Sometimes the Grass Really Is Greener at Another Job

Sometimes the Grass Really Is Greener at Another Job

Sometimes the Grass Really Is Greener at Another Job

Sometimes the Grass Really Is Greener at Another Job

I’ve spent the past year working for a small nonprofit. My manager is difficult enough that I’ve considered quitting, but my inability to find work elsewhere has kept me here. Part of my manager’s problem is that she is so behind on everything as to be in a constant state of crisis. She focuses entirely on putting out one fire, only to let three other fires start. I’ve been working since January on a massive project that culminates in July. She has not really dedicated any time to our project, nor really offered even basic guidance. Despite this, we are on track to completing our project on time.

Today, after glancing at one of my most recent project reports, she requested major budgetary and content changes that may not be feasible. After the last year of constant panic mode, late-night shifts, last-minute changes and scrambling, I’m foreseeing my project becoming her biggest disaster yet. Should I jump ship before July just to save my sanity? Or should I stay until I can find something better?

— Anonymous, New York

Your sanity is important. Preserve it at all costs! In your letter you don’t share any information about your financial circumstances. If you have enough in savings to support yourself for an indeterminate amount of time without work, it might be time to step away from this job. But in general, it’s best to wait until you have a new job secured before leaving. It’s time to step up your job-seeking efforts. Reach out to your networks to see if anyone knows of any opportunities. Consider looking for work in adjacent fields.

I also wonder if there is something that can be done to make your current position more tenable. Is your manager always behind because her workload is too heavy? Have you tried to talk to her about how her work style is affecting your job? Should she be delegating more? Whom does she report to, and can you discuss her performance with that person? The situation is infuriating. I don’t blame you for looking for a way out and I sincerely hope you find it.

I cannot stand my new co-worker. I do not think she possesses the ability or the compassion to be an asset. I have observed troubling interactions between her and our clients, which I have reported to our supervisor. I find my ugly, contemptuous side coming out around her. She recently flunked out of a bottom-of-the-barrel law school; I have been finding myself smugly prattling to her about how excited I am about my merit scholarship to a top law school. I tell myself this pettiness is excusable, since I have seen her display a disturbing lack of compassion toward people in crisis, but I know it’s not excusable.

When I leave for law school in a couple of months, should I provide information about her to my boss that I know could get her fired? A couple of years ago, this co-worker was involved in a drunken-driving accident. At the time of this accident, her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Through a state program, she was able to get the D.U.I. expunged from her record, so it did not appear during an extensive background check. The only reason I know this is that she told me. I am all for rehabilitation; however, I think she is awful at our job, and this awfulness affects our clients. Telling on her would be for the greater good — but also for my personal satisfaction. What should I do?

— Anonymous

We all have colleagues we don’t like and have uncharitable thoughts about them, but we don’t act on our lesser impulses. We take it to the group chat or we act like the adults we are and don’t dwell on it obsessively. I don’t understand the level of contempt here. No, your behavior is not excusable. No, you should not tell your boss your co-worker once had a D.U.I. after she has rehabilitated herself. No, you should not gloat because she had to drop out of law school. Why does this need to be said? Divulging her secret would not serve any greater good. It would only serve your need to exact cruelty.

There is no harm in having a workplace nemesis, but there is a great deal of harm in harboring so much disdain for a colleague, who at least according to your letter has done nothing to you. You have the self-awareness to acknowledge your ugly contemptuous side, but you don’t have the self-awareness to keep from being unkind to your co-worker. I don’t think you realize just how awful this contempt is. I would strongly urge you to see a therapist to determine why this colleague engenders so much malice and why you feel righteous in potentially acting upon it. If you cannot change your behavior, please find a new job and leave this poor woman alone.

Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at workfriend@nytimes.com.


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