I started a job a few months ago. When I was being showed around in the office, one of the managers reacted to my introduction ("Hi, I'm the new x"") with "Oh god, I don't envy you". Now I understand why.

I have:

  • extreme work hours
  • hostile atmosphere: I inherited a disaster but expectations are I will deliver a master work in several months; escalations to my bosses that I "don't want to" do something are on a daily basis
  • uncooperative HR - that blamed me when a coworker, who underperformed under her previous manager, continued to underperform under me
  • lack of consensus that my technology-related team needs a solid budget to buy, you know, computers and stuff.

I'm extremely frustrated to the extend I'm on the verge of tears or screaming most of the time. The fact I suffer from insomnia doesn't help.

But I left my last 2 jobs quickly - I had very good reasons, but still, it doesn't look good. What can I do to stay here without going crazy, i.e. without this situation impacting me so much?

  • crying and screaming? Thats indicative of personal issues not work environment, unless you're taking things wayyy too seriously. Might get sacked for making such a racket
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:03
  • 1
    @Kilisi, I'm subject to an extreme pressure and work 12+ h every day. I'm frequently on a call and simultaneously chatted to by 3 senior people who all request from me something asap. And this happens 12h/day. It's pure craziness. I'm on a verge of a break-down.
    – user4806
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:04

3 Answers 3


tl;dr stop working extreme hours, erect boundaries, and find a new job. If you're dead set on staying, I've got advice below.

Long answer?

  • Stop working 12 hour days. Like...hard stop. It's unhealthy, and if you're not collecting overtime, you're donating 50% more work to someone. Note similar advice in my other answer
  • The atmosphere is toxic af, and you'll have to manage that. Set up meetings with the parties that matter with the sole and express purpose to align them. Put up the fences, manage expectations.
  • Keep a paper trail, especially around the mitigations that you've tried with that subordinate. Sometimes you need to oil a squeaky wheel, sometimes you need. a new wheel.
  • For your tech stuff, get a budget together, and relentlessly pursue action from the people that make the decisions. That will mean meetings if they resist. Work inaction in to your plan and expectation meetings.
  • Ditch the on call, or make a schedule for it. Stick to the schedule. Don't be "always available" because you're setting yourself up for failure and frustration.
  • When those 3 senior people ask for things to be done ASAP, set the expectations. Is it First In, First Out? Do they work together? You can tell them that you'd be happy to help them, and this is where it's sitting in the priority list, and this is when I expect to have it to you by. If they're all "emergency", drag them in to a meeting and have them sort it out. Be present, don't let them over commit you. Also, ensure that your supervisor is aware of the additional time pressure, and how that lines up with your capacity.

I have three possible options for you:

  1. Your underperforming co-worker may have the answer Does your company actually fire people for not doing your insane level of work? There are plenty that don't or at least don't until it becomes egregious. Your organization seems like it could easily be one of them given how nothing gets done, people are known to underperform, and expectations are absurd and missed anyway but are still had going forward. What would happen if you just ignored the demands a lot of the time? The demands may indeed be crazy and not something that your boss actually recognizes. Anecdotally, one organization I worked for just had things pile up endlessly on to-do lists and many developers would work until 2AM working on the ever-growing pile. I didn't. That never came up.

  2. Throw the problematic people under the bus. This is normally not an acceptable strategy, but given how your company works, it might be one to consider. Spread the misery around to those who cause it. If you are delayed on a task and someone sends you an angry message about it, reply with "Well [person who requested current unit of work] went to [your boss] and they said that this was the priority." If you are delayed by tools, just state that outright. There is a reason that people pass the buck, shirk responsibility, and blame others. It frequently works, even if just to muddy the waters and make things messy to the point where people give up trying to figure out how to make things better.

  3. Figure out whose expectations matter. A friend of mine works on a project where they use a particular project management methodology that can lead to people serving multiple masters. That lead to a lot of confusion and anger. He figured out which one was the most powerful and started ignoring any inputs from the other two. That still leads to a lot of confusion and anger, but none of it is his problem then. Yes, the project is going to hell, but officially all indications are that progress is being rapidly made and thus that particular powerful person is extremely happy with him. Stop caring about the job and focus on how you are being evaluated, which is often absurdly divorced from the job. Wait it out a year (or whatever period it is until you can start getting responses to your resume) doing that.

These are not ideal strategies for functional organizations, but that is clearly not yours. The goal is not to achieve anything here beyond making survival for a year or so tolerable.

  • I don't understand why throwing others under the bus is being recommended, it will only lead to an even more toxic workplace, and you being the target of toxicity. That's bullying, making others suffer because you suffer.
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Commented Jan 16 at 10:18

You're describing, what sounds like, a very frustrating situation. I think there are two ways of thinking about the challenges you're facing that might be helpful for finding solutions, or at least mitigations.

  1. Your experience is the difference between expectations and reality. If you expect more than your company or colleagues have to offer, you will be disappointed and frustrated. Similarly, if your colleagues have expectations of you that are too great to achieve, they will feel frustrated about you and your work.

    It seems like a concerted effort to manage expectations could help. This includes both your expectations of others (e.g., your budget, the project expectations) and the way others develop expectations of you.

    A good first step would be to assert new expectations for the project/effort you're currently leading. You should not accept the expectations established for you. Lay out a clear plan, considering constraints (e.g., budget), for accomplishing the work in a way that you believe is reasonable and feasible. Communicate that plan and measure your work and your team's work against it.

  2. Pressures/constraints can have both an external (i.e., other people) and internal source. Consider what working requirements and constraints have been explicitly established and which you have inferred.

    Your working hours and call time are a good example - how much of this is contractual or structural and how much of it is you wanting to do a good job? What would happen if you worked a 10hr day instead of a 12hr day? Would something catastrophic happen?

Unfortunately, not all elements of a bad experience can be solved with expectations management or releasing internal constraints - some of what you're experiencing is structural and cultural at your place of employment. As long as you're there, do your best to be a source of positive energy and relief for your colleagues and other positive contributors will reciprocate for you.

  • People who don't fulfill expectations at the company are fired. I work 12+ h and still have a large number of things from the past that need immediate attention pilling up. I've tried discussing the prioritization with my boss. He tells me he understands my situation and then tells me to do everything.
    – user4806
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:37
  • 1
    @user4806, then take control of the expectations - don't let others control them for you. I would suggest you test the boundaries of agency in your role -- you're likely to find that you have more control and influence than you might realize now.
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:39
  • What do you mean precisely? I did tell my managers what is realistic and what not. They totally ignored that.
    – user4806
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:40
  • 1
    @user4806, do you propose a clear path to completing the work and commit to delivering it? Propose solutions, don't just highlight problems. If you communicate a clear plan, invite others to hold you accountable to it, and reliably deliver against it, you'll find that you have a lot of ability to conduct your work as you like instead of having others assert a plan and expectations for you.
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:48
  • You're using a lot of very general statements with little applicability at my work. I do communicate a clear vision. Which doesn't matter at all given that my boss accepts it in week 1 but wants me to completely change everything in week 2 since he's changed his priorities. And don't tell me to "have it in writing". If I learnt anything in my jobs so far, it's: it doesn't play the slightest role what you have in writing. If you come up with "actually, we've agreed to have it like that - the email is atached", you'll be treated as a trouble maker.
    – user4806
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 0:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .