July 29th, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola: How do you get out?

Dear Kalola,

I work for a small non-profit with 12 employees as the Executive Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director. Over the last year, half of the staff has been laid off or fired, so everyone is overworked. No one is clear about what their job is anymore as there was no plan as to how the work of the released employees was to be distributed. The Executive Director said she is “task” based and gives jobs to people she thinks can do it.

I received no training on the computers, software, office equipment, phone system…ever at all. The only time I received training was when I was asked to do a task and needed to know.

From day one, my boss bad mouthed her supervisors calling them liars, saying they could not be trusted, etc. She not only talks about them to staff, she talks ill about them to others outside the organization. She also bad mouths the staff to other staff. In meetings, she targets individuals and is relentless in her questioning. It is not just me…it is whoever she has in her sights that day. I get awful e-mails from her telling me to call her on the weekend so we can “talk.” She constantly complains about my job performance, but has yet to put anything in writing. She has told me I make too much money, that her bosses have said they wanted me fired (which is not true because 2 of those individuals have asked me to stick it out), that it is clear I am not going to work out at my job, that I don’t like her, that I don’t like my job, etc. She is a micromanager, goes through employees desks and trash cans, has accused the staff of coming in on the weekends and throwing dirt on the carpet, has accused our IT person of coming in on the weekends and messing up her computer, has asked why the staff does not go around the outside of the building and pick up the trash, has gone through the dumpster outside the building and pulled papers out of it. It is so bad no one throws recycling in their trash cans, they either put it in the shredder or they take it home and throw it out.

Sadly, I need my job. I am looking, but it is tough finding work these days. Not sure how much longer I can stay there, it is starting to affect my health. Just about everyone on staff is looking. Bad place to work. How do you get out?


Dear Judy

I am sorry to hear about what is happening to you and your co-workers on the job.  How do you get out?  Or, in your situation, how to get off what appears to be a sinking ship?


Red flag—”Over the last year, half of the staff has been laid off/fired, so everyone is overworked.”  This statement seems to indicate that there may be financial issues for this troubled organization.  You can hang on until the organization closes its doors or you can be proactive and start a job search while you still have a job.  Things are not going to get better as long as the executive director bullies her staff.  Her expectations of the remaining staff is unrealistic and unreasonable.  The organization appears to be failing fast under what appears to be poor leadership.  From your description, there is so much chaos and disorganization that the small non-profit has become a dysfunctional place to work for all the employees.

How do you get out?  You must be proactive in your job search.   Look at your options and make a plan.  Keep a positive attitude that you will find another job.  You are more likely to find a job when you are currently employed versus finding a job when you are unemployed.   Continue to do your job, maintain your equanimity, and always be professional.  Do not discuss with your co-workers that you are doing a job search.  Telling your co-workers that you are looking for another job will get back to the executive director who will then have reason to believe you are not loyal to her or the organization.

Have you updated your résumé?  Do you have job references, that is, references from people who will say good things about you.  Don’t ask for a job reference from someone that you don’t know well or from someone who doesn’t like you.  I recall a woman who didn’t get along with her supervisor but still asked the supervisor for a letter of recommendation.  What did the supervisor say?  It was a very brief letter, and said simply.  “She did her job.”  Always ask permission to use someone as a job reference.  There is nothing worse than getting a call from an employer asking for a job reference for someone that I don’t remember and who never asked permission to use me as a reference.


Network by getting the word out to close friends and family that you are looking for a job.   Your friends or relatives who are working may have the inside scoop on who is leaving or retiring or when jobs open up with an employer.  Read the business pages of the newspapers within a 50-mile radius of where you live.   The business pages often report which companies are closing their doors, planning layoffs, who is hiring, company profits and/or losses or when a business is coming to town.  Not all jobs are advertised in a newspaper or at job search sites.  Go directly to the web pages of the larger employers and see if there are job openings.  Attend job fairs.  Dress professionally, and have your résumé in your briefcase in case you are asked for it.  You might get an on-the-spot interview.  No gum chewing, no coffee cup in hand when you attend job fairs or when you go for a job interview.


When applying for jobs put effort into researching the company or employer as well as the job you are applying for.  Don’t just randomly apply for jobs via the internet without putting much thought or effort into it.  Individualize your résumé and cover letter for the position that you are applying for.  Read the job description thoroughly and make sure you have the skills and qualifications listed.   Learn about the employer by checking out their website.  Because there is such a large pool of workers who are seeking jobs, employers can be more discerning in who they hire.  You must put effort into your cover letter and résumé so that your application stands out.  Your cover letter and résumé should reflect that you are qualified and have the skills and experience required for the position that you are applying for.


After a job interview be sure to write a follow-up letter thanking the employer for the opportunity to interview for the position, and to highlight the experience and skills that the employer is looking for that you possess.


Depending on the level of the position, employers will do some type of background check.  Suggested reading:  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Fact Sheet #16—Employment Background Checks: A Job Seeker’s Guide, https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs16-bck.htm

When there is no on-the-job training, one must use self initiative to learn.  Check to see if there are office equipment manuals, and/or job manuals.  If someone takes the time to show you the ropes of the job, be sure to thank that person.  When a worker has to train another worker that means that person isn’t get their own work done.  Also, check out your local adult education programs, your local public community college, and on-line free classes where you might enroll in a class to improve or maintain your job skills and/or learn additional skills.  If you do not already have a basic Microsoft Office program on your home computer, you may want to consider purchasing the program which should include Microsoft Access, Outlook, Powerpoint, Word, and Excel.  You can learn at home or brush up on skills.  Microsoft has free lessons available online.  Your local state department of unemployment may also have free classes. 


Getting out of a bad job, and moving on to another job will help to secure your future.   Staying too long at your current job will only set you back in your long-range goals in the long run.  Why be stressed out worrying about when the axe will fall?  Make a plan.


If you become unemployed, you could register at a temporary employment agency and do temp work.   Be professional, dress the part, arrive early to work, and do the best work that you can do.  Sometimes, temp work can lead to a full-time position.   Volunteer work can also be listed on a résumé.  Volunteer opportunities abound.  Be positive and have a can do attitude, you never know who may be volunteering and working along side of you.

Creating a safety net.  All workers should be putting money away into an emergency fund.  Why?  Things happen in life.  Even a small amount of money contributed each month will grow over time.  If you should lose your job or quit a bad job, that emergency fund/safety net will offer a cushion of relief to help you get by until you find a job.

Did you know that long-term unemployment can affect your Social Security benefit when you become eligible to apply for Social Security?  Social Security is calculated based on your 35 highest earning years that you paid into Social Security, and adjusted for inflation.  If you don’t have 35 years of earnings, zeroes are averaged in for the years that you didn’t pay into Social Security.  The benefit amount listed on your annual Social Security statement is the benefit if you continue to work and earn the same salary each year.  For older workers who want to estimate what their Social Security benefit might be, go to the Social Security website:  http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator/

Cutbacks to Unemployment Benefits—States are beginning to cut back on their unemployment benefits, see USA Today article (July 11, 2013), “States Make Disturbing Cuts to Unemployment Benefits”: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/11/stateline-unemployment-benefits/2508115/

Excerpt of Article:

“Since it became the standard decades ago, no state has offered fewer than 26 weeks of benefits —until recently. Georgia’s benefits now run out after 18 weeks, and five other states have set limits of either 19 or 20 weeks. Of the 11.8 million unemployed Americans, 4.3 million have been without work for 27 weeks or longer, according to the most recent federal data.”

North Carolina has opted out of the Federal unemployment benefits program (which gave out-of-work workers an extension to their State unemployment benefits).


“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”  … Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American Writer

The question:  How do I get out of this job?  comes up often.  By making a plan, you are taking control of your situation.  Be persistent in reaching your goals.  The failure is when you don’t try.





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This entry was posted on Monday, July 29th, 2013 at 2:36 pm and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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