I’ve mentioned before that I am a government employee and have been for over 7 years. I fought hard to get this type of job for all the perks I’ve discussed–guaranteed pension, health insurance, 37.5 hour work weeks, limited options in my field of choice. In fact, I spent 18 months interviewing over and over again for the first position I had with the government. When I got the call that finally offered the job, I actually did a dance at the job where I was working (don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for that job. But the commute was awful and the pay was low). I didn’t care that it was only a $3K raise–I was gaining a whole lot more than just money.
I worked that job for 3 years. I did manage one pay raise but I went through a location change to an hour south of my house. During that time, I had a child and the thought of having my newborn commute 2 hours a day was ridiculously unappealing. So I applied for a job closer to home, still with the government, and was fortunate enough to get it. It was wonderful working closer to home but since it was a lateral move, there was no pay increase (except for the gas savings which was now canceled out by daycare). I still made too much money for it to make sense to quit work all together, and we were now in the throes of paying off debt. I needed to make more money. There was only one option–figure out a way to reclassify my position at a higher level or find a new job.
Since I really liked my job, I worked my ass off to reclassify my position. I did all the necessary paperwork, got it approved by my supervisor, passed it on to her supervisor and then…nothing. My supervisor’s boss sat on the paperwork for too long and the window of opportunity had passed, especially with the fact that my state was heading into a deep budget crisis. The option became clear–get a new job that paid more money.
To do that, I would browse the available openings on a daily basis. I eventually found one that seemed perfect–it was 3 paygrades higher (an almost $9K raise), was on the same grounds as my current position so no commuting change, and it combined both my education and work experience. Needless to say, I applied for that job as soon as I could. Then a miracle happened. I was called for an interview! And then a second interview! And then, I was hired!
I could not have been more excited to have gotten this job. The timing was perfect, too, since I was offered the position on the last day that positions at that paygrade were allowed to be filled without special permission from the governor’s office or an act of G-d. However, in my delirious excitement, I missed several red flags that this job was going to be less than desirable:
- When I went to my second interview, the supervisor gave virtually no notice. I was called in the afternoon and told to come in the next morning (yes, told. Not asked if it was a good time). During the second interview, while answering the question, she interupted me with this statement “I don’t want a personal example. Just answer the question”. Red flag #1:She has no respect for other people’s time nor does she care about what others have to say.
- When she offered me the position, she called at 8:15 AM and told me I needed to get to her office right now to sign the offer. I was a bit put off and told her that I needed to resign first but there was no one in the office for me to resign to (I wound up doing it via email). She told me that I could always resign later.Red flag #2: She is only concerned about her interests and does not care about extending professional courtesty.
- When I was finally able to resign and get to her building, I was told that others in the division might be angry with me for getting the job since it was between me and someone else who already worked for the division. Red flag #3: She likes to foster paranoia.
- While we were talking more in-depth about my responsibilities and what I would be doing, she told me that she had lots of projects in mind but wasn’t sure how she wanted me to start on them or which ones she wanted me to work on first. All she knew was that she was “going to give me a lot of work” and that everything would be ready to go once I started (it was a brand new position so I had no workload to assume) but she was really excited for me to start because I was going to make her life a lot easier. Red flag #4: She has no ability to plan, schedule or manage projects unless it directly affects her in a positive way.
- On my first day, I had no work, no computer access (you have to be granted new access each time you switch divisions), no formal welcome or introduction to anyone else in the unit and no (for the record, it was about a month before I had any real work to do). Red flag #5: She’s doesn’t follow through on anything she says.
I wish that I had paid attention to these red flags and the other ones that presented themselves so clearly. Her behavior made me apprehensive about starting the new position but I was so blinded by the monetary increase that I neglected to pay attention to all of the other factors that go into a job. I took the job and spent 3 years in a miserable pit of despair. My boss was mean (borderline abusive), plagiarized my work, threw me under the bus so many times I have permanent tire marks, and lied. She abused her authority over me because she knew I have a small child and had to work. She was moody, gave poor directions even when clarification questions were asked, pitted workers against each other, withheld information that would have made projects flow correctly and consistently interrupted each and every project I was working on with her whimsical, poorly thought out “new” projects. She was dismissive of input yet refused to make a decision; she didn’t want the accountability of her decisions. And, it was only after I took the job, did I find out that absolutely no one likes working with her (for most of the reasons listed above).
My mental health suffered so much during my time in this job that I was borderline clinically depressed. I couldn’t sleep or eat properly. I gained weight because I stopped working out and from stress. I stopped laughing and having fun because I was so miserable at work and it impacted my daily life that much. But I stayed. For 3 years. I stayed because I didn’t think I had any other options. I stayed because the money was too good to pass up. I stayed because it was comfortable and scared that no one else would hire me. I stayed because I was finally able to pay down debt and get ahead. I stayed because I didn’t think I deserved a better working environment. I stayed because I kept hoping the job, and my boss would get better. But after almost 3 years of this, I finally decided I’d had enough. I applied for other jobs and was blessed to land in the one I have now. And I know how lucky I am.
If there is a silver lining to that job, it’s this: I will never again ignore the red flags. I will never again sell my soul for a paycheck.