update: my boss told me I’m “not a good human” when I asked to be paid for my time

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

Remember the letter-writer whose boss told them they were “not a good human” when they asked to be paid for their time? Here’s the update.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to say…I’m still at the same firm for the time being. But, as is usually the case, it’s a longer story.

New employee turned out to be…a lost cause. (In fairness to the new employee, being hired in pandemic, with everyone working from home, in a new field, is a tough row to hoe – although I don’t think it would have mattered in this case because the new employee was not well suited to the position.)

I pretty quickly realized that the new employee was not going to make it, so after I was told that I would not be compensated for training them (and after my spouse gave me the green light to quit/lose my job), I decided to be “selfish” and just check out. New employee was let go a few weeks later.

Shortly after this, I found out that a rival firm I’ve always had on my “short list” was hiring, so I reached out and had an interview the next day. But, it was not what I expected! During the interview (which was more of a feeling out of “would this be a good fit” for both sides), I realized that I would have far less autonomy than I have at my current firm. (It turns out, clueless and out of touch managers sometimes have an upside? Not a lot of oversight.) I walked away thinking “not now, but maybe in the future” and I think they did too. (I’m too junior for them to give autonomy too right now, but I’m too senior for me not to want/need autonomy right now, if that makes sense.)

Around this time, my spouse and I started IVF. Which, as those who have done IVF know, is absurdly time consuming. You basically have to work part-time for 2-3 weeks at a time, and you have no control over the schedule. So, it came in handy that I had a ton of autonomy. It also meant that my hours would be horrible this year no matter what. So, I just focused on our family, and decided not to worry about my compensation this year.

There was also a change at my firm. A fresh start of sorts (but without any real change), and I’ve always been a sucker for a fresh start. That changed the mood. Will it last? No. It’s like throwing a fresh coat of paint over rotting wood. But, at this exact moment, I can honestly say that I’m not miserable. This company is not my “forever home,” for sure. I have no future here, and I don’t think they would ever consider a woman partner, not do I think I would ever want to be in business with these dudes. But, right now, I’d be content to stay while we try to expand our family (fingers crossed), and then consider my next moves.

I really appreciated the comments and the support from you and the AAM community. Honestly, I was really shaken by boss’s reaction and comments. It was very cutting and (although it feels unprofessional to admit) it hurt my feelings. I walked away from the conversation feeling like I had done something wrong by trying to discuss my compensation with my boss. Intellectually, I knew I hadn’t. But the part of me that wants to achieve and doesn’t want to “disappoint” was a little wounded. I needed the reassurance that I wasn’t “out of line” for raising compensation and just to hear that, you know, my boss is an a-hole.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Ad Astra*

    I don’t have much to contribute except that it’s not unprofessional to be hurt by someone verbatim telling you that you’re not a good person. They made it personal, you’re allowed to take it personally!

    Sending happy IVF vibes!

    1. Jackalope*

      So much this. There are certainly unprofessional ways to REACT to having your feelings hurt, but we are all human. Having your feelings hurt because someone was…. being a jerk and trying to hurt your feelings just shows that you’re normal.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Exactly. Feelings happen, outward reactions to them are the only thing we can control. Your boss was and probably still is an a$$clown. Your feelings were appropriate and your reaction was professional

    2. T2*

      This. I don’t want to sound all /antiwork here. But when you accept crap, you get more and more crap. It is a general rule.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a good rule of thumb for life itself. People test us to see how much we will put up with. It’s up to us to draw that line. Unfortunately.

        It’s not lost on me that if OP spoke to the boss in the same way then OP would be out a job.
        Just picture what happens next if OP says, “Boss, you’re not a good person.”

        The boss looked around for words that would hit like daggers and he found a set of words. Step way back OP and look at this as if you were watching a movie. The boss looked around for something nasty to say and then he said it. His intend was to hurt and maim. Ironically, HE is the one who is actually not a good person.

        Eh, people project what they think of themselves on to others. He does not like himself, it’s not realistic to think his subordinates will like him.

        I have done the same thing as you are doing, OP. I have stayed in a bad situation to fix things in my personal life. It works to some degree. But set time lines and get yourself out of there- do not forget this step. Keep everything moving along, don’t stall out or allow yourself to become so overloaded that you actually can’t leave. I got lost in trying to clean up too many details and I stayed too long. That one bit me. Know when “it’s good enough” and get out.

        1. Chili pepper Attitude*

          I want to echo what “not so new reader”says about remembering that staying is a temporary fix.

          I also stayed bc I had autonomy (and was having trouble finding a new place) and almost did not take the step to move on. I am so very glad I did. It would not have been healthy for me to stay and it is light years better at new job.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, good point. I need to remember that. It’s hard to remember when the day to day is mostly fine, but I need to keep my eye on the future.

            1. Sara without an H*

              Yes, please don’t forget that your ultimate goal is to find a better job. I get it that your plate is pretty full now. But you said yourself that you have no long-term future in this organization, no hopes of being made partner, etc. None of that has changed.

              You might want to print out your update letter and put it where you’ll see it on a regular basis. And spend some time in the AAM archives, looking at entries for resumes, cover letters, and job search strategy.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          This x 1,000,000 Not So NewReader! And so well said.
          OP’s original letter made flames shoot out of my eyes. Their boss for sure is the one who is not a good person

        3. Sara without an H*

          Ditto. I once stayed about 12 months too long in a bad job because I thought I could somehow turn the situation around. That one really came back to bite me, and I still have the fang marks.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah. I too stayed for too long in a job that I thought was the best I could manage. I didn’t have any official qualifications, after learning on the job, and I couldn’t find another company willing to hire me part-time, which was an important factor because of the children.

          Recently my daughter has mentioned how stressed I always was, and that really dismayed me, because I stayed on for the children’s benefit, yet they didn’t benefit as much as all that. I suppose it’s an equivalent of staying in a marriage for the sake of the children, yet it’s not good for them because they don’t learn what happy relationships look like.

          So, if I were to do it all again, I would definitely have left a whole lot earlier, maybe after gaining just a few years’ experience. But of course the atmosphere was so toxic there, it fed my imposter syndrome to the point I couldn’t imagine anyone else ever wanting to hire me.

    3. Rose*

      Right. These feelings only feel unprofessional because in any normal, healthy, professional workplace your manager would never, ever attack your character over asking for compensation. You’re not angry-sulking over feedback on your work, you’re having a personal response because it was a personal attack.

      Social norms so strongly dictate that You Don’t Do This unless someone is kicking puppies at the vet or stealing from old folks at the nursing home that when it happens it’s impossible for most people to not wonder if THEY are actually the awful one. Trust us OP, you are not.

    4. Allegra*

      Yes, feelings are not unprofessional! Actions taken as a result of feelings can be unprofessional, but the simple fact of feeling things is not unprofessional. Though, considering how manipulative and sexist this workplace appears to be (“you just don’t understand why our compensation system is solely designed to screw you and benefit us!”) I can see how the LW would have been made to feel that her having an emotion was unprofessional.

      I wish you IVF success and an uneventful pregnancy, LW! And freedom in a new job when you choose to find one.

    5. Anonny*

      Yeah, unprofessional would have been calling him an evil little [redacted]-clown. Accurate, maybe, but unprofessional.

    6. 404_FoxNotFound*

      Seconding this really hard.
      Good luck with the IVF, and subsequent company shenanigans. I’m glad you’re at least in a place where you’re checked out and focusing on yourself/your family and life instead of focusing wholly on the horror show that is your workplace.

  2. Pikachu*

    I don’t remember reading the original letter, but knowing what I know now, I can’t be the only one getting a little whiff of PPP fraud…

    Anyway, good luck with everything OP! :)

      1. BatManDan*

        Maybe. Maybe not. As long as the money was used primarily for wages, it’s not specified WHOSE wages. So, the bosses all took an increase and spent on vacations, is my guess.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Yes, I reread the original letter and that’s my thought. My sixth sense is shouting “FRAUD” yet I know that there’s probably no way it can be proven. The greed and abuse makes me despair for the human race.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          The OP posted in the original comments section that what likely happened with the PPP money was this:

          In normal times (for example), for every $10 an associate brings in, $3 goes to associate wages and $7 goes to partner profit/firm overhead. The partners probably paid the $3 to associates with the PPP loan, then took all $10 that the associates brought in as partner profit/firm overhead.

          Legal? Maybe. Scummy? Certainly.

          1. EPLawyer*

            yeah dollars are fungible. The PPP funds went to paying wages. Leaving more of the firm’s actual profits for the partners. There is no way to prove that a PPP dollar actually went to the partner’s vacation because one dollar looks much like another.

            (guess who has to explain this about child support and getting mani/pedis ALL THE DAMN TIME)

          2. OP*

            Exactly. I believe it was likely legal. Just, gross. With the PPP funds, the partners did not need to generate as much profit, so they took time off, and PPP filled in the gap.
            (Ironically, these are the same people who complain about lower income workers supposedly opting out of work bc unemployment payments are too high….)

    1. CounterOfThings*

      It was pretty common for owners’ of companies to receive a windfall from PPP funds without committing fraud. In order to qualify for PPP back in the spring of 2020 a company had to reasonably believe that their business would be negatively impacted by COVID-19. This was very loosely defined so lots of companies anticipated that they would be negatively impacted by COVID-19, qualified for the PPP loan and then ended up doing ok or in some cases thriving. As a result, they properly used the PPP funds to pay wages (that they would have paid anyway) and then used ordinary operating funds budgeted for employee wages on owner bonuses and perks.

      1. Martha*

        My husband’s business ended up with only a slight dip from COVID, so they used the PPP funds to pay wages and the extra money to upgrade equipment. They couldn’t give the employees raises because the PPP was one-time, but they needed to spend the money to avoid a lot of taxable income. Hopefully the upgraded equipment will be a plus for the employees and not-scummy.

  3. MBK*

    There’s a lot of freedom in recognizing you’re in a toxic environment and deciding just to bide your time until you can find something better. Check out, disinvest, go through the motions, take the paycheck. Best of luck for your family plans and (eventual) job change!

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah if your pay is going to be the base pay with no bonus money no matter how hard you work, why bother? At least you save your self the headache of agonizing over the BS pay structure.

      But I want to echo everyone else — have a PLAN. use the time you are not agonizing over the BS pay structure or busting your butt for the partner’s vacations to plan AND execute your exit strategy.

    2. Meep*

      I recently made it very clear to my toxic, abusive former manager I did not like her and I was never going to like her due to her (sometimes criminal) treatment of others and myself. I would be professional and polite, but I was never going to be friendly with her ever again. Surprisingly, our relationship has improved considerably.

      She is no longer trying to get in my good graces while reverting to being an absolutely gaslighting piece of shit (like LW, I was made to feel like a garbage person for wanting to be paid) as soon as she did something mildly “nice” (re: basic human decency). She has stopped blaming me for her shortcomings and trying to throw me under the bus with our manager because she now knows I am no longer going to be “meek” (her words) and will call her out left, right, and center when justified. And for the first time in four years, I was actually able to enjoy my vacation as she wasn’t pestering me throughout it!

      I don’t recommend what I did and just out right saying it to the person in front of their boss with a litany of reasons they are evil, but that was also the product of a year of me trying to politely drop hints that she was too two-faced to get to know anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary for her to do her job.

  4. Zombeyonce*

    Sending all the good luck to OP for IVF, and hoping that their job is something that might be workable as a remote job so they can consider positions far and wide beyond the rival firm on their shortlist. There’s more out there for you! You deserve so much better!

    1. OP*

      It’s going well! I don’t want to count chickens, so to speak, but feel fortunate that things are going reasonably well thus far…

  5. Alexis Rosay*

    I’m impressed, OP, that you’ve managed to make the best of a very bad situation and make it work for you. Best of luck with IVF!

  6. Karate snow machine*

    I really hope OP sticks it to these bastards and collects a bunch of money without working. Hopefully the firm also finds a new baby’s for OP

      1. Rose*

        With the level of ludicrousness in this letter I can do see this playing out…

        “We do think you’re horrible, but we’ve found this baby! You can keep it.”

        *drops baby on desk and storms away.*

  7. Working Hypothesis*

    LW, you don’t need to be embarrassed at still being there. You’re making the decisions that work for you. Yes, we hope to see you move on as soon as feasible, because we think you deserve better… but you certainly don’t owe us any particular ending! It totally makes sense that you don’t want to tackle IVF and moving away from your plenty-of-autonomy job at the same time. But even if it didn’t make sense, you’re the only one you need to answer to for why you choose either to leave or to stay.

    For the moment, I encourage you to take the bastards for all you can, and then get out whenever you’re good and ready. :D

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      LW, I hope you get to do what my brother did and give your 2 weeks the day you return from parental leave. Max out any benefits your current employer has and be mercenary AF since obviously they are.

      1. OP*

        Well, you are assuming there is paid paternal leave at my job, which would be an incorrect assumption. But, I get your point. Good for your brother!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I somewhat suspected unpaid parental leave at your workplace and am sad that my suspicions were accurate.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes to this. LW, since your personal life is going to be consuming most of your bandwidth this year, it makes some sense to stay in a job that you can kind of put on autopilot. Just don’t get stuck there!

      As to “taking the bastards for all you can get…”: I like this idea! Are there any professional development opportunities you can persuade them to pay for? Things that would make your exquisitely hirable at a firm run by sane people?

  8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Op- wishing you IVF success, and a nice boring pregnancy.

    And there is no such thing as a perfect job, congrats on making the current one work for you and your current life circumstances.

  9. Meghan*

    You spend a quarter of your adult life at work. You shouldn’t feel out of sorts or unprofessional that bad practices hurt your feelings. The (I’m assuming from experience) robotic American workplace isn’t natural. You seem advanced in your career, do your part and work against it.

    1. Rose*

      What the OP describes is in no way normal for the US. Most people would be upset to be told they’re an awful person, it just doesn’t happen at work under normal circumstances. There’s no expectation in the US that your manager berates you and calls you horrible and you act “robotic.”

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Unless you are in food service, retail, or customer service. In my experience this kind of behavior from managers is more feature than bug

        1. Anonymous4*

          I’ve worked in food service, and I was at one place at which the owner’s wife was complaining about the waitstaff, saying that she could go out and get a dozen people off the sidewalk who’d be better than the ones they had. I recommended that she do that, and the sooner the better. (She and I were not friends.) But that place was a mess, her husband was a staggering drunk, and the other places I worked were run by people who genuinely cared about their employees.

  10. Ms. Glass*

    Pfft you have nothing to be embarrassed about. That sounds absolutely awful. I’m glad you’re back and using them as a springboard for your next life step! Imagine a Lucille Bluth GOOD FOR HER gif right up in here because that’s what energy I’m kickin’ out for you.

  11. Lady_Lessaa*

    LW, may your IVF succeed and that you have an uneventful pregnancy that ends with a healthy child.

    I can appreciate your desires for more autonomy, because I am the same way. Some guidance, like on the priority of projects and issues, but please stay out of my way since frequently my solutions are not the expected ones.

    1. Cat named Brian*

      My same thoughts. My brother in law is a lawyer and he has insane hours, especially when he is preparing for trial. His last prep he was gone 5am to 11 or midnight for over 3 months. Trial was a week. He took a couple of days to spend with family at Christmas and is back with 8 to 6. Crazy.

      1. Artemesia*

        yeah I know someone who got a demanding client call Christmas morning and the guy said ‘oh I hope I am not interrupting anything’ — ‘oh no, just opening presents around the Christmas tree with my children.’

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      That was my thought too. The LW posted in the original thread that “for every $10 an associate brings in, $3 goes to associate wages and $7 goes to partner profit/firm overhead.” I’m sure that split applies to other consulting-type businesses, but the numbers are exactly what’s common in law firms.

      But really, I thought “law firm” as soon as I read that the LW worked for”a professional firm that has a long history of devaluing non-partner contributions.” The rest just cemented it in my mind as a small to medium law firm (Big Law, for all its many faults, isn’t usually noted for paying below market rate. They set the market rate).

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Oh, and looking at the original post again, I see that OP confirmed that she does work at a law firm.

    3. Meep*

      Or a start-up. I work for a tech startup and saw this exact mindset with people constantly being set up for failure to appear like we are “growing”.

      It is weird. There is both this expectation of “cool-hip Tumblr-era startup” vibes and working until you drop.

  12. Not So NewReader*

    Speaking as a person who came out the other side of staying in a toxic place for [reasons], the next job you get you will blow the people away with your work. They will be so impressed. What this place takes for granted, other places understand this is what an awesome employee does and accomplishes. Once I got out of Toxic Place, everything else has been so much easier.

    1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      So agree with this. I recently left a toxic workplace that underappreciated me. I stuck around after realizing it was dead-end because I needed the flexibility allowed to mm to handle an ongoing family medical issue. I checked out and still met the expectations.

      Then one day a job listing popped up that was exactly what I wanted to do with no extra commute. Discussed it with my partner and applied. Two and half weeks later I turned in notice to the shock and amazement of toxic company. Within two weeks at new role, I knew it was right time, right place. My new leadership keeps praising me for exceeding their expectations and really value what I bring to the table.

      Sometimes sticking it out to handle personal needs places you just where you need to be.

      1. the cat's ass*

        I so feel this. I went from a toxic workplace with a Hellbeast boss to a slightly less toxic workplace with Hellbeast jr. Worked there till my kid went to Kindergarden. It was four VERY long years, but a it was a relatively parent friendly/flexible place where they mostly left me alone to do my work. I then started sniffing around. Landed the job i’m in now, doubled my salary (to the point that i was able to adopt my second daughter) and am treated respectfully. I still have the flexibility and autonomy i had in the toxic places but with supportive leadership and colleagues.

        Wishing you the best with IVF, OP, and knowing there’s something fantastic out there for you when the time comes!

  13. Rose*

    This was one of the worst letters I’ve seen reading here in seven+ years and still makes me so angry. Please, please, please don’t let this horrible men make you feel bad or shortsighted (???) for asking to be compensated for your time.

    I’m glad you’re disengaged and doing what works for you, but I hope if there is any way at all you could work elsewhere with flex hours/not tons of oversight/etc you try to leave. Your ideas of workplace norms are being twisted by the day. A lot of companies will be flexible for IVF even if you’re new, but at a horrible all male partner firm where women are berated when they ask to be paid and told they don’t understand how profits work that probably sounds like something that would be very rare. I can’t imagine these people being great with mat leave or when you have a new baby, but you’ll still need flexibility then. Please don’t talk yourself out of leaving for the next 2-6 years because you’re doing IVF/pregnant/have a baby/doing IVF again or have a toddler etc. I’ve seen people stay in situations like this for a decade insisting every year is their last.

    Lastly, I really hope that (1) your IVF goes really well and you’re able to start a family ASAP! And (2) you report these bastards for PPP fraud when you leave. :)

    1. Janet Pinkerton*

      I (gently) agree with this. Infertility is one of the worst things I’ve ever been through, and it took us 2.5 years of fertility treatments (including IVF) for me to get pregnant. There are plenty of employers who will be flexible for IVF and related scheduling. And Rose is right that you’ll continue to need flexibility—my employees with small kids have needed about as much as I needed for IVF. Please don’t convince yourself this is the only place or best place for flexible scheduling.

      And please don’t put your life fully on hold for IVF. I did for the first two years or so, but eventually I got to a point where I was scheduling a new tattoo for *after* a planned transfer because so much had already gone wrong that I was sick of waiting. I figured I could cancel the tattoo if I was pregnant. As it turned out, that transfer got canceled and I needed surgery so the tattoo went ahead as planned! (I even made sure the surgery timing worked with the tattoo timing.) It was incredibly freeing.

      Good luck with your IVF. It’s awful. I hope you are connecting with others going through it, because the sense of community is like no other.

    2. FridayFriyay*

      I agree with this but with the caveat that infertility and prolonged IVF (we did more than 3 continuous years of IVF with 4 pregnancy losses during that time… and that was already after a few years of TTC) destroyed me emotionally and my ability to function at work. My toxic but hands off workplace was the right place for me during that time because I had the ability to check out in a way I couldn’t have managed with a newer job. The schedule flexibility was actually the easiest piece for me to manage, although that was also a challenge. Of course I hope LW’s experience with IVF is faster and easier than mine I can understand feeling at capacity to weather anything else besides what is on their plate right now. I took that flexibility, took all my accrued leave when my son was born, and then peaced out when he was 14 months old for a much better job. Staying now doesn’t mean she is stuck forever even if she hopefully adds a baby to the family soon.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, that’s kind of where I am. It has been a long and trying journey already, and it’s nice to feel like I can step back when I need emotional recovery. I wouldn’t feel I could do that if I was at a new job (even if new job was supportive of IVF). It’s more about my own personal bandwidth, and ability to focus on and devote myself to only so many things at once, rather than about external pressures being put on me.

        1. FridayFriyay*

          I empathize so much. Many of us have been there. Fingers crossed that it works out well for you and you can regain the mental bandwidth to do what you need to do to get out of there on the timeline that is right for you. Hang in there.

        2. Rose*

          This totally makes sense. I know not every sector you’ll be able to do something like work part time. I hope my post didn’t sound condescending. I wasn’t sure quite how to phrase things, but when I said “if there is any way…” it was because I wondered if something like this would be the case (just not enough capacity to start fresh anywhere). Their behavior just made me so angry. I’m so happy to hear you’re able to disengage. I’ve had to do the same short term (v disfunctional startup life) and it is a totally valid and kind of fun (bc “hey f you and also you are still paying me!” is kind of a fun mood) strategy.

          Any time you job makes you even begin to wonder if it’s you and not then I hope you talk to a friend or comment here so we can resoundingly tell you it is 200% not you!

  14. Boof*

    OP don’t feel bad you haven’t found someplace more appealing yet! Glad you looked and gained at least a little more perspective + ability to distance from your workplace’s poop. Don’t give up looking though!
    And good luck on expanding your family!

  15. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    This update makes me sad – it’s like reading someone explain why their abusive partner isn’t really that bad. :(

    1. anonymous73*

      I’m glad someone said it. It sounds to me like she’s fooling herself. Her husband gave her the green light to leave, so it sounds like they’re in good shape financially without her salary. Why would you want to stay in a toxic environment like that, when you are fully aware of how toxic it is? Being somewhat disengaged from your work doesn’t mean the negativity isn’t still affecting your mental state. Sigh…

      1. Critical Roll*

        IVF absorbs a stupendous amount of time, money, and emotional energy. The LW seems to me well aware of the problems at her workplace, so I’m going to respect her assessment of what she has the spoons for right now.

        1. t*

          i agree with your point, but unless i missed OP saying she’s disabled, the word “spoons” doesn’t apply. good terms to use would be time, space, energy, bandwidth. “spoons” is for disabled people.

          (i apologise if i missed something about disability in the letter!)

      2. Observer*

        It sounds to me like she’s fooling herself.

        No. This whole sub-thread is incredibly disrespectful. The OP is pretty clear on what’s going on here, but has made a decision for reasons that make a lot of sense. Just because it would not work for you(assuming that that’s actually the case), that doesn’t make it the case for the OP.

        Her husband gave her the green light to leave, so it sounds like they’re in good shape financially without her salary.

        Not true. Even outside of the issue of IVF (which is a costly proposition in the best of circumstances), it’s quite possible that her husband would worry about the finances, but thinks that he’d rather worry about their finances than her health. Maybe you wouldn’t prioritize that way, but that doesn’t mean that other people don’t do that, or that they shouldn’t.

        Why would you want to stay in a toxic environment like that, when you are fully aware of how toxic it is?

        She explained why. Why would you just ignore anything she says? That’s pretty patronizing.

        1. OP*

          Thank you. I appreciate the support, understanding, and non-judgment.
          For the record: my husband would support any decision that I make about my career, no matter what.

        2. Lana Kane*

          Well said. Reading this comment made me cringe hard.

          Aside from unkind, it’s completely misreading the situation in a way that ignores what real life actually looks like, often. We make compromises because we live in a world where you can’t have it all, and ultimately, you need to make adjustments rather than wholesale changes.

        3. PT*

          Because it’s just SO EASY to find a new job with a giant gap in your resume, too.

          For most people, a six month gap causes the ATS to kick your resume into the trash bin where it will not be seen by a human. That eliminates you from consideration at pretty much every job that uses ATS.

          Some of the commenters here are so privileged it’s disgusting.

    2. Ariaflame*

      From what I understand IVF can be even more expensive than normal pregnancy etc. which if they’re in the USA is already astoundingly expensive. I can understand if they don’t want to let that buffer go quite yet.

      1. KimberlyR*

        I’m in a crappy job. My husband would be fine with me quitting/being fired because he knows its crappy. We can’t actually afford it though-this is my husband prioritizing my happiness over our financial state. We would be very much in a difficult place while I job-searched if I did that. So we don’t know if the LW and her partner actually can afford to live without her salary or if thats just her partner being supportive anyway.

        1. Artemesia*

          It is almost always smart to stick it out until you can find something new. She has assessed the reality of the place and presumably built an emotional wall while enjoying the flexibility. I hope she has a baby soon and gets out of there, but it is not necessarily a bad decision to stay until things settle down in her personal life. I had a boss who was this awful — the only time I have had a genuinely physical fear response in a work situation was when he dressed me down for doing exactly what I should have been doing. One time after a meeting where he screamed at me about how stupid my suggestion was (a suggestion that he implemented two weeks later) one of my more senior peers said to me ‘what was that about? You must remind him of his ex-wife or something.’ The thing is I knew I had political capital in the rest of the organization and that day to day this monster had little to do with me directly and probably couldn’t get me fired. Leaving would have been a mistake and I managed to outlast him and avoid things that brought him close to me. It was a great job otherwise and continued to be so. Sometimes you can learn to live with this by being tough and also building an internal narrative that lets you step away from taking anything he does or says seriously. But that first time — yikes — I had never experienced anything like that before. It sounds like the OP has this guy’s number and he won’t be able to hurt her again in that same way.

      2. Janet Pinkerton*

        Pregnancy in the US for insured people is actually incredibly inexpensive. Prenatal care is required to be fully covered. Childbirth can potentially be expensive but thus far I think my pregnancy has been free.

        In contrast IVF cost us $40k in 2020. If you have insurance that covers it (I don’t), it can be way cheaper for you. But I doubt this firm offers it.

        So yes, the money may be a significant factor. That doesn’t mean staying in this job is the only or best option, though!

        1. FridayFriyay*

          Yup. My infertility from beginning TTC to the 2nd retrieval and 6th (!!!) embryo transfer that became my only living child totaled nearly $150,000. My pregnancy, including delivery with PPROM and a csection, was completely free to me in terms of out of pocket costs. There are precious few situations where IVF is covered by medical insurance.

        2. Doozy*

          I wouldn’t call pregnancy care inexpensive in the US, since it the pregnancy has to end at some point. I mean, I guess part of my pregnancy medical care was inexpensive, but it’s not inexpensive when it ends, either way. My daughter was premature by 4 weeks, so that cost us her whole deductible of $7k, plus another $7k deductible for myself. My miscarriage 3 years later cost me, too. Miscarriage is not covered by insurance. I had a single scheduled prenatal appointment where my bleeding was discussed, ultrasound done, and nobody would look me in the eye and tell me that my suspicions of miscarriage were true, and the doctor billed it as a miscarriage visit anyway. I confronted her about it afterwards, and she said that she couldn’t bill it as prenatal when it was a miscarriage. So I guess she was fine with lying to me, just not lying to the insurance company? Anyway, not cheap for us.

    3. Aquawoman*

      I don’t think this is fair. Going through IVF could quite understandably leave a person without the spoons for job-hunting and starting a new job. It’s not a good time for that for her. I left my job while I was pregnant and went back to my old firm as a contract attorney rather than interview and try to deal with leave at a place where I had no leave, etc. Wanting to keep making some money and not have a gap on her resume in the meantime isn’t ridiculous.

      1. OP*

        Yes, this is it. It’s about my personal bandwidth, not finances. Yes, IVF is absurdly expensive – but I did not stay because we need the money for IVF. It would be difficult to lose my salary, but I think I could find another paycheck relatively soon, and we would be OK.
        The issue is more that I can only deal with so many things at once, and I just don’t feel like I have the emotional energy to invest in finding/starting a new job at this time.

    4. Critical Roll*

      It’s tough that LW doesn’t feel like this is the right moment to leave, but she seems perfectly aware that this place and these people are terrible, so please don’t suggest she’s lying to us or herself. There are limits to the analogy of work to romantic relationship.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Seriously. The LW has weighed up the costs/benefits and knows what she needs to get through IVF. Unlike an abusive relationship, she knows she can walk whenever she wants, but has chosen to stick it out because benefits outweigh costs for now. Her priority at this moment is stability and autonomy while undergoing a life changing medical procedure. She can’t be blamed (which the original comments has a flavor of doing) for sticking with the devil she knows for now.

    5. Jennifer*

      I don’t think it’s that at all. I think it’s a realistic update. It’s great when people have updates where they have a fabulous new job that pays them more money and everything is sunshine and roses, but that’s not real life for everyone. Not everyone can just walk off their job. And her husband giving her the green light to quit doesn’t necessarily mean they can afford it realistically when they are about to go through IVF and perhaps becoming new parents.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Also, since IVF can take a long time and, if successful, leads to having to take more time off, I can see not wanting to put your career on hold for that long. People who bear children suffer enough professional costs as it is, so I can see not wanting to make it worse.

      2. Lana Kane*

        Agreed. Years ago I gave my husband the green light to quit his toxic job that was affecting his mental health pretty deeply. By no means could we afford it. But his health came first, period.

    6. Boof*

      I don’t love this analogy, but if you want to push it, even for DV one is ideally understanding that the person is the best judge of their own situation and risks/benefits of trying to change it, while supporting them in their desire to change and that the situation isn’t normal/deserved/etc.

    7. HolidayAmoeba*

      Thank you!! I’m glad I’m not the only one who got this impression from reading the letter. “Things are still as bad as they were, but they might be worse somewhere else.”

    8. Lady Glittersparkles*

      As a domestic violence counselor and advocate, this is not a good comparison. Also, the mentality represented within it only hurts actual victims of dv.

    9. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I am glad you have the strength (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to always go slay the metaphorical dragon – not all of us do have that strength every time.

      Far more wise is the person who knows their limits and makes sure to take the time to be be kind and supportive of themselves instead of hunting for the next thing they “must” fix and get away from. A person can burn out from always fighting against things that seem wrong or toxic just as they can from too much workload at a job.

      OP – do what is best for you and your family.

  16. Aquawoman*

    I really wish for a world where this sentence: ” I don’t think they would ever consider a woman partner,” is absurd. Alas, this is not (yet) that world.

  17. KimberlyR*

    There is a certain amount of freedom in knowing your job sucks but you have enough freedom to give low effort some days when you need to, and to not have to care 100%. It would be great if we all had decent jobs and we were all invested in them, but when you’re in a crappy job, sometimes the pros and cons work out to staying there. Just keep your eyes open and remember what kind of place it is, and don’t invest too much into it emotionally.

    1. Taxidermybobcat*

      Exactly. I have played out the same conversation in my head many times when I am frustrated with my boss. I am also pregnant, and while I would like a pay increase and a different boss, I’ve put in a lot of time with this company and have a decent amount of favor banked up that I can use to create a more flexible schedule, and do a little coasting for the next few months, that I wouldn’t have if I was trying to learn a completely new company or industry. My boss is a jerk, but I have so much autonomy, and I prefer that in this season to a really nice, micromanaging boss (I’ve had both). I asked some other professional women for advice in how to effectively manage my mental health while working for a jerk boss because the pros outweighed the cons, and no one actually answered my question. Everyone told me I needed to get out immediately. Sigh. I was intentionally using this boss as a stepping stone. He was part of a strategic plan I had to learn particular skills and advance my career on a fast track. I knew he was a jerk, but my self-esteem wasn’t plummeting, I just wanted advice to make a difficult situation (that I had voluntarily chosen) a little more bearable. I’m surprised by the number of people, even other women, who think that women don’t know their own mind.

      Pregnancy itself is stressful enough without adding other controllable stressors into the mix. I’m a little frustrated by the people saying that OP should just “get a new job,” while enduring a major life change that is already stressful. No matter how great a new job could eventually be, heaping additional stress of a job search on top of stressful IVF treatments, not to mention getting acclimated to a new boss, new company, new culture, etc is more than she wants to deal with right now. Choosing to delay job gratification so you can focus on something else that’s more important to you for a season isn’t wrong; it’s about priorities. Sometimes the devil you know, that you can free yourself from when you want to, is preferable to the one you don’t. Only OP is in a position to make that call, and it sounds like she is comfortable with the “for now” decision she’s made for herself. Fortunately it sounds like OP is in a position that if she really wants to walk away at some point, she can. So that must be empowering in a way to have an ace up the sleeve. Not everyone is so fortunate.

      Also, my cousin is a mid-level attorney at a corporate firm, and the toxic bile they spew at each other is the stuff of legend. I am not surprised that the boss is a jerk, it sounds pretty typical to me.

      1. Artemesia*

        What worked for me during the years my immediate boss (in a job with major autonomy and where I directed several programs) was a douche and very actively personally hostile to me was to emotionally distance myself from his nonsense. First I dismissed his hostility as baseless. (FWIW I think someone told him I had been the one person on the search committee who voted to go with a different applicant when he was hired and I had been interim in the job he was hired for — and every attempt I made to gracefully provide information for transition was treated as if I was trying to control his job. And he pretty clearly had issues with women.).

        And I sort of adopted the disinterested anthropologist frame — viewing his ridiculousness as a sort of weird tribal behavior I was observing and recording. It helped me to see his behavior as ‘interesting’ in a sad way rather than personal to me. It also helped that I had tremendous sympathy and support from the rest of my colleagues whom I had been temporarily in charge of before he was hired for the position. (I was not interested in continuing in the position and only took it on for a couple of interim years when the previous choice for this newly formed department died suddenly. So I was the person in charge during the formative period of a newly merged department and dealt with the difficult situations that presented, but was not in it for the long haul.). I genuinely did not resent his authority although he was not my first choice and I genuinely behaved in what I intended as a helpful way in the transition.

        But deciding it is him and not me and then treating the behavior as something to find odd rather than personal sure helped me. And of course avoiding interactions with him as much as possible. After the meeting where he savaged me for my suggestion that he later adopted, I stopped making suggestions in those meetings and just ran my own programs. Keep your head down, do your thing and when he is a jerk — see that as an interesting example of a monstrous jerk and don’t take it to heart.

  18. Irish girl*

    As much as we all hate toxic jobs, i think what you are doing makes sense. IVF and infertility is a struggle all on its own. The stress of that plus your work is nuts. At least you have made peace with with your job and seems like you are using it for the only benefits it provides: autonomy and a paycheck(even reduced). Good luck on the IVF from someone who went through it.

  19. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    Yes, your boss is an a-hole. Cruelty in the workplace is never acceptable, and always a sign that the person being cruel has deep-rooted problems. However, normal people usually interpret cruelty towards them as being deserved, because they themselves would never be needlessly cruel to another person.

    Imagine the situations that would cause you to tell someone that they aren’t a good person. Abuse, crime, driving drunk and killing a kid, etc., right? So when you hear that from someone, you think you must have really screwed up, because you wouldn’t say that to someone else unless they had been truly horrific. Except… that’s not what your boss is doing.

  20. Meep*

    I have been reading a lot of “self-help” books geared towards getting ahead in your career. They all say “go the extra mile” and “work hard.” Been there, tried that. And I was in the exact same position as you, OP. Feeling like garbage for even hinting I might ask for a raise, because doing such as selfish and egotistical. I bet both our managers ended up taking the money for themselves too. Mine, at least, was having me do her work on top of my own. It was frustrating. Especially watching people with actually decent managers get raises and promotes.

    In March 2020, after watching my manager screw over three of my coworkers/contractors financially (promising a full-time job to one for free work, reducing much needed hours from 40 hours to 9 hours for another, and giving a third 40 full hours of work and only paying him for 8 of them), I too decided that doing the bare minimum was fine and not putting in any more time for hours I wasn’t being paid to do. For the first time since I started working for the company in May 2017, I actually got to have a lunch break! And I stopped picking up phone calls from her at 6 pm at night (they were always free therapy sessions for her more than anything work-related).

    It took an adjustment period for both of us. She lashed out and was nasty for the better part of the rest of 2020. Her subtle gaslighting and manipulation grew to the point it wasn’t subtle anymore and I could no longer tell myself that she didn’t know how her words and actions are perceived. Surprisingly, another manager stepped in right as she was making me su*cidal and what a world of difference that made!

    While you are waiting to bail ship (I too am waiting until I get my Master’s finished), try seeing if you can get a manager who is actually a good person, because there is one evil person in that relationship. And it isn’t you.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      There really is a surfeit of “how to get ahead in your career” self-help books. I wonder if there any good books on how to mentally check out and collect a paycheck until you can get something better.

      1. Meep*

        Yeah. I bought 6-8 of them thinking I must be the problem why my career is stagnant at the ripe age of 25, because while I had Engineer on my title, I felt nothing more than a glorified (while at least well-paid) admin assistant (and often punching bag).

        There are a couple that I found a good “kindred spirit” with like The Burnout Generation and Dying for a Paycheck, but there was nothing helping me disconnect/disassociate from toxic situations.

        It doesn’t help that one of the ways my former manager is abusive is to simultaneously instill the belief that you will be fired at any moment (or worse, she will be fired and you will STILL have to do her job) and that if you go elsewhere that you will just face a different kind of ~abuse~ (she literally told me once verbatim, “I know you feel mistreated but at least you know what you are getting here.”). I now have a crippling fear of applying for another job while at the same time waiting on bated breath to be fired so I can be set free.

        (For the record, I am damn good at my job and the best at this company. (And the only one who will put up with this much bullshit.) The owner values me so that isn’t going to happen despite how much she pushes. So I am stuck with therapy and working on a literal “master” plan until I get the nerve up.)

      2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        I’ve gotten pretty good at bare minimum work for ridiculous managers. It involves being able to just…. separate who you are from your job, which is difficult in American society, since we’re encouraged to wrap our identity into what we do.

    2. Vanilla Nice*

      Totally agreed. I started doing the bare minimum at a toxic workplace in 2019 while I was job-searching. My immediate boss (who was a decent person but unwilling to stand up to dysfunction in the organization) didn’t push certain things with me for fear that I would resign without giving notice, which would have created a huge mess. When I finally did give notice to accept another job, his response was “Oh thank god. You deserve better than here.”

      It was actually my co-workers who had the hardest time with my transition to “bare minimum,” not because they had to pick up the slack for me (that’s not how our workflow was set up), but because of what it said about the overall issues in the organization. I had a lot of conversations like this one:

      CO-WORKER: You mean you’re not going to do fhe TPS Reports on weekends anymore? . When will you do them?
      ME: When I get to work on Monday.
      CO-WORKER: But what will Maureen in accounting think?
      ME: You do realize that Maureen never processes them before Thursday, right? And that the handbook says that that they don’t have to be submitted until Wednesday at 5pm?
      CO-WORKER: Maureen’s not going to be happy about that.

      TBH, Maureen didn’t even notice. But I had multiple conversations like that my last six months.

  21. Jennifer*

    It sounds like you made the right decision for you at this time and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of advantages to being someplace familiar that gives you a ton of independence. It’s not forever but it’s the right (temporary) ending for you right now.

  22. Ellen*

    This sounds like a paralegal position I held from 2013-2018, except it sounds like my compensation was better. I had 3 opportunities to leave, but I stayed because my boss was hands-off and I had a lot of autonomy because he kind of had his own independent practice within the firm. Compensation was high for a paralegal, but low for the tasks I performed. He took advantage of my abilities and flexibility, because if I did a task, he didn’t have to pay the firm to do it so he earned more money (of which I saw nothing). Tasks crept up on me until one day I realized I was serving as his hr, payroll, accounting, office manager, secretary, and legal secretary, on top of my paralegal work.

    Another big part of why I stayed is because the situation was supposed to be temporary. His practice was supposed to be merged into the firm because he was planning to retire. Retirement was always coming “next year”. He’s going to turn 80 next month and he’s still working! When I started to realize he’d never merge his practice & retire I asked him to hire assistants for me, and he was willing (another reason I stayed). But then left it up to me to hire them, and of course I didn’t have time for that. We finally got 1 person (we needed 2), and I never had time to train them.

    At the time, I thought I knew what I was getting into in terms of the tradeoffs. **In retrospect, I’m bitter to this day.** Not only did I let him take advantage of me, I’ve since held 2 jobs (1 was pt/temp, now I’m full time) with “less flexibility” and you know what? It’s great. I have to do more paralegal admin, but I found a workplace where my bosses respect my time and appreciate my work.

    Before quitting awful job, I viewed my work choices as a dichotomy – higher pay & autonomy with an unreasonable boss vs. lower pay & autonomy with a micro managing boss. But I realize now if I’d taken the time to investigate beyond the firms where I had connections/feelers I could have started working for my current firm years ago. Although there’s more admin/”busywork”, my bosses actually don’t micromanage. My pay is lower but I have more time and less stress and so I spend less, especially on take out, so my compensation is basically the same. I have to work set hours and have less vacation time, and that did kind of suck at first, but it’s not such a big deal to have to show up at 8:30 instead of strolling in “around 10ish” when I’m no longer regularly in the office until 7. Gotta admit, I got “lucky” (?) because I mostly work from home now, but that’s unfortunately due to the pandemic.

  23. MissDisplaced*

    Sometimes you just need to bide your time and it makes sense to stay at a bad workplace for personal reasons (benefits, commute, hours, training, etc.). You make the most you can of it. Nothing is forever!
    Keep your eyes and mind open though.

  24. Observer*

    OP, I want to agree with the people who say you have nothing to be embarrassed about. But I also want to echo the people who are saying that you should set yourself a hard timeline to start looking, make sure you don’t get your norms warped or develop bad habits you could find hard to shake, and that you start exploring other opportunities.

    Your time line should not be “when I have a baby”, by the way. As others have noted, that can be a bit of a roller coaster. Hanging something this important on it is likely to make the stress of IVF even higher than it already is.

    Checking out is a great move in this context. So id pretty much ignoring your boss. But neither of these is a really good move in a functional workplace. So, you want to make sure that you don’t normalize that too much.

    As for exploring other opportunities, I think the point others have made is valid. It doesn’t have to be “clueless, out of touch, BAD boss but lots of autonomy” vs “Good workplace and decent boss with little autonomy.” So what you want to think about is how do you find a place that has a decent setup that INCLUDES a reasonable amount of autonomy.

    Lots of luck!

  25. lb*

    Honestly, OP, I think staying is kind of the perfect move. Hopefully the IVF will prove successful and you’ll be able to just ride it out, banking your paychecks to fund some time off with potential little one(s). Wishing you much luck!

  26. Nanani*

    Good luck with the IVF, though I would bet some very sad cynical dollars that they will find a way to push you out if/when it works. Zero information you have shared about this firm makes me think they will consider the illegality of pregnancy discrimination in the least. I’ve seen it happen multiple times in the current century :/
    Hope I’m wrong, but also prepare for it as best you can.
    These dudes do not have your back.

  27. HolidayAmoeba*

    This is just my perspective, but I think this job has already warped your sense of normal and it’s only going to get worse. Sometimes you have to take a step back to step forward and while the potential position would have been a step back in autonomy, you would quite possible have earned it back. Also, a hands of manager can be a very bad thing because you may be missing details, making errors or similar issues that are not being caught or addressed since they aren’t paying attention. Overall, I wish you the best of luck both with your job and with IVF.

    1. Observer*

      You are entitled to your perspective. But what you are saying makes a lot of assumptions and also ignores a lot of what the OP says. So, bottom line, I don’t think your presentation of your perspective is all that useful.

  28. Bookworm*

    I have not much to add, OP, just adding my sympathy and good luck. It sounds like you acknowledge you’ve got a lot on your plate, and if this is “right” for you at this moment, more power to you. Do hope things change soon and crossing fingers and toes re: IVF! Thanks for updating us.

  29. WFH with Cat*

    Yeah, about that PPP fraud … here’s a shiny new whistle for you to blow whenever you’re ready, OP!

  30. delta1juliet*

    I have nothing to contribute to your terrible, no good, very bad workplace.

    But congratulations in advance!

  31. Marie*

    As a person with a very young baby, and hoping to have another baby eventually, I can totally empathize with wanting to stay put due to uncertainty, not matter how looney the job. IVF is crazy emotional, physically hard, and time consuming (not to mention expensive). And … having a child is all those things as well! Navigating work changes with difficult emotional experiences and family changes is a lot. Not to mention that if your company offers FMLA, you must work there a year before being eligible. Which makes it hard to jump ship because you don’t want to jump < 3 months from fertilization.

    However ….. congrats, OP, on your IFV journey and best wishes that all things work out for you!

  32. Curious About Worst Boss*

    Wasn’t this one of the finalists for worst boss 2021? From the way the polling was going it looked like the winner was going to be the manager who was appalled that her high performing employee was adamant that she actually receive her paychecks (you know, the reason a person generally has a job), but the winner was never announced and all the polls have been stripped from the archive. Is there any update?

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