This is quite a delicate subject as you can imagine from the title. Backstory: small company that develop a niche software. I started ~3 years ago as a sysadmin, and while I'm good at my work if I have the time to do it correctly, I'm diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive), university is unfinished and I'm bad at following stupid orders. At first it was fun. I was scratching my head that most systems I took care of weren't updated for years. The product ran as root everywhere and software quality was, in my honest opinion, really bad (did work at university before, so no prior experience). No tests, security-holes, abysmal performance, architectural issues. But I needed the money, and was happy to have a job and had fun cleaning things up.

3 years later we got lots of new customers, new huge projects but it's still me taking care of everything. I'm now also giving user support, debugging issues in production and basically telling the developers what to fix, often I have to explain the fix itself.

It got so bad that I'm basically switching the whole 8 hours between my colleagues and trying to fix things to make it work. After work I've started to work on designing fixes to make my life easier. Unfortunately I'm a bit naïve and stubborn and I ignored some issues because I know it's useless busywork until I finish to automate that. But I've never found time for that.

Attempted to write mails with suggestions, we had meetings about it, where I made slides, explained it but nothing changed. Install is an ever changing complicated mess and I've been told early on that using docker is not a choice because the customer doesn't pay for install then.

I've told my boss that I'm way above my limits, and either I'm allowed to concentrate on automating everything with docker/prometheus/etc.pp, or I will go. We talked for 2h, and I left flabbergasted. Neither did he acknowledge that I'm putting some energy into the company everyday to keep it running, nor did he talk about my overwork, but he doubled down that I need assistance to follow the (mostly useless) tickets/lists. Every suggestion from me (automated tests, deployment via docker, finally investing some time internal tools for managing updates because I often to debug issues in production with the customer and it's 9 out of 10 times avoidable if we would run just some automated tests for each commit, etc.) were just ignored. I had the feeling he didn't understood what I was talking about. Regarding tests he told me "we have colleague xyz for that"

This would all be fine but we are in some rather big projects, like k8s deployment, clustering, likely millions of users.

I really went insane and now on sick leave to calm down. I will leave as I can't see any future there but I'm worried about some colleagues that are also suffering. I'm looking for a way to avoid contact but still act professional. I know they will ask me to fix things but at the moment I'm not feeling like I'm able to.

All that while never being sick 99% of the time, never asking for a pay rise, and often working 50h/weeks on 20h/week contract.

So I'm an idiot, but how do I stop being one and get out of this mess without damaging myself?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    May 16, 2021 at 21:27
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    The owner isn’t a fraud. I can only see problems from the OPs side. I’d suggest a different title. Mar 4, 2022 at 10:29

5 Answers 5


Go get a new job. Interview, get a signed offer, serve notice period, leave, the normal way.

Also work on your own mental issues.

There is nothing else to worry about. You cannot be “held responsible” in any real sense for leaving a job, even if the “company collapses,” and to be honest they can hire another system admin to follow checklists in a very short amount of time. Worst case is your boss or someone develops a personal grudge against you for being inconvenienced. You can’t control that and it doesn’t matter.

As some bonus guidance, this question and the way it’s stated indicates to me you may chronically make things more complicated than they need to be. People can detect that quickly and it can work against you when you try to suggest improvements. Start with small improvements than can be quickly made and then show the positive outcomes and prove that there is ROI there. My startup had a SRE who colossaly over complicated solutions and we had to part ways; I imagine he also thought we couldn’t understand this brilliance but we understood it all too well, it was months of time investment to save days of time on the back end.

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    Thanks, lot of true things and you are probably right on the 'making things more complicated' issue, I keep that in mind. Not sure what's normal but leaking ton's of threads/file-descriptors on every request and and doing n^2 database queries where nlogn would be enough if someone bothered to read the api doc... for me it's not overcomplicating, considering everyone is talking about scaling and millions of users but your are spot on - I should stop assuming stuff and learn to work with what we got in small pieces that's part of the problem, I guess.
    – user126065
    May 16, 2021 at 14:59
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    Note that ADHD is a very wide ranging issue and there are all sorts of pharma and non-pharma solutions. Get a doctor that will work with you on it and figure it out. Run away from doctors that simply prescribe pills to you. Finding the correct medicine takes many tries because not all brains are the same, and every brain basically reacts differently to medication. My wife tried probably a dozen before finding one that fits well with how she works and does not have crippling side effects, like making her drowsy the whole day.
    – Nelson
    May 18, 2021 at 2:14
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    I agree with this answer. I would just like to add one thing. During your remaining time at this company, only work 20 hours a week, not 50 hours a week. May 18, 2021 at 3:18
  1. Every first job in software is absolutely rubbish. Yours actually sounds much better than most. You will honestly need to internalize the fact that your experience is the normal, usual experience. Nothing special has happened. Every first job in software is absolutely rubbish.

  2. You mention you worked more than the 20.0 hours paid. Everyone makes mistakes when they are young. Some people never make the mistake again. It is essential that you never - ever - ever - work more than the paid hours, from now on. Now that you're got that first job out of the way, you have a 20-30 year career ahead of you. Never ever ever work one second more than the paid hours.

  3. You appear to be struggling with how to ask for a raise. Send this short email,

Hi Boss. Due to my experience and the new workload, I now require a salary of { exact amount } to continue with the company. Please let me know your thoughts.

Set a high amount. If you don't get exactly that, leave.

I'm not totally familiar with the on-site German market, but basically a senior sysadmin type salary. (80,000 euros + benefits?)

  1. You mention "concern over colleagues". As has been said a million times on this list, that is their affair. Once you walk out the door nobody will remember your name 2 minutes later.

  2. You mention "small towns" etc. It's irrelevant, forget it. Nobody will care, know, or be interested.

So I'm an idiot but how do I stop beeing one and get out of this mess without damaging myself?

The good news is this is completely, totally, absolutely wrong. 100.000% of first jobs in software are as you describe. (The vast majority are much worse.)

You are worrying about literally nothing!

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    You might want to cut down on hyperbole a bit ... not "every first job" is "absolutely rubbish".
    – meriton
    May 16, 2021 at 15:47
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    hi @kei1aeh5quahQu4U ! yes in a sense one "needs to hear that" !! And everyone needs to hear that! You're golden now, enjoy. I hope you can internalize that your experience is completely normal! Enjoy.
    – Fattie
    May 16, 2021 at 16:17
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    The sentiment of this answer is good but is unecessarily filled with made-up statistics (not to mention the 0 key on your keyboard seems to be stuck) May 16, 2021 at 18:39
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    Have you ever asked for a raise the way you describe? If so, how did it work out for you?
    – JohnEye
    May 16, 2021 at 23:03
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    @Fattie Hi, I mean that asking for a raise is negotiation. Starting it with "Give me X amount of money or else!" is not a good start unless you're really on the verge of leaving the company if your demands are not met.
    – JohnEye
    May 17, 2021 at 14:20

I know this is an old question, and it already has good answers but for future people who might stumble across this, I want to add some specifics for germany.

In Germany if you have a contract which is "unbefristet" they can not (easily) fire you for health reasons, nor let you go for almost anything. The law really protects the employee to an extent that is unimaginable in countries like the US. Given that the author stated they struggle with their mental health this would be a great opportunity to work on getting better before finding a new job.

For the first 6 weeks of sick leave you get your normal salary. After 6 weeks you get "Krankengeld" which is roughly 2/3rds of your salary for as long as you are actively getting treated or are in rehab. (If you have children or are married you get even more money). Also if you need more money, remember it is always possible to get your vacation days paid out. You might not need them anyway if you quit right after your sick leave is over.

My advice would be to get all the help you might need, take your time, get healthy and quit afterwards. Since on paper you are still employed your CV will just show that you kept working with the same company. Any background check will also not show your health issues since those information are impossible to get for an employer in Germany. Also being healthy and fit for work will make your life (and your next employers life) much easier.

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    "they can not fire you for health reasons" - that's not quite correct. They can, but it's tricky. I submitted an edit to clarify.
    – sleske
    Aug 21, 2023 at 9:51

Stop seeing yourself as tool or asset. You are human with skills that grow in value when you polish them. Go linkedin and find some nice job. Try to get job with higher salary than your market value. I never care about my employers more than they do about me.

  • "Stop seeing yourself as tool or asset." He is, though. HR stands for "Human Resources" for a reason, after all.
    – nick012000
    May 20, 2021 at 0:57
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    För them u are hr tools. For me they are money bag allowing me to reach some goals along working on projects they need my help. If I don't like projects or feel stagnation, then I start to search for more opportunities. Always make A plan plus, B, C backup ones. At my previous job i did not like it from beginning, but had so much hopes. So I quietly gave up after 3 months, and start to search for new one. In meantime all my free time I have put on preparation to new job. Did not do any extra hours for ongoing job - they were not happy. So after next 3 months I got great offer. Very happy now.
    – yourstruly
    May 20, 2021 at 6:30

This job does not fit your life goals, apparently. You can work it for the next 30 years and not reach your life goals or you can take charge of your life and find a job more suited to your goals. That said, I would not go burning bridges. You probably need a good reference and that won't be given if you act emotional or act as if it is your job to speak for your silent co-workers. If they can't speak up for you, I don't see why you should for them.

Also, don't ever try to order your boss to use a particular technology. It's not your place to do that. And there's no point in you "automating everything" if nobody believes in using that work. Your work would just go unused, regardless of how valuable you think it is.

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    "This job does not fit your life goals", his jobs is a 20h/week job and he's doing 50h/week paid 20. I don't think it would fit anyone goals unless being desperate. The part about not burning bridge is right, but if he wants to leave and people holds a grudge for that, it's not OP's fault. "Also, don't ever try to order your boss to use a particular technology." : ordering might be much, he might have vehemently suggested to use stuff in order to increease productivity and reliability and that can be seen in his role. Of course it works better if it is done properly.
    – Walfrat
    May 17, 2021 at 12:35
  • @Walfrat He can minimize the chances of them holding a grudge by not burning bridges which means keeping things 100% professional and leaving without any animosity being shown. If they hold a grudge, regardless of who's fault it is, it would only hurt OP. When he has a more established career/options then he may be able to burn a bridge but it's still not recommended. Best thing is to leave a job that is totally wrong for 'you' as soon as possible (as in earlier than OP is).
    – HenryM
    May 17, 2021 at 15:45

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