Go ahead! Give yourself a pat on the back.
You should have quit your job on Day One, but instead you hung on. Through thick and thin, but mostly thin, you hung. Facing constant criticism, ridiculous ridicule, and a burning realization, deep in every single one of your 114 chakras, that of all the people in the world who could do your job, you were the worst, you hung on.
And now that you have given yourself a pat on the back, feel free to punch yourself in the nose.
Of course, you should have quit your job on Day One!
Isn’t that exactly how long it took you to realize that you and your job were not going to be a love connection? Alas, for some weird reason, like your foolish commitment to eating regularly, you didn’t quit.
Well, I might not understand, but I know someone who does — Sue Shellenbarger, the Work & Family columnist for The Wall Street Journal.
“Even If Your New Job Is a Bad Fit, Don’t Quit” is the title of Shellenbarger’s recent panegyric, and, I have to admit, she makes a good case for staying at a bad job.
“Is it ever OK to quit on your first day?” Shellenbarger asks. Her answer is nugatory in the extreme.
“Starting a new job can be overwhelming,” she points out. “People under stress in situations that are uncertain or ambiguous tend to make decisions that are risky or unwise.”
Despite these wise words of temperance and tenacity, “more new hires are heading for the exits fast.” A Career Builder survey of 3,697 U.S. employees showed that two-thirds have taken a job to realize later that it was a bad fit, and half of those employees quit within six months.
Of course, there are certain situations that can justify an early exit. Chicago career coach Jody Miller cites a bait-and-switch situation as a reason for justifiable career homicide. “If you’re told you’re reporting to the CEO, but in actuality there’s someone positioned between you and the CEO, that’s a problem.”
For most of us, it’s the opposite. You are told that you will never ever see the CEO due to multiple levels of bureaucratic infrastructure, and suddenly, you find yourself trapped in an elevator with a fire-breathing dragon of an alpha exec, someone who gave up family, friends and foosball to claw their way to the top, and doesn’t understand why you have not done so as well.
Your odds of surviving a chance meeting like this are minimal, at best. The only strategy possible is to plead insanity. “Excuse me,” you say. “Is this where I go to get my shingles vaccination?”
Another acceptable reason to prematurely quit a new job on Day One is learning that your salary will be cut in half on Day Two. This happened to a client of the international executive-search firm AutoKineto. To me, this sounds like a fairly petty move on the part of the employee, and somewhat impetuous, too. What if the employer is testing the newbie’s commitment to the firm’s vision statement by cutting their pay to show they’re not in it for the money?
Still, it could explain why your raises have been so flimsy and infrequent. Management doesn’t hate you; they’re testing you. I say — give it another 10 or 30 years. If the moolah machine doesn’t start gushing, it could be time to quit.
Though it’s too late for you to quit on Day One, you definitely can take a lesson from those who had the opportunity.
While you have learned to respond to managerial abuse in the mature way, by hiding in the supply closet, a Wall Street intern whose boss seemed “unduly brusque” on Day One pushed back. “Are you having a bad day, or are you always like this?” the tyro inquired. The result — the workplace rookie “not only survived the exchange but earned better treatment from the boss.”
If this strikes you as the stuff of fairy tales, I agree. I would believe this story more if Mr. Brusque Boss, upon being challenged, turned into a handsome prince, and awarded the newbie with a solid gold Tesla.
But it could happen, and though it has been eons since your Day One, I suggest that you try pushing back. Do it as soon as you come out of the supply closet. It will never again be your first day on the job, but it could be your last.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.