I took a job for less pay thinking it would be less stressful than my previous job. It turned out to be worse.

Hey Elpha members!

I recently took a startup job for less pay and benefits because I thought it would be less strict, less stressful, and respected work-life balance more than my well-paying agency job. I'm a month in and it turns out to be wrong. It was more stressful, more disorganized, and more strict.

During my interview with the lead (they didn't have a dedicated HR team yet), I asked about the work-life balance and culture of the company. (I have work trauma from a startup I worked for a few years ago and I wanted to know what the current team values.)

The interviewer from the get-go had this warm and friendly energy (virtually) and I immediately liked her. I felt good about the company. When I asked her the work-life balance and team culture questions, she told me it was "pretty chill" and they value work-life balance, they weren't strict (flexible hours).

I was sold.

I was burnt out from my previous job and this new company seemed to be a good place to slow down. Silly me for thinking this.

The lead left 2 weeks into my job and the new lead seems to be the exact opposite. He had so many projects and so many tasks for our team that we'd end up working late (over 8 hours a day). He'd message us late into the evening and would change our meetings last minute. Our Jira board is useless since he just messages us what to do and doesn't translate it to a Jira task. When I told him that it was too much (professionally, of course), he told me I should have known what I signed up for, given that it's a startup.

Maybe that's on me, to be honest, for being ignorant.

This sudden shift in leadership was too jarring for me and I'm finding it hard to adjust. And to be honest, I don't want to adjust. I find myself not speaking up because I know the new lead will shut it down and I don't feel empowered in my role. I only took this job because I thought it would be slower than my previous job, but that's on me. I find myself thinking of quitting not even three months into the job. I'm too old to hustle and grind every day, I just want to live slow but I feel like a failure for leaving so soon. Steady income is something I need, too.

What would your advice to someone on my position, Elpha members?

lizmueller's profile thumbnail
It’s not a failure of yours that you were misled about the company. I’m in a similar position where stability and work life balance are very important to me. If it were me, I’d already be interviewing elsewhere. There’s nothing to feel bad or guilty about. Do what’s best for you!
Thank you, Liz! Your words is the push I need. Sad, though, since I do believe in the company's mission but it's really not for me overall.
amandamulder's profile thumbnail
@Charissa66 first of all, I hear and see you. I've been there myself many years ago. Your reaction to what has happened at the new job, your idea of leaving and feelings that arise are totally valid.You mentioned you want to be in an environment where things are slower. Have you allowed yourself a moment to slow down and sit with your mind (beliefs/judgements) and your body (sensations)? Often when we create the space to be gentle with ourselves and listen to what is needed, the answers lie within. I believe you know what to do, the question is how can you stay true to your truth and follow your souls desire?As Liz mentioned, there is no failure - only opportunities of growth. The fact that you spotted this within 3 months is a huge step towards honouring yourself. If it would support you in diving deeper in this 1:1, I'm here and willing to make space for your voice to be heard and emotions to move through. A warm hug, Amanda
Thank you, Amanda. Your reply is like a warm hug to my soul. I've been doing more meditation sessions but I find myself still stressing and worrying a few minutes later. I'm trying to set bound's, but as a certified people-pleaser, I find it hard to detach myself from work and simply slow down. And thank you for the 1:1 offer, you are an angel for opening space for me to talk.
kathyls's profile thumbnail
Do you think it’s potentially a good company but bad manager or bad company and bad manager? Perhaps you can try switching teams internally. Also consider talking to leadership and give feedback that you don’t feel communication/feedback channels are open and you see your team struggling - manager may not know how to say “no” / prioritize, properly scope estimate and document work, seek/receive feedback.
What constitutes as a good company? The people here are good and intelligent but the overall nature of "hustle, grinding, work hard, play hard" here is not what I find good. Good to me is someone who respects work-life balance and not surrounding yourself with only work. So to some, who enjoys hustling and grinding, this could be a good company but a bad manager. Thank you for the suggestions! We're a very small team, 11-20, so switching teams internally isn't feasible, also I'm the only one in the entire company who has this job title/role. But yes, our team of 3 (sans the lead/manager) has been planning on talking to the higher ups about it. Thank you for your insights!
nehashah19's profile thumbnail
I’m sorry you are going through this and can empathize with the “I’m too old for the hustle and the grind”. It’s great that you know this about yourself - what you want. And it’s ok that you ended up being wrong about this company. I can also understand not wanting to speak up. You are new and how many things can you speak up about when you just got your feet wet?It’s like this. I want a spacious SUV because I need to be higher, I want to carry big things like ladders and tvs, etc. I went to a dealership and they showed me a new car that was coming out and said it was like an Escalade. I couldn’t really see it for myself yet but believed them when they said it was an Escalade. That works for me I thought and I bought it. However, when I got it, turns out it was more like Hyundai venue. It was tiny, barely any lift and really no way to fit any big items, etc. Now I’ve spent this money, but the suv doesn’t suit me. It doesn’t fulfill my purpose and I am stuck. Or am I? I take a financial hit, but can sell the suv and now when I go looking, know to be more specific, ask better questions, etc. I feel like when we take a new job in a different company, depending on if we know anyone there, the situation is similar to the suv buying made up story. There is a leap of faith. The company is selling you and telling you things from their perspective. Your perspective is not theirs. It’s ok. Make the change. Life is way too short to be miserable when there are options.
traceylea's profile thumbnail
Same. Work trauma is so hard to shake and so easily manifests when you’re put in similar situations (which is hard to remove yourself from since work roles we train for and are experienced in are so similar across companies and industries). It seems this plays out role after role for me as well. Expectations are outlined as being mid-level, I’m certainly paid that way, and then the pushing into extra duties by managers away from just working to leadership and organising starts, while the guys I work with get paid more and seem to have have no cares in the world and a load more job security. To re-iterate MY expectations to the company and managers, I have recently just started stopping work after my 7.5 hours and closing my computer, walking away from coding/studying coding and really emphasising that the daily grind is only during work hours because life has more to offer - even if it is just an evening walk to a cafe. So I suppose my advice is drawing the lines for yourself and then sticking to them as best you can. If what you’re sensing developing as a culture at your workplace starts to resonate too closely to previously experienced work trauma I’d suggest starting to look elsewhere 😞
rachelserwetz's profile thumbnail
Hi! When deciding about quitting, consider a few things:- Role -- what % of your day to day work or projects aligns with your workstyle, strengths, and natural tendencies?- Industry -- how aligned do you feel with the product/service that your company produces? do you feel that their mission is important & interesting?- Environment -- does the culture align with your personality and values?- Give yourself a 1-10 on each of these to try to assess the current state of where you're at and what to do about it.Additional resources for you to look at:-Short quiz to decide on "should I stay or should I go" --> https://form.typeform.com/to/QtFqKW0J-60 minute webinar on deciding if/when to quit --> https://generalassembly.zoom.us/rec/play/eNlA5-hQVRNEUF65wVFQijp57Jhxgv5w_IXluQbSgob7-vrF7NC6y-Yan2m4GpsR8PoF5OyPArOFUhej.Rzf9LR4OVClIYutC-Blog post about how you're feeling about your current role & what to do about it--> https://getwoken.medium.com/anxious-about-going-into-the-office-heres-what-it-could-mean-ab1316a366d6P.S. I'm Rachel Serwetz, a Career Exploration Coach (iamwoken.com), and I'd be happy to chat further with you! Book a free coaching call with me here! (calendly.com/woken/demo)
MeganWinters's profile thumbnail
What a ridiculous work set-up. I found in start-ups that all kinds of bad behaviour get brushed away with 'we're a start-up!'; bad management, unclear goals, over work and burn-out.I'd put the feelers out for a new role, personally.I'd also switch up your questions for uncovering the company culture in the business. Instead of - what's the work life balance? I would ask - can you discuss how you have adapted the company or workload for people who requested it, like new parents, or people with disabilities? What are the expectations around work in the evenings? If you slack me at 8pm are you expecting a response right away? What changes did you make over the pandemic to make your employees happy and comfortable? How is mental health taken care of in this company?All those questions require them to give specific actions they have already taken - if they are blindsided or just give platitudes you know they don't think about this stuff at all.
WOW. these are all great suggestions. I'm bookmarking and keeping it. thank you so much, megan! this made my day.
MeganWinters's profile thumbnail
You're very welcome! I had to learn my lesson the hard way, so I'm really glad to pass it on to you :)