toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

January 26, 2008

untouchable managers

Rosemary is back home being a stay-at-home mom after six months of working in a high pressure, high stress job with a manager who pushed her around like she was a bit of dirt and she's so upset by the experience that right now she's not sure how long her 'between jobs' period is going to be.

"I suppose that manager treated me badly because he thought that with my qualifications I would be coveting his job one day," says Rosemary, "and I suppose I was - that's natural - but when I couldn’t bear it any more, I was in a dilemma about the correct protocol for resigning."

"We all know what the employment gurus advise about resigning," laughs Rosemary, "but all that crap about a desire to expand one's horizons and regret about leaving such a wonderful job with wonderful managers and co-workers - is absolutely and totally anathema to me."

"Because of this admonition to tell lies and protect future career prospects," says Rosemary, "nobody will ever know the truth about why people quit jobs and nothing will ever get done about removing the problems that cause resignations."

"Why are these lies perpetrated? asks Rosemary. "Why is it not okay to tell the truth?"

Rosemary makes the point that when relationships come to an end, it is very rare that two people have anything good to say about each other and that is perfectly acceptable.

"If the two people still liked each other, they would not be splitting up, would they?" asks Rosemary. "So why is it unacceptable, for instance, to resign a job on account of 'irreconcilable differences' with one's boss or co-worker?"

Rosemary feels that irreconcilable differences is a wonderful explanation for job quitting, expressing a perfectly understandable human condition, without getting down and dirty about the specifics.

"The employment gurus say that you will be branded as someone unfit for teamwork - and will not find another job easily - if you even hinted that you had an interpersonal problem at your last job," says Rosemary, "but I reject this."

"I cannot believe that employers and their HR departments are so naive that they do not understand that just about everybody resigns a job because of some interpersonal problem."

"If it is not the main reason," says Rosemary, "then it is definitely a very close secondary reason."

"Basically," says Rosemary, "jobs are relationships. Forget about the product, the pay, the building and other window dressing. It is the people you will be working for, and with, that make or break a job. And, it is far more apparent now than it ever was because of the increasingly competitive job market."

"These days," says Rosemary, "both staff and management work in team structures and individuality is no longer a prized characteristic. With shared tasks and sometimes being within elbow's reach of adjacent co-workers, we must bury all that primitive individualism that once separated us from the apes."

Very few people are naturally and overwhelmingly 'people' persons - team players - and Rosemary is one lady who knows only too well that it is a very thin veneer of civility that we affect in order to get through the day at work.

Eventually that veneer cracks.

"Most people are smart enough to keep their cool and plan their resignation," says Rosemary, "but it is not always possible to find a new job before an explosion occurs."

Rosemary agrees that married women like herself, with a working husband, are greatly advantaged in being able to quit lousy jobs while they are ahead and still in control of their faculties.

"I have single friends, especially single working mothers," says Rosemary, "who are badly disadvantaged in the workplace because employers and co-workers know that they can't quit jobs easily."

"Some people get a real kick out of making life hell for the poor single mothers," says Rosemary, "and when workplace scenes do occur it is often some poor single woman breaking under the strain."

"There was a single mother who ended up in hospital in her first week at my old workplace because she was too stressed by one of the stinking managers to attend to a medical problem," says Rosemary, "and when she returned to work he continued to harass her - because he knew how desperately she needed the job."

Rosemary admits that she has never yet come across a person who did not resign a job under suspicious circumstances.

"If honesty were a prized characteristic in the workplace," says Rosemary, "then irreconcilable differences would become as common and acceptable in resignation matters as it is in divorce and there would be no more suspicious circumstances."

"The reason for resignation is a stock interview question for both parties," says Rosemary, "and it’s about time it was dropped. Pick up most interview preparation books and the guru will tell you to rehearse the following silly scene:

'Why did you resign your last job?' asks the Interviewer.

You dutifully reply: 'I needed to broaden my horizons.'

Then you ask: 'Why did the person resign this job I'm applying for?'

The Interviewer dutifully replies: 'Ms Smith needed to broaden her horizons.'

It is an utterly ridiculous question for both parties to ask and someone has to stop this madness."

"When interviewers say that the previous person resigned because she wanted to work overseas, or spend more time at home, or broaden her horizons," claims Rosemary, "the truth is that very few people quit a job for the reasons they state."

"Some people may actually go overseas on an extended holiday to justify giving 'working overseas' as an excuse to quit a job," says Rosemary, "but I know from asking around that everyone’s main reason for quitting a job - not the only one - is that they were being harassed by a manager or co-worker."

"Enough of these lies!" screams Rosemary.

"Does it not occur to management that one bad apple - even within its own management team - is often the cause of many good workers quitting?

"If a three-strikes-you-are-out policy were adopted in workplaces - for both management and staff - then these bad apples can be removed legally from their jobs."

"When staff members do not tell the truth about why they are quitting, these bad apples are given carte blanche to continue their bad behavior," says Rosemary. "They thrive and bask in our lies to the point where they may actually believe that they are 'wonderful' managers and co-workers."

"I refused to perpetuate this madness," says Rosemary. "My resignation letter stated 'irreconcilable differences' and if my next employer doesn't accept that reason as being good enough then I'll find one who does."

"As you can tell," sighs Rosemary, "I'm very upset by my experiences in that job and I'm going to need as much time as necessary to recover from it. I can't apply for another job when I'm so stressed out, so it looks like my time 'between jobs' is going to be weeks if not months and that means money lost and this makes me angrier than ever because that jerk of a manager is still raking in his dough."

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