Bad Employer; A Decision To Make

Roughly two months ago I was introduced to an unemployed Photographer with a long-term goal of owning her own business and studio. After 4 days of working together, she was offered and accepted a job as a Manager of a Photography studio; the kind of place you’d find in a big box store where you and the family might go for some portraits or to have your passport photos taken.

Now this job wasn’t her dream job, but it was in her field, it would put employment on her résumé, and it would certainly bring in some immediate income; albeit not the amount she’d want down the road. Setting aside some of her wages for that long-term dream studio and getting a job offer after a frustrating long job search did wonders for her self-esteem.

Well as happens occasionally, the experience has backfired; she’s feeling used and abused, the position was immediately clarified as employee not Manager, and the wages aren’t consistent with others in the same role. She’s continued to be poorly trained, she hasn’t even got one person she primarily reports to, and if you can believe it, she only interacts with these Supervisors by text; she never sees them in person and works on her own. In this odd setup, she is monitored by cameras, and is told she isn’t selling enough to hit her daily targets, but when asking for guidance and training, she’s told to phone other locations and ask for tips and tricks! Another employee told her she’s on the ‘fire’ list too.

So we sat down together face-to-face yesterday afternoon. My inclination as I listened was to tell her clearly that I believed she should quit. However, professionally, I know it would be better for her to come to her own decision. In other words, my goal was to hear her out, take what she was feeling emotionally and physically, work with that and give it back to her in such a way that she’d have the clarity to make her own choice. What she wanted I felt, was validation of her circumstances, and to understand the impact if any, on her social assistance status were she to quit.

I admired her desire to keep the job until she found a better one. It’s not in her nature to give up on a job. In was here that I drew a parallel where she had in the past been in a relationship where she didn’t want to give up on her abusive partner. Back then, she’d thought she could ‘fix’ him; make him better. That didn’t work, and she eventually removed herself from that abusive relationship and is the better for it, now with someone who treats her better. This was similar; not in her nature to quit, trying to make the situation work because she really enjoys working with customers, but at the same time, being shuffled to and from 4 locations to fill in staff absences. She’s been scheduled to work every weekend so far; despite having asked for one off to celebrate her own birthday, and the schedule changes without her being told herself until another employee calls to tell her. Oh and I saw the texts on her mobile; very inappropriate language and very poor communication.

In the end I made sure first and foremost that she knew there would be no sanctions, suspension of benefits or other penalties for quitting. Sure, we in Social Services generally want people to keep jobs until they find better ones, but this isn’t healthy; it’s someone in a position of being mentally abused. We discussed of course the pros and cons of staying and quitting, and should quitting be her decision, how to go about it a few different ways.

I think what helped her the most was realizing that this minimum wage job, while yes in her field of photography, could be easily replaced by any job with no loss in wages, but where she would likely be much better treated. Perhaps a little wiser, her mental health and self-esteem are worth more than keeping this job and trying to fix it.

By the way, if YOU are in a similar position, I empathize with you. You need the income I understand, but bad employers and being mistreated on a regular basis come with a cost. Is the income you’re getting enough to really offset the cost to your own mental and physical health?

Being August and rolling into September, we’re in the second best time for getting hired. Now – right now – is the best time to ramp up your job search and go at it with renewed energy. You’re worth more than staying in a job where you’re poorly trained and supported, make minimum wage or well below what you’re experience and education qualify you for. It’s definitely up to you and you alone whether you stay or go.

Now if you do quit a job, the worse thing an employer can do is not pay you for some of the wages you’re entitled to, which is illegal, but they might threaten that. You might fight this or just walk away and report them to the Ministry of Labour in your area. You don’t need to put a short-term job even on your résumé, so it won’t haunt you into your next job either.

Bad employer? Is it worth it to stay?

Staying When You’re No Longer In It

I can’t help but wonder how many readers of this piece are themselves stuck in a job they really don’t enjoy or worse, have come to truly hate; and hate my dear reader, is a very strong word. But that’s it isn’t it? I mean, knowing you don’t enjoy the work, the people who surround you, the company, the commute; and nonetheless hanging on and holding on, going in day after day, week after week, just living for the day when you retire. Oh what sweet release awaits you!

You might think this is an extreme comparison, but haven’t I rather described a prison sentence? Wow, that’s something to think on. Is it worse or only slightly better to realize that unlike my prison analogy, in this case you’re walking around with the means to your release in your possession. After all, you only need walk in and resign and you’re free.  At least in prison you get time off for good behaviour!

The reasons for staying may be well documented elsewhere, but for the record, it could be you’re feeling too old to be hired elsewhere, the vacation you’ve accumulated would be reset at two weeks if you moved; your benefits are just too good. Could be you’ve built up too much of a dependence on your current income to pay for a mortgage, cottage, vacations, kids education, your wardrobe etc.

Somewhat ironic that you might feel trapped in a job in part because of the benefits you’re receiving when you are no longer benefitting from the work you’re doing where you’re doing it day after day. What price are you paying with your mental health when you grudgingly drag yourself into your workplace 5 days a week and loathe both the trip there and clock gaze the entire day. This just has to be affecting your personality, your good-nature, your self-esteem and most importantly your self-worth.

Self-worth is ironic in and of itself. Look on the internet and you’ll find articles about how much some well-know figure is worth. That’s dollars and cents; a financial commodity. Were we to ask that same person, (presuming we could even get their attention to ask), how much value they put on the life they are leading, we might get a much lower evaluation.

Don’t you think it’s rather disappointing to know that you’ve only got this one life and you’re spending a great deal of your waking hours surrounded by a place and people you don’t really want to be with, doing work that you find no happiness in? Supposing it wasn’t you in this situation but rather your child or grandchild, wouldn’t you strongly suggest and hope that they’d chuck it in and find something that makes they truly happier? It would make you sad knowing the one you love and care for so much continues to do this.

It ultimately comes down to choice doesn’t it? Sure it does. It may not be what you want to hear, and you might stop reading right about here, but it is your conscious choice to stay where you are, just as it’s an option to walk away. Don’t say you’ve got no choice in this, that you have to stay, for that’s not true. What is true is that the reason you’ve stayed and not quit already is because it’s going to need some courage and a struggle of a different kind to actually walk away.

Quitting is going to mean job searching, curtailing your expenses until you find another source of income. It might mean you’ll get less time off each year for some time. Can you picture how the six weeks off a year vs. the two weeks off a year in a new job, might not be that big of a deal if you enjoy going to work 50 weeks a year instead of loathing the 46 weeks a year as you do now?

I mean if you’re popping painkillers or self-medicating just to get through your days, are you factoring these things into your decision-making when you look at how you’re doing? How much you make a year isn’t the only bottom line here; how much you’re paying each year to make that money is far more significant.

Come on, this isn’t the life you dreamed; this isn’t how they drew it up for you back in high school or the family home. And by chance if someone did envision this life for you, it is still within YOUR power and control to pack it in. The hardest part is just deciding you’re going. Then there is a release; freedom. You’ll likely get some package of sorts, and if you don’t, it’s still more valuable to know you’re rekindling your self-esteem than sacrificing it to stay.

If you do walk away from this kind of situation, give yourself time – perhaps a month – to decompress. This is a big change after all, and transitioning from that job to the rest of your life is a stage to refocus and indulge in some healing time.

Sorry if you decide to stay; really I am. I understand your decision though; even if I’d recommend leaving. I do hope you make it to retirement in relative good health – physically and mentally. For many though, the view of retirement and time to do what they want is actually dictated by the health with which they arrive at it.

You’re In The Wrong Job If…

There are two ways you can find yourself in the wrong job; you land in it right away or over time things change and what was once right is now wrong. But how do you know if you’re in the wrong job? Here’s some indicators:

  1. You live for your days off.

Suppose you’ve got that typical Monday to Friday job and you find yourself becoming stressed on Sundays thinking about Mondays, and when you are at work, you focus on just surviving the week until quitting time on Friday releases you. You my friend are most definitely in the wrong job.

2. You’d never apply for the job you have now.

Knowing what you now know, if you could go back in time you’d never apply for it all over again.

3. Physical and Mental illness.

Wow! If performing your job is literally causing you to be physically and mentally ill, why on earth are you still doing it? Isn’t your health more precious than whatever is keeping you going in day after day?

Should you find yourself using up all your sick days, visiting Emergency Clinics, sucking back pills during the day and using up the Employee Assistance Program allocated to you for counselling just to be able to go into work day after day, well…heed the signs.

4. Conflicting priorities.

If for example you’re number one priority in life is family and your job is robbing you of time that you planned to spend with them, why are you allowing your work to eat away at what you know is your number one thing? Fact is my friend, if you actually permit your job to do so, you’re consciously choosing to make family you’re number two priority; and what’s replaced it is your job. If you’re uncomfortable with this new reality, why aren’t you doing something about rearranging your life to align properly what’s important to you?

5. You can do the job blindfolded.

There may have been a time when things were challenging at work, but that was so long ago. You find you’re able to do your work pretty much on auto-pilot because you’re no longer stimulated with problems to solve and challenges to overcome. Read the signs my friend, you’re at danger of being brain-dead if there’s nothing to stimulate your little gray cells of the brain through the work that you do.

6. Isolation.

Now I realize we are all different and that while some of us enjoy socializing with our co-workers, others actually are attracted to work with limited human interaction. That being said however, if your job has somehow changed and you are so isolated to the point where co-workers don’t even recognize you as a fellow employee, you’re far too isolated from others. That isolation could lead to anxiety, a fear of others and depression. Is your job worth it?

7. The job morphed.

If you compare the job description that once attracted you to the job requirements you currently have, you may find your title is the same but the work you felt passionate about is no longer the work you are actually being compensated to do. What changed? If there was some organizational shift and your job functions were drastically adjusted, it could be that the job title you really want isn’t the one you hold now. If this is the case, maybe all it takes is finding out the title of the job that holds all the things that really excite you. Seek the move.

8. Your Supervisor.

Yes we have to look at the person just above you on the organizational chart. Did the person who so inspired you retire, get promoted, quit, get fired or laid off? Maybe the person who is now in their former role isn’t connecting with you and providing the kind of leadership that inspires you to do your best. In fact, maybe the Supervisor you work for now actually restricts your freedoms, curbs your creativity, shuts down your enthusiasm for the work you do, and gives you zero incentive to do anything that shows initiative. Yikes! Is waiting out their tenure and playing a game of who will leave first really in your best interests?

9. The benefits and salary have you trapped.

Are you staying in your current job simply because the money is good and the benefits you’ve earned just aren’t going to be offered to you in some other job? If you’re tired of your present job and just dragging yourself in to work but you’ve lost all real enthusiasm for the job, don’t fool yourself; you’re paying a heavy price for that income.

10. You’re slacking and you know it.

If you’re consciously looking for ways to cover up your own poor work; spending more energy devising ways to avoid doing the job than just diving in, it’s a clear sign that you don’t find the work itself rewarding. Or is it that you clearly see the quality of what you can produce is diminishing rapidly. Would you tolerate this production drop from a co-worker if you were working at your peak efficiency?

Look, the time you’ve got left in your working life is too precious; you’re too valuable to spend 5 days of each week in a job you know is no longer doing it for you. Start looking for another job with zeal; find and save yourself; you’re worth it.