Saturday, December 6, 2014

When a Job Goes Wrong

I'm feeling chatty about this job situation and nobody really wants to talk about it here because, really, what is there to say?

I have known for awhile that my job is a dead end. It has been clear for years. I have been denied promotions and demoted and the scope of my responsibilities has remained constant for years.  In the face of all this, I have played the game even as I so desperately wanted out. However, the truth is that I pretty much checked out when I was effectively demoted nearly two years ago. I was heavily pregnant with Marian at the time and that was pretty much the last straw. Any modicum of caring evaporated. I hoped that my employment would not extend much past my maternity leave. Well, my hoped-for end date was over a year ago. When I say I checked out, I do not mean that I stopped doing my job well or that I became a problem employee. I only mean that any train of thought that had my current job in any long range plans was gone. And I do my job well. I input the files and run the costing audit for our database almost entirely independently. Last year the total dollars running through our system amounted to over 1.89 billion dollars. That's Billion with a B. And my work resulted in a 0.02% variance in accounting for all those dollars. I didn't mistype. That's two one-hundredths of a percent. I *am* good at what I do.

After I returned from maternity leave, we were set to begin implementing a system change where the current, extremely antiquated database software would be phased out and new modern system would be put in its place. I had assumed (ha!) that I would be heavily involved in putting in the new system. When I returned I was informed without consultation that they had hired a consultant to take over about half of my current duties to free me up to work in the new system. I was marginally annoyed because I thought I would definitely have time to do both. One of my ongoing issues over the years is the lack of enough tasks to keep me busy for 40 hours a week. In truth, I have a job that requires 40 hours the first week of the month, about 20 the second week of the month, and nothing the last two weeks of the month. I intentionally slow-walk my work to about twenty hours a week in order to only have one week a month with nothing to do instead of two. I have asked for more responsibilities to no avail for years so just when I thought I might actually be utilized for something approaching full time work, they took half my responsibilities away which bothered me, but at least I would be getting to work on the new system.

This consultant has been a thorn in my side from the start. He doesn't do what he says he is going to do in the timeframe he says he will do it and frequently what he does do is wrong and I have to re-do it. I have spent as much time or more time babysitting him than it would have taken for me just to do the job myself. One of my supervisors is aware of my discontent and she agrees with me because she was opposed to the consultant being hired in the first place. The one who made the decision doesn't want to hear it and encourages me to make use of the consultant every month and wants to know why his billable hours are not what the contract calls for. That he is totally wasting my time and the company's money does not seem to be the correct answer.

Even as I have had to deal with the consultant taking half my work away, my involvement with the new system has almost been nil. At the first training session in March, I was shocked to learn that one of my coworkers had had access to the system for months. I was under the impression that this session was the first time any of us would be getting a look. He was far and away more comfortable than anyone else and even the trainer suggested that he could teach the class. I was not happy that I had been completely left out of the loop. He was neck deep in spec files and I was still looking for the log-on button. Ever since then, I have been left on the periphery of this implementation. I attended all the training sessions and have been assigned a handful of tasks to complete, but our go-live date is set for mid-December and I haven't had a need to sign-in for months. Our old, current system is set to be shut off in January or February and I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing after that.

Once a few months ago, I told my supervisor that I had a whole week free to work in the new system. She sounded excited and said there was a lot she needed me to do. When the week came, she assigned me nothing. The truth is that I didn't remind her that I was free. I don't stand up and volunteer anymore. I have been slapped down too many times. If there is something she needs me to do, she knows where to find me. My office is directly across the hall from hers. It isn't like she has numerous employees to tend, only four. I just don't care anymore. Sitting in my office doing nothing and volunteering to do more work will get me to the exact same place. I'll do whatever she asks me to do, but I am done begging for work.

And now I am going to be delegated to a small cube, isolated on a remote area of the floor. It isn't even a nice cube. It is currently housing copy paper next to the cube of the administrative assistant, you know the job that requires a GED. It is obvious that they are trying to make me uncomfortable and hoping I will quit. That or they have taken me so thoroughly for granted, they think they can treat me anyway they want. There is not another explanation I can think of. Why else would my responsibilities be lessening and my new location suck? And I honestly have no idea what I have done to merit this treatment. The most horrifying part of this location change is that my workscreen will be directly visible to anyone who passes. That means that not only will I not have any work to do, I won't even be able to amuse myself online. I am anticipating eight hour days of staring at a green screen doing nothing. It is hard to suppress the panic this prospect induces.


Several months ago, after realizing the job search was going nowhere, Dave decided to get his real estate license. He loves real estate so this isn't so random. He has spent the last few months studying, taking classes and exams. His license was approved and went live this past week. Now he just has to get some clients and sell some houses. We are about ten thousand dollars away from the amount they say you should have in the bank as a cushion for the down side of the yearly real estate cycle. That ten thousand dollars is the only thing preventing me from submitting my resignation on Monday. The ironic thing is that since they seem to want me gone so badly, almost any standard severance package would be enough for us to make it until Dave gets going.

The prudent path is for me to endure any humiliation at work until we have the money in the bank and then put in my notice. We have bills and responsibilities and children who depend on my income. It would not be wise to eat through our savings while Dave gets his income rolling. The wise choice is for us to live off of my income as we have always done until we have enough in the bank to adequately cushion us. The downside to this approach is all the logistical problems of dealing with childcare. We are going to have to heavily rely on others to watch our children through a highly irregular schedule.

I am sorely temped to throw caution to the wind and just put in my notice now. It would free up Dave to work 100% instead of being at the mercy of someone else's ability to take the kids. Surely he could have enough in the pipeline by the end of January to make my job unnecessary by February. Oddly enough, knowing that this is most likely, really and truly, a short term situation makes enduring it harder. I know the end is coming soon, but not how soon. It might be three months or it could be six. Having a definite end date would completely ease my mind. I just want to walk away now.


bearing said...

Ugh. The uncertainty makes it hard.

Darwin said...

Definitely a tough spot.

One thing that occurred to me when reading this: How tough a spot would your current employer find themselves in if you quit suddenly? Given the problems with the consultant, could they actually get by without you, or would they need someone to cover that work on the legacy system for a short or long period until they could find a replacement?

If they are actually pretty reliant on you specifically and your experience with the system, it's possible that if you quit, you could then hire back on a consulting basis to do the monthly data loads which are your real work. This might allow you to make a lot more per hour and make nearly as much while working less hours and thus being able to be around with the family more and support Dave's transition to real estate.

I've definitely heard of things like that (quitting and then being hired back as a consultant at much higher rates) happening, particularly when there's a legacy system to maintain that very few people know how to deal with. However, it would also come with the risk that they might be able to find someone who could do the work (or be willing to do without) in which case the consulting gig might not work out or might not last long. Still, it's a possibility worth considering if you're leaning to towards quitting.

Jenny said...

If I had quit any number of months ago, they would have been totally screwed. It was actually one of my daydreaming fantasies to quit and then re-up as a remote worker until the legacy system shut down. Two professional incomes at once! We've never had that. But it didn't work out that way.

They require a 30-day notice to leave in good standing which would put me at mid-January even if I quit on Monday, which is doubtful--I may be angry but I am seldom careless. I think at that point, they would probably just choose to transfer into the archive (which is a separate database that I do not maintain) and shut the system down at the end of January.

So, it's a good thought, but I think that ship has sailed which makes my lack of duties in the new system increasingly ominous. Or they can just give me two months severance after the old system shuts down and then we will all be happy. How do you get them to blink first?

Anne said...

It's like you're living The Office. Just don't leave until you have the red stapler!

Jenny said...

Alright, this made me laugh. Maybe one day I'll get to destroy a server out in a field.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

How can they require 30-day notice to quit if you are in an at-will state?

Jenny said...

I am not legally required to stay 30 days, but the institution policy is that they require that much notice to consider your exit to have been on good terms. They don't look kindly on rehiring anyone with that mark against them. While I'd rather not ever have to work for them again, I also don't want to burn that bridge. You never know what you might need in the future.