be the last one off the burning deck.

    Best of luck to you and a good recovery for your husband.

  42. Kryzmac*

    Would it be possible to prove that unpaid OT/working off the clock was Management’s desired outcome, and then take all those unpaid hours to the DOL?

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      I do wonder about that- it seems waaay too easy to get around the law this way, by requiring an outcome that is 100% impossible to achieve within the law (get 80 hours of work done in 40, but don’t work any overtime) on pain of firing. I wonder if there’s precedent dealing with this, since it’s obvious this company didn’t invent the concept.

      It’s very mob “make sure nothing bad happens to Leo, it would be awful if he were to be found tomorrow morning in the river with a message about loyalty written on his forehead and cement shoes…” …said by mob boss to his enforcer. Yeah, you told him *not* to do that. Right. Kinda like “get ‘er done, but *don’t* work overtime, got it? No overtime. None. *wink*”

  43. e271828*

    LW, I’m afraid your manager is going to throw you under a bus. You admitted to being the most behind, and you’ve been loaded with new work that worsens your backlog…but that does put more bodies in the pipeline to do the job. Prioritize job searching. Don’t work unpaid overtime; that’s job search time (and family time) for you.

    I do think that all of you standing together on the “no unpaid overtime” issue is the only way to keep all of you working while you all find better jobs. What the CFO and everyone on down is doing is not normal and not right.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Oof, good point. The manager knows LW is more behind than anyone else, but is sticking her with training someone new (i.e. even more work and even less time to catch up on work)? Manager may be building a case to get rid of LW.

  44. Kella*

    I agree with everyone else that I hope you are all able to find new jobs and quit in waves so the company feels the most direct impact, but I also fear with how behind everyone is already that firing will start happening before new jobs can be acquired, and that the first wave of resignations will move up the next wave of terminations because of the skyrocketing work load.

    I wonder what would happen if all of the workers picked a deadline from each of their work loads that they knew they couldn’t meet, that was pretty close together, and then as a group, you went to your boss and said, “In X number of hours we accomplished Y hours work of work and we still missed the deadline for z. You’ll have to fire all of us now.”

    Obviously, that’s an incredibly risky game to play with your finances, and OP especially is not in a position to gamble with that, so I don’t know that I *recommend* you use that tactic, I’m just wondering what would happen if you did.

  45. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP – we have heard about some terrible bosses on AAM,but I really think you boss may be the worst. Usually the terrible bosses have done something outrageous, but in this case your boss is complete abdicating her responsibilities as a manager. Her job isn’t to tell you to get it done, but rather to help you prioritize and to advocate for more staff. I hope you find a better position soon and that your husband’s health improves.

  46. Wulfwen*

    Oh ack! This is awful, and I am sorry you and your co-workers are being subjected to such f**kery.

    As you start to look for new jobs, you may find this helpful: https://captainawkward.com/2017/01/09/934-how-do-i-keep-myself-together-in-order-to-leave-a-toxic-work-situation/ (Captain Awkward helps a person who is so overworked they literally have no time to job search). There are some really good suggestions in there for how to carve out time, and – even more importantly – how to not feel bad about doing it.

    Best of luck! Hope your husband’s treatments continue to go well, and that you both are headed into better things soon!

  47. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP, you have my utmost sympathies for being in this situation. I’ve been in a nearly identical situation, though the solution in our case was “you can work as much OT as you need” with no acknowledgement that our workload had literally tripled in less than a year. We were a team of four and they gave us a person to help us with some projects on a part time basis. That was it.

    This is the toxic job that I was terminated from a few years ago. The same week I was fired, one of the other people on the team gave her notice. They had to replace the two of us with four people to manage the workload.

    Bottom line – I know how frustrating and exhausting this situation is. And the worst part was that I was so burned out, I didn’t have the time or energy to search for a new job. Getting fired was actually a blessing in disguise because I got unemployment and was able to take off a few months to recuperate.

    I am glad to hear your husband’s situation is improving and I am sending you both positive vibes.

  48. RB*

    When you’re in a busy job and don’t have time to job search, it can be helpful to use a recruiting agency. Not the kind that charges you a fee, but the kind that gets paid by the employer. Some of them are really pushy and will send you out on interviews for jobs that you’re not really interested in or that you’re not truly qualified for, so it’s on you to be picky and only go on the interviews for the jobs that you’d really want. It’s ok to work with more than one agency at a time.

    1. Jaded*

      Jumping in here to say it’s not just OK to use more than one agency, it’s pretty much essential. Personally I’m with 4 – 6 when I’m job searching. It will depend on what line of work you’re in which agencies are suitable, and try not to register with more than you can keep up with. If the first one you register with asks for sole agency they’re trying it on and they know it. You can either say “I’m sorry that won’t be possible”, or if you want to soften it a bit you could offer 1 month sole agency to let them pull out all the stops to get you placed. After you’ve registered with the first, the problem is solved because you tell them you’re registered elsewhere.

      And if the first agency you register with is a bit meh about your skills don’t let that discourage you. Negging is how some of them work, and it’s more about their deficiencies than yours. I’m lucky if one of my 6 agencies thinks I’m wonderful at any given time. Just hang on in there. Good luck OP, we’re cheering for you and your husband.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Recruiting is great for accounting jobs.

      Also if you’re interested, there are temp agencies that work for strictly accounting jobs as well, the biggest one is Account Temps. If theyr’e in your area, they’re worth a shot at seeing what is open. I would keep that in my back pocket for once your husband is off chemo and hopefully has a job soon. Then they can work on a placement, as soon as one comes in say “Byeeeeeeeeeeee” and walk without notice because this manager is not ever going to give you positive reference anyways, so let that bridge burn to the ground and then dance in the ashes on your way to freedom.

  49. Betsy S*

    This is going to come crashing down on your boss’s head, because she has a problem she is not solving, and it’s only going to get worse.

    I wonder what upper management thinks, here. What is the impact of being six months behind on a customer? Are you late in performing services, or in billing? Is the company cracking down because they are in financial trouble?

    At some point, heads are going to roll and customers are going to leave. Those things are inevitable and the new policies are accelerating that change.

    Since it sounds as though everyone in the group has the same understanding, I’d consider putting together a single easy-to-read spreadsheet with a few stark numbers (work time required, hours available, number of accounts behind by month) and sending it to the boss and copying the boss’s boss. Perhaps along with a mention that your group could catch up with x more hours overtime a month or y more people. Signed by the entire group so no one person is the scapegoat. But that’s a last-ditch effort.

    When you think about your review, focus on what you HAVE gotten done, operating under these constraints. You’ve done a huge amount of work in the time allowed. You focused on high-priority tasks with deadlines. At best, you can offer to work more closely with your manager on setting priorities (it is HER failing that she was not aware of how her employees were prioritizing their work!) But don’t let them beat you up for not doing 80 hours of work for 40 hours pay.

    Beyond that, it’s good that you’re working on a plan to move beyond this company. I know it’s hard to find time to look when you’re under so much stress and pressure already. But, this situation is not stable. It is going to fall apart, probably soon, and you can’t fix it. Your primary responsibilities here are your family and your own health. Two years from now this should all be a bad memory and a good story.

    You’ve done your bit. Continue giving a good solid 40 hours, and spend the rest of your time and energy doing what you need to do to get into a better place.

    Wishing your husband a complete and speedy recovery, and let us know when you’re in a new, better job!

    1. WellRed*

      I don’t understand how a company that handles bookkeeping/finances/billing, etc for clients gets away with being this far behind. Do their companies not need any cash flow?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I have one vendor who has in-house accounting and it takes them six weeks, six weeeeeeeeeeeeks to send me a bill. I don’t understand anything about how this is a sustainable practice and would crawl under the desk and sob if I ever saw it first hand. Yeah I don’t know how that works for cash flow.

        Reminds me also of how when I moved, the utilities provider for that area took four months, no you’re not misreading that, four months to send me the first bill. Then I sent in an inquiry about my second bill recently since it hasn’t shown up, I got an automated message from them saying their first billings are experiencing even longer delays…how does it even work!?! Every other provider I just called up, said “I live here now” and they said “You sure do!” and put my name on the account, badda boom, I got myself a bill 15-30 days later.

        1. Argye*

          I once got reimbursed for an expense *8 months* later. For a poor postdoc, covering a trans-Pacific plane fare and hotel was…difficult. That still boggles my mind.

  50. just another middle manager*

    OP, you are doing GREAT given the circumstances, but I am so sorry you’re dealing with all of this work stuff and your spouse’s illness at the same time. I’m glad you’re keeping an eye out for other openings. I’m sending you all the good vibes I can to help you and your husband heal and move on to better things!

  51. Princess prissypants*

    Um, STOP trying to do all the work. That’s impossible, literally. Instead, do the absolute minimum, shore up a couple of people who you can all be mutual references for, and shotgun your updated resume.

  52. MuseumChick*

    I’m so sorry you company and boss completely suck. My dream for you, is that you and all your cor-workers get amazing job offers and y’all give your notices with in days of each other.

  53. Linzava*

    I’m so sorry. I hope your husband recovers and you find a new job soon! Just a side note, is your husband eligible for disability? It might take the pressure off your savings if he is.

  54. Seespotbitejane*

    My sympathies OP. I have also worked this job and it will not get better. They’ll just start churning through new hires, constantly complaining that they can’t get anybody good.

  55. Scott*

    This company is punching itself in the face repeatedly and wondering why it has a headache.

  56. Peaches*

    I’m sure this has been said many times, but I truly am SO sorry your company sucks so much. Really hopeful that you can get out of there soon!

  57. Brett*

    This sounds exactly like when I did temp work for the safety division of a big trucking company (if you live in the midwest, you have seen their trucks). They underfunded the unit they perceived as a necessary liability in favor of dumping money into profit centers (i.e. drivers and sales).

    Long story:
    Since safety logs were viewed as a liability rather than a benefit, the company had no interest in spending money on the safety office. They had old hand-me-down computers with zero IT support. They had the absolute worst chairs I have ever sat in (the entire office had back problems) and no air conditioning while working out of offices that were one step above a storage shed. And they were completely understaffed with no hope of ever completing a month’s worth of work in a month.
    I was one of three data entry temps that the supervisor brought in for a 3 month contract (I think because of a risk of violating DOT/OSHA requirements on safety logs), because the company’s answer to her requests were otherwise “no overtime no new people get it done”. She did not really share this with her employees, which I think was a mistake. I don’t think the rest of the office realized that the company was purposely hampering them because it was only doing the bare minimum to comply with the DOT. But to an outsider coming in, it was obvious that the company was purposely underfunding them.
    Fortunately the other two temps and I rocked through their data entry backlog and got them caught up on that part in about six weeks. I also did a bunch of IT work for them to help with their badly out of date systems. But two days after we were caught up, the company cancelled the contract early and laid off all the temps. I felt so sad for them because it was obvious that they were going to get buried again.

  58. GreenDoor*

    I can’t believe your boss still has the “just get it done” messaging even after taking on half the work of the employee who quit!! She’s nuts.

    I hope you are able to find new work soon! This workplace you’re in now doesn’t sound like it will get any better.

  59. LQ*

    Half ass it.
    All the rest of the stuff people said above about do not work extra over time, and do not let this break you and look for something else. And I know this goes against a lot of stuff including (likely) your own sense of self. But your boss has said she values speed over literally everything else. So do that. Burn through it with narry a care. Leave on time and look for something else. This isn’t great, don’t do it for long or you’ll get stuck there. But this is the only way you’re going to make it through.

    If your boss didn’t sound horrible I’d suggest having that as a conversation and talking about what parts of the work you’re taking too long on/how she does the work quickly. Maybe she doesn’t bother to check any of the math she just assume’s it’s all right and done and that’s acceptable and sometimes you pay out way to much. Maybe she thinks that llama’s don’t need a comprehensive grooming they just need their front bangs brushed and she calls that done. But it doesn’t sound like your boss would be able to do that so just…half ass it. And look for something else.

  60. Jaybeetee*

    Your entire company sucks – your boss sucks, but it also sounds a bit like the boss is also under pressure from on high.

    One thing to internalize here, is that you have crunched the numbers yourself, and there is literally nothing you can do to save this sinking ship of a situation. It’s going down no matter how hard you work or how stressed you get. So, do what you can, but don’t try to be superhuman, and focus on softening your own landing, whether from getting canned, your entire department getting canned, or the entire company going under. If you eventually come out the other side of this with your current job (and less stress), bonus… but don’t count on that.

    Kludge whatever you can kludge at work – that is, take shortcuts where you can, be a little more lax on quality than maybe you can usually be. One read of your boss’ words is “work unpaid overtime”, another possible read is “churn out crap if that’s what it takes to catch up”.

    You’re under stress at work and stress at home right now – take care of yourself, and don’t let anyone convince you you’re selfish. If you break down, you won’t be able to help your husband. Taking care of yourself is part of being there for him. Do your best to eat and sleep properly, to find time to relax and recharge during your day. Do your best to wall off the job stress when you’re not at work, and when at work, don’t work yourself up too much trying to do what you already know is impossible.

    I hope this gets better for you soon.

  61. TeapotNinja*

    I wonder what this manager is going to do once she has to fire all her “non-performing” employees when they don’t meet the deadlines?

    *giant eyeroll*

  62. AKchic*

    You owe this company no loyalty. Abandon ship. Set up interviews under the guise of “medical appointments” and get out of there ASAP.

  63. ShwaMan*

    Your manager is very, very, very terrible at their job. Extremely ineffective.

    I am so sorry you are in this situation. I hope you can find a new healthy company that appreciates your dedication but knows how to manage people and workloads.

    If you have any faith at all in your grandboss, or great-grandboss, or anyone who has influence over your manager, I’d be awfully tempted to talk to them (prepared with proof of impossibility of what your group is being asked to do). Your manager is going to cause real financial damage to your organization – I’d hope someone would be interested in addressing it.

  64. TootsNYC*

    Also–stick a piece of paper on your desk, and write down everything you do each day and how long it took you, as documentation that you’re working as fast as you can.

    If only so you can say, “wow, this took a long time!” and “I got a lot done.”

  65. Kitty*

    Holy shit your boss is terrible and your company is delusional if they think this is the way to solve the problem. I really hope you can get out soon, and that your husbands treatment goes well. ❤️

  66. anonamii*

    Is there any chance of everyone in your group getting together and going over her head? Do you think that would even be helpful? Also, are there any guidelines for how long each step of the process should take?

    If the boss is aware that there are not enough hours in the week for your team to accomplish the work they are giving you guys, maybe your best employee needs to speak up and say that even though they are telling you not to work any overtime, they are either trying to make you guys fail, or they are trying to encourage you to work illegally.

    I mean your boss is in charge of you, so she should be figuring out how this will get done. So when she says “get it done,” maybe you guys need to push back. Ask “how should we get this done?” or “what should we change”, or “what are your instructions to keep up?” Telling you to get it done without giving any feasible way to accomplish that is absolutely unacceptable. Maybe even ask her if she is telling you to work off the clock and not report it.

    I’m not saying that you specifically should be the one to speak up, but I once had an atrociously horrible boss, and though things were brought up about them over and over again, nothing happened until we all went on the record with our names in a complaint. Sadly, they didn’t lose thier jobs, but they work in a position with no direct reports in a different area.

  67. Good luck with that, CPA*

    You work in an accounting function and she said to “prioritize the most recent months over the oldest months and to stay current”?

    Did she suggest how to reconcile April if December through March weren’t reconciled? How to present year-to-date income statements if first quarter hasn’t been recorded? Or previous year balances brought forward to the balance sheet accounts? When the net income was never closed to retained earnings?
    If any of your clients are SEC-registered, I promise a nice fresh first quarter 10-Q isn’t going to obviate the need for the missing 2018 10-K.

    It’s like trying to frost a cake that hasn’t been baked yet! When are the auditors due? Her advice will cause serious internal control issues — last I heard, Sarbanes Oxley was still in effect for publicly traded companies. If the clients are small businesses, it’s almost worse: they may not realize they aren’t getting the services for which they contracted until the tax authorities (unfiled returns or unremitted sales/withholding taxes) or lenders (loan covenant violations) come knocking.
    The whole situation sounds like a due diligence/ethics violation waiting to explode in everyone’s faces. Get out before the sh-t hits the fan. Do you know how many associates from Arthur Andersen never got another job in public accounting?

  68. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

    OP, I’m sending you a warm hug. Several years of difficulty when my hubby was in chemo,and I had a good boss. It was still difficult.

    Do NOT work the overtime. DO count on getting fired, and try to beat the clock to get out. Line up your references. Get things ready. Call in sick for the interviews. DO NOT mention taking FMLA to this boss until you have it firmly in place.(I got fired the week before I officially went on FMLA at my previous employer… made the mistake of talking about the fact that hubby’s cancer had returned before filing the paperwork).

    I can’t imagine how tough this is. Hang in there but focus on getting out, and do not give them “free” time. Get out as fast as you can.


    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      This is excellent advice. The OP needs to think of this like she is trapped in a serial killer’s basement. She’s at the mercy of a psychopath, and she needs to survive. It might be wrong to deceive people normally, but if you have to lie to the serial killer to escape, you do it. Short of getting into legal trouble or difficulty with a professional qualifying board, I think the OP is fine to straight-up lie about what’s she’s been able to get done, shortchange the training, call in sick to interview, threaten lawsuits, and do anything else she can to get out safely. She has to (temporarily!) let go of guilt and go get it back when she’s got a normal job again.

  69. Cathy Gale*

    I’m so sorry. Your boss sounds so difficult and boneheaded. I hope you, your husband, and coworkers are able to get new positions ASAP.

  70. MamaSarah*

    Hugs, OP! I’m praying something awesome comes from this experience. Glad your husband is doing okay with his treatment. Hopefully you are finding a little time for self care.

  71. Observer*

    Horrible, just horrible.

    Please don’t beat yourself up. Also, don’t worry about being noticed for saying no- it’s not like you can get anything right anyway. Not because YOU can’t get it right, but because what your boss is asking is impossible.

    PLEASE start looking!

  72. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    Hate reading how common retail mentality is in other industries. I’m in a similar situation right now. I’ve over 10 hours of work/week I just can’t get to, I’ve been telling my boss this for a year, and get no help at all. Just get told that since other people can get it done I should be able too.

    Good luck with dealing with everything. I know how hard it is to try not to take the failure to get your word done personally. But the fault isn’t yours, it’s your boss’s and above.

  73. human fidget cube*

    What this is is either

    a) They want you to do unpaid overtime and CYA in case someone files a wage claim by repeadetly saying overtime is not authorized. This makes it so either employees get burnt out & fired, or employees do unpaid overtime they can’t claim on threat of being fired. Win-Win if you’re a manager and a terrible person

    b) Someone high up the chain made miscalculations and does not want to admit fault, so the managers keep pushing the fault down the chain to not be the person that gets canned for someone else’s mistakes.

  74. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    I hope your husband gets better soon and that you get out of this place quickly. If you haven’t already, reach out to everyone you know and ask for help. The pressure of this job will also ruin your own health and they’re not worth it. If you can, quit now and then start the job search (although I know that’s easier said than done). Good luck and please let us know how things work out.

  75. Gadget Hackwrench*

    My first job out of college was like this, only since we were all Exempt there was no “no-overtime” rule in place. Result was the same. Company wanted to be able to place as much work as they could find on us, and just expect us to find the time to do it all, even if that meant hours and hours of unpaid work. They never could understand why the production side of the operation was always so salty with the sales side since, “without them we’d have no customers,” but production was sick to death of sales getting big bonuses for landing clients by promising them things that production *could not do* in 40 hours a week, while said production people got not one dime more for all the unpaid overtime.

    Get out ASAP. Find another job to jump too because you need to stay insured, but GET OUT of there, because trust you me, when they have burned everyone to a crisp they will fire them en-masse and replace them with fresh new-hires who aren’t burnt out yet, and start the cycle again. The disposable workforce model is a thing, and it’s nothing you want any part of.

  76. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

    Dear LW, please remember: you work so you can live, not the other way around (that you live for your work).

    Just keep doing task after task and yes, do update your resume and look around. You deserve so much more, your boss (and your work) are unreasonable. I wish you all the best and I hope you find a decent job with good insurance and other benefits asap.

  77. Oranges*

    LW, I know you want to do good work for your customers. You can’t. You literally can’t. And it’s not your fault.

    It’s like being in a restaurant and being told to make a full Thanksgiving dinner in 30 min with little to no help. It’s not your fault that the customers will leave and never return and post bad Yelp reviews. This situation exists because the higher-ups:
    a) thought it would take 30 min (because they’re aliens)
    b) want a scapegoat
    c) want you to “cheat” (eg. paying out of your own pocket for catering from a different restaurant).

    The blame rests solely on the higher ups. Keep on repeating. Please.

  78. Wantonseedstitch*

    Wow. This sounds like the kind of company that is going to be going out of business before long. I’m so sorry, LW. This is a terrible situation to be in. If your boss won’t let you work overtime, use your off-work hours to look for a new job.

  79. Workfromhome*

    I agree with most people. It may not be today or tomorrow but you need to get out of there on your own before you get fired (unfairly) or have a major health issue.

    In the meantime since boss said “just figure it out” get all the work done with no overtime maybe present them with a plan?

    Only non exempt people have to be paid overtime. I assume the boss is exempt right?
    So lay out a spreadsheet with all the available hours from the non exempt staff. Say its 10 staff and 40 hours each. SO there is a pool of 400 hours available to “get it done”.
    Then lay out how many hours of work there is to be done ..say its 600 hours worth.
    So you have 200 hours of work that can’t be done without overtime. So in order to get it done those 200 hours work need to be done by someone exempt who can do the work without incurring overtime. So if the Boss can do those extra 200 hours of work everything will get done. “You asked for a plan to “get it done” …well here it is” LOL

  80. incompetemp's colleague*

    Ugh, this is giving me wicked flashbacks of my previous job, where “Get it done” was my boss’ favorite phrase. 3 months worth of work but a hard deadline in 1 month? Too bad, GET. IT. DONE. Figure it out.

    I’m so sorry.

    I hope for your sake you find a way out of that situation. Your employer is hugely unreasonable.

  81. Anon for this*

    Hi Alison, not sure if you are still reviewing CVs etc. but if you are and this OP would like that, I’d be more than happy to pay.

    OP, stay strong and I wish your husband the best recovery possible.

  82. Former Employee*

    Of course this is ridiculous. I went back to the original letter and not only had they had a completely new system installed, but they also took over work another department had been doing. No wonder everyone is behind. While the OP appears to be further behind than others, the fact that many/the majority kept their hand up at the 3 month query, tells me that it’s not the OP, it’s the company.

    The way I look at it, this means that the OP would easily be 3 months behind if she weren’t dealing with a sick husband, child care issues, etc.

    While job hunting is difficult, at least one other person pointed out that it seems as if there are always jobs in accounting. One of the best parts of a new job is that they will expect the OP will need some time to learn their system.

  83. Sophia*

    Someone mentioned they would donate to a gofundme which makes me think the OP might want to consider setting one up. I know it’s a hard time to ask for help but this could be that time.

  84. nnn*

    Not only does your boss suck, but your boss is also bad at being a manager.

    A good manager doesn’t leave you with “you’ll just have to figure it out.” If you can’t do the job under the conditions they set out, they either teach you/have you trained how to do it, or rebalance workloads and factors to set you up for success, or advocate upstream for the conditions you need to do the job.

  85. Secretary*

    This sucks!!
    OP, I wouldn’t just keep an eye out, I would do an active job search! You don’t need to take a new job right away, but see if you can find something better. If your coworkers were feeling as demoralized as you, there are probably several that are going to quit soon, and you’ll probably just get more of a workload. Get out!

  86. CatLady*

    This is awful. I’m sorry. Time to update your resume for your own sanity. Your boss is awful.

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