can I tell my boss I’m a bad fit for my job?

A reader writes:

Since early 2021, I have been working as an administrative assistant in a fairly specific field (think a specialized field within a larger industry). I changed jobs in June of this year, as my previous role was only part-time and that wasn’t working out for me. There were some other culture issues that bubbled up for me in that role, but the big deciding factor was needing full-time work (especially after being laid-off in late 2020 due to Covid). After some time applying and interviewing, I got a new full-time job in the same field — yay!

Jump ahead to now: I’m four months into this new role, and I’m starting to think that this isn’t the right fit for me. I thought moving from one admin role to another, within the same field, would be apples to apples. However, I didn’t fully realize that I was moving from being someone’s dedicated admin assistant to a general admin assistant (I now support 10+ teams in my current role on matters like HR, contracts, payroll, and general office matters). I’ll own up to not doing my research as thoroughly as I could have in the interviewing process, but I felt like I did my best at the time. (I asked about my immediate team and that dynamic instead of the dynamic of the many teams I’d be supporting. That being said, I don’t think that the hiring managers would have aired office politics and drama in an interview had I even known to ask, as I’ve come to learn that rotten attitudes and “personality quirks” are highly normalized at my job.)

Issues that I’ve had since starting my new role include unclear or disorganized training; unclear expectations of who is handling what (some of the teams I support have their own admin staff who handle similar tasks to me, but there’s no clear guidelines that I handle A, B, C and the teams’ admin folks handle E, F, and G) which results in miscommunication that can affect folks’ contracts and pay(!) and result in a lot of reactive clean-up work, rather than things moving smoothly from the outset; doubling of work; overall chaotic and poor communication with the teams I support; and I feel like I get dumped on by folks when things go badly (see: errors in contracts and pay) when I’ve done everything that I can in my power to get things done.

I found your article about the time you had a “poor fit” conversation with an employee, but I can’t find a dedicated article about starting that conversation as the employee. My sense of my job is that the nature of it isn’t going to change, and I’m not going to be okay with the overwhelming feelings of chaos and stress that I receive from this job without any thanks or sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Do you have any advice or tips on how to initiate the “poor fit” conversation as the employee? I’m overdue for my three-month review (“not urgent” according to my manager) — is this the time/place to start/have this conversation? I’m nervous that this could result in my immediate termination, which I can’t afford, but I also can’t mentally or emotionally afford to stay in this role much longer.

Don’t do it.

The thing is, what’s the outcome that you’d be looking for from having this conversation? If you just feel like you want to give your boss a heads-up that the job isn’t a good fit and so you’re going to start looking … don’t do it. There’s too much risk that you’ll be pushed out before you’re ready to leave — not necessarily that day, but before you’d otherwise plan to go (i.e., before you have another job to go to). When you let your manager know that you’re not going to stay, especially when you’re new, your manager is likely to begin making plans to fill your role … and that won’t necessarily happen on the timeline that’s most convenient for you. You might think you’re giving them a courteous heads-up, but there’s little or nothing they can do with that information that won’t be counter to your own interests.

On the other hand, if you’d be having this conversation because you’re hoping it will result in changes that would make you happier to stay in the job … well, that’s a different conversation. I would not advise framing it as “this is a poor fit and I’m thinking about leaving” for the reasons above. But in situations where you’d stay if they made specific changes and you think there’s a realistic chance of those changes being made, it can make sense to lay out the challenges you’re having and try to talk about solutions (but without the “this is a bad fit” piece). It doesn’t sound like your situation meets the “realistic chance of change” test, though — the problems you described sound deep-rooted and not solvable without a real commitment to culture change from above. You might be able to get clearer guidelines put in place for who should handle what, but the rest of it is about the culture and management where you’re working, and that’s not something you’re going to get fixed from where you are.

Given that, it really just makes sense to quietly job search and resign when you’re ready to leave … without the interim conversation you’re thinking of.

It’s worth noting that in the column you linked where I described having the “this is a poor fit” conversation with an employee, I was coming to the conversation in a position of more power than the employee. I wanted to resolve things amicably if we could, but I was also prepared to say “this isn’t working and we need to part ways” … and I would have been 100% okay with it if he had said, “You know what, this isn’t for me, let’s make this my last day.” That last part is where the power is — in being willing to part ways immediately if you need to. Sometimes the employee is the one who has that power (or both parties have that power), but in your case you don’t want to part ways immediately, and means you need to proceed with more caution.

Read an update to this letter. 

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. Kara*

    As a manager, if one of my people came to me and said “This is a bad fit” I would assume they were giving notice. My immediate response would be “I’m sorry it didn’t work out; how long of a notice were you planning and how do we need to work on documenting/transitioning your work any any projects you have in process?”

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      100% this. There’s little as a manager I can do to respond to that except assume that they are leaving, be sorry they are leaving, and try to make the transition as smooth as possible.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right if you just say this and look at me helplessly I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do besides wish you well. These problems aren’t overnight fixes.

    2. Ah Yes*

      I’ve actually had people come to me and basically say this – that they didn’t think that they were a good fit in the position, and they didn’t think they’d ever be able to do the job up to the standards we were expecting.

      And yet… they weren’t resigning. I had offered them assistance and support up to that point, so they weren’t asking for help. I was so confused as to the purpose of the conversation or what they wanted me to say.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        So it doesn’t appear that this is what the OP is hoping would happen, but did you get the sense that the people who spoke to you were hoping to hear, “No! You’re doing great! We love having you here, etc, etc?”

        I’ve seen enough people who neg themselves for compliments throughout life, I could see this carrying over to work. Although it is obviously NOT a smart move.

        1. OP here*

          You’re right, this isn’t what I’m hoping will happen. With this in mind, I think I’m looking more for the assurance of “it’s not just me, right? This place is dysfunctional and some of the teams we support are nightmares”, but that’s not a) professional or b) useful in an actionable way. I get letting off steam, but that only gets you so far, IMO.

          1. An SEO*

            If you’d like to let off steam, maybe constructively would be to work with your manager on the hiccups that have come up surrounding pay so you feel some sense of agency, like “I’ve noticed Team Nightmare works differently in that they handle XYZ when I usually do that for other teams, but it’s not consistent. I wanted to solve that since it affects people’s pay / contracts /company’s reputation / our department’s optics. Here are a few solutions I’ve come up with:”

          2. Ah Yes*

            In that case, I think I wouldn’t frame it as a YOU problem, but more of a “here are some things that is making it difficult for me to do my job. Can we streamline some of this better?”

        2. Erie*

          I think it’s more that a lot of people don’t go into conversations with their boss thinking “X is the outcome I want”. I had to train myself to think in terms of understanding the desired action item beforehand. I would probably have done exactly what OP wanted to do early in my career, thinking “this is a big work problem; I talk with my boss about big work problems”.

        3. Ah Yes*

          I doubt it – at that point, they were already on a PIP because they weren’t really not performing well. It’s like they wanted me to make the decision for them.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Possibly that they wanted a transfer to something that they fit better. I wish I could have that conversation and ask for a transfer here.

        1. Allonge*

          If someone wants a transfer, they need to say that part out loud. Preferably before they talk to their current boss, they need to figure out where to transfer to and even talk to the prospective new boss.

      3. Ellie*

        I’ve had it happen but in my case, I was able to set up some meetings with other managers, to see if they could move into another project that they thought was a better fit for them. Its a big company so those conversations made a lot of sense to me, and it was better than losing them entirely.

        In OPs case though… this doesn’t sound like a bad fit, this sounds like you’re unhappy with large aspects of the job. You might get a better response by saying that you feel you’re being pulled in multiple directions, or that the lack of clear direction or the number of people you’re supporting is making you less effective?

  2. Your Father's Brother's Nephew's Cousin's Former Roommate*

    Agreed with Alison. It would be one thing to say “I think there are a few areas where we could improve our process for clearer responsibilities and better efficiency.” That’s a conversation that might be worth having at your upcoming review, because why not try to make some improvements for yourself even as you start job hunting.

    But if you know a company is not going to be able to make the changes fundamental to the poor fit, then there really isn’t a reason to offer that rundown until you are at an exit interview (and then, only if you want to share).

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. A “this job is not a good fit for me” is basically a prelude to quitting. The only time it may not be is when you’re trying to leave a bad fit job to a good fit job within the same company – possibly back to a role you excelled at before.

      In this the company doesn’t sound great, but you can try to fix or advocate to the unclear expectations of who is handling what which mentioning fit at all.

  3. Sloanicota*

    Sympathies, OP, this is so tough. Some proactive options you *could* bring to a discussion might be specific tasks that you need to come off your plate, new workflows or procedures you’d like to implement, or regular check-ins with various staff teams to head off some of these types of issues. Alternately, if you see other roles in the org that might be a better fit, there’s a subtle art to sniffing around for a transfer without actually admitting you don’t like your current role. You might also look at returning for a part-time role if that means you can stay a bit longer and job search rather than needing to quit immediately for your mental health, or possibly taking FMLA leave to again give you a longer departure window.

    1. Sloanicota*

      One advantage (possibly) of raising specific tasks that you can’t do, is that the employer might feel less “betrayed” by your early departure, if this is a concern. If staff makes an ask and the employer doesn’t grant it, the staff person leaving is sort of the unstated backstop of that discussion. If you don’t raise any issues but leave after 4-5 months, the employer may sort of write you off as flaky and you lose the reference. This was why I asked for a raise from a previous job, even knowing they were unlikely to do it, before I started looking and then departed – and my boss totally understood why.

      1. OP here*

        This is a fair point to bring up. I have brought up things to my manager like, “I noticed there aren’t training manuals — is this possible?” The initial response to which was, “Processes change so frequently that it doesn’t make sense to write them down” (hard disagree, but I didn’t say that). A month later there was a general overview of the various tasks that my team and I oversee; it’s a start, but in comparison to other manuals that I have learned from and worked on, it’s lacking.
        So from the “not being blindsided if/when I leave”, I feel like I’ve raised enough concerns that if I do leave it won’t come out of nowhere.

  4. Bleak House*

    I know I risk sounding like the mom from a few letters ago who thinks you should work even sick – but some of us have done the recession thing enough times to have a pretty cynical outlook. And I don’t think we’re wrong.

    You are thrilled to have this job and grateful for the opportunity. It’s a great company. So-and-so is great to work for.

    Answer this always, and to anyone who asks. Make yourself half believe it, if that’s what it takes to be convincing. Say it when you work there. When you are looking elsewhere. When you give your notice. In your exit interview. And to anyone who asks about it in interviews.

    1. sagc*

      I think there’s generally room to say “we could streamline things” or suggest improvements at most jobs. You don’t (generally) have to repeat a condensed, Pollyanna-esque script whenever asked.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. For one thing it’s an employee’s market right now so the risk is mitigated somewhat. And honestly if someone at my company responded like that anytime I checked in with them I’d immediately assume something was amiss – people don’t actually talk like that when they’re comfortable somewhere.

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          Yeah, I had started a job that I realized quickly was an absolute toxic, hostile, and misogynistic nightmare. I was talking to another woman after a meeting I was in (who was actually in an HR role but outside of my unit), and was trying to make smalltalk to assess their perception of the place, while being as positive and “curious clueless new employee as I could be.”

          Five minutes later, they were practically bawling on my shoulder while hissing at me to get out as soon as I could. I got dismissed for “fit” in my first 6 months, and was laughing with relief when they escorted me out.

          Working through the onboarding and background check process for my dream job now. Sometimes it is a good thing to be a bad fit, especially when there there are places nobody should be or want to be a “good fit.”

    2. OP here*

      I understand the laws of attraction/positive thinking logic here, but this would come off as deeply out of touch. Especially considering I’ve overheard 2 coworkers mutter “I hate this place” and “I hate that team” in the 4 months that I’ve been in this role.
      My managers knows that it’s a mess right now, and the org is dysfunctional enough that it would raise a lot of eyebrows (and flags) if I made overly positive comments.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yea I’d tone it down a bit. I don’t have the brain to be able to believe it and say it without sounding wrong. I’d try to find positive things to say that sounded authentic

      2. Somehow_I_Manage*

        I think the comment you’re replying to was getting at something different. They are simply saying it’s not necessary (and possibly not beneficial to you) to offer commentary to your present or prospective employer about the dysfunction that has led you here.

        They are perhaps also suggesting that if you intend to stay, it’s not worth risking your professional relationships volunteering for an active role in solving their problems.

        It is a pretty bleak take…but I do agree with the commenter that there’s a different attitude between people who entered the job market after 2012, and those that have been through recessions (particularly 2008-20011). This is for better or worse- the Gen Z crew has a very pro-labor sense of empowerment that the workplace NEEDS. But they also haven’t been in a situation where unemployment was as big of a risk. With cloudy skies ahead, it will be interesting to watch.

    3. CharlieBrown*

      No, just no.

      I would think anybody who answered like this was either delusional or on drugs or had gotten their meds wrong. Jobs ebb and flow and not every day is a good day.

      And to be honest, I want employees to point out to me where we have problems or areas where we could make things better. This is just not a good look in an employee.

      This has weird, cult-like vibes to me.

      1. Santiago*

        Honestly, I think Bleak’s comment is much more about “play the game so you don’t loose your health insurance” then it is intended to be a literal verbatim instruction of what to say or an attempt to draw positivity towards oneself.
        I don’t agree with it – I think a happy middle is where to go – but there’s no reason for OP to stick their neck out for a company that doesn’t care, and that could absolutely wreck their quality of life immediately.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          Well, I looked at this:

          Answer this always, and to anyone who asks. Make yourself half believe it

          and drew my conclusions likewise.

          Say it when you work there. When you are looking elsewhere. When you give your notice. In your exit interview. And to anyone who asks about it in interviews.

          I’ve seen how cults operate and this is pretty much it. It’s one thing to preserve your health insurance and another thing to become so self-delusional you end up harming yourself.

          1. amoeba*

            Huh? The second part, for me, clearly reads as “never let them know how you really feel about them” (so pretend you love the job even while looking elsewhere/after you left), which doesn’t feel particularly cult-like?

            And while I wouldn’t use that particular type of language, I somewhat agree with the overall sentiment – especially in a job that I’m planning to leave anyway and have basically no hopes of improving, I’d just always pretend to be happy and fine, because what could possibly be gained by letting my true feelings show?

    4. Dinwar*

      I AM thrilled to have my job. It IS a great company. My bosses ARE great to work for.

      I still don’t say that. I often comment on how crappy certain aspects are.

      There are very good reasons to identify problems. From a professional standpoint it’s good to know your own strengths and weaknesses. I know that I’m good at certain things, but if you need other things done I delegate to folks who are much better at it. From a company perspective it’s also useful–you cannot improve if people don’t let you know there’s a problem. And given the issues being raised, there are some pretty big problems.

      What you’re talking about is toxic positivity: the dismissal of negative emotions. But those negative emotions come from somewhere–in this case, it sounds like a wildly dysfunctional group. Either that needs to be fixed or the LW needs to accept that this is their new baseline. Neither requires refusal to accept those negative emotions as they occur.

    5. ThatGirl*

      Nah. It’s one thing to be grateful to have a job. It’s another to pretend everything is sunshine and roses – even the best companies to work for are far from perfect.

    6. Glouby*

      I’m curious – are you suggesting a (1)bland discretion/avoidance of detailing company dysfunction or (2) actively painting a sunny picture of the company.

      I guess I’m partly wondering how approach 2 or even certain versions of approach 1 might cast doubt about one’s professional judgment, if the person hearing this comment knows about the company dysfunction, whether they are at dysfunctional company or outside of it. Like, if people can see smoke billowing from the building I’m standing in front of, what kind of picture does that paint off me if I say it’s “great.”

      What’s your thinking on this?

    7. Allonge*

      One of the scariest things I experienced in my work life is someone finishing an evaluation meeting like this, after having discussed several problems in our working environment. Don’t do this when there is any level of reasonable around – you can indicate a baseline satisfaction without coming across as mindless.

  5. Blueberry Girl*

    I would really think carefully about what YOU want the outcome of this conversation to be. Sometimes I think people enter this conversations wanting to “vent” or say something about all the problems or… But really think carefully Letterwriter about what outcome you are hoping to achieve? Do you want your boss to assure you that you are not a bad fit? Work to move you out of the position? If you want to know frankly and honestly about how you are doing, then ask that.

    As a manager, if someone came to be and said, “I’m think I’m a bad fit.” I would honestly have not idea how to respond, except to assume they were resigning from their position. So, if that is not your intent, I would be careful how I approach the conversation.

    1. greenland*

      I agree with this completely. Your manager isn’t the place to vent! Your political capital is a limited resource — know in advance what you want to spend it on that would have the most meaningful impact on improving your work experience. The things beyond that / that are out of your control to meaningfully change? You need to stop expending your own emotional energy working yourself up over them, outside of the occasional rant session with friends.

      And I will say, OP — if you approach the conversation with your manager from a solution-oriented perspective, where you lay out concerns with the genuine goal of finding ways to restructure your processes to make things better, your manager may surprise you! I’ve been surprised in the past by how much can be accomplished with a clear-eyed, good faith conversation. Sometimes your manager sees options that you never could have. That doesn’t mean dump everything on the table; it means that instead of saying “X is a failure and we can’t change it because of Y and Z”, say “here’s what’s happened when we take our current approach to X. How can we find new ways to accomplish A, B and C without getting caught in the same mess?”

  6. CharlieBrown*

    unclear or disorganized training

    This stuck out to me, as I was in charge of designing and implementing training at my last job. I was good at it, and I enjoyed it. But bad training experiences can be found at a lot of organizations. People simply overestimate how easy it is to do training. So this is something you probably will run into again, unfortunately.

    1. OP here*

      The kicker is that I’m VERY GOOD at training people, but that’s not part of my current role. I’ve trained people in other roles (teams of 50+), and have received really positive feedback from my team members on how well I did. So it’s all the more painful when I have to sit through poor training when I know that if I was given appropriate resources (well-planned, hard-copy manual/guide) and a bit of time I could teach myself.

      1. velomont*

        Is the environment such that you could start liaising with the other admins, subtly, and effect some change with their involvement by taking baby steps to at minimum clarify amongst yourselves procedures and thus mitigate redundancies and overlaps? Depending on your job environment this could be an outstanding opportunity to show initiative as a problem solver.

        1. OP here*

          This would be a bit of a whack-a-mole/herding cats situation.
          Who handles what (me vs. the team’s admin person), to the best of my understanding, is dictated by the team lead. My manager can step in and say “our team doesn’t support X” (like an IT request), but other than that, if it’s a task my team supports (like payroll or contracts) then I don’t have much pushback or opportunity to affect change.
          As for my immediate team, aside from myself and the one other new person, everyone has been in their role/with the company for 10+ years. Between how long folks have been here (which has normalized certain behaviours and processes), plus the layers of bureaucracy, trying to make small and subtle changes feels a bit insurmountable.

          1. Sunny days are better*

            My initial thought on how I would handle this is an Excel spreadsheet with a sort of matrix with the different teams on one side and the different tasks on the other, and I would list in the boxes who is responsible for what – or links to whatever info, etc.

            For those boxes where I didn’t yet have info, I would try to find out what should be in the boxes, by contacting the team, my manager, whatever.

            Maybe you’ve already thought of this, but that’s how I would handle something like that.

            Hugs to you – you sound like you’re a victim of a disorganized place, not a bad fit.

            1. OP here*

              Something like this kind of exists already. Someone from my team is currently on leave and, I assume in preparation for this leave, made a chart of “team//task//who handles it?” for the portfolio of teams that I support. The tricky bit is that that only tells me how things were set up before I started. One of my current issues is that the new teams, which have been set up either right before I started or after I started, are finding their own footing, and figuring things out as they go. Case and point: one of my new teams seemed unsure of who handled ID badges, and I had to ask explicitly “am I doing this, or is your team?” Answer: me. Except when I was out of office unexpectedly, and then they did it.
              I repeat: Herding. Cats.

              1. Sunny days are better*

                Sounds incredibly frustrating!

                I might try documenting all of these examples and once I had gathered a week’s worth of info, I would set up a meeting with my manager and go over the details to demonstrate to them that there is no consistency across the teams.

                I’d ask them how you can get some consistency because you’re trying so diligently to do your job well and you’re concerned that these issues might reflect badly on you at some point.

        2. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I know this can work for some and my situation is not the same as others’ experiences but I think most of the time this is just shouting into the void. You can really stress yourself doing this and not get anywhere. So beware!

        3. Mockingjay*

          I started to offer advice on coping strategies, then I re-read the letter.

          OP, you are NOT a poor fit. Your company has staffing and organization problems. Ten teams is way too many for one person to support without a means to organize, prioritize, and approve requests, not to mention the broad spectrum of duties you are handling.

          You need an urgent conversation with your Manager about workload. The company needs a formal system to clarify roles, assign work, ensure requests are tracked and completed, and so on. I’d also discuss staffing levels. Could you handle 5 teams if the company hires someone else? And so on.

          There are serious impacts to not bringing this up; payroll and contract errors are serious and who will ultimately be held accountable?

      2. CharlieBrown*

        If you’re really good at, and if you really enjoy it, have you considered becoming a trainer? Maybe that’s a more valid career path for you.

        And if you are good at it, believe me, those skills are needed. The right job is out there for it if you pursue this path.

        1. OP here*

          Thank you for the encouragement and kind words!
          Something I didn’t include in my original letter, as it felt peripheral, is that in the spring of this year, when I was originally job searching, I had interviewed for a teaching role! The downside was that it’s parttime, and there was a lot of paperwork to get through (contracts, mandatory training, rollout of programming) so it’s taken 6-7 months to go from interviewing to hired and teaching. In the meantime I needed to pay my bills, which is why I took my current role.
          I love teaching, and am now trying to make the career change, but my field of teaching (visual arts) either pays poorly or isn’t enough to make a fulltime salary from one contract/position/employer. I’ve let my supervisor/manager at my teaching job that I want to make the career change, but hours are dependent on registration numbers.

          1. CharlieBrown*

            Oh gosh, that’s great news, but it is rough to make a living at that. I have a friend who teaches high school art and also teaches at an art center and it can be rough. I hope everything works out for you!

          2. Lady_Lessa*

            If you decide to pursue the training area, you might want to consider your local Board of Elections. In Ohio, we are trained before every election, and each type of worker is trained in a separate group. So that the Spanish translators are together and not mixed with the managers (each voting site has a manager and an asst. manager) etc.

            I know that our lead trainer did not like this year because of 2 primaries and 1 general election. Next primary should be fun because we are getting some new tablets to check voters in.

  7. The Crowening*

    It doesn’t really factor in here, but wanted to mention to OP that this place sounds pretty chaotic. It would be a “bat fit” for a lot of people. I wouldn’t be able to stand it, either, but I wouldn’t frame it as my own shortcoming – more like, “Wow, this is a very chaotic and stressful environment, and they seem to like it this way, so I’m gonna quietly work on getting the heck out of here.”

  8. OP here*

    Hello! Thank you everyone for the insight and advice (Alison included). I realize that this was unclear, but my intentions right now would be to initiate a “how do we transition me out?” conversation. I appreciate Alison’s response that even if my managers are receptive to this, that doesn’t mean that I get to dictate the timeline, which would be key for me. I’m the second person in this role in a year, and have repeatedly heard about my predecessor and how things “didn’t work out”, and they made a number of mistakes (mostly to do with payroll errors — not good). My team is spread pretty thin even with me and one other admin person being brought on, so my logic in having this conversation would mean I could look for new employment while they looked to fill my role without a vacancy. I’ve come to realize I’m being too generous to my employer, almost to the point of my own detriment.

    TL;DR: before this was published I came to the decision to not have this conversation. Alison’s response, and the comments I’ve received have just given me further confidence in that decision.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s a conversation for giving your two weeks notice. You don’t owe an employer more than that.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly. That’s what the 2 weeks notice is there for.

        If you’re feeling generous, start making process documentation now. That’s useful if you’re leaving next week or next year.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Glad to hear it. From your description, it really sounds to me as though this company has organizational and management problems that no one person is going to be able to solve.

      Now you can concentrate on doing a discreet job search — Alison has lots of good stuff in the archives.

    3. Goldenrod*

      This is good news! And honestly, this situation doesn’t sound like a “bad fit” to me, it just sounds like a toxic workplace.

      By this definition, anyone (unless they were massively dysfunctional) would also be a bad fit!

      Good luck!!

    4. AnonForThisOne*

      OP, are you me?

      I just left what appeared to be a wonderful job with wonderful people that paid more than I had ever made in my life after six weeks when I was told I was unprofessional, rude, unkind, and not pulling my own weight.

      Nope. Bye.

      It became abundantly clear in a 24-hour span that it was not going to improve and that the chaos was foreseeable for at least the next six months due to circumstances. I am the fourth person to leave in the last four months (out of a 18-person team) so I am pretty sure it is not me being a delicate flower.

      After working in some truly toxic environments, I am proud for recognizing that it is not my circus to fix, and that I do not have to tolerate it.

      Yes, I am scrambling to find a new job but I am really glad to be out of there. Good luck to you!!

      1. OrganGrinder*

        And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful circus”
        And you may tell yourself, “These are not my beautiful monkeys”

  9. Moose*

    When I think “poor fit,” I think of someone who’s skills aren’t well-suited to the role–there is not necessarily fault on either side, the person was just not the right hire.

    This doesn’t sound like a “poor fit,” LW. It sounds like this organization is a bit of a mess–no clear division of responsibilities, poor communication, an environment where “rotten attitudes” are accepted as par for the course, etc. If it was only that you were used to supporting a specific department/person and you didn’t feel you had the skills needed to support many people, that would be a poor fit. But everything else seems like organizational issues, not an issue of your skills.

    Not that it changes Alison’s advice at all, but I think you are putting some of the blame on yourself for things that are out of your control! This organization doesn’t sound normal.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My thoughts exactly. This doesn’t sound like a poor fit, it sounds like OP is a sane person who does not want to work at a disorganized place with a ton of drama and lousy training. Aka a place that is not sane.

  10. ferrina*

    Honestly, this sounds less like a “bad fit” and more like “set up to fail”

    “Bad fit” is when your skills or working style are good and the company’s needs are reasonable, but your skills/style doesn’t align with those needs. This company seems massively chaotic in a way that an normal person would struggle (not being told what you do vs what other people do, i.e., complete lack of clear expectations? being blamed for things you had no control over?) Nope, say nothing and good luck on your job search.

  11. OP here*

    Hi! Me again. I’m responding to some comments directly, while also giving blanket responses as some folks are giving similar advice and feedback. One thing of note: “bad/poor fit” vs “untenable working environment”. This is a really helpful way of reframing my thinking — I have the skillset for this job, it’s the environment and culture that are off.

    I want to possibly clarify some things about my working environment and immediate team: I’ve never been blamed for anything (even when I have made mistakes, my managers have been supportive by saying “you’re new, this happens” and helping me to correct my error). But when I ask for coaching or tips on things like managing expectations of the teams I support (some are very impatient), and tell them what I’ve already done, the answers I get are often “keep doing what you’re doing” or “let that go, and move on” (which is sound advice, but it doesn’t stop the teams from clogging my inbox and breathing down my neck on processes that I can’t speed up). My current situation is a bit of “death by a thousand cuts”: the quirks and idiosyncrasies of one team would be manageable, but when it’s coming from a lot of the teams that I’m supporting it’s come to feel overwhelming.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I look forward to reading your update in 6 months about your new job(s) and how much happier and healthier you feel. Maybe you can find a part-time admin role to compliment the part-time teaching gig. Good luck regardless of what you do! We’re all rooting for you!

    2. Rocks are neat*

      From my limited experience with admin assistants, they create order from chaos. Here you do not have the power to do that and you sounds incredibly frustrated that you can’t do you best work within the existing system. You are not wrong, there are ways to improve your workflow etc but it appears that those with the power to implement change don’t wish to do so. It looks like the options are learn to deal with circus or bow out gracefully. I’m also looking forward to your update where you find a much less stressful situation!

    3. Maglev to Crazytown*

      Do the best that you can with the situation you are in, and use this as an opponent to look for that next amazing role while you have the stability (pay/benefits) of this one. It is okay to be a “bad fit” in a dysfunctional organization.

      I got both lured into one (by a flowery desperate recruiter who expertly disguised the turnover with plausible explanations) and dismissed by the same one this year. Seeing the writing on the wall, I had already started selectively searching and am about to enter what for me is my dream job I had considered out of reach.

      I can’t wait to read your story in the future when you share your update as good news!

      1. Pam*

        Yeah, I’m also worried about the long-term stability of this job. I’ve also been in the situation of being hired into an organization that didn’t have their act together- I was given no onboarding, no training materials, and the person supposed to be doing my training noped out (I had to corner him just to get him to show me how to do timesheets). No one would give me a description of my job. I wasn’t told what was my responsibility vs someone else’s. I wasn’t allowed to hold people accountable for meeting their commitments to my project, but I also wasn’t allowed to let projects fail (by….doing a 4-person project on my own? When I have multiple projects?) At about 8 months I was put on a PIP. I saw the writing on the wall and took another role

        1. OP here*

          This sounds very similar to my current situation. Through conversations with my manager I’ve learned that before this year, most folks on my team have been in their roles for 10+ years. This meant that nobody had trained anyone on anything in that long! I mentioned in another response that, until I asked about training materials, they didn’t exist for my role. There’s been recent turnover on my team through one person taking a leave, and someone else transferring out, and there’s already been one other person hired who didn’t work out (my immediate predecessor). During my first month or so, I repeatedly about how my predecessor “didn’t work out”; at first I thought they weren’t suited to the role, but I’m now wondering if they didn’t have proper training or supports, but didn’t know how to ask for them.

          One issue with my predecessor was SIGNIFICANT payroll entry issues (think repeated overpayments, miscoding time off, etc.), because of this the person who was overseeing my roster as I got settled was very protective of all the clean-up that they had to do. This resulted in some reluctance with handing off the roster to me to the point that my manager had to explicitly say in a team meeting, “John is passing over payroll duties to Joan today”.

    4. Somehow_I_Manage*

      I tend to agree with most of the advice that this just isn’t a great environment for you and a change of scenery is worthwhile.

      In the event that you’re committed to making it work in the short or long term, I think the first step is to meet with your manager and discuss “what does success look like?” in this situation. It reads like you’re carrying the weight of problems you have no ability to solve. For example, if someone gives you an assignment with an impossible deadline, it’s not reasonable to feel you always need to move mountains to be successful. Getting them what they need in a reasonable amount of time IS a personal success!

      Sometimes it’s helpful to separate your personal performance from the overall outcome. I think this is essential to enduring and managing team work- there are always going to be things you can’t completely control, and while sometimes you have to take it on the chin, if you did your job it’s not your fault. Sometimes balls get dropped.

      Setting some individual performance standards or metrics in cooperation with your manager may be a healthy way to recognize the value you’re bringing (e.g., complete all contract requests within 48 hours). I say all this recognizing that your “responsibilities” may be too unpredictable and varied to contain, but some compartmentalizing is helpful.

      1. OP here*

        “What does success look like” is something I wish I had asked in my interview (maybe I did and I just don’t remember). I’ve had some interviews recently, and this has been immeasurably helpful in gauging whether I feel that the role I’m interviewing for is a good fit. I think I have a sense of what success in this role looks like, as I have had some informal conversations with my manager during my first couple of months, but I think it could be useful to have an explicit conversation.

        Aside from tasks that are calendar-based (eg. credit card reconciliation happens every month; the bulk of contract renewals happen in late summer; etc.), a lot of my work tends to “pop up” at the request of the leads for the teams I support, and that gets me into the discussion of “urgency vs perceived urgency”. Everyone thinks their request is the most important item in my inbox; but when I need something I find I’m chasing folks down (re: receipts, approvals on docs, etc.).

        1. Somehow_I_Manage*

          “a lot of my work tends to “pop up” at the request of the leads for the teams I support, and that gets me into the discussion of “urgency vs perceived urgency”. Everyone thinks their request is the most important item in my inbox; but when I need something I find I’m chasing folks down (re: receipts, approvals on docs, etc.).”

          Yep. Unfortunately, this is super common. And the truth is, some of those items probably really are urgent.

          I think this is where having a supervisor who can help you set priorities is helpful. It’s hard to suss out if your supervisor happens to (1) just be one of the many team leads you support or (2) whether they actually are responsible for your day to day work and performance. If I were to attempt to read your mind, I’d suspect they THINK they are (1), but they really should be (2).

          THEY are the missing link in the chain. A frequent, maybe even daily meeting where you can brief them on your requests and they can make executive decisions on task prioritization (or take work off your plate when it’s too much) would probably be the best outcome here. It’s a shame they haven’t suggested this themselves, but it’s probably what you need- someone who can pull rank and also have your back when you have to triage tasks.

          1. OP here*

            My managers are separate from the teams leads; my immediate team, including my managers, is all administrative. The teams I support are made up of one lead, an admin person, and then folks who execute the projects/work.

            I’d like to have a regular check-in with a manager, but that doesn’t seem to be the culture/norm. We used to have semi-regular team meetings, but those seem to have ended (either temporarily or permanently). I also don’t know if there’s capacity for my managers right now: one only recently came off an unexpected extended sick leave, which left my other manager with double the workload for a couple of months. That being said, my one manager and I have had conversations about “perceived urgency vs genuine urgency”, and my sense of the feedback that I’ve received is that I’ve got an accurate sense of what’s priority vs. what can wait, and to keep up with what I’ve been doing. My managers are in charge of my day-to-day workflow, but there’s also a degree of independence/being siloed through a combination of hybrid work models (only two of us are ever onsite at the same time), and my work being more about volume rather than complexity (this was said to me multiple times during my onboarding: “the work isn’t hard, it’s just a lot”. And even then, it’s not *that much* compared to some workloads I’ve dealt with in the past).

  12. Xaraja*

    OP, I’m not sure this is “a bad fit” exactly as much as a bad job. Nobody should have to deal with the issues you’re describing and I can’t imagine they’re paying enough for an admin role to deal with those kinds of issues. Don’t feel bad for not knowing about their bad practices. I would think a bad fit would be more like if my data heavy IT job where I sometimes have meetings and contact with executives but otherwise spend a lot of time alone talking to no one was stressful to me because I find the meetings anxiety producing or because I would prefer a more social, team oriented type of work. It’s a good job and some people (like me) enjoy and excel at it, but other people don’t and that’s fine.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I was coming to say exactly this. Who exactly would this job be a good fit for? It sounds like you’re simply the scapegoat for several other people.
      And that’s how I’d frame things. I’d go to the manager and say I need a clear indication of who does A and who does B, and those team leads wanting you to drop everything to deal with the ball their own admin dropped need to go to your manager if they don’t like the fact that you can’t retrieve that ball. I’d tell them that I’m not just a conveniently propped up thing to be yelled at whenever things fall apart. Your eff-up is not my emergency. Give priority to the people who treat you decently, next priority to those who do factor in that you’re a human being. Document the chains of events that led to your being dumped on.
      But above all continue interviewing because it doesn’t sound like this job is good for mental health, and as an admin you’re not well-placed to be able implement any real change.

  13. CYP*

    Wow do I know you OP? Because this was me 3 months ago! Down to the “unimportant” 3 month review! Allison is correct. Quietly search and then when you solidify something else, let them know that you found something more aligned with your interests. No need to state you were a “bad fit” because it doesnt sound like you are. It sounds like you came into chaos and are now in charge of mediating it with stubborn parties and no training. The fact that you are able to know this is perfect but stop putting the success of that role on you! You cant assist those who dont accept assitance. No matter how much they ask for it.

    Leave as soon as possible and offer to update any trainings needed. This was the job where for the first time in my life I gave a 1 weeks notice and it was perfect in every way since I was leaving less than a year in. The outpouring of support was emotional to me. It showed the office knows it was chaos before you came. And it will still be when you go. But you tried (despite not doing your homework ;)) and now its time to go before you think this is all there is! The light is at the end I promise! Keep faith and you will find that thing!

  14. TigerOfDelhi*

    Perhaps the OP is being too hard on themselves. When the manager is supporting you, you need not worry. Let the teams shout themselves hoarse. Ignore them. Find ways to remain cool while the leads are having a heart attack. Later you may even get to enjoy it. Of course when you get better jobs, you can jump from this ship.

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