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When You’re Working For the Wrong Person

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Who remembers what their first job was like? Were you a babysitter? Did you bag groceries or tear tickets at the local theater? Did you work in a clothing store strictly for the discount on clothes your parents wouldn’t buy for you? For many teenagers, the first job is a humbling experience as they learn to deal with the rigors of working for someone else while also learning about personal responsibility.

Chances you probably had a lot of little jobs growing up before you started your professional career. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you knew, on more than one occasion, that you were working for the wrong person. Frequent disagreements, terrible shifts, or missed opportunities were the usual indicators that it was time to move on.   Back then, it was easy to deal with. You simply picked up your last check, handed in your uniform, and went to the next best thing.

It is decidedly less easy, however, when you become an adult and it’s your career.

The Signs

As an adult, you learn to recognize the signs that you’re working for the wrong person pretty early on. Your exceptional performance isn’t recognized as readily as other employees’, you’ve been passed over for promotions or special projects, or you’re simply feeling stagnant all the time. If you’re in this situation, your frustration is likely growing.

Many small businesses experience the ebb and flow of successfulness. However, in most instances, when the business struggles, the owner of the company is willing to take the cut so their employees don’t feel that loss as they want them to remain loyal for as long as possible. They want to keep people happy so when the business springs back, they still have a staff. If they cut your pay, they’re willing to cut you. Cut and run. This isn’t the employer you’re looking for.

If you’ve noticed that your boss applauds all of your ideas, but they’re not happening or you’re not being credited for them, it’s likely not a good fit. Chances are, your boss is either a yes man who doesn’t know how to offer constructive criticism, thereby inhibiting your growth or your boss is taking credit for your ideas with her higher-ups.

One of the other signs that you’re working for the wrong person is the general feeling of discomfort in your work life. Not every day is going to be the best day ever, but you shouldn’t have an inexplicable dread going to work. Something isn’t quite right if you have reservations about leaving the house every morning.

Personal Experience and The Art of Walking Away

As an independent contractor, I’ve held a variety of jobs over the years, but none was more disheartening than one of the first. I was employed by a small company to work in social media and at first, it was my dream job and I excelled at it. After two years of solid performance, I’d received many commendations from my boss and was generally well-liked by colleagues and clients. Then, very suddenly, I was stripped of nearly ninety percent of my duties but asked to be patient and “stick with it”, because the company had hit hard times.   My boss, however, continued to collect his full paycheck.

The experience broke my heart, especially when he hired his spouse onto the company when said spouse lost her job, but I stayed. I stayed for three more years. I gradually was brought back up to the amount of work I’d previously been doing, but it never felt the same again. I tolerated a lot of abusive behavior at the hand of the spouse, dealt with problem customers despite bringing on several high paying clients on my own, and was promised promotions I never received.

It took me awhile but I learned the difference between genuine appreciation and the crumbs I was being thrown. I’m not a quitter and I’ll never back down from someone who is making me feel inferior, but I had to sever ties for my own greater good. The experience was a life lesson, both in recognizing my reservations about an employer right away and in the words of Kenny Rogers, knowing when to walk away and when to run.

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