why people stay in jobs where they’re miserable

I get a ton of letters from people who are miserable in their jobs – but much of the time, they’re not asking me about how to leave. They’re asking about how to stay sane while they’re there – how to deal with a boss who yells or threatens their job every week, or how to survive a culture that expects them to work 60-hour weeks and never take any time off. Sometimes they’re not even asking about big things like that – sometimes they’re writing to ask about something minor – say, a coworker who takes too many calls on speakerphone – and only mention as an afterthought that, by the way, this is taking place in an office with an abusive boss who monitors their every move by video.

A lot of people stay in jobs where they’re downright miserable – sometimes for years. Something happens in toxic workplaces that messes with people’s heads and makes it harder to leave. That’s the topic of a three-minute piece I recorded for the BBC, which you can listen to here.

{ 262 comments… read them below }

  1. Data4all*

    I’ve stayed because I was so stressed that by the time I got home I didn’t have the energy to job search.

    1. I coulda been a lawyer*

      This. It wears you down but at least you know what you are dealing with plus job searching is hard work and it’s own source of stress, whether you are jobless and broke, or just trying to hide the search from a tyrant.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      This, plus fear of age discrimination, is why my 53-year-old mother won’t leave her shit employer. Plus, she’s been there 13 years and she has no college degree – she’s convinced no one will hire her with these “strikes” against her, even though she gets glowing performance evals and has implemented many processes and procedures that mitigate risk and increase efficiencies for her division.

      1. MuchNope*

        This is me.
        There has been an unholy amount of turnover in my workplace and some of the new management (a romantic couple, one of whom is in line of command over the other) are not terribly fun to work with. I don’t currently have a direct supervisor and the romantic couple are taking advantage of the power vacuum to interfere with my work.
        I had hoped to be in a spot to work fewer hours in a different job by now, but life happens and I need to hang onto my state pay & benefits a while longer.
        I’d love a new job but just can’t.

      2. not that kind of Doctor*

        This is my 62yo husband. He hates his current job but is convinced no one else would hire him, in spite of the amazing things he’s accomplished there. And if he doesn’t go soon, his attitude is going to kill any reference he might get. :(
        No retirement savings either.

        1. WellRed*

          Arg! He has nothing to lose but a little time job searching. Worst case: he doesn’t get hired and still has a job. Best case: he gets a better job.

        2. Texan in Exile aka golddigger*

          I am 56. I lost my job in December. I have been following Allison’s resume and cover letter advice and I have never gotten so many interviews in my life. Ten phone interviews so far and two in-person interviews.

          I even got a phone interview yesterday for a marketing position I applied for with a small local business on Monday. They don’t have a marketing department and want to build one. I don’t meet their stated qualifications at all – they want cpg and agency experience, so I just wrote a page and a half about how I am the person who can figure it out when nobody’s done it before and there’s no money. I included images of social campaigns and websites I have designed and talked about what I have done with gumption and chocolate. :)

          They emailed yesterday for an interview. So.

        3. Rainy*

          My FIL was laid off in his late 50s and never got another job. From what I can tell (this was long before I met my spouse), he utterly torpedoed every interview he got with a combination of arrogance and petulance. He has a really serious anger problem which is completely uncontrolled and absolutely apparent to anyone who’s around him for more than about 40 minutes.

        4. Diahann Carroll*

          Oh dang – my mom at least has her 401K, though she thinks she’ll lose her vesting if she leaves, which I told her is impossible passed on her years of service (unless her company’s up to something screwy).

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Unfortunately, she’s probably right, unless she can find some place to go that she has a personal connection to. Being old…enough said, sigh.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I’m close to your mother’s age and last time I changed jobs, it was at 45 through a professional connection. (I was poached, lol.) Last time I had an interview with someone I didn’t know that resulted in an offer, I was 39. Not holding out much hope at this point. Then again, my field is notorious for its age discrimination, and, while I’m good at what I do, I’ve never been, like, genius-level good. This profession wasn’t my first choice.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This breaks my heart. I don’t have a college degree either and with my experience everyone just shrugs at that whole thing. “Well you must not needed one to get this far.” has been said more times than I can count.

        The age discrimination though, that’s not on my list of fears yet but I know it’s on many people’s minds as they get up there.

        1. No Fear*

          In 2017, at age 55, the company I had worked for in administrative support for over 30 years abruptly shut down. I had only a high school degree. I applied for lots of jobs, was invited to interview at several companies, and had a new job within a month. After a year and a half, I realized the job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and started searching again. Still only had a high school degree; now aged 56+. Two months later, I landed my current position; I love love love it, and my only regret is that I didn’t apply to this company 30 years ago. A positive attitude goes a long way.

      5. boop the first*

        But then you read websites like this very one, that DOES say that being in one position for a long time hurts you, that being of a certain age hurts you, and not having a college degree hurts you, that being unemployed hurts you. It’s not an irrational intrinsic belief when the experts directly tell you it’s hopeless.

        And then if the expert does say there’s hope, there is always a bunch of people in the comments who dash it with remote possibilities of disaster, of potential bad reactions, of ever-possible misfortunes, even if they have to go wildly out of their way to imagine them.

        Sometimes, good things can happen to people who ask for them. Heck, there would be no artists/musicians/actors in the entire world if any of these fears were true.

      6. TardyTardis*

        Older people *don’t* get hired even when they have glowing references. Oh, and health insurance, that’s a big one. Older people trying to buy health insurance on the market get totally whacked before they’re 65, because the companies know that this is their last chance with them–and older people often dare not go without health insurance.

    3. DaisyC*

      Same! Especially in cases when you are on Indeed, Linked In etc, follow the job posting and then have to create an actual online account and password on the company’s website to apply for the position. It has taken me up to 30 minutes just to do that for a single application, then upload a copy of resume and cover letter.

      1. YetAnotherNerd42*

        And then type all the stuff that’s on your resume into a bunch of text boxes.

        1. Ermmm*


          Sometimes I just say “Screw it” a few questions in on those b.s. damn job application portals. It’s just not worth it. Like, they really need me to waste 40 minutes cutting and pasting that crap when the ATTACHED RESUME has the exact details they require? REALLY??!!

      2. aiea34*

        Recently, I applied for a job and after creating an account, verifying the account, uploading the resume, fixing all the pre-filled text boxes, entering my “skills” by searching each one and finally answering about 10 questionnaires on my demographic info (all of this took about 30 minutes), the site redirected me to a “screening questionnaire” where I had to answer SAT-like multiple choice logic questions with a time limit of 3 minutes per question. No pausing. No saving progress. Then a personality questionnaire. That was another 45 minutes.

        Would it surprise anyone to know that I haven’t heard back from that position? What a waste of freaking time.

    4. Escapee*

      Ding, ding, ding. Exactly this. The only things I had any motivation to do once I got home most days was throw something together to eat and stare at the t.v. (though some evenings, I literally just stared at the wall).

      When I tried to work on applications or revise a cover letter, the synapses in my brain just wouldn’t connect and I gave up. I could get some job search related things done on the weekends, but I was also trying to catch up on the things I neglected during the week. There was also some underlying issues with depression that were being masked by the stress.

      The only thing that helped was being moved to a different team, with a manager who didn’t micromanage my every move, gaslight me or throw stuff at me to do as I was getting ready to leave for the day. The reduction of stress cleared the way for me to get out of that toxic hellhole of a company and get a better job for a quarter of the stress and a lot more pay.

      1. Creed Bratton*

        AMEN. Toxic jobs also warp you sense of self-worth. After years of being ignored or dismissed, or not receiving recognition for sacrifices you make, it’s easy to internalize that into thinking “I am not valuable.” Which translates into you passing over jobs you may actually be qualified for. It’s hard to get into a self-promotion kind of mood when your world tells you different. I’ve recognized this in myself lately and have read some interesting things re: the overlap between burnout and depression. Was going to bring this up in the Friday thread but I’m being asked (great grandbosses) to apply for a promotion that I’m in denial about. Which is making me question my perception of my own abilities :)

        1. CoastEast*

          +10000. This comment is such a Big Mood ™. Toxic, undervaluing workplace plus depression or anxiety can really make writing a decent resume way more difficult that it should be.

    5. AScreenName*

      I am experiencing this right now. The energy and time it takes to job search is significant, and I’m so burnt out I just can’t do it when I get home.

    6. Laney Boggs*

      Ugh this.

      But then theres a helping of guilt – my job is just boring. My coworkers are jerks but not to me (gossip, shockingly Bad Takes on coronavirus, etc). I’m just bored to (sometimes literal) tears. Why dont I have leagues of energy when I get home??

      1. ShrimpsAndPrimeRib*

        This is me. Bored to tears is a very real thing. My job isn’t really horrible. It’s not great either. I’m bored out of my skull here. That boredom can wear on you and eat away at the energy it takes to find something else.

        1. All monkeys are French*

          This is me, too. I tell myself all the time that this job is actually really good in many ways, and yet I’m sooo bored. It doesn’t motivate me to perform above a subsistence level, and the longer that goes on, the more I think I couldn’t even handle a new job if I managed to land one.

      2. Ama*

        Honestly the most soul-sucking job I ever had was one where I was completely bored all the time, because I would wake up every day knowing I had maybe two hours’ worth of work waiting for me and it was all low-level clerical stuff that didn’t challenge me at all. (I had been claimed by another department from a job I really liked when they decided not to replace my old boss, but new boss didn’t actually need another staff member, so there wasn’t much for me to do.)

        Even the job where I was so stressed and overworked that it was giving me stomach issues was more bearable — in fact I think I stayed in *that* job too long because it wasn’t *as* bad as the boring one.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Are you me? I too stayed in a dysfunctional job much longer than one where I was bored to death – the latter made me depressed and caused issues with my bladder due to stress (who knew boredom caused stress – I didn’t).

        2. Laney Boggs*

          This sounds super familiar to me too! I was temping in another, customer oriented job. I didnt love it, but it was always something new and I wasnt in misery. Then I took the job in another department and I’ve been ready to leave since my first week.

          Sometimes I don’t even get 2 hours of work – it can be 8:15a and I’m starting to twiddle my thumbs.

      3. Veronica Mars*

        Yes! I have so many things I’m passionate about outside of work and a very boring job. You’d think that would make it so I have lots of energy to do my passions once work is over, but no. Boredom is weirdly energy-sucking.

        One thing that helped in my last job (which was super toxic but not boring) was getting up early and doing the me-things FIRST before my energy was sucked. But this job already requires me to get up at 5am so…

        1. Laney Boggs*

          Unfortunately I’m very firmly a night owl, and just getting up at 7am daily is so very hard (probably contributes to my energy levels). I genuinely think I’d have to turn down a job that involved me getting up that early…

          1. Veronica Mars*

            The night owl thing is tough. I used to feel really lazy because of it, but then I read “Why We Sleep” and it talks about how, no really, genetically some people cannot with early mornings, and I felt much better.
            With this job it took tons of huge efforts with tips from that book to move my wake up time earlier, and the struggle is still real (I sleep until noon on weekends a lot of the time, which is a sucky way to waste your days off). If I could I’d work afternoon shift for the rest of my life, that’s when I felt most alive.

            One thing that might possibly help is to shower when you get home from work. For me, that helps serve as a mental reset/refresh and breaks up my day.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            I had my sleep fucked up for LIFE after having a 7-4 job for four months. I’ve never recovered from it. 7 a.m. wakeup is bad enough as is as a night owl.

      4. lemon*

        This! Where I’m at right now. Nothing is overtly toxic at my job, it’s just boring. My office is out of the way and I think that most of the time, people forget that I even work there. I’m not being given any work, and the work I *am* given is insultingly easy. I’ve tried to speak up to higher ups about things, but they just smile and nod like they’re humoring a precocious child. But I’m paid well and have good benefits, and wouldn’t most people kill to have a job where they’re paid to fart around in the internet all day? Friends who work retail or in the service industry or who freelance are facing huge hardship due to coronavirus, because they’re out of work with everything being cancelled. But I’m able to work from home and have job security. I feel so guilty for hating this job so much, when I’m not being harassed or yelled at or exploited. I’m just bored to literal tears. :(

        1. Jack Skell*

          Find some online training for your field. It shows initiative and will reflect well on yourself if your internet is being monitored.

          If your Internet is not being monitored, find online training for another field that you want to be in.

          Prepare your life like you’re about to be fired, emotionally, financially, and career wise, and you will have greater peace of mind.

    7. hbc*

      I was even in a position where I could search at work, and I still couldn’t make myself do it. I think I applied to one job in the three months between me deciding I was done and when I actually left, and I had hours of free time at work. It’s like my brain lumped everything related to making money into “Bad, awful feelings, avoid if at all possible.”

    8. CupcakeCounter*

      Same. I was working 50 hours on site, a couple hours taking care of kids, then a few more hours online after they went to bed. Weekends I was either out of town or trying to do some catch-up work so Monday wasn’t a utter shit show.
      Honestly the best thing that happened to me was I got connected to a fantastic, reputable recruiter through a friend. Took a lot of the leg work off my plate and I found a new job within 3 months of getting connected. I referred several other people to her and they all had good experiences as well so I wasn’t a anomaly for her. I know there are terrible recruiters out there so I do my best to guide people in my field her way.

    9. Quill*

      Same. Add the anxiety disorder to that and the work of living… I already don’t have enough energy to do the basic survival stuff when I’m in a bad job. Job hunting – especially since so much of it is repetitive, insistent, and anxiety triggering – is basically nonexistent then.

    10. Lcmamom*

      I’m not miserable in my job but I work for a community college that does not contribute to social security. If I quit I would lose a major portion of my State retirement benefits with nothing to replace them. I advise all of my young coworkers to think long and hard before deciding to stay because at a certain point there is no way out.

    11. Blackbelt Jones*

      I’m not saying that I’m miserable, but below are some of the reasons that make me somewhat reluctant to try for something else. This list is based upon my past experiences and observations.

      Location – small-ish city in midwest
      Age – late 50’s

      I have a STEM degree and several years of experience, but my “demographics” appear to work against me.

    12. Curmudgeon in California*


      Plus having been abused and gaslighted for so long, I didn’t feel anyone would hire a worthless sack of manure like me. After they finally hit my “line” that I would not be pushed past, they fired me. It took 6 months, cashing out a 401k to live on, and a hell of a lot of work to just have enough self esteem to apply and interview.

      Nowadays I can look for jobs, but no one wants me because I’m not a young, able-bodied male with a recent college degree.

    13. BasicWitch*

      I spent almost 7 years in a job I should’ve quit after 2 because of exhaustion, poverty, and untreated depression. The recession sucked ya’ll. Then again, I also spent over 15 years in a bad relationship because I was too exhausted from all the above to deal with the only part of my life didn’t feel like it was on fire, even though it definitely wasn’t good.

  2. DecorativeCacti*

    I’m not someplace I can listen to this at the moment, so forgive me if this is covered…

    The main reason I’m still at my toxic job is because I can’t find another one. I’m trying, but I don’t have a degree and unfortunately a lot of places just aren’t willing to take someone without one these days. I started as a receptionist and worked my way up to the most senior role in my department (aside from the director), but when I fill out an application online and I click “Some college”, my resume just doesn’t get in front of people. I know if I got in the room with people, I could convince them I could do the work but I have to get there first.

    One of my recently departed colleagues said it felt like leaving an abusive spouse. She didn’t even know if she wanted to apply for the position she ultimately left for and her new employer was practically begging her to apply!

    So while I’m here, I have to try to stay sane while hating my job and doing the soul crushing work of job searching.

    1. Anonymouse Today*

      I feel for you. I’ve been in similar circumstances and it’s so frustrating. I hope you find a good change soon. Hang in there.

    2. ASW*

      It sounds like you’re in the same boat as my boyfriend. He wants to leave, but has no degree. He started out working in the mail room and worked his way up to his current position in IT. He’s been doing that job well for over 10 years, but he can’t even get an interview because he didn’t go to college. His job is making him depressed, but he doesn’t see a way out without taking a huge pay cut that he can’t afford.

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        That’s exactly it. I’ve been here 12 years, I know I have skills people need, but I just can’t get a call back. I don’t WANT to go back to being a receptionist and start all over again but I would do it if it wasn’t a $5/hr pay cut.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Has your boyfriend considered getting professional IT certifications? For most courses, he can study online and then take a test in an approved testing center (usually a local company or community college). Much less expensive and can be completed quickly.

      3. AnonAnon*

        Any guidance on lying and checking the box that you have a degree to get through the filters?
        Especially in IT. A degree in IT doesn’t mean much these days (I have one). Keeping up with your skills means a lot more.

        I get resumes all the time that don’t have degrees and our job descriptions say it is required. I am assuming they are lying on the form and saying they have a degree. I don’t penalize that if they have the skill set.

    3. Cobalt Collector*

      For me it was the same reason but due to age discrimination. “You’re perfect for the job” until they see you in person.

      My brother age 62 is about to lose his house because no one will hire an experienced person over 50 in his field.

        1. MuchNope*

          If we had universal healthcare I would be able to consider a lot more jobs. One main reason I’m still at mine is the health insurance.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, long story short, I have my own health insurance and do not need anyone else’s insurance. I still feel the pinch, it’s still there.

          The only reprieve I have found is that in certain types of settings hiring people do not mind seeing someone older come along.

        3. YetAnotherNerd42*

          Probably not much. Older folks have stuff going on outside work like kids, parents who have health issues, their own health issues, etc. Also older folks have also figured out that nobody ever died wishing they’d spent more time at the office. They’re not willing to work 80 hours a week, and subsist on reheated pizza washed down with Red Bull.

        4. Philosophia*

          None of it, to my mind, unless you’re implying that if medical treatment were universally available, we’d subvert it by undergoing plastic surgery so we can pretend to be twenty or thirty years younger. (No, thank you, I would not.)

          1. fposte*

            I read RVA Cat as intimating that fear of health costs for older employees was a factor in age discrimination. I don’t know that that’s all of it, but it’s an interesting thought; it could certainly be where some discriminatory thoughts cluster, even if that’s not really what’s causing them.

        5. MassMatt*

          I actually don’t think the discrimination is so much based on medical costs as the perception that older people are less ready to adapt to change and may have outdated skills. There’s the natural tendency to prefer “people like me” also.

          I do know people in their 60s that work in fields where shorter term work is the norm, the ones who do well at it have skills that are in demand, and worked hard to keep them that way.

          Most jobs are changing fast, and the pace of change is only accelerating from here. You need to keep learning and updating skills or risk being left behind.

          Unfortunately, terrible jobs destroy your morale so it’s hard to be motivated to learn and grow.

        6. Electric sheep*

          I’m in Australia where our healthcare is not provided by our employers and there’s still age discrimination unfortunately. Stereotyping about abilities/attitudes/interests is part of it unfortunately.

        7. This is She*

          I am Canadian, have all the health care I will ever need, and am a 52 year old woman who is ‘perfect on paper’ til they meet me and see that (although I look awesome for my years) I am middle-aged. Age discrimination is a thing even with ample health care, although I am sure the absence of it doesn’t help one bit.

    4. hermit crab*

      One of my recently departed colleagues said it felt like leaving an abusive spouse.

      Yes – and even if it doesn’t rise to outright abuse, it can still be very similar to staying in a relationship that’s run its course. I stayed in my last job perhaps two years longer than I should have (it wasn’t awful, just not regular old not good anymore) and in some ways it was the toughest “breakup” of my life. Harder than actual breakups with actual human beings!

    5. Leela*

      I’m so sorry:(

      I’m pushing my own workplace now to drop the college requirement for roles that truly don’t require it at all. I’m very happy to see that they’re receptive.

      I get frustrated with application systems because there’s no way for you to write anything in and you’re right, it WILL sort you out by things like that depending on how it’s set.

      And the thing is, all of this stuff is hard in a big city (where I’m currently working) but nigh impossible when you live in a smaller area (where I’m from originally) where there might be one business per field if that in a fifty-mile radius.

      Networking is probably going to be the best way for you to go but I don’t know the lay of the land. I hear that toastmasters is really good for making connections if there’s anything like that around you!

    6. StudentA*

      Small employers don’t care as much about degrees. Large employers sometimes will gatekeep because they get so many applicants and it’s one way to weed people out. Look there. If you’re a receptionist, tons of small businesses are not going to care, though granted, won’t pay as much as big guys.

      1. 1234*

        Facts. Small Business I work for has hired 2 receptionists with an Associate’s since I’ve worked there and the owner has mentioned that she’s hired someone with no degree for that same role.

    7. Salsa Your Face*

      I commented below with my story about getting trapped due to not having a degree. If I may, and if you’re in the US, can I recommend Western Governor’s University? It’s an online school that allows you to participate asynchronously, so you work on all your classes and take exams at times that work for you. It’s non-profit and regionally accredited, so not a diploma mill. It sounds like you’re in a business-related field, and they have several business degrees you can choose from (as well as IT, healthcare, and education programs.)

      The best part for me was that they let you work at your own pace–if you want to limit yourself to four classes a semester you can, but if you’re experienced in your field and already have an understanding of many of the classes, you can work much, much faster. And because you pay by the semester and not by the credit, you can save a lot of money by moving quickly. I completed 7 semesters worth of classes in one year and my student loan repayment is only $75 a month.

      There are a few people on the internet who get snarky about WGU and say it’s not a real school because it’s online and they let you accelerate. But like I said above, it’s non-profit and regionally accredited, and the business school has ACBSP accreditation as well. The school has been endorsed by Bill Gates and Barack Obama, and my diploma is signed by the former governor of Wyoming. I know I sound like a paid advertisement right now, but I’m not. I’m just a very happy alumnus. Within a few months of finishing my degree, I was hired by the second-largest global company in my industry, and that’s all I wanted out of the deal.

    8. Art3mis*

      The college degree doesn’t always help. I thought it would help me, help open doors at least. I finished the degree and it still means nothing. So for me at least, it wasn’t the degree holding me back, something else is fundamentally wrong with me. Now I effectively make almost $7K less a year because of student loans. I wish I had never finished my degree.

      1. pope suburban*

        Yeah, mine has never done a damn thing for me. The only thing I can say for it is that it was an enjoyable four years, and that I’m endlessly grateful not to have student loans.

        1. Anonymous Today*

          Yeppers. I work at a college; they pay employees without degrees more than those that earned one. So not worth it!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that the degree only helps me answer a question so I can get a little further before I am rejected by online screeners.

        I was fortunate enough to work it out so I have no debt from the degree. But the degree from this well-known school is pretty much a joke. “Yeah you paid $120k for a degree to get yourself a $30k per year job.” Pretty much this is reality.

        Not much comfort, Art3mis, but I think most of us do not fill out our potential. The problem is this happens for many, many reasons. I had a doc who talked about this and it was interesting. He said most of us experience a downshift long about age 39 (give or take) where it hits us that we are never going to have the career/life we dreamed of or were told we would have. When this downshift hits, yeah, it’s kind of like “settling” and we can tend to give up. He called it the point in life where dreams die.

        My rebuttal to that is “get new dreams” maybe they aren’t as big or fancy. But maybe they are better dreams in that we can actually accomplish these new, reality-based dreams. When I was 20 I had no idea what to dream for, I did not know what was out there and I did not know where I fit in. Even thinking about this sends shivers up my spine, I would not want to go back to that stage for all the money in the world.

      3. Blackbelt Jones*

        Honestly, I made more money almost 20 years ago, 10 years before completing my degree.
        I haven’t made as much since.

        I think that the degree only ensures that my job applications are *glanced at* before being discarded.

      4. Aggretsuko*

        I have a coworker who SERIOUSLY wishes she would get hit by a bus and get enough money to pay off her college loans. She claims EVERYONE feels like this. I say it’s not as easy as all that.

        1. Zudz*

          A friend of a friend did get hit by a bus. The pay out basically allowed them to opt-out of full-time work. The trade off was that one of their legs is permanently damaged. They can walk with a walker, or for short periods with a cane, but they can’t stand unassisted under their own power.

          They have repeatedly explained that this trade was totally worth it.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I did that on a minor scale–I broke my wrist, but thought it was sprained–and once I knew for certain it was broken, I had only two weeks to get to Medicare. Can you say $6500 deductible? Yes, I had to go through lots of physical therapy because the bone Healed Funny, but I very much doubt it will ever be 100% again.

            But $6500 is a bunch of money.

      5. MassMatt*

        There have been many letters and posts on this, some degrees are necessary or at least useful, many others are not likely to increase your marketability, or at least, not enough to recoup the expense. Some degrees will price you out of a field, or you may find yourself still going for entry level jobs. It really depends on the field.

        People should ask folks in their network in their chosen field their opinion and check salaries etc before signing up for a program, especially one that entails lots of debt.

    9. Anonymous Non-Grad*

      I have run into this, too – I went to enough college (on-and-off for 5 years, no degree) that I feel justified checking the “college grad” box. My resume lists the years that I attended and says “Studies in [subject area]” where you would usually see “Bachelor’s in [subject area].” Although this is dishonest is at the most literal level, it is more accurate in the spirit of the question, “did you receive a comprehensive higher-level education?” I have never had to run into a problem with this, though of course ymmv. I am cautious about discussing my education in the workplace beyond, “I went to [school] and was class of [original grad year]!”

    10. AdAgencyChick*

      It took me a much longer time than usual to leave my toxic job back in 2015. I really began to despair that I was going to find anything and that the longer it took, the less likely it would be that someone would hire me (since I had transitioned to a new subspecialty, realized I hated it, and then had to convince hiring managers that they should want me back in my former role; I felt my skills were getting staler by the minute!).

      Boy did I do cartwheels when I finally got out!

    11. Product Person*

      I helped a lot of people get a new job without a degree.

      Online applications are not your friend. What helped them the most was to find opportunities to network with hiring managers and folks who get a fee for recommending new employees to their company. Like monthly lunch and learn or meetups for women in tech, etc. If you take the time to go consistently, you’ll end up with new contacts who will become familiar with you and willing to bring your resume to the top of the pile. You still need to “wow” folks at the interview phase, but everyone I know who followed my system was able to find better employment that way.

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        I was part of a networking group for job seekers in my area for a long time and got a lot of useful contacts and resume tips from there, but I just never got anything. All I kept hearing was “You’ll be great! You’re awesome! You’re so talented! Oh, I don’t actually know anyone looking for someone like you right now…”

        I hit a wall and had to stop looking for a while and I’m trying to work up the courage to get back into it.

        1. Product Person*

          I was part of a networking group for job seekers in my area for a long time and got a lot of useful contacts and resume tips from there, but I just never got anything.

          Hmmm… You do realize the difference between you described and what I suggested though, right?

          What I said was, find opportunities to network with hiring managers and folks who get a fee for recommending new employees to their company.

          I have many friends for whom this strategy worked. For example, a project manager who never finished High School, great at her job but with zero responses to applications. I told her to start joining the local monthly Lunch ‘n Learn from IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis), where I knew recruiters and hiring managers have time at the end of the meeting to advertise their openings and talk to candidates. After interacting with my friend in a couple of meetings, one of the business analysts realized she’d be a good fit for her company, made an internal referral, and got a $2K bonus after my PM friend without a college degree was hired.

          Other people I know got interviews for analyst and project manager jobs by just getting in line to chat with internal and external recruiters and hiring managers who go to these events primarily with the purpose of recruitment.

          Networking in groups for job seekers is NOT what I’m suggesting. It may take some time and effort to find the right events to join, but for people without degrees or interested in changing careers, this is a much more effective way than sending an application and hoping to be selected for an interview.

          1. MassMatt*

            Great comments, Product. May I call you Product?

            Networking groups for job seekers are good for helping to stay motivated, help hold each other accountable for working at it, general interview tips, etc, but in most cases the people in them don’t have jobs to hire for.

            1. Product Person*

              Sure, Product for short works :-). And good point, if job seeker networking groups help you keep motivated, great. Don’t expect them to be a great source of jobs though.

    12. Public Sector Manager*

      My wife has the same problem. She did procurement for 20 years and she did it impeccably well. Then there were mass layoffs at her company. When she tried to get a new procurement job, they all wanted college degrees. My wife doesn’t have one, and she too worked her way up to her role. My wife is proof positive that you don’t need a degree for that job. I have no doubt that the hiring manager would love to hire her, but she can’t get through either HR or the online process because of the lack of a degree.

      After a few years of trying, she just gave up on getting a new job in her field and she decided to stay home and be with our son.

      1. Daydreaming Admin Assistant*

        So, what you’re saying is that when job postings say you need a degree in X “or equivalent experience,” they’re full of it? That’s depressing…

    13. CupcakeCounter*

      I have a couple of friends in this situation. No degree but tons of relevant work experience and an excellent track record of success that led to internal promotions that if advertised outside the company would require a degree. Both are people I would hire in a heartbeat if I was in a position where that was possible. One is in an okay situation while the other would LOVE to get out.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A though based on something I heard from a long-ago acquaintance. He had stopped out of college for years, and eventually found a program that had a flexible Bachelor of General Studies. They customized an interdisciplinary program with his existing credits, some night classes, and a thesis project that documented the **** out of his life experience & professional skills. It worked for him — I wish I hadn’t lost touch so I could put the name of the program down here for you.

      1. I'm just here for the comments*

        In Connecticut there’s a college called Charter Oak State College that helps customize a program and accounts for previous college credits and certifications and other training. There may be similar schools or programs where you live. These programs are geared towards people who are already working and have experience, and it costs less than a traditional university, and it may be one way to get an accredited degree that won’t break the bank.

      2. Anon this time*

        Metro State in Minneapolis has some indvidualized degree programs that sound similar.

    15. BasicWitch*

      Would your employer sponsor you for continuing education, or could you apply for even a lower-tier job that would? Could you take online classes at night for a degree or get a certification without too much debt?

  3. Anonymouse Today*

    I’ve been asked why I’ve stayed in a job with The Most Terrible Boss Ever and there was only one answer. Money.

    I’ve been a solo parent for almost 10 years, I’m in my mid 50’s and living in a relatively small city/large town. My chance of switching jobs at my age has been almost impossible. Eventually I managed to change departments within the same employer but my unexpected divorce had many unexpected results. Thankfully I’ve found great colleagues and that has helped.

    1. Anon4This*

      This. Thankfully, my boss is not abusive, but I work in a 24/7 industry and the quality of life is notoriously poor. People at my office tell me they aren’t sure how I do my job. But they pay me so much money to do it, and, when you have kids, particularly kids who have greater needs than average, being able to pay for therapy, tutoring, etc. is very hard to give up. And the higher up you are, the harder it is to make a move because there are simply fewer of those jobs available.

      But, once the kids are safely launched, or at least out of school, I will be leaving and we will be moving to a saner area, too.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      An old coworker has a calendar at her desk that is a countdown until the day her youngest graduates and joins the military and she no longer has to cover him on her insurance or pay his living expenses. I’ve heard her talk about her rage quit plans and sent her the link to the letter from earlier this week.

  4. SusanB*

    I just talked to my therapist about this and she mentioned that to classify things as all bad or all good is dangerous. Most things exist in a shade of gray. Like for me at my job in the bad column: I could get paid way more elsewhere, my supervisor is not really respectful, there are some toxic members of my department. But in the good column: My office neighbors are very helpful and fun, my commute is extraordinarily short which allows me to be home for my kids earlier than at a lot of other jobs, the benefits are really really good.

    So on those weeks when I have to put my groceries on a credit card or I cry in my office because of the bullying co-workers, I also have weeks where I’m able to attend a school function in the middle of the day for my kids. I make it a point to weigh the pros and the cons on a bad day and I keep an eye out to see if other jobs might offer me the pros and take away some of the cons.

    In a Brene Brown book she talked about relationships and I think it also holds true for jobs. If you think of the job as a jar and every good thing about your job is a stone in the jar and every bad thing is taking a stone out—you should still have stones in the jar. So I try to use that mindset for friendships and also my job. At the end of the day are there still stones in the jar? Enough stones? If so, keep trucking. If not, figure out what to do.

    1. Sam.*

      I think there can be utility in this mindset, especially if you have external reasons to stick it out, but for me it was more of a trap that discouraged me from making changes. The environment at my last job got pretty ugly, and I ended up really burned out and my mental health took a serious tole. But I stuck around because I had some fantastic coworkers, I enjoyed the work itself, and my immediate boss was actually a genuinely great supervisor (which we all know is too rare!)

      Even after I found a new job that was pretty close to the ideal position I would’ve designed for myself at that time, I questioned whether I should leave because I had no way of really knowing whether the relationship with my new boss would be as good or if the larger office environment was any better. At the old place, at least I knew what I was dealing with, you know? Focusing on the positives had been getting me through, but it was also discouraging me from finding something new that might be better in the long run, so it can be a tricky balance.

      1. SusanB*

        My therapist’s feeling is that to say it’s unequivocally toxic can backfire on you. Especially if you’re someone like me who beats yourself up “Why am I allowing myself to stay in a toxic situation! I’m so weak! I’m so stupid” blah blah blah. Whereas if I acknowledge that there are shades of gray in this, I’m navigating the storm as best I can and that’s to be treated with compassion and kindness.

      2. LunaMei*

        That was my situation at my last job. My last boss wasn’t that great, but he largely left me alone; I worked from home 3 days a week; I had my own private office; I had great coworkers and had built up a good reputation with my customer base. I also had a TON of PTO, and it was great for when I had my first child, because I had a fully paid maternity leave and a private office for pumping, and a lot of flexibility in my schedule. But the upper management was terrible, and the overall environment kept getting worse, and I was never going to grow. So after I had gotten what I needed (working from home and flexibility), I moved on. And thankfully, all I gave up with my new position was working from home and my office…but I gained much, MUCH better bosses, a better job overall, and I still have flexibility. And sometimes I do get to WFH, if the situation warrants it. So in the end, I had to decide what priority to place on the positives. Their priority fell as time went on and my situation changed.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I like this a lot.

      I stayed at one toxic place way too long. The reason I stayed was because I was hitting my life goals. I had five goals in mind when I started there. On bad days, I’d look at my life goals to see how those goals were coming along. I can honestly say I stayed because other aspects of my life seemed to be moving forward.

      The nature of our work was such that if the economy tanked our business went UP. In a chronically depressed area this is a big deal. So while I did not make a lot of money on an annual basis, I was making money when my friends were laid off from their companies.

      Overall though, I should have left much sooner. I think the fact that I did not bail myself out sooner added to the pain of that experience.

    3. designbot*

      I think overall this is useful, but one thing to be mindful of is that not all the stones are the same size. Not getting paid as much as you think your worth, for example, is a lot smaller stone than not getting paid enough to put food on the table. That’s an easy comparison to make, but how does the size of the “gets to be home more for the kids” stone compare to either of those? That’s harder to tell. Probably somewhere in between.
      Part of the difficulty of this is that we all assign different sizes to those different stones, so it’s really hard for someone else to assess the situation the same way you do.

  5. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    Abuse is abuse, whether at home or at work. Abusers are quite skilled at making the people they abuse believe that the abuse their fault rather than the abuser’s. In a family or romantic relationship this can go on for decades, so why not at work as well?

    1. Leela*

      I would really like to see a trend of people calling abuse in the workplace what it is, and approaching it with the same intensity that abuse in personal relationships are approached. Not on the abused person’s side, but on the side of those watching. Like that boss who bashed a keyboard in front of people. Destroying things in front of people while making it clear you’ve upset them and that’s why they’re doing this IS a form of abuse, not just someone having a rough day. Gaslighting IS a form of abuse and that doesn’t change when your boss does it. Workplaces currently just don’t handle things like that the same way though

      1. Yikes*

        Absolutely. I used to work with a guy who eventually got promoted above me, and was a terrible bully literally from the day I was hired. It took me years to “get over it.” The last time I saw him was when he pulled me into his office and fired me without any warning.

  6. mcr-red*

    I’ve stayed at my terribly pay and just terrible job because 1. there’s hardly any jobs at all in my field anymore, 2. my job skills are very particular to this field and I think don’t translate well into other jobs, 3. I live in a very economically depressed area, and honestly can’t afford to move anywhere else, 4. I live in a very economically depressed area and the competition for any job is fierce, so while I’ve been looking for at least a decade now and even have had some interviews, there’s always someone better suited than me.

    1. This is She*

      Yup, same same. I have a specific skill set that is semi-valued in my last 2 roles and almost worthless elsewhere. I often want to quit, but that would mean starting somewhere else at the bottom, and I don’t want to do that.

    2. TardyTardis*

      Living in a smallish rural town also reduces your chances, especially when you actually can’t move.

  7. PJM*

    So I stayed in a toxic place for 10+ years. For me, it was always the HOPE that things would get better. And, I almost felt like I was brainwashed into thinking I wasn’t good enough and I was determined to work better and harder to prove myself to these monsters until I won their respect and approval (which never happened btw). It was a pride thing where I was determined to show them how great I was at my job. And it isn’t like it is toxic 24/7, there are some periods that I had false hope that things are getting better and I was actually a happy for a while, and then BAM, they drag me back into the toxic swamp again! I wasted way too much time and energy there.

    1. Clever Alias*

      This. And sometimes I consider reaching out to my former boss/mentor “just to say hi” but then realize its because I want to say “LOOK AT ME” and im still seeking her approval.

      It. is. crazy.

    2. aebhel*

      Yep. My husband got hired at 22 to a company that had just started out, and his boss sold him on ‘getting in on the ground floor and growing with the company’ BS, when what happened instead was 11+ years of gradually unspooling chaos and mismanagement. The company makes money, but it’s a toxic mess to work for. He finally quit last year (and then his former boss tried to get him fired from his new job, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish).

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      Yep. My company isn’t even super toxic, the folks are pretty good people over all. It’s just that my department is weirdly organized and I’ve ended up in a really dead end track where I have a ton of work and zero rewards for doing it. I’ve seen my manager in person once in the last three years and I’m about to be put under a new manager that I have never met and will probably never see in person. The big plus is the folks in my actual office give me a lot of great feedback and make me feel useful and good at my job. Unfortunately none of that gets back to my actual manager or results in any kind of promotion or pay increase.

      I do want another job, but man, when you are already spread thin, finding the time and energy is just so hard. Also, this isn’t the first time I’ve ended up back burner-ed like this. So there is a part of me that wants something better but also really doubts a new place could really be all that much better so… better the devil you know?

  8. LKW*

    I found myself in a toxic job and immediately started the process to get out. The receptionist had been there for 12 years, was woefully underpaid and they yelled at her on a daily basis. When I asked why she stayed it was because they gave her help like helping her get braces or giving her sick days when her kid was sick. I was flabbergasted and told her that she would get paid twice as much, never be yelled at and would have a much better leave policy if she took any corporate HQ job. She had been brainwashed that staying was loyal and leaving was selfish.

    The accountant knew it was toxic as hell and she had been there for years and made no move to leave. She was resigned to staying because she was an older woman with fewer job prospects. But to be honest, I don’t think she ever looked for a new job.

    I left 3 months later (I was fired but I had already gotten a new job). They are probably both still there, maybe the accountant retired.

  9. HRParksHere*

    I can’t find another one either and I have a MS and professional Certs. I am starting to wonder if it’s age. Gen Xer. I even paid for a resume review from a very reputable, qualified individual. A few in person interviews and nothing even though I have submitted hundreds of apps.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      If they’re not going to hire us, they should be forced to pay enough in taxes so we can have UBI and stay the hell home. I mean it. I am sick of being devalued because of age. It’s complete bullshit.

  10. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    It took me over two years to leave my last gaslighting, micromanaging boss because I moved to a fairly rural area just for that job and there aren’t a lot of opportunities. Add in a non-compete that kept me from getting another job in my area of the industry without moving over an hour and not being able to afford a lawyer and I felt utterly trapped.
    Thankfully I did eventually see a job posting for something I had considered doing just outside my usual field and close to my boyfriend’s home and I jumped on it. It’s not perfect, but I didn’t realize the trauma that last job had left me with for a while. And that job was actually way better than my job before that!
    It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair and depression when it’s implied or said directly that you’re incompetent and and made to feel you’re kept on only as a charity case. That you should make up for your laziness by working 60-70 hours a week on a piss poor salary and any performance bonus is held over your head while your boss steals your clients.
    I work 38 hours a week now and make significantly more money. I have a life and my boss doesn’t call at 9:30 pm to interrogate me or purposely withholds really vital information to feel powerful.
    I just wish I had done it a year before, but I was so depressed and exhausted I couldn’t job search and it was near impossible to get out for interviews.

  11. semi-anonforthisbulie*

    I’ve certainly never intended to stay in a bad job forever, but in my line of work, it takes a while to find another job with good pay and (even more elusive) a reasonable commute. And no open plan seating. I’m not going to leave one miserable situation for another. I also have to get a sense that my prospective new employer is going to be reasonable about my mental health needs.

    So yeah, I’ll stay in a bad place while I’m looking. I’ll stay until I get a new job, they go out of business, or they lay me off. I’m not independently wealthy, so I pretty much have to put up with whatever and I’ll negotiate if possible to make my stay there less miserable until I find something better.

  12. Seifer*

    My last job, I had a boss that used to micromanage every last minute of my time, including storming after me when I walked down the hall and only stopping when I went into the women’s bathroom because he couldn’t follow. I stayed because I had bills to pay. I had no college degree, no other professional experience, had dropped out of college, and thought I couldn’t go anywhere else. I would always tell myself, “whatever, it’s not like he can hit you” whenever my boss would yell and scream and stalk me, because I needed that steady paycheck.

    I only left because my friend told me that I needed to come work for them and it was basically a guaranteed job after one 15 minute talk, otherwise… I don’t know. I’d probably still be there.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Words can cause just as much injury as fists. The problem comes in where the injury is not easily seen, it can’t be measured by a doc or looked at under a microscope in a lab. But it’s still an injury.

      Your friend was a good friend to you. I am glad you went with your friend’s advice.

  13. Just Another Manic Millie*

    I stayed at The Job From Hell for over four years, much too long. It was in the 1980s, so no cellphone or email. I stayed because I didn’t have a way to go on interviews, let alone call to set up interviews. I had been baited-and-switched into being both the receptionist and the secretary/back-up receptionist, so I didn’t really have a lunch time, since the back-up receptionist is supposed to cover for the receptionist, but that’s impossible when they are both the same person. I had to beg someone to cover for me, and I never knew what time I would actually be able to go out. You can’t go on interviews during your lunch hour when (1) you never know ahead of time when it will be, and (2) you get only fifteen minutes. And, as I said, there wasn’t any way for me to call anyone for an interview.

    I wound up giving two weeks notice and leaving before I had a new job lined up. Even though people keep saying that you should never do that, because you’re a much more desirable candidate when you’re currently employed, I didn’t think that I had a choice. I mentioned this to someone afterwards, and he told me that I was lucky that when I went on interviews, the interviewers didn’t think that I had been fired from my last job, and THAT was the reason that I was currently unemployed. He said that if he ever interviewed anyone who had left a job without already having found a new one, he would think that that person was lying and had been fired from his previous job.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      Well, I don’t think you should place that much reliance on what this “someone” said. Sure, it’s usually easier to get another job while you still have a job, but as you found out *for yourself*, it’s not impossible. Besides, what else were you supposed to do? Apply only to places that would agree to call you at home after hours or who would interview you at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday or 4:30 p.m. on Saturday?

      I mean, for goodness sake, it’s not impossible to get hired even if you *have* been fired, as many, many people could tell you! Most people who have had to leave their jobs under less than ideal circumstances manage to find new jobs – just as you did.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Wow, I guess this person you spoke with does not have much real world experience. He has probably missed out on some very good candidates also.

      I am kind of side-eyeing this comment of his because of his use of the word “lucky”. That kind of dismisses the fact that you have skills and you can be an asset to an employer, which is probably the real reason you got the next job.

  14. Marny*

    I’ve stayed so far because of health insurance– my husband and I are both on my plan and it’s a very good one. My job sucks and I’ve been unsuccessfully looking for something else for a very long time, but even if we can afford for me to be unemployed for a while, we can’t afford for us to be uninsured or pay ACA premiums.

    1. Another name*

      I work for the health insurance too. Haven’t been able to find anything that pays well enough to compensate for losing the platinum level family health insurance I get at my current job. And we really use that insurance!

      Also, I switched out of a toxic job once to somewhere that seemed great but ended up worse, so it makes me a little reluctant to try again when there’s such high stakes (staying alive/keeping my husband alive) without going bankrupt).

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    I worked for three years for Terrible Boss. I knew pretty quickly that he was terrible, so I began a desultory job search. I the meantime, I my resume was improving simply by virtue of time in grade. When he hired me, it was seriously thin. In retrospect this undoubtedly was part of his M.O. He finally did me the favor of firing me. In truth, I was pretty burned out and wasn’t as productive as I had been. But he didn’t bother to document anything, so when he tried to challenge my unemployment insurance claim he had nothing. I was off work for nearly a year, spending it job hunting and bonding with my infant daughter. Now she is a teenager and we still have that bond. Getting fired, and getting fired in this manner, was the best thing that ever happened to me. Then I got hired by Great Boss and have been happy ever since. In the meantime Terrible Boss ended up disbarred, though not for being a terrible boss. There is no ethics rule against that.

    I totally understand people staying in terrible jobs. Job hunting is hard, and not fun. It is difficult to get the energy to do it wholeheartedly when you are working full time and not desperate for income. It is the ruttiest of ruts, but really easy to fall into.

  16. call centre bee*

    Like most other comments here at time of writing, I can’t find another job. I was so proud of my new CV and I’ve been shipping it about for 3 months with cover letters written afresh for each application.

    All I have are rejection emails. Not one call back or interview invite.

    I’ve worked in rubbish customer service jobs since getting my degree over a decade ago. I can’t put experience on my CV that I don’t have. Every job that looks remotely interesting ‘Requires 3 years experience/Requires 5 years experience/We need an Experienced…’

    I literally cried my way home last night and hoped to get hit by a car. I was hospitalised for stress twice last week. My boss says it’s great that I’m ‘making the choice to be here’, as if I don’t spend my evenings on ‘don’t kill yourself’ web articles.

    I have no choice. I need money to pay my rent. More than minimum wage, at that. I wish I could get another job.

    1. Books4Me*

      Oh my goodness!! Hang in there and tell yourself that you are worth the search! I found the advice here about looking at your circumstances as an exercise in viewing an exotic culture to be a lifesaver. I’ve definitely stopped stressing so much now that I have a bit more of a mental remove from the day to day crazy.
      It took 5 months for me to find this job and I think it might take another 5 to leave it. Ah well, at least I can update my expedition field journals with all the shenanigans.

      1. call centre bee*

        Thanks. The actual environment isn’t *too* bad. I use a sticky note on the computer and type out the things I can’t say to coworkers/customers, bask in it a moment then delete it.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I used to do that all the time when I took orders over the phone! It is so necessary, keep doing that. I also had a desk mate at one point who, if it was clear I was on the phone with Jerk of the Day would make faces or otherwise do thing to try to make me smile, not to the point of being overly distracting, but just enough to not let me get too emotionally invested in the call. I would then return the favor for her.

          Also, hang in there. It is so hard jumping from degree to career, some fields more than others. It’s really not fair. Eventually it’ll work itself out, though. I know that doesn’t help much today, but don’t lose hope.

          1. call centre bee*

            Unfortunately my ‘work buddy’ turned into a sexually harassing nightmare who still won’t stop staring at me. So I mostly keep my own company now.

            Thanks for the kind words. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have that little scrap of hope that keeps me applying. It gets so battered.

    2. pope suburban*

      I’m so sorry, friend. I hope that something breaks for you soon. You’ve earned it. I hate the way it seems like everyone gatekeeps to the point that you can only get a job by currently having it. I graduated into the recession of 2008, and like you, have only had dead-end, unchallenging jobs. Your paragraph about the “choice to be here” broke my heart for you; I remember that feeling all too well from my previous job and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know I can’t do much from the other side of the internet but I want to tell you that you’re a capable, valid person who means so much more than your jobs. Yeah, that doesn’t pay the bills, but I feel it’s still worth saying because none of us get enough reminders that we’re not on this earth to make other people money and then die; we’re all worth something in and of ourselves, because we are ourselves. Thinking good thoughts for you and your new CV.

      1. call centre bee*

        Thanks so much. Joke is, I don’t even want a high-powered career or a lot of money, I just want to feel like I can earn more next year than last, y’know? I want to know I can keep up with my soaring rent. I know I have so much to offer, but nobody seems to want it and eventually it starts making you wonder if you do really have anything to offer or if making the wrong choice in your first job/degree is an insurmountable mistake.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          You do get trapped. “Transferable skills” doesn’t seem to really be A Thing any more. I could do plenty of things if trained, but “nobody wants to train you.” It’s ridiculous. Nobody wants me either.

          1. call centre bee*

            Exactly this! So, so many jobs I know I would wow the pants off these bosses, but… someone has to spend a few hours showing me what to do. Just a few hours. I can take it from there, just… please hire me…

        2. pope suburban*

          Oh lord, I feel this SO HARD. I don’t ever want a lofty title for myself, just something above front-line, plastic-smile, endless-emotional-labor tedium. Frankly my ideal job is just one step above my current one; in a kind-of awful twist of fate, I covered that position for nearly half a year and it turns out I actually CAN do it, even without any access to information or training. So let me validate you that you, too, are indeed capable of more than rote tasks and slapping on a happy/calm mask for the world’s less-nice people. There’s something peculiarly painful about having admittedly-modest expectations and still not managing to achieve them, no? I hope that changes for you. There’s paying one’s dues, and then there’s being mugged for an entire football team’s dues over the course of a decade or more; the former at least has a trajectory and an end in sight. I hope talking about it here and hearing from other people has helped ease the stress, even if it’s just for today.

          1. call centre bee*

            Thank you, it is good to hear other people recognise the relentless emotional slog of it all!

    3. Scout Finch*

      If you have time, try to volunteer with an org that could use your degree area. It will give you a chance to keep your skills sharpened & something for the resume. Most importantly, it will give you a chance to meet people who know other people and can say “A volunteer at our Read To A Llama Night is as sharp as a tack. She may be a good fit for the open bookbinder position where you work.”

      Seriously – I got laid off at 43. A woman who had adopted a cat from the rescue group I work with called me and needed help in trapping her outside cats for a move. I said “Sure! I have plenty of time – my job just went to India!” She says “What do you do?” and says “I think we had a job in that area that was just posted. Let me check.” It was IT, but in a completely different industry (went from manufacturing to higher education). I applied & went through the whole process. I got no special treatment, but I would not have even known about the job if it were not for her.

      Please don’t give up.

      1. call centre bee*

        It’s a good idea. The problem is my mental health isn’t conducive to making a great impression at a voluntary position – they deserve people who are enthusiastic about the mission, rather than someone who’s just turning up reluctantly because they’re desperate for something to fix their life.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          It’s hard to job hunt when it’s all stick and no carrot and you are all “I don’t give any kind of a crap about this, I just want to not be here any more.” I had a very hard time writing my last cover letter because the only things that sold me about the job was that it had no red flags and only two yellow flags.

        2. Koala dreams*

          The other side is that you deserve to do something you care about and not spend all your waking time thinking about a job you dislike. That could be volunteering, doing something for a good cause or maybe just doing something that gets your mind off your day work. If you don’t feel like volunteering, maybe you can find a hobby group?

          1. call centre bee*

            I have spent a lot of time supporting family over the past couple of years so I’m not sure I have much time to support more people beyond that. I have hobbies, mostly solitary where I can recharge away from other people. I did try a group for my writing but it made me too anxious and I ghosted. Social anxiety makes going out and meeting people the opposite of fun.

        3. MsSolo*

          I mean, having worked with a lot of volunteers, “desperate for something to fix their life” is still two or three tiers ahead of “because their parents made them”, “because someone they’re attracted to / married to volunteers there”, and “because they think they know better than I do about how things should work around here and want access to tell me so repeatedly”. Which is not to say the first two categories can’t work out, but I have a lot more examples of when they didn’t than when they did. Volunteering isn’t the same as paid work; it’s not about what you can do for them as much as you might think. First and foremost, it has to be about giving *you* something.

          Enthusiasm isn’t a requirement for volunteering. I’ve volunteered for a lot of things I did not give one sh*t about, because they gave me something I did, even if that was just time out of the house. Standing waving a sign in a car park for a university open day? 8 hours away from my irritating housemate. Handing out flyers at a local agricultural show? All the free food samples I could eat from surrounding stands. Taking school bookings for a museum? Evidence my office skills weren’t as rusty as my CV might make them look. Dressing up as a zombie to scare museum goers? … I mean, I got to dress up as a zombie, so that’s an easy one.

          (in the interest of disclosure, some of those examples were volunteering with my then job, so were easy for me to access, but my reasons for taking them were nothing to do with my employment. I can 100% be bought with free food for almost any menial labour).

          If you can be reliable, polite, and able to follow instructions, and you’ll end up sitting in the top tier of volunteers pretty quickly. Once a volunteer realises that they’re in that tier, then the enthusiasm starts to follow, because they’re appreciated and respected. More opportunities follow, and you can find your way into volunteer roles that might be a better fit, and open up more career paths for you.

      2. RC Rascal*

        Volunteer work was huge for me during the last recession. I was already volunteering and then when I got laid off the organization let me take on leadership positions & I built skill even though I was laid off.

        I once had a VP tell me he strongly considers volunteer work in hiring. His logic is that people can’t always control their career & job but they can control their free time.

        1. call centre bee*

          I see volunteering presented as a solution here a lot, but I really don’t have the mental health/time/money to work unpaid at the times I’m not working for pay.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Ohhhh, hugs if you want them and definitely all the best wishes in the world.

      Please post to the Friday work thread and let us know how you are doing. If you have questions or want suggestions be sure to mention them.

      Don’t let yourself walk alone. Some things in life are just Too Hard and it’s easy for circumstances to allow us to become isolated. If you can’t make yourself do anything else, read here. When I started reading here I was still feeling the pain from Old Toxic Place. The more I read here the more my mood lightened [for many reasons]. Keep reading here, daily. You don’t have to post but you do need to find uplifting material to look at.

      Dunno if this helps: One mistake I made was asking people close to me to keep an ear out for jobs. What I should have done was reach out beyond my closer people to the people who were either on the perimeter, or just in a little bit, of my friends and acquaintances group. I was shocked to see that it’s NOT the people closest to us who are the most helpful.

      You can do this and people here can help.

      1. call centre bee*

        Thanks, I was meaning to post in one of the open threads rather than ramble on here, but I guess I saw the question ‘why do you stay there?’ and was overwhelmed by the urge to cry out, ‘I’m trying not to!’

        I don’t know what else I could be doing. I’ve read here for years and sometimes it makes me feel so low because people seem to have these accomplished jobs and high salaries and do things with paperwork instead of customers. Oh the dream! But I’ve had people cleverer than me look over my CV and I’ve taken time and care over the applications and I follow Allison’s advice… I don’t even get a call. I’m not even briefly considered.

        A friend did mention a job at her place, twice, took my CV and I never heard anything again. She’s my best friend so I suspect they didn’t want me for reasons she doesn’t want to tell me. She wouldn’t want to upset me. I’ve noticed she no longer suggests vacancies at her place. And it was only typing work. Literally just typing. Didn’t even get a call.

        Unfortunately a lot of people forward me things going ‘you’d be great at this!’ and the ads request the experience that I don’t have. Even when I make myself apply regardless, I don’t hear back, presumably because I lack experience in anything other than being verbally abused for 8 hours a day.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          “Unflappable customer service skills”. I’ve done call center/tech support work. I couldn’t hack it long term. I bow down to your coping skills, seriously.

          I don’t have any advice for you. I wish I had a job for you.

          But you have my respect.

        2. pcake*

          How are your typing skills? 55 WPM is on the low end of what jobs are asking for; obviously faster (but still accuate) is going to be better. If your typing’s not great, perhaps you could bone up by doing exercises to get your speed and accuracy up there. I increased my accuracy (my speed was up there but with at least 3 errors per minute) by playing typing video games free online. One, as I recall, was called Typer Shark.

          Did you ask your best friend for those reasons she isn’t suggesting vacancies? I understand why she doesn’t want to upset you, but you can’t address any issues unless you know what they are. You might want to point that out to her. Maybe their typing jobs require experience and the problem isn’t you but your lack of experience.

          1. call centre bee*

            A casual test now suggests I’m at 61, but I was doing that while typing for work. I type all the time. My customer service role is on a web messenger, we have to conduct multiple typing conversations at once.

            I might ask her, you’re probably right. I’m just worried about what it could be.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      I’m with you there. I got asked, more or less, why if I am so unhappy I don’t leave, and I keep pointing out WHY I can’t leave voluntarily to get other work. So yes, I “choose to be here” because I’m still choosing for now to stay alive.

      1. call centre bee*

        Oof, yeah, even well-meaning managers who just want me to be happy can end up being quite grating when they keep suggesting I ‘just apply for other roles’ and ‘believe in yourself’, while pointing out jobs I am not at all qualified for.

        “You’re still here though, so you must want to be!” No actually, I just have a couple of people demanding I stick around and I like those people. In the meantime, I gotta pay rent.

    6. Hold the Onions*

      I have worked in a call center and it is HARD, most jobs are very repetitive and there is constant pressure and scrutiny of every minute of your day. You have my sympathy!

      Look at Alison’s material on resumes and especially cover letters, there is a lot of GREAT material on this site. I hope you can get some interviews and a better job soon.

      In the meantime, take care of yourself, you sound like you are in profound distress, if you can’t afford therapy then try at least to gather a support network. Good luck!

      1. call centre bee*

        Thanks. I’m in the UK so I have tried free therapy through the NHS, but it was so bad it just made me feel utterly hopeless. The therapist called my life a ‘tragicomedy’.

        1. scribblingTiresias*

          I don’t know how the NHS works, but can you request a transfer to another therapist? Sometimes therapists just don’t ‘click’ with you (or stink at their jobs), unfortunately.

          1. call centre bee*

            I tried a few but found them all quite dismissive unfortunately. I was thinking of paying privately but I’m about to assume sole responsibility for the rent and bills so that’s no longer an option :(

  17. CaptainToadie*

    For me, it depends so much on how the week is going. Sometimes things go ok, and I rationalize that the job is fine. Sometimes I get screamed at or ignored by a coworker that I need help from…. and then I realize I need to get out, but I’m also too frazzled to do anything. It’s been like this over a year. It doesn’t help my supervisor is great but powerless since all my big problems are in other departments with bosses who don’t care or act the same way

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You have The Roller Coaster. This is a job that goes up and down, up and down. The easier times last long enough for us to convince ourselves that the bad times weren’t that bad. Then a bad time hits and the memories come flooding back, “Yeah, this place is a cesspool!”

      My wise friend advised me to watch out for roller coasters, both in professional life and personal life. And up and down personal relationship is something to watch out for also. Not everything is on an even keel at all times, but what we want to watch out for is settings that go waaay up and then drop waaay down. Especially the drops downward, when down is just too far down.

      One thing I noticed at Toxic Place is that a good day left me “too high”. I think that high was sheer relief (euphoria?) that nothing blew up today. It was like I was 20 pounds lighter. But that would only last for a bit and something would happen and I would feel 60 pounds heavier. The lows were too low.

      I have noticed at this good job I have now that crap happens. But the difference in how it is handled is day vs. night different.

      Use the good days to job hunt and use the bad days to get caught up on rest and take care of the basics.

  18. La Triviata*

    My job has had its ups and downs. Currently, it’s pretty much OK – my boss is reasonable, I have reasonable hours, the leave policy is pretty good and the pay is enough to live on fairly comfortably. The health insurance is excellent; since I’m 67 and have a number of health issues, I need that insurance. The pay is a bit of an issue, since living costs are going up but my salary hasn’t for a couple of years. But, at my age, with my health issues, I doubt I’d be able to find anything even remotely comparable. So I hope to be able to retire at 70.

  19. Going Anonymous for This*

    For me, it’s a combination of factors:

    –Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. I’ve been with my current employer 10 years. I’m afraid to leave and go somewhere new.

    –My employer pays well. I’ve done the research. I haven’t been able to find anything else in my field that gives me a better salary/insurance/retirement package. I’m unwilling/unable to take a pay cut.

    –I have really good health insurance, particularly mental health coverage. I need this insurance.

    –My commute is easy in a city famous for awful commutes. I can’t complain.

    So even though I have a stressful work environment at times, I realize I have it pretty good in many ways. I’m working in a field I enjoy, and I don’t want to leave that field after spending over 10 years establishing myself. I’ve got over 20 years to go until I can retire and I don’t know that I’ll stay here that long, but for now, I’m staying put. I’ve looked casually, but there hasn’t been anything worth applying for.

    1. Nita*

      Yep. Golden handcuffs. My husband isn’t paid that well for his industry, but not too bad either. And his entire industry is kind of toxic. He knows he’d need to start from scratch in a new line of work, if he wanted a better job. And he says that he didn’t work so hard to get to where he is, just to take a pay cut. At least he managed to leave the office where 50-year-olds were dropping dead from heart attacks. His current one isn’t great either, but it’s an improvement.

  20. Salsa Your Face*

    I stayed because my company intentionally trapped me there. I didn’t have a college degree at the time, and they placed me in a role that normally would require one. They knew I wouldn’t be able to find a comparable job anywhere else, and they knew that the pay was too low and the schedule too chaotic and unpredictable to make going back to school realistic.

    Thankfully, online college became a thing, and I was able to go back to school and finally get my degree. (And by online college, I mean a non-profit, regionally accredited online college. Not a diploma mill!) I’m now working in the same industry but for a much better company, at a much higher pay rate, with a much better career path–and I’m much, much, much happier.

    Most people at my old company are lifers, but a few others had managed to leave over the years, and once they heard I had left too, they reached out to me and welcomed me to the former (company) fold. During lunch with one particular person who left within a year of being promoted to the very highest level of the company, I asked if there was any truth behind my theory that they had intentionally trapped me and a few others in support roles. They confirmed that yes, it was absolutely true, and it was that along with several other horrifying business practices that drove them to resign within a year of their promotion. It was an incredibly cathartic lunch.

  21. Sunflower*

    Money and nobody else is hiring you.

    I see so many advise that simply says “Leave. Get another job.” I’m sure that advise is from people who can easily find jobs. I am not one of those lucky people. I have put out applications for years without a response. When I manage to get a rare interview, I’m never hired. So what’s a person to do except stay or take a job that doesn’t pay a living wage? A person’s got to eat.

    I like my current job but it took 10 years to find it and get hired.

    1. pope suburban*

      This. I started trying to leave my last job the day I got it (I hired on from a temp agency; the boss lowballed my wages considerably and then insulted me and claimed I didn’t have skills so he wasn’t going to pay market rate), but I had to stay there until I got another offer because it was that or homelessness. It took me three years to get out, and that was three years of consistently putting on job-searching efforts when I was at home. Even if you force yourself to have the stamina to keep up a sustained job hunt, you’re only one part of the equation- you’re not going to get out without someone willing to interview and hire you.

    2. jenny*

      Yep. I think that “Leave and get another job” is dispensed like candy because it’s an easy way out for the person answering. They can put you in the category of people who don’t Show Enough Gumption, or it’s the easiest thing in the world to “just” get another job because they did it. Nevermind considerations around what industry you’re in, experience level issues, etc.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Right? I want to say, “OK, point me in the direction of the Career Tree. Oh, there isn’t one? Well, from the way you offered that advice I figured their had to be if it’s really that easy.”

        I mean, I get why it’s first step advice, but it really should be, “don’t forget to keep your eyes open for a new opportunity,” not “get a new job.” One is doable, if sometimes difficult, the other heavily relies on many things outside your control.

      2. MassMatt*

        I think this is unfair The “get out!” advice is most often directed to LW’s that talk about a terrible work situation and seem to not realize how terrible and abnormal it is. Often these LW’s are asking whether their situation is nuts or is it them. Yes people often have reasons they need to stick with a terrible job, I dare say a majority of those posting here have been there; I certainly have.

        But when someone tells a tale of a workplace full of angry bees, yes, the advice is going to be “get away from the angry bees!”

        I don’t want to sound insensitive to those finding the job search difficult, but even on the lower end of the pay scale there are jobs with decent employers where you don’t have to work with angry bees!

  22. Another cog, another wheel*

    What Data4all said “because I was so stressed that by the time I got home I didn’t have the energy to job search” PLUS … when I did have the energy, I simply didn’t get called for interviews. I had more luck getting interviews when I was unemployed for two years.

    It took me five years of being employed in MiseryWorkPlace to finally get a new job. It’s something that is incredibly embarrassing to actually type out. Especially when all the experts say that a job search should never take that long. But the reality is that despite education, experience, carefully written and meticulously proofread unique-to-each-job-application cover letters and resumes, I took the first job that was offered.

    Which is how I got the MiseryJob in the first place, too: two years of unemployment, sent an off-the-cuff cover letter 30 min past the deadline with some salty language thrown in … MiseryJob saved my life, and then slowly broke it down again over the next 6 years.

  23. Martin*

    Chicken or the egg: I have a bachelor’s degree (liberal arts), but never have had a ‘career’. Only jobs I have been able to get are really low level office monkey work (data entry, low level admin stuff) that mostly anyone can do, as such I’ve never had the opportunity to build up skills/experience that would make me attractive for higher-paying/professionally interesting jobs. Job searching is very very discouraging for me.

    1. 1234*

      Are there opportunities for growth after a year or so of the low level admin stuff? For example, being promoted from “low level admin” to “lead admin” or “Coordinator of Llama Groomers.”

      1. Martin*

        No, the jobs I have had are pretty ‘silo’ed’ and dead end and don’t build the hard/soft skills that can build towards more advanced work.

    2. Salsa Your Face*

      It can be so hard to break out of those kinds of roles! The problem is that when you’re competent at that kind of work, nobody wants to let you get away from them. The key for me to find my way out of the admin dead end was to get a job that required all the normal administrative skills, but didn’t have the admin title. I was then able to tweak my resume to focus on the more skilled work and transition into non-admin roles from there.

      An alternative would be to go the executive assistant route–it’s still admin work, but more important admin work for more important people, with higher pay to match.

  24. Leisel*

    The recession really did a number on my job search right out of college. Out of 30 some odd graduates from our college program, with a very specific industry, only 6 of us found jobs in our field. There’s even less of us working our field now…maybe like 4.

    I moved from place that didn’t fare well during the recession to a place that did somewhat okay when all that went down. It wasn’t booming, but our industry was surviving here. Then, it started booming as the city grew and I became a very busy person working in a toxic environment. I couldn’t keep up with the workload, but also couldn’t find another job in my field that would pay any better than my barely sufficient salary. I looked for a new job for 3 of the 4 years I worked there! When the right opportunity came along with a better company and higher pay, I practically ran off the job. I didn’t even give notice, just quit one day and took a two week vacation to decompress. It’s not that the new job has never had any downsides, but it’s better by leaps and bounds than the former company. Thank goodness!

  25. Jaybeetee*

    I’m happy where I am now, but in the past worked at jobs that left me just miserable because it was the only work I could find – the job market remained poor where I was for years after the Great Recession technically ended. Young, inexperienced, I worked where I could, even if I threw up every morning before going in. A couple jobs were dysfunctional or toxic, a couple others were just not right for me.

    1. annakarina1*

      I worked for three years at a front desk job that I resented because it was really low-paying, they kept me at part-time despite that I worked four days a week and did extra coverage, wouldn’t let me apply to a full-time job because I lacked the right degree, wouldn’t give me benefits, and I kept trying hard to get better jobs during the recession and felt trapped in a low-paying nowhere job. I was really miserable that I just couldn’t get out, and quickly left it when I got a full-time job, only for that job to be a big mistake, and I floundered with other work until I finally got my career together with grad school.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, and now that we’ll probably have Great Depression II, it’ll be SUPER fun job hunting now :(

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, joining the job force right before the great recession did a real number on my lifetime earning potential. Good lord did I scramble for a few years there.

  26. Trisha*

    Because I’ve lost the faith in myself that I would need to go out and promote what I can do for another organization. While from the outside my job looks great (being with the organization for 19 years I get 5 weeks of vacation a year, I have 3 months of sick leave built up, I get paid well and am at the top level for my position), the disfunction in my organization makes me doubt myself and my abilities.

    While those who report to me tell me I’m a good manager, I feel often like it’s only in relation to the terrible managers this organization has. If I moved outside, would I even be any good? Would I be able to keep up?

    Too much self doubt to do the “selling” that I need to land something equal to what I currently have.

  27. Lucette Kensack*

    I didn’t listen to the recording, but I can speak for myself: Because nothing is black and white. A job with a terrible manager might be twice as much as I’d be paid elsewhere. A job with unreasonable hours might be a five-minute commute from my house. We make tradeoffs.

    1. Coldbrewinacup*

      This is so true.
      I have a long commute. My boss is a sexist jerk who likes to yell at people and has a favorite who gets privileges that aren’t offered to the rest of us.
      But I get paid sick leave and tons of PTO, and I am paid pretty well for a low skill job.

      I’ve learned to ignore the bad because I won’t find the same benefits anywhere else.

  28. Anonymous Educator*

    I have a friend who’s in an extremely toxic job right now, and she said she just doesn’t have the energy to look for another job, because she’s so overworked and stressed at her current job, which is tragic but extremely understandable. It makes for a vicious cycle. And, yeah, she needs the money—she can’t just up and quit without having something else lined up.

  29. Someone101*

    This. I stayed in my toxic job for 3 years, purely because I live in an extremely rural area and jobs are hard to come by without lots of experience or certain qualifications. I was able to make good money and have a commute that was ten minutes on foot. The downside to this was working 7 days a week for the first year, then down to 6 for the last two. Holiday (vacation) was only when the business was closed, you were made to feel so guilty for daring to try and book holiday at different times and if you did, you were constantly called/text/emailed while you were away. The boss was the master at guilt tripping and or threatening/
    screaming/ terrifying you into submission. The sad thing is you eventually get used to it and recognise the signs of when she was about to kick off so you could try and avoid her. I eventually left after my hair started falling out, I developed stress related illnesses and when I was signed off work from the hospital I was bombarded with calls, voicemails, texts and emails asking trivial things she knew the answers to but needed to make her presence felt. I even remember writing a really rambling, nonsensical email to Alison after I left as I was terrified to return to work in the area as she had threatened to blacklist me etc. I’m so embarrassed looking back now! At the time though, you just feel so trapped and it recalibrates your norms into accepting things that are truly unacceptable. I was lucky I was able to get another position elsewhere quite quickly.

  30. Maika*

    I am job searching right now and it is a lot of work – from writing each cover letter to going through the application system etc. However, I am only applying to positions where I see a reasonable transfer of skills. Sometimes I apply knowing that I probably won’t get a screening interview, but I am playing the odds here. And here is why.

    I applied to a job where I knew I would be stellar at 50% of the job, and the other 50% I would have to learn from scratch (think specific marketing skills). Because of that I almost didn’t apply. But I did and got a phone interview and then an in-person interview. The interview went really well and I told them that I am willing to put in the hustle to learn the part of the job that I don’t have direct experience in. It’s a matter of if they want someone to hit the ground running, or could I have a couple of months to get up to speed.

    The HR rep called me a few days later and told me that they went with someone else who had experience in the 50% that I didn’t have. But, they asked me to apply to another posting they opened up that day which was a better fit for my skillset. I applied and the posting is closing this week. Not sure if I’ll get an interview, but now I am on their radar. The HR rep told me they want me to come over as I’d be a great fit for the organization.

    The lesson I learned here is that I gotta put myself out more and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much to offer, but I do. There are people who value what I bring to the table and I shouldn’t undervalue myself.

    I know job hunting sucks, and I haven’t landed a new job yet, but just putting myself out there has shown me that there are plenty of possibilities and I don’t have to worry about if my skills don’t completely overlap the job description. This has helped me keep an optimistic outlook despite the rejections. I am on the radar of multiple high level HR folks in orgs that I want to work for. In my books, that’s a good start and place to nurture a relationship with them.

  31. space woman*

    The thing is for me, it’s absolutely the basics:
    my current job has a pension, a lot of sick days, GREAT health insurance, and I don’t have to be on call.

    Other jobs do not offer me that.

    I’ve weighed it and the benefits work out. Yeah, I hate my job A Lot. Yeah, it’s not doing great for me. But I can’t eat pride, as much as I wish I could.

  32. Panthera uncia*

    I’m stuck in a dead-end town caring for a parent with dementia. I drive an hour to get to work, and even this job took me several years to find. There’s plenty of work to be had in the nearest big city, but I can’t spend four hours a day commuting. I can barely manage what’s on my plate now.

    It’s an uncomfortable feeling to know that they only way out of your unhappiness is through someone else’s death.

    1. 1234*

      Is there a reason you and your parent can’t move to the nearest big city or move closer to there?

  33. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

    Re: Current job making interviewing hard

    I think this is especially prescient for those of us who are in positions where certain activities are expected, and yet we are not completing them in the course of our current jobs. I have been in an interview before and was asked about my experience doing X, because that is a pretty standard thing for people with my job title to do. It’s awkward and uncomfortable for everyone for me to try and explain that I have been directed specifically not to do X at my job, because that is being handed to a whole group of people instead of me. It’s not something that I signed up for or knew to screen for in the interview, because it’s such a normal part of this job, but my particular employer has decided that I will not be doing this thing.

    It creates kind of a circular problem where because I haven’t done X outside of college yet, it is challenging to get positions now where they are willing to let me build that skill on the job.

    1. Mill Miker*

      You see this a lot with development jobs, especially for some of the more time-consuming quality-assurance practices.

      Possible new job wants experience writing automated tests as part of a time, current job thinks spending time on tests is a misuses of company resources, and a cause for disciplinary action.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      I’ve been in a similar situation. It is awkward at first, but then I tried to at least segue into, “yeah, it’s a little unorthodox the way my current employer handles that. In college I did project A, B and C directly related to X and received high marks and great feedback (or ‘I really enjoyed it and did very well on those projects’, something to basically say not only did you do it, but you did it well), but unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to use that skill in my current position yet.” You could even add in, ‘it is part of why I’m looking for a new job, I really want to be able to take this kind of thing on,’ if that would be accurate and appropriate.

      It is far from perfect, and if someone really wants you to have that experience then they won’t consider you, but it does at least put out there that you wouldn’t be a 100% noob at the task, you might just need to refine your skills a bit. That way, if you are stellar in every other way, they might be more willing to take a chance on you.

  34. Mill Miker*

    I’ve found sometimes the hope and excitement from looking at other jobs and applying and interviewing makes the day-to-day of the awful job even more unbearable. Combined with interviewing while burnt out, and trying to apply while exhausted, job searching seemed to just make a bad situation worse without any upside or results.

    1. annonny*

      Yes. I get a lot of interviews, but having them not pan out makes it that much harder to resign yourself to the bad job. You get your hopes up, it doesn’t work out, you rally and try to figure out where to improve, but man, I don’t know how much more of the rallying I’ve got left in me.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yep, that too! I get more depressed to have my failures emphasized even more because I tried to get out!

  35. annonny*

    Hmm, well, I’m in a miserable job because I work in a field where most of the jobs available are entry level and “experience” also seems to get read as “inflexible,” which I am not and “expensive,” which, yes, possibly I am (although I’m currently dramatically underpaid). I would love to leave, and I get a ton of interviews, but I always seem to end up being the second choice, and I cannot leave without something lined up first.

  36. RestResetRule*

    At my last job, I knew it was time to go at the year mark, but I stayed for another year because I a) didn’t want to seem like a job-hopper, b) lived in a small town with no other employers for my field and was financially supporting my partner at the time (i.e. couldn’t afford to quit on the spot), and c) was honestly just scared of what my boss would do if he found out I was looking around. In the end, he did find out, pitched a huge fit, and that was really the kick in the pants I needed to turn in my notice and crank up my job search 200%. I found a job OOS within a month and am much happier now. But I totally understand why some people feel trapped. It’s hard to take that risk, especially if you have people counting on you financially.

  37. AndersonDarling*

    Job descriptions are intimidating. When I was at a toxic job, I felt like I was scum and all the job ads I read glorified the job duties. In reality, I was doing all those duties, but the descriptions made it sound like they would only consider perfect people with exceptional talents. Why would I even apply? When an add for a receptionist is asking for an experienced multi-tasker able to discuss complex projects with CEO’s and front-line staff, why even bother?

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I agree with that. My industry won’t interview you if you don’t have 95% of qualifications (verified by the career counselor) and they won’t hire you if you don’t have 100%. You are NEVER good enough.

  38. Seeking Second Childhood*

    It wasn’t toxic when I started here. And every time there was a management shift, things got better & hopeful for long enough that I got excited. Roles changed frequently, and they somehow said the right things and made the right small steps when I had started looking. Hard to bail when they’ve just given you a promotion & a raise, for example.
    Then suddenly I’d been here so long I have near-European levels of vacation in the United States. That’s hard to think about giving up.

    1. jenny*

      That’s a great point-that whole “Next week will be better” mentality. “We’re just going through a hard time right now because of the merger/reduction/coronavirus.” I’ve been there.

    2. Escapee*

      This was the case at the job I referenced above. It started out being not so bad. Then they hired the sales rep I would start supporting and things went downhill quickly. She exacerbated problems that were already there and created a ton of new ones.

      People would be hired to turn things around and there were all kinds of promises that THIS person, software, SOP would make things better. And I would think, maybe it’ll work and I can stay a bit longer without having a nervous breakdown. But nothing ever got better and I gave up.

    3. Anon for this*

      This sounds familiar. “This place is toxic because of upper manager X, if only X left, we’d be a normal workplace again”, then X finally leaves (or is escorted out) and another toxic manager appears in a key role out of nowhere, and proceeds to do something else to make everyone’s life a living hell. Or all of the toxic ones leave and the place is still a hellhole for seemingly no reason. “But next year we will announce our plans to reorganize everything and things will be better then!” the plans are announced and are absolutely awful. But by then there’s something else coming up next year that will be great for sure! and so on until infinity. Works especially well if the workplace was originally healthy and quickly went down the tubes as a result of rapid growth/mergers/acquisitions. People keep hoping against hope that one day it will be back to normal, the way it used to be.

  39. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Has anyone yet mentioned “not enough PTO time to job-search”? You take at least a half-day, or possibly a full day, off for an interview, and then either never hear from them again, or realize that they are also bad and toxic. Or they want a second interview, you take another day off, and *then* you never hear from them again. It would only take a handful of these to burn through one’s PTO for the year and then what?

    1. De Minimis*

      I had to call in sick for three days once because I had interviews….and none of the jobs worked out.

    2. Fiona*

      Yep. At the start of my search, I had plenty of PTO, and burned through it all rather quickly due to a cross-country job hunt. Luckily, the places I was interviewing covered the cost of my travel, but I lived in a city that wasn’t a major airline hub and kept getting stuck with terrible delays due to missed connections and general persistent bad luck. Like, I’m talking, “miss one connection and the next flight home isn’t until a full day later” bad luck. I lost so much PTO that I couldn’t accept in-person interviews anymore and had to persuade them to interview me virtually. And none of those interviews ever worked out, either.

  40. jenny*

    I have a rather unique job in that a junior position was created for me at a company, within an industry that normally only hires senior people after they’ve become “seasoned” at a firm. At the time I took the job I wasn’t thinking of the ramifications that this would have: That I would have no familiarity with industry norms, that higher-ups would perpetually assume that I knew things I didn’t, and (most importantly) that I effectively foreclosed myself off from firm jobs and from other company jobs until I reach a certain level of seniority.

    My department has a lot of issues, the main one being that work is not passed down in a very good way and there are huge communication gaps. The Big Boss only trusts his two indispensable lieutenants, who bend over backward to accommodate his paranoia about delegating work. I often get piecemeal information and parts of projects. I am also not told when to stop work on a project, when to pivot, or even given some bits of information to complete the project without my following up and asking-this applies to every step I have to take.

    And yet…here I am. Yes, I’m job searching. No, people aren’t hiring someone with my experience. The pros for me (stellar health insurance, an abundance of paid time off, working in literally the building next to my apartment) have so far outweighed the cons of my leaving with no plan, minimal savings, and stopping said health insurance.

    I have only come to this realization in Year 5 of a job where I have been working for 6 years. For so long I thought that there was something wrong with *me,* that if only I were a certain kind of way (or if I had started at a firm) I would be better, but it’s the environment. So there’s also the “frog in the boiling water” component on top of all the other stuff I mentioned.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Sounds like a case of someone new to the workforce not having a baseline to see how wildly dysfunctional their own company is!

      1. jenny*

        That’s definitely a more succinct way of putting it. I think that a lot of people are in danger of inflating their own worth or ego and are too quick to say “It’s not me, it’s the job,” but I’m the opposite. I’m way too quick to invest, to buy into “Next week will be better,” and to make excuses for people and assume that *I* must be dysfunctional, because I don’t do well in dysfunction.

  41. De Minimis*

    I stayed in a miserable job with the Post Office for about seven years after graduating. I stayed there because of the pay and benefits, and because I was not really qualified for anything else [degree was not marketable.] The job wasn’t giving me skills I could transfer to a better job.

    I left because I married and relocated, and was in a situation where someone would help support me while I attended school for a career change. Otherwise, I don’t know if I ever would have left. It was a huge financial gamble as it was, and it took nearly a decade before it started to pay off [the recession hit as I graduated, so I was unemployed for a number of years after my first professional job fell through…]

  42. Asenath*

    I was really unsuited for one job I had. I can’t say the workplace or managers were bad – I eventually got enough distance to realize I was the problem. But at the time, I had to work, it paid well, and I was convinced I’d never find another job at all, especially since I’d have to move to an area with more jobs. So I thought I should really stay there until I managed to get some training for something else. Bad idea, in my case, and eventually I did leave with nothing else lined up. But I got through it and re-built my life in a different field that paid less, but I liked it a lot more and was much happier. In my case, it was sheer terror of being unemployed with few resources or alternatives that kept me there.

  43. Aggretsuko*

    I literally don’t qualify for any other jobs in my organization. They want you to be a budget/payroll person (I cannot do math), AND do the travel arrangements (which we don’t do in my current job) AND the event planning (ditto), plus being a clerical worker. I have also unfortunately figured out that being the front desk/call center person makes me wish for death. That rules me out of ALL clerical jobs. I can’t find much to apply for, and the few I do tend to have those things snuck into the job that they didn’t tell you about.

    I don’t want to lose my benefits (I’ve had strangers in a bar beg me never to quit there because I’ll never have anything that good again), I need to have health insurance, I do NOT want to run my own business (see “can’t do math”), and I just can’t find a reasonable way out of this situation. Unreasonable ways would be “quit, become homeless within a month” and “die” and “get fired.” I don’t want any of that.

    I just don’t know what to do. This is an unsolvable problem. It’s not like I care at all about my day job. I have to have a boring day job for health insurance. I just want to type in a corner and be left alone. I have no dreams or goals as to what I want to do (I’m a former reporter….’nuff said on that) any more, so why spend the money to “go back to school” to train in something else I don’t give a shit about? I don’t have the brains for a lot of what people want anyway.

    I give up. I just cannot figure out how to get out of this without death or firing. I am out of hope. My only reasonable option is to just keep swimming and enduring. I am thinking about buying that new book about “Designing Your Work Life,” but I want to read it before buying it because odds are, that won’t really help either.

    1. jenny*

      What helped me was 1) getting a therapist; and 2) focusing on personal goals. Losing weight, eating healthy/nutritious food, setting up better habits, getting a budget put together. I don’t want to armchair diagnose you, I’m just speaking from my own experience of feeling trapped and deflated at work. I was on a hamster wheel of feeling like crap about my job, then going home and eating crap to feel better, then waking up feeling like crap because I ate crap, then going to my crap job. I’m still in my crap job, but I have more positive things that also fill my life now, and for me that’s made all the difference.

  44. Fiona*

    I’m stuck in my current job because I’m exhausted. I job searched from February to November of 2019, trying to get away from a toxic environment and find another job in my field, to no avail. I paid a professional resume writer $500 for a custom resume and rewritten LinkedIn profile, applied to countless jobs, was a finalist for nearly 7 roles that were a exact match for my skills and current level of responsibility, and was never the chosen candidate. I have a Master’s in the field and nearly 3 years experience, and no one seemed to care. It was always, “this was close, but we’ve chosen to go with another candidate.” I wasted hours of my time traveling from the PNW back East for interviews, stressed myself out nearly to the point of breaking, and burned through all my extra vacation time due to constant unexpected travel delays. It was miserable.

    Full disclosure, my field (higher education administration) is over saturated and highly competitive as a whole, and even more so when you drill down to my functional area (study abroad). But still…it shouldn’t be that difficult to get a job when you’ve done everything asked of you and met the most basic of education and experience requirements.

    The job I have now, I was offered in December, and I needed the money. I knew right away it wasn’t a good fit, but I didn’t really have a choice. This current role makes me deeply unhappy. I’ve daydreamed about job searching again almost from day one in this role, but I am so mentally and emotionally exhausted from last year’s horrific job search experience that I just don’t have the energy or desire to try anymore.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sometimes you do have to take a breather. Give it a couple of months and then start looking.

    2. LabTechNoMore*

      I’ve daydreamed about job searching again almost from day one in this role, but I am so mentally and emotionally exhausted from last year’s horrific job search experience that I just don’t have the energy or desire to try anymore.

      This is where I am too. And it’s even harder this time around because now your current job of several months raises questions in the interview, on top of the prospect of having to job search all over again. I got quarantined for two weeks for COVID and I couldn’t stop smiling on my way home from the doctor’s. My mental fog suddenly lifted with the thought of not returning to work for the foreseeable future, and I could finally think again. I’ve been taking phone and video interviews all week.

  45. Bunny Girl*

    I’m in an extremely toxic job right now. I hate it. It’s completely miserable. But, I’m a student. I have about two more years left of my degree. There are a couple things at my job that make it so easy to be a student. My immediate supervisor is amazing and very flexible. My job is slow enough that I can get 90% of my homework done at work, which is really valuable for me since I’m busy at home. It’s also close enough that I can go home and let my dog out. I keep an eye out for other jobs, but they don’t check those boxes for me. But, I feel lucky. I know my job is toxic, I know this isn’t how rational people behave, and I know how to set boundaries and take care of my mental health. So I don’t feel like this place is skewing my “norms” too much.

  46. Anon Anon*

    For me it’s lots of things. I work in a niche industry and so finding another job in general is challenging, especially if you aren’t willing to move. Money is another issue, I can’t afford to take a significant paycut. Benefits, and having to start over with time off (I’ve tried to negotiate that point, but I’ve always been shot down). And finally, fear. When you’ve been in a place for a very long term and it’s toxic, you get conditioned to the idea that you will fail elsewhere. And so even if there is an opportunity for you to move on, the fear of taking that risk and failing can be paralyzing.

  47. cosmicgorilla*

    I stayed because I didn’t know better. I had gone from a non-profit job to a for-profit one, and I had heard horror stories of the corporate world. I thought that’s just the way it was.

    I stayed because I thought there was something I could do to make it better, some conversation I could have with my boss. I didn’t get up the courage to do so, but I kept thinking I would.

    I stayed because I got used to it, and other people were putting up with it too. Think frog in boiling water. The water was getting hotter and hotter all around us.

    I’m not there anymore, and the situation I’m in now is much much better. I had a boss try to pull shenanigans, and after a lot of agonizing and advice-asking, I escalated. I learned from my experiences at that other place and stood up for myself.

  48. Chro*

    Most of the time people stay in terrible jobs is because of benefits or pay that wouldn’t be as good elsewhere. My husband ran himself ragged working a decent paying great benefits job that nearly cost him his sanity. Heck, we moved to a different city so that he could pursue this job, but he soon found out he was making less than entry -level workers and absolutely hated the early-bird hours. He was losing sleep and we were on the brink of losing our relationship too. He kept it because of health insurance. Finally, he quit. Our relationship has been so much better since and though he doesn’t make as much money as he did, he is much happier and healthier than he used to be.

    He works two jobs now, with no insurance and I work one and carry all of the insurance. I don’t dislike my job but I know if I were to quit, I’d lose all my benefits and that is not worth it. I really do wish that the U.S. would have universal healthcare for all, as it would save a lot of hassle of staying in a job purely for the benefits.

  49. KK*

    I stayed at the worst job of my career because the company offered phenomenal health insurance, 3 wks vacation, unlimited sick time and a 9/80 work schedule. Being in the oil & gas industry, they were very safety conscious. Do not drive to work in ice, floods or otherwise dangerous situations.
    It was the evil supervisor I had and the manager that supported her. Both the devil incarnate. And stifled every dept transfer I attempted. I am no longer there & moved to a company w/ less spectacular benefits but I work for a staff that actually cares about it’s employees & their families. Very generous w/ WFT needs.

  50. Impy*

    It’s called money. I left one miserable job where I was making a good wage and it took me six years to get back to the same level – granted, partly because the job had left me a burnt out shell.

  51. LogicalOne*

    I would say that it could be a list of multiple factors. From being paid well, to having good benefits, to the proximity the job is from home, to the people, the flexibility, the difficulty or easiness of the job, there are many factors as to why people stay in a job they don’t like. All I can say is, it might be best they get out early enough to where they don’t go down a rabbit-hole of depression. If you can afford to quit and take time off to job search, then by all means do so but I can imagine that many people just can’t afford to do that and would need a new job lined up after quitting their current one. Sometimes people are afraid of change or think they can’t get a new job due to whatever reasoning they have.

  52. Marthooh*

    Time once again to put up a link to Issendai’s “Sick Systems” post (in first reply)….

  53. Coldbrewinacup*

    Because you need health insurance and the company has some of the best in the area

    Because you’re being paid a bit of money and going somewhere else would dramatically decrease your income

    Because it’s worse at other places.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      This is a good point. The grass is not always greener. I have learned that the hard way.

  54. Treebeardette*

    Thanks for this. I’m in a toxic work place. It’s getting worse. I handle QA control and a supervisor lied over and over again to my bosses about what I said that raised my voice at her with others in the room. My supervisor didn’t care that she was lying. She just told them that I was inappropriate. So much of what we produced was thrown away because of all the lies. I didn’t sleep last night and realized that I am an emotionally abusive work place with little support. My manager told me to not worry.
    I think for me, originally I can’t tell because this is my first job out of college.

  55. Junior Assistant Peon*

    A former employer of mine was bought by a larger competitor about a decade ago. My friends who are still there all hate the acquiring company and are constantly posting on Facebook about (figuratively) wanting to burn the place down, but for some reason, they always have some excuse why not when I forward them job leads.

  56. Little Fish*

    I stay because I don’t know what else to do. I moved across the country for this job. I’m the single parent of a special needs kid. I don’t know how my skills can transfer into something else. I know it’s bad. I know it’s bad for me, and probably not great for them. But I care more about me. I just don’t know where to go from here.

  57. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Just came here to raise my hand. Despite the soul-killing insanity-inducing work environment, I stay for the pay and benefits….namely health insurance (especially during a pandemic), in a country where I’d otherwise go bankrupt without it if I get sick or hurt. I stay because I don’t want my family to have to spend their life savings to help me in that situation. It’s really messed up and yes my mental health is shot to hell because of it.

  58. Amethystmoon*

    I’ve stayed because I had to. Took internal benefits for going back to school and literally wasn’t free to leave except within the company.

  59. Kate H*

    Like many people, it’s a combination of factors.

    1. I have health insurance, good health insurance, for both myself and my wife.
    2. Despite getting paid below market rate (according to my own boss), I’m financially stable enough to handle my mortgage, student loans, and car payment while also having enough money left over to save up for a couple fairly expensive vacations a year.
    3. The job market is slow in my area.
    4. I have a bachelors degree in a field that almost requires a masters or doctorate. This is my first full-time position (completely unrelated to my bachelors) and before this I only worked a hodgepodge of part-time positions, none of whom I really feel are valuable references at this point in my life. My current position is in a rapidly growing but niche field.

  60. MissDisplaced*

    The main reason you stay in a miserable job is money! It’s that simple.
    Sure, you may be actively looking, but that takes time, and most of us need a steady paycheck and can’t just quit and walk away no matter how badly we hate it.

  61. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I stayed out of guilt for many years, then it was guilt plus the idea that nobody would want me because of how stagnant I had become.

    The good news is that once I finally took the leap, it woke me up and I saw what was out there. I hate that people are stuck but I completely understand why it happens :( Now that I’ve finally made two critical moves in my life, one was soul sucking because of guilt/shame etc and the other was soul sucking because of being overworked and treated like I wasn’t good enough, even though I was carrying that mountain on my back. Once you’ve made those moves, it sticks with you but the first step is the hardest.

  62. Anonymath*

    Tenure, and then full professor. It’s hard to move post-tenure, especially if you’re not a research superstar at an R1. Also, two-body problems to boot.
    My program is a snake pit and the larger School isn’t much better. I’ve been in therapy. The golden handcuffs are real.

  63. Retail not Retail*

    I feel like I stay because I don’t know *how* I got this job – yes, it had no requirements more stringent than a HS diploma but I had zero relevant experience. The worse situation I was in though… it had the word “forest” in the name. I was upfront I do not work with the “forest” part of the org.

    And my boss was all about “oh she’s coming from west virginia!” as if that meant anything.

    I’ve applied to countless jobs in the last year and had 2 interviews. I’ve only had 5 successful interviews – minimum wage retail, county clerk (turned down for grad school), “forest” job, this one, and the seasonal stadium job that is now on hold for obvious reasons.

    So as long as I’m not getting fired, I enjoy most of my coworkers and the work, and I get to see fancy llamas (and free sports! When the pandemic is over). Have health insurance, make less per hour than my old retail location, but I am guaranteed fulltime.

  64. 653-CXK*

    I stayed at ExJob because I (a) believed I would be able to move on to different things and (b) the benefits were pretty good.

    These days, and coming up to the first anniversary of being hired at CurrentJob, I shake my head and wonder how foolish I was to believe that. If you were a Valuable Member (read: one of a few people who has a clue and isn’t a toady to management), management would do everything in their power to try to stop you from advancing. I did the overtime, the extra work – nope, sorry, we can’t afford to lose you, yadda yadda yadda. Only after I (anonymously) spoke out the gross neglect and burnout of other team members did management notice. Their response? Drum me out of the job, and they did exactly that nearly two years ago.

    There is a pleasant bit of karma – the person who was orchestrating all this toxicity herself was booted out because management had quite enough of her foul mouth. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall watching her kicking and screaming as she was escorted from the building.

  65. LNLN*

    I had worked in a job I liked (and was really good at) for 15 years. Then my job was changed; two different jobs were combined into one job. The stress of training others to do my part of the job and learning to do the other part of the job caused neuropathy and a whole host of other medical issues and symptoms for me. I stayed because I did not want to seem like a “quitter” and because our medical insurance was through my job. Eventually, I decided that quitting a job I did not like did not make me a quitter, and looked into the Affordable Care Act options in my state. I was able to retire at age 63.

  66. Artsgirl*

    I moved my family across the country to take a job in a field where there are limited opportunities in general and no other opportunities in my town. I stayed for three miserable years because to leave would have meant giving up my career or moving my family again.

  67. Waving not Drowning (no longer Drowning not Waving)*

    I stayed because my self esteem had been sapped so much I didn’t think anyone would employ me. I had a micromanaging manager, and they affected everyones self confidence.

    I also had no energy to job search, and after a succession of crap managers before the micromanager, I thought it was better the devil I knew than the devil I didn’t.

    I ended up having a breakdown, and the time off work (plus seeing a psychologist, and starting anti anxiety medication) gave me clarity to see the problem was hers, not mine. I put out feelers to other departments, and was quickly tapped on the shoulder for a similar position. Best thing I ever did! I don’t cry on my way home from work, I don’t dread Monday mornings. I have actual conversations with my husband, no longer complaining about work. I am almost back to my old self. Its taken a long long time.

  68. Zzz*

    Toxic jobs suck the life out of you. It’s like Stockholm syndrom. You hate it yet you can’t get away from it. At the end of the day after countless hours of meetings, I would have no energy to do anything. I was in a survival mode for a long time. Then I started pushing back at work, asking for a break, bringing lunch to the meetings, etc. Once things cooled off just a bit, I pulled all of my energy to find another job. It’s not all roses but at least it feels better for now.

  69. CA PM*

    I’m in a “bait and switch” job. I have been here for a few months and I am actively looking for another job, however it is difficult to find the time and energy to look for another job. I have stayed simply because I need the income to pay my bills.

    This job isn’t toxic, but I am not doing the work I was hired to do. I was hired as a business analyst. So far they have had me doing low level administrative assistant tasks, such as taking meeting minutes at every meeting. Recently management has decided I should also take customer calls, without any training.

  70. he who walks behind the rows*

    I’m staying because this job (among other things) has made me so miserable, and has destroyed my confidence to a point where I don’t want to look for something else. I’ll just fail again. And after 10 years in this place I still have very little useful experience, so finding a new job is pretty much not happening.

  71. NewbieMD*

    I’m a first year orthopedic surgery resident and there’s so much I hate about it. I’m still at it because I have my eye on the light at the end of the tunnel seven years from now. Besides, my undergrad degree is in one of those subjects people make fun of plus I’m over 200K in debt from medical school!

  72. Rexish*

    my colleague is really tired. To the point where she used PTO and weekends to just sleep. It’s a combination of burnout and physical ilness she has. We were just talking about this. I tried to encourage her to look for something else since she is getting no joy from her work. She said that she has no energy to look for a new job, doens’t want to risk in case the new job is not as flexible with PTO or appontments and if she is feeling miserable, how can she really advertise herself as a good candicate when she doesn’t feel like one.

  73. Rexish*

    I’m not miserable at my job but I do need to find something else. What is stopping me the unertanty. If i say in this job I cna make plans for Christmas. If i’m job searching I have this voice in my head avoiding making plans in case the new place has different policies. etc. also there is the fear that the grass is not always greener and learning new things is really tiring.

    1. boop the first*

      Yes, scheduling is such a thing! I’ve taken long breaks from job searching only because I had summer plans and didn’t want to cancel them! Even now, I’m literally unemployed with no income, but avoiding employment because I need one weekend off this summer and jobs don’t let you do human things. At my last job, every single coworker that took a week of vacation was secretly fired upon return. Every one of them.

  74. Alternative Person*

    Stagnant/shrinking salaries and worsening conditions elsewhere.

    A lot of companies in my field are shrinking regular position contracts from the 35-40 hour week to the 25-30 hour week and relying on networks of contractors, often short term, to plug gaps. Fortunately, health insurance isn’t a concern where I am, but it has created situations where people with older, better contracts tend to stay where they are because there isn’t anything remotely comparable available. It’s a case of the grass is greener because you got there when things were good.

  75. Dasein9*

    It’s so hard to look for work when you’re tired out all the time.
    If you don’t have real hope, that seems to come through in cover letters and interviews.
    But hope is hard to maintain when you’re tired and keep getting rejected.

    I recently started back with therapy after a hiatus and this is what I’m asking for help with. The place I’m in is dysfunctional and toxic and the guy in charge of how I spend my time is a terrible communicator. Also, the pay benefits are good, people who stay here for 5 years tend to get recruited by more attractive companies, and the co-workers are awesome.

  76. boop the first*

    Eh, I could use any excuse provided. Yeah, it’s exhausting to go to (physically demanding) work at 5:30am and then work on my side business until 8 or 11pm, and repeat. I was working all weekdays, so I couldn’t figure out how to schedule interviews unless I quit first. And then if I did manage a VERY early morning interview, I’d have to work two jobs for two weeks on top of the side biz. Also, I could never get interviews anyway, I’ve gotten 5 in the last decade, and I’m a retail slave, so…

    But putting out applications is so easy now that it’s all on Indeed. You don’t even need cover letters anymore (I still do, but they don’t help). It’s even easier when no one ever replies, because it’s like the pressure is off.

    I think my specific issue is I just don’t want any of these jobs. I don’t want to apply to anything. Jobs are just a huge distraction when I’m trying to do other things that are important to me. They simultaneously provide money, yet remove any reason for needing that money. I actually fantasize about being a lonely drifter, searching for the final pack of wolves. It would be preferable.

  77. DesusFactoNews*

    It’s good to see this thread and makes me feel not so hopeless in current miserable job.
    Adding my cents to the jar, my job pays much much more than same jobs in my area, and has benefits. It’s hard to leave when it means a pay cut and possibly no benefits. Downside is the jobs that at least keep me at the same salary want years of experience and/or degrees I don’t have, even though I’d be doing the same or near similar job. I’m stressed and depressed but there’s not a lot of options out there to be quite honest.

  78. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

    I was part of a team of 15 that relocated to a rival law firm branch in London, when our head of department decided to switch. Having left school at 16 with no school qualifications and only a typing certificate, it was certainly only my experience and on-the-job skills that had gotten me as far as working as a senior PA with paralegal responsibilities, that paid well over the going rate for such work even in the City. However, about six months to a year later, there started to be some turnover of staff and the atmosphere started to turn toxic.

    There was an additional complication, which was that my partner had both physical mobility and mental health problems. He was self-employed when we first got together, but after about a year or so his health took a considerable turn for the worse and he ended up on disability. Not only was I now the breadwinner, but his health meant he absorbed all my time and attention outside work and I would not have had time to pursue any course of study.

    I desperately wanted to change careers, as I’d long felt that office work was a poor fit for me personally, but I’d fallen into it because all I had as a young person was a typing qualification. I had no appetite to apply for other office jobs as it would have been a time consuming exercise given my caring responsibilities, and my heart really wasn’t in that type of work at all. I knew that I definitely didn’t want to train as a lawyer, but what I was interested in was staff training and development, and part of me hoped that I would be able to carve out a niche doing that in a different department. I did things like devise a training program to teach the new secretaries how to do some of the more involved paralegal-type pieces of work that I did (unfortunately, these efforts were only resented). Simultaneously, I pursued various workshops and networking events related to areas I was interested in to see if I could build up some connections, which wasn’t easy given how much of my time was taken up.

    The firm resented not only my efforts to expand my role in a different direction, but there were other things: they resented my caring responsibilities for my partner (meaning overtime for me had to be strictly by prior arrangement), they resented the fact that his mental health problems meant he often phoned me during the day (although I still got my work done), they resented the fact that I had considerable success in some areas of my life outside work, such as music, which possibly threw into stark relief what I could accomplish when achievement opportunities were actually there instead of being chained to a desk, and they resented the fact I had self-taught academic knowledge in areas of interest which demonstrated I could easily have been a fee earner instead of support staff if the right chances had been there. In short, it had become a resentful, toxic atmosphere where I was being mobbed by a little coterie of about four people in the department, plus the HR person. Nearly everyone who left within the last 2 years of my employment there disappeared suddenly and acrimoniously.

    Eventually, the firm’s international owners decided to downsize and the decision to leave was made for me. This turn of events also signalled the end of my relationship, as my partner had become so paranoid he was hardly letting me answer the phone to agencies, let alone leave the house. I fled back to my home town and started over, and finally pursued my dream of going back to school. I am now doing postgraduate study in my field of interest and teaching undergrads, which I love.

    Why did I stay so long? It was a combination of my caring responsibilities, lack of time, money concerns, lack of paper qualifications, the fact I could only “escape” into another job of the same nature and not something I really would have enjoyed, the exhaustion of being ground down by the toxic atmosphere, plus the hope that I could network my way into something else if I just stuck it out “for now”. I imagine for most people staying in jobs they can’t stand is a complex combination of factors, not necessarily one simple thing.

  79. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    One could be they are trying but not getting any job offers. I stayed at my last dysfunctional job for 2.5 years. I started job hunting 8 months after I started. This is why I don’t believe companies who cite “we have employees who have stayed here for x years!” as the sole evidence of a good workplace.

    Another reason is other life stressors can be taking priority over job hunting (health problems, family problems, etc.)

    And so many others…

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