Reader questions

Reader questions vol 6: How do I escape a toxic job??

By March 10, 2016 No Comments

Alex asks:

I absolutely hate my job. I work for a very large, globally well know company who I do enjoy working for, but my current position within the company is becoming more unbearable by the second. It’s really starting to affect my mental well being even outside of work; it’s hard for me to get out of bed on my days off and I get really short tempered with friends and family.

For almost a year now I’ve been trying to work with management to switch to a different role but none of my managers seem willing to give me a chance at a different position. I let them know at my last quarterly evaluation with them how I feel (in a professional manner) and yet they still appear to not even care. I’ve been diligently searching for another job in the mean time but have been coming up short or unqualified for anything else in my area.

Any tips on how to professionally request a role change, or how to cope with a job that makes you hate life? I know it’s not as easy as just making things happen for one person overnight, but I’ve been at this for a while and I don’t know how much longer I can go on before I lose it.

The first thing I want to point out here is the difference between “wah wah I hate my job” kind of whining (which drives me INSANE) and what you are talking about in this question, which is recognizing that your job is having a legitimately toxic effect on your life/relationships. I’ve been there myself: I spent about 1/3 of a year in Asia for Abercrombie (visiting factories) and it REALLY burned me out… it was very depressing and isolating and I realized it was making me miserable to the point of being on the verge of a legit mental breakdown. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I didn’t get out of there, but it would have been really, really bad.

Those who are whining over typical work-related bullshit just need to suck it up and get over it (there’s a reason why they call it WORK not FUN), but the second case is a different deal… that needs to be addressed before it poisons your life.

Like the first question, it’s hard for me to comment on specifics here without knowing the details of how the company operates, your managers’ personalities, etc so I wouldn’t really feel comfortable telling you what you should do. But the bottom line is that you have to put your mental and physical health first, so do what you have to do. If you think you can escape by holding out a little longer then go for it, but it might not be a bad idea to at least look at other jobs in the meantime.

I am incredibly passionate about my work/career, but if it comes at the cost of everything else in your life, then what’s the point?? 

work remotely

Alan asks:

I’m graduating with a CS degree this year. I am lucky enough to have an office job locked in already, but the office environment doesn’t feel comfortable to me via social anxiety. I know myself well enough to know that I get my best work done at night, at home, where I don’t have to work through distractions.

That being said, I don’t want to be the latest baby millennial to request working remotely, because I know I probably have not earned that kind of privilege walking straight out of college. How do I set myself up to be in a position that I can work remotely, how do I go about asking for that privilege, and most importantly: what are the skills I will need to develop in order to work effectively from home?

As far as how to frame the ask to your bosses, it’s hard for me to say without knowing more specifics about the company, their personalities, etc. But I think you’re on the right track— it should be positioned as “here’s how I will add the most value to the team/company.” It has to be about the COMPANY, not you.

That said, you should think very carefully about whether you want to go this route. By working remotely, you’re going to miss out on a LOT— it’s going to be really hard to build relationships with your coworkers because you won’t be able to chit chat in the morning (ask them what they did over the weekend and whatnot), you won’t be available for the random conversations that happen all the time in offices, you can’t go out to lunch with them, and so forth. You’ll be the “back office guy,” more like a vendor than a core member of the team and that can really hold your career back.

Having dealt with anxiety myself I know this is easier said than done, but maybe you can try to tackle the anxiety so that you don’t need to remove yourself from the situation in order to get your work done? If you’re not already seeing a psychiatrist about it, I would highly recommend doing that.

And don’t stress too much about it, you’re definitely not the first engineer with social anxiety!

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