Life’s Too Short for a Crappy Job

It was about two years ago I made up my mind to quit my job.  Although at the time it seemed pretty risky, it’s one of the best moves I’ve made in my life.

Climbing the career ladder wasn’t my problem, it was actually the cause of my misery.  Promotions and successful projects launched me into leadership roles and put me on the fast track for a big career at a Fortune 1000 company.

Literally Sick of My Job

But as my wife well remembers, I was totally miserable – particularly around holidays like Christmas, New years, and the 4th of july when I’d be working non-stop and on call the whole time.

I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I walked through the heavy metal door and down the long white hallway every morning. I had to force my feet up the stairs and coax myself into my cube.  From the second I hit the chair, I was counting the hours till I could escape the cube farm.

My Wife Cheered!

I’ll never forget the day, or even the moment, when I decided to end the long and stressful days and nights.  Smack dab in the middle of a particularly dreaded and heated conference call I left the room and called my wife to tell her I was getting a new job.

Despite the fact the country was in the middle of an economic meltdown, she cheered and I could hear her dancing around on the other end of the phone.  She knew how unhappy I was and had actually been urging me to quit for some time.  You’d think with a young baby at home and her not working that she would have insisted I march right back into that meeting and suck it up.

But she knew something that no one else did.

Crazy to Quit?

See, everyone told me I was crazy to quit.  How could I leave my job in the middle of an economic crisis?

Didn’t I run a website about being smart with your money?  Didn’t I know what kind of risk I was taking?

What they didn’t realize was that I’d spent years preparing for a moment just like this.  Really, I should say we’d been preparing because my wife and I were in it together.

The Master Plan…

We weren’t specifically getting ready for me to quit my job, but putting our family in a position where we could make choices that were right for us.

Not choices that were right for my boss, or right for the company, or right for our bank, or the credit card company.  We didn’t want to have to worry about what everyone else wanted, or insisted, that we do. 

We set it up so that we could choose what direction our life would go in.  Of course, life always throws you curve balls so maybe choose isn’t the right word.  It’s tough for any of us to do more than steer ourselves in the general direction that we want to go.

So from our perspective, me quitting in the middle of the Great Recession was a calculated risk, one we were prepared to take.

Overworked and Overstressed

So why am I telling you about this?

Not long ago, I met some of my friends from that old job for lunch.  It was actually a going away lunch for people who were being let go, but the people left behind had some pretty disgusting stories for me.  Things had gotten worse after I’d left and recently had really gone downhill.

Probably the best way to describe the slump in the working conditions is how people were dealing with the stress.

Two of my former co-workers had been to dental specialists and spent $500 each on special teeth guards.  All the stress had caused them both to develop the condition TMJ, apparently they were grinding their teeth all night long they were so stressed. Talk about taking your work home, they could’t even be free of it in their sleep!

Another one of my favorite co-workers flat out told me that she’d taken to keeping a bottle of booze in her desk for particularly bad mornings.

Good People, Bad Job

One thing I failed to mention that’s really important is that the people I worked with were great.  I had been miserable in the job because of the way the corporation operated and the things they expected of their employees.  All my co-workers were the only thing that made the job even bearable for any length of time.

It really sucked hearing all they were going through and how unhappy they and their families were.  I wanted to tell them all to quit, to run away from the job, that it wasn’t worth the pain and misery they were going through.  But the reality of the situation was that none of them could afford to quit.

Stuck, Trapped, & Frustrated

On the drive home I started thinking about how I had gotten out just in time but they were stuck there.

How did I make it out when they got trapped there? 

Why am I getting paid good money to work the best job I’ve ever had and enjoying my life while they dread getting up each morning?

The sad truth is that they all HAD to stay in a job they hated.  They didn’t have backup plans, or other options. 

Twinge of Guilt

Then I started to feel guilty. I had worked with these people for years, why hadn’t I talked with them and shared the techniques and short-cuts that I’d used?  Why didn’t they know that they COULD have a choice if they just knew what systems to follow and steps to take?

I rationalized and told myself that people just don’t talk about those kinds of things at work.  Which was pretty much true, people can tend to be kind  of private about their finances.  However, it wasn’t really a good excuse.  Here I was publishing daily articles on personal finance for years on end and had never talked with my co-workers about it.

I really do regret not helping them out.  I might have felt a little pushy bringing those topics up and prying into their personal finances but looking back, I totally should have.  From now on, I won’t hold back and worry about making people uncomfortable, no more excuses.

What Can I Do?

So, after giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and make up for my shortcomings with my former co-workers.  I’m sure there are a lot of people out there in situations similar to theirs, perhaps you can even relate to what they’re going through.

I might not have been able to help them but I’ve been working on a few things that I know can help you.  I’m pretty excited about some of the things I’ve been putting together and I imagine at least some of it will apply to you and your situation.  I’ve actually tested parts of it out and gotten some great feedback, along with some suggestions for improvement.

Coming Soon…

I was going to put up a few links here to see what you thought but I don’t want to push it out “unfinished”.  I’ll save it for next time.

Instead, how about you share a similar situation where you felt trapped by something like your job, or debt, or anything at all.

Leave your experience in the comments below, let’s make it interesting. The best comment wins a $50 Amazon gift card!

Can’t wait to read yours!

18 Responses to Life’s Too Short for a Crappy Job

  • Jim Stelma

    Wow…were do I even begin. I’ve been at my job/position for 17 1/2 years. Looking back its been 15 1/2 years too long. When I took the job I was few years into my marriage and on the verge of starting a family. The job was great out of the gate…Small company working directly for the one of the owners. Fast forward 8 years into job…Owner dies, who happened to be my mentor and tormentor his partner assumes all responsibility. The partner was not a business man…all he cared about was the $$$ and that the people working for him were a liability not a blessing. Many attempts were made on my part to seek new employment. It never really panned out. So here I am almost 18 years in. Completely burned out, vested all my talents and efforts into a company that now has 4 partners with a total of 11 employees. I too feel like I’m stuck, however I myself so want to take that next step and just quit! I feel like I’m strapped by my financial obligations. I will say that your article is a definite motivator for me to consider just doing it!

  • Ana

    Dear Ben –
    HA. I can hardly wait to quit my job. It looks great on the outside and it’s sheer hell. The people there are nice, of course, it’s the management and the culture of the place that really sucks. In 1000 ways. Harassment for taking a break, going to the bathroom, the works. Not allowed to wear our cell phones. I’ve been there almost 5 years and especially recently, the desire to quit has peaked. The only problem is the fact that I live on an island, not many options. Like you many say how “fortunate” I was to get a year round job, because many jobs here are seasonal only. Luckily, season has been extending – used to last two months (July and Aug) now seems to last six or more months, we live in vacation paradise. Unlike you, I haven’t built up resources to live off for six months or more, which would make my decision VERY easy. But I have started some passive income and side jobs, with second rounds interviews for work from home and a seasonal travel agency job. One more thing – my kids are young, no grandparents to help, and my husband works long hours, so I want to be flexible and closeby. We rent, but may be building a home soon – trying to coordinate things with a land-exchange for work agreement. just being rent free would take a lot of pressure off.
    Summer is typically the most insane time for both of us – plus kids are out of school – so it’s wild. I lose 15 lbs each summer due to the insane pace, no days off and panic mode “where are my kids? Did they eat? Are they alright?” Meanwhile at the job everyday insults and high intolerance to anything that’s not “company related” like getting a drink of water – is frowned on. What do you say? Would pulling the plug be insane?

  • Ana

    You really hit the nail on the head this time, Ben. Just today I am millimeters away from a life changing decision. There are a couple of irons in the fire “second interviews” allowing me to stay home and quit my certifiably crappy job. It’s very safe, but sure does leave me exhausted, stressed and unavailable to my family. News at 11.

  • Kelly

    I came upon this article as I am in a crappy job that I’ve only been in now for four months. I had been self-employed for 7 years and was not making ends meet financially. But, oh, the freedom I had for those 7 years! I have two children and had quit my job in hospitality which I had been in for 17 years. It really was the very best thing I could do for myself and my children. My career in hospitality wasn’t so horrible, it was just that I’d done it for so long and had taken on so many responsibilities that, as a single parent, it ultimatley made life unmanageable. Too many times driving white-knuckled in rush hour traffic on the way to day dare and facing the inevitable late charge and nasty glares from the staff… too many meetings that went on for hours and were repeats of many meetings before… too many late nights working from home after just getting home… too many times of hearing myself say to my kids “We can’t _____ (fill in the blank) tonight because I have work to do”… too many panic attacks from new leaders wanting to do new things that were really just recycled old things which would be, as in the past, epic fails… and the list goes on. I literally made up my mind on a whim to “just do it”. I had to deal with many naysayers, especially family members, who acted like I was being irresponsible for quitting a well-paying job. The job I took recently was due to the fact that I have not received child support in three years and it’s taken a toll on my finances. I mistakenly thought that going “back to work” for a big corporation would fix that and give me financial security in the form of the old reliable paycheck. WRONG!! Now I work to put gas in my car. I spend 3 hours a day commuting in horrendous traffic, I’m hourly yet expected to work until the job is done then get chastised for 30 minutes of overtime, and I only see my kids long enough to feed them and then say goodnight. Working for a large company is the worst. You literally are just a number and the road to change is filled with roadblocks and red tape. Long-time employees think it’s normal. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is about the bottom line. I would rather be struggling and living job to job as a self-employed person than to work like I do now. So if you’re reading this and thinking you’re stuck, you should think about all the things you will gain by taking control of your dreams. That’s what I’m doing. I gave my notice last week and feel the weight of the world has lifted off my shoulders. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something. Employ the services of a life coach, figure out what you love to do and then DO IT! You may struggle in ways you are not used to, but that’s called GROWTH. Life really is too short for staying in a crappy job.

  • Rishona

    Oh my goodness, I would LOVE to have a crappy job as long as it payed money! Not everyone stresses out over work. I just did my taxes, and I didn’t even clear $25K last year. And I’m a college grad who is currently enrolled in graduate school; with the hope that one day, someone will decide to employ me (I’m way to poor to start my own business…I can barely put gas in my car). So for those who wish to find a replacement for their jobs, just let me know! 😀

  • Tracie

    I agree with your rational. I’m unsatisfied with my job. I am working on a Masters degree to be a teacher, which I’m not even sure that I want to do. I am trying to figure out how to stay in my current field, which I love. I need to find a way to make it work better for me. But what I really wanted to comment on is helping out co-workers. I enjoy reading about finance and finding ways to save money for the future. I have gotten people to join UPromise for their children and set up 529 plans. Educating others is a passion of mine. I just asked my “new mommy” co-worker if she has set up a will. Keep up the good work!!

    • Ana

      What’s your current field that you “love so much”? Sounds like the answer’s right in front of you! 🙂 good luck!

  • RO

    I go by a mantra that’s given me rewards over the years: “Nothing is worth your peace of mind.”

    I remember being in craptastic jobs that made me vomited. There was one job that actually cost me $1,000 because it gave me heart palpitations each day I dreaded going there. I had to be placed on a portable EKG to monitor my heart rate. I wished I gave them the bill after I quit! The day I quit, what a glorious day, I recall having to be so strategic because I didn’t want to face some coworkers that gave me hell, scheduling my quitting the time they were out on vacation!

    After struggling to find a full-time job in my hometown, I took a different route and looked up part-time jobs. It was absolutely worth it to slash my salary in half, ending up in a job I liked and giving me the free time to do other things like getting on an excercise regimen, working on my blogs, and doing some freelance writing.

  • Lynne Cohen

    I sometimes feel trapped by repairs to my home. I am a widow who retired recently. I don’t want to move because I am happy where I am but the house is 70 years old and I keep finding things to repair or replace to maintain the house. The cost is one thing and the other is finding competent people who don’t rip me off. Every time I need a repair, the hassle of finding the right person at the right price is not easily done. The costs are draining my savings but it’s my home and I would like to stay for as long as I am able.

    • Ana

      Hmm… if the house is big enough, would a peaceful college student for a renter be a good side income? This would probably help finance the home improvements.

  • Perfecting Parenthood

    Wow, this is a great post. There are so many people who feel like you — souls literally getting sucked out of their bodies! You talk about your own health suffering, but like Jacq said, with kids there is another huge factor. You could easily miss out on your children growing up, or you could ruin them altogether.

  • Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom

    I tell almost everyone I know about the joys of financial independence and freedom from debt / lifestyle inflation. Most don’t want to make the changes to actually do anything about it, but hopefully they can see that there’s another way at some point. I’ve got more than enough “life is too short for this crappy job” stories.

    1) The articling job where we were required to book 200 billable hours a month when I would drive 80 mph down the highway to pick up my 5 year old at daycare, spend a couple of hours with him, then take him into the office at 8 pm and work until 3 a.m. and let him sleep on the floor so I could get more work done… Rinse and repeat…
    2) The job where I wasn’t financially able to quit and was sexually harassed by my boss and put up with it for over 6 months before being pushed by coworkers to report it.
    3) The psycho employers who kept on buying companies but were too cheap to hire additional staff where I’d wake up at 3 a.m. constantly worrying about work, decide that since I was up already, I might as well go into work. Where my hair started falling out in patches and I thought I had rheumatoid arthritis or something, my joints hurt so bad. Miraculously cleared up within a week after I quit. Well, it took about 6 months for my hair to grow back in. I put on 30 pounds in the last 6 months at that job.

    Don’t get me going on the debt part… BTDT too. And never again. 🙂

    And now, at 45, too many people tell me how lucky I am that I can only work for a few months a year and make ends meet. And only work where I like it – which is the best part of all. It’s not luck, it’s – as you said – years of preparation, planning and saving.

  • Ben

    wow Steve, I’m sure glad you quit!

    thanks for sharing, it’s a good reminder of work/life balance

  • Steve

    Great way to look at it. I vividly remember about 12 years ago working at a consulting firm I hated. The hours were ridiculous (80-90 per week). The pay was pathetic (on an hourly basis less than minimum wage, since I didn’t get overtime). I worked so much that my girlfriend dumped me after one too many cancelled dates. And worst of all, my hatred for the job and exhaustion started to cause me to make mistakes, which made me work even longer hours to fix them.

    And here’s what killed me about your story: people develop a teeth-grinding condition and don’t realize their job is killing them? I thought “that’s ridiculous” and then I remembered that close to the end of that job I developed an ulcer and threw up blood a few times…. and didn’t quit.

    What finally made me quit was this: I was getting ready to go to work one morning. I had a cold and was feeling a bit woozy, but it was a big meeting. As I put on my tie, I fell down on the floor and passed out for a few minutes. When I got up, I STILL went to work (not the hospital). I waited until after the meeting to go to my doctor, who informed me that I didn’t have a cold – I had pneumonia AND bronchitis. And that I would probably be dead in six months if I didn’t address my health.

    Really – he said that. Dead in six months.

    It took that to make me quit. And I was single and didn’t have a mortgage or car payments or anything. There was no reason I couldn’t, except that I was career driven. I’m not in that line of work anymore, either. What a waste.

    I look back on it and wish I could go back and punch myself in the head and tell myself “life’s too short for a crappy job.” Completely true.


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