My current developer role is the first corporate developer role I have ever landed (I was previously in another career, but left that career due to safety concerns then taught myself programming and web development). I have been at this small company 8 months, but during that time, about 60% of the employees that were there when I started have either walked away or been let go. The company cannot pay many of its bills and acknowledges this. What is worse is that some employees have been asked to take massive pay cuts and recently, the company cannot even fully make payroll. This has happened 4 times in the last 2-3 months, with the company giving us the paycheck in portions. The last time, the remaining portion was given to us very late, over 10 days past the pay period (in violation of state law).

I have about a 1 - 1.5 year cushion of savings, but I can also stay another 4 months and try to make a full year. With this in mind, I am strongly considering leaving to perform a job search full time, calculating that this will be more beneficial than staying on this Titanic, getting paid some of the time, and only being able to job search after work and phone screen during my lunch hour. Considering my experience level, is my logic here sound? (after all, 1 year at a workplace is a nice whole number that people will be less likely to question than 8 months at a workplace) In other words, is leaving the job and searching full time a better option than staying at the job and searching part time?

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    Walking away without a new job offer on the table is almost never a great idea, though considering the financial circumstances of your employer it might not be a very bad idea. You should definitely start looking for a new job. Jul 6, 2015 at 14:21
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    If you stay, does that improve the company's chances of making it past its current difficulties? For example, are you in a key role on something that's expected to make money soon? Jul 6, 2015 at 15:06
  • 3
    This related question might be useful: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/16816/… Jul 6, 2015 at 15:36
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    Does voluntary quitting vs company going out of business make any difference in payments you would receive? Depending on where you are, consider unemployment pay and redundancy payments. Jul 6, 2015 at 16:08
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    Why black and white options? Stay and work... or go and search...? Why not stay and search? Assuming you have vacation/sick days you can use? Why not ask to go to 4 days a week (and 80% of your pay)? 3/60%?
    – WernerCD
    Jul 6, 2015 at 22:43

11 Answers 11


Since every payday is an adventure: when will we get paid, and how much will each installment be; starting to look is a good idea.

You are gambling that they will tell you "oops no more money", and then everybody is out of a job. While you do have a year plus in savings, it is still better to not have to be spending your savings on day one of the job search.

Keep in mind that if you do find a new job you like, when you tell them you are leaving they may be relieved that you will be saving them money. They may decide that they will not require a notice period. Of course they could also decide to let you go right away, and still leave you fighting for the last paycheck. But having a signed offer letter and starting date does mean you know exactly how much of your savings will have to spend for getting the first paycheck of your new job.

Trying to hold on to the job just to reach some arbitrary guide post of 12 months, so you won't be labeled a job-hopper, or have to explain why you left, is not a reason to stay. Unless the company is improving, each paycheck becomes riskier. No matter how long you stay, 8 months or 8 years, they always ask why you are leaving.

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    Worth telling the next company that you might not need a notice period, and ask if it is possible to start earlier if no notice is required.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 6, 2015 at 15:23
  • Yes, I am currently searching for a job, but the job search is very hindered because I am full time at this disaster zone (for example, I can only do phone screening interviews during my lunch hour). I might be better off leaving and searching full time, but then I will have to explain to prospective employers why I left after only 8 months. Jul 6, 2015 at 15:23
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    @TheOneandOnlyChemistryBlob An explanation of "The company is unable to consistantly make payroll" is a perfectly valid reason for leaving after 8 months. No HR person or manager in their right mind would fault you for this.
    – Myles
    Jul 6, 2015 at 16:01
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    @TheOneandOnlyChemistryBlob you should edit your question to include/emphasize this problem. There is no question you should be looking for another job. The real question is whether to quit now to focus on the job search, or to stick it out until you have a job offer.
    – Mar
    Jul 6, 2015 at 19:21
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    I'll add that, in my experience, you are a much more attractive candidate if you are currently employed.
    – Ray
    Jul 7, 2015 at 13:27

You need to find a new job. An employer's core obligation is to pay its employees. In return, employees are expected to do great work, spend 40+ hours per week advancing the goals of the company and putting in a lot of effort.

In other words: the employer can ask to you do whatever they want. The only thing the employer is obligated to do is PAY YOU. Once they stop paying you, it's time to move on.

That said, it is much easier to find a new job while still employed because having a current job makes you more attractive to prospective employers.

Don't quit just yet, but only because quitting may make it harder to find new employment. Instead, start actively and enthusiastically looking now for a new job.

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    +1 for keeping your current job as a tool to market yourself to potential future employers, being employed definitely makes you a more attractive candidate.
    – Dan C
    Jul 6, 2015 at 19:10
  • Agreed 100 % on You need to find a new job. I started at a company where they told me up-front my first few paychecks might be late. I was new to work world, so I didn't recognize that red flag, nor did I recognize the red flag that a handful my co-workers would disappear each day. I was fortunate in that I only worked 3 weeks before the company imploded, so my lost wages were small.
    – Mar
    Jul 6, 2015 at 19:13

If the company cannot afford payroll, then you're hoping for a miracle that it can be turned around. When the money is tight, the first priority is to pay bills that are legally necessary, the next is pay - everything else you can plead for more time with, at least for a while. So once pay becomes erratic, there is little left before the authorities step in - the taxman or an administrator will show no mercy. Don't leave voluntarily until you have a new job settled, as this will deny you any redundancy payout if the company fails in the meantime, but prepare for the worst now.


Figured I'd throw my thoughts on this: I was in a similar situation.

"My company" had lost it's largest customer (a hospital that decided to transition to in-house talent.) We went from ~25 employees to ~5 over the course of a year (when I left for my current job about 4 months ago). I stayed while the company shed unneeded baggage (couple useless people, some with skills no longer relevant, some wanting more pay than affordable, etc). I was kept on because I was versatile and at the bottom of the pay scale.

But I started searching. I updated my LinkedIn. Kept in contact with recruiters that seemed interested. Went on a few interviews. Finally got the job where I'm at now.

I kept getting experience. Left on good terms. No time off between jobs.

So my question is, as I posted in my comment: Why does it have to be either/or - black/white - options?

  • I kept the full time job despite not getting a pay raise for the last 18 months.
  • I didn't have the "late" paychecks you did, but I know there were issues making payroll.
  • During that time, as people kept getting whiddled away, I was doing my job to my utmost but didn't hesitate to look.
  • I have more than a couple "sick"/"vacation" days that were used to interview.
  • My Co-worker went to 3.5 days a week (I couldn't afford that, but he didn't have issues).

At the very least, you need to expand your network and keep the options open for a good opportunity. Worst case #1: You waste time, the company pulls through and you stay at your current job. Worst case #2: Company folds and you are left without a job... for months... which makes it harder to get the next one.

  • 1
    +1 This highlights the right question: are you better off with the company or without? With, you are still getting paid, but can't spend as much time looking for the next position. You need to ask how much value the added time available if you quit immediately adds to your next job (and future life). In my limited job search experience, added time beyond what you can do while still employed does not add much value-if you have vacation you can interview and you can do the rest nights and weekends. Unless you think you will get a better next job by quitting, don't quit. Jul 7, 2015 at 2:58

Offer to switch to part-time:

  • it will help them save some money, which will increase the likelihood of you actually getting that money
  • it will give you enough free time to look for a new job
  • you will stay here a little bit more, so if the company suddenly gets better, you might reconsider (if you haven't found a better offer yet)
  • Or, alternatively, just offer to work 4 or 4 1/2 days (which is technically full time), and take a corresponding pay cut. That still gives you interview days without having to use sick days (make the time off flexible), but makes it still look like you are pulling for the team. Jul 7, 2015 at 13:31

One thing you might want to consider is: are there legal problems with telling the next employer your last one can't pay bills. This could end in rumors and bankrupt your old employer completely.

And yes, start looking for a new job. It will help them to save some money and leaving on good terms you might come back later. you always meet twice.

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    I doubt an employer can require employees to keep their personal financial situation secret. So I would not be too worried about mentioning that paychecks have arrived late. But I would not mention any more details about the company's financial situation. So no mention of how many employees were affected by late payments and no mention about situations in which the company only just managed to pay on time.
    – kasperd
    Jul 7, 2015 at 11:54

There are advantages to staying put, at least for a while longer. I know there is an urge to jump ship asap to find something else, but ultimately it doesn't matter whether you start looking now or in a few months time - the jobs will still be there waiting for you, the ones you miss by waiting will be replaced with others that don't open until later.

So, the question is really how much loyalty do you want to show to the current company. Is it a good employer fallen on hard times, or is it a bunch of losers who couldn't manage properly? The former happens all the time, and whilst sometimes ends up failing, sometimes they pull it around, get a new contract or client and end up succeeding. Who gets promoted and generally made a much better position if they stayed when times were hard? Certainly not the guys who left like rats leaving the proverbial sinking ship.

So there's plenty of opportunity staying, with limited downside (which is you don't get paid - which is what happens if you leave anyway!). Now, if you can't afford to be paid less or on time, then its time to leave. Be open about it with the management and they'll be happy to help you leave in these cases, maybe asking you to stay on part time and job hunt while at work with company equipment.


The first thing to note is that, just as you can take smoking breaks, coffee breaks or "I need to get out of this room before I do something terrible from sheer frustration" breaks, it is entirely ethical to take a break to answer a phone call from a recruiter.

You'd pick up the phone if it was a family member in trouble, so you can pick up the phone for this. You then get up from your desk and go somewhere semi-private, explaining to the interviewer why you can't talk until you get there. As long as you're not doing it 10 times a day, then you should be fine.

The key is to keep the conversation short. Begin with "I'm at work right now, I'm really interested so I can talk to you over my break, but I may have to head back to the office in 3-5 minutes." During these 3-5 minutes, you want to:

  • Establish whether the job is basically appropriate for you (e.g. does not require you to move if you don't want to, doesn't require you to kill any puppies, etc)
  • Establish when they would like you to
  • Get a rough idea of starting salary (if you can, but if they won't then you don't have to give them your expectations)

Then at the end of 3-5 minutes, you simply say "Look, you've got my CV there/if you e-mail me I'll reply with my CV, it has all my contact details; can we communicate through that."

This then means you can use your phone or home PC to handle the conversation in non-real time. Also, most recruiters work till about 6-7 in the evening because that's when the hardworking candidates are available to talk.

As far as going to interviews, the ethical thing to do is to use your holiday time to do them, the less ethical thing is to call in with Interviewitis. Be ethical, it's easier to cope with when you actually quit and they get suspicious about your "flu". DO NOT QUIT TILL YOU HAVE A CONFIRMED NEW OFFER (e.g. a contract). Being jobless means you may make much worse decisions about what constitutes an acceptable job, or you may run out of money. It's much better to go straight from one job to the next, with only your notice period as your break.

In terms of "stay a year or stay 6 months", it's not an issue; especially with your story. If anyone asks why you're already looking, the phrase "the company is having trouble paying employee's salaries on time, I'm afraid any further information is probably company confidential" is enough of an answer for anyone who's asking (also suggests you're discreet and loyal).


I'm gonna share my experience. I was also on a 'sinking ship' company.

For the first two years - everything was ok. Salary in time, +- decent hardware to work on..and I hoped, everything would become even better over time. But then, when my third year started - for the first time - salary was not in time. (but a week late) Boss explained, that company had various problems at the same time (client not paid in time, banks froze accounts due to missing paying taxes.. etc).

This was my first programmer job, so I wanted to stick around as long as possible, as the company gave me chance to learn programming, without any previous programming work experience.

If a company cannot pay a salary... it's usually a red light - time to get off the ship, because it is gonna get even worse. But at the time I did not really care and I believed boss. Ok, one salary late.. whats the big deal. It's late, but it's paid.

Then this happened again, and again. And after half a year, we had a situation, where we had not received almost two salaries. At this point, one worker after another started leaving company. Thus - sinking the ship even more.

Until one day, when the boss announced, that the company is going bankrupt.

So the remaining few workers, including me - signed the papers that we leave the company. We had still two month salaries yet to receive (and also unused vacations, overworked hours).. which we did not receive.

Only one thing that I am grateful for - company gave me chance, when I had little to no experience. And I had the opportunity to learn/gain more programming experience. If it would be a work like.. cashier in a store.. There is no growth there.

When the company did not pay salary almost for 2 months and people started leaving, I also started to worry - that this could actually be the end of this company. And I started preparing to jump to different company. Prepared portfolio, Updated LinkedIn profile, went on some interviews. And landed a part time job, while still working for the sinking company (Because I did not want to leave without receiving last salaries)

But now, I think what I should have done - As I had worked 3 years, I should have become unemployed for half a year, and at the same time, searching for the next job.

  • 1
    I don't see how this would help the OP, however.
    – o0'.
    Jul 7, 2015 at 9:43
  • Why would being unemployed for half a year have helped?
    – deworde
    Jul 7, 2015 at 15:08
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    1.) Unemployment monthly salary. 2.) Time to search for better job, extra learning 3.) vacation between jobs Jul 7, 2015 at 15:10

Yes ... Been there done that ... Here's some advice that I think has not yet been covered.

I'd say you probably have enough time at night to apply for lots of jobs. Sign up with IT recruiters and get an interview with them. Get someone to review your resume and polish it up. Record every project and task you worked on. Cover not just your training/experience but also how you enjoyed working with others, personal study, hobbies and interests, career goals.

Your primary goal (as I read it) is not only to get a new job as soon as possible but also to get the best possible job. To do that you don't want to be in a rush to "just take anything". You want choice if at all possible. You also don't want to be perceived as being desperate as that may reduce the salary they offer you in the new job. So you really want to be employed when you're interviewed.

As a new programmer getting a job can be rather difficult. With only 8 months experience you're still "unproven" for many future IT employers and perceived as higher risk than someone with 2-3 years. If you exit a job and are then unemployed - particularly with only 8 months experience you look very risky. However if you're employed while you're looking for work it looks more like you chose to leave rather than someone forced you to leave. Find a workmate or two who you can trust and ask them to be your referees - obviously someone who will keep it quiet. You can take some holiday leave for 1/2 day or just schedule a lunch time appointment to visit a potential employer or recruiter. They are very used to this as this is the norm.

In short, I think your biggest asset right now is that you are employed, not how much they are paying you. Use it to your advantage to make the best next step. Good Luck!


If your main concern is your paycheck, then yes, you should find another job and leave.

But if you feel that you can afford to live off of your savings for four months, I am sure that you will see a return on your investment. There are few life experiences that provide more learning than staying on while a company fails.

When times are tough for a business, it isn't enough to just do your job and improve your skills. Everyone needs (from the company's perspective) to find a way to make the work count. Unless you are in a very lucky situation, this will not go smoothly.

You will have to learn to respond to others speaking from emotion instead of rational, particularly those above you in your hierarchy. You will learn to control the balance of your life outside of work and your life at work against unimaginable pressures. You will learn how underlying value systems can go by unnoticed when things are smooth, but make a huge difference when things are bad. You will learn how to rally others and how to be rallied. All of these things will be invaluable at another company that is in need of leadership and experience.

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    What sort of lessons would one expect to learn from staying with a failing company?
    – Mar
    Jul 6, 2015 at 19:14
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    @MartinCarney That you shouldn't ever stay on with a failing company again?
    – zfrisch
    Jul 6, 2015 at 21:30
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    Your first two sentences seem very contradictory. If you need paychecks, quit, but if you have plenty saved up, stay? Jul 7, 2015 at 3:29

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