Job Security and Misery, or a Fresh Start?

Last Updated Aug 15, 2007 9:50 PM EDT

I work in a publication department designing and expediting print materials. Recently, we hired someone new to take a high-pressure design position in our department. I don't know how this person got through the intense scrutiny of our hiring process but I overhear a lot of scrambling to cover up the huge lack of knowledge. I've also seen their design work and at best they are a junior level designer, or even entry level. This person is slow with their design work, asking four weeks in scheduling for a design that should take a few hours to crank out; has a long commute from home so they are late every day and their work starts after they eat breakfast and make personal phone calls; and has scheduling conflicts that has required them to take personal time after they've only been here a few weeks.
shrinker465php.jpegI applied for the position (it's a pay-grade higher and would get me an instant 7% raise) two years ago and was turned down flat by my boss who then became very adversarial (I think she was grilled on why she didn't hire from within which is company policy). However, we did hire someone very competent to take the position. This latest time my boss put me on the hiring committee so I could not put in a resume for the position a second time. I was removed from the committee just before the interview process. This person came on at the same pay as me and can't do the job, however nobody around here will actually confront the issue. My boss is just collecting a paycheck until retirement, which will probably be coming in the next year or two.
One piece of advice was to file a grievance against my boss, but I am trying to decide if it's time to take another position elsewhere. I have been here eight years and have excellent benefits. I will be eligible to draw a pension in a little over a year. There is good job security here and while I am not old, I am not 20-something and this is an industry that benefits 20-somethings. I am really flummoxed as to what to do. Where's the line?
You have a real laundry-list of problems. But here's a secret: everyone has a laundry-list of problems with their boss, their coworkers, their pay, their advancement. That's just part of life in the rat race.

Now to get down to some answers. This won't take long because there are few.

As far as your coworker goes, there is nothing you can do about their incompetence. Everyone knows people in their company who don't pull their own weight, or who don't deserve the job they have. That's just how it goes, no matter how thorough the hiring process. Complaining about them will only make you look bad. This is a lousy situation and will make you want to pull your hair out, but there is some consolation. If your coworker is as bad as you say, the house of cards will fall and they will be returned to their natural place in the pecking order.

Now to your more serious matter: filing a grievance against your boss. Those are some shark-infested waters you'd be treading in. First of all, you have a lot of presumptions that would be hard to prove. And second, the one time you actually did apply for the position, you admit that a competent person was hired instead. The rest of your story is a bit soft to take before a grievance committee. This isn't a cut-and-dry, fight-the-good-fight sort of thing. Even if you win, you'd be labeled a troublemaker. I'd take a pass on that piece of advice.

What should you do now? Well, that's a decision that's going to require some soul searching. Job security and a pension are great. They're also the reason people retire from jobs that they've hated for 30 years (I'm getting a whiff of your boss here). Going through the motions and collecting a paycheck are no way to go through life, especially if you're locked in an adversarial relationship with a boss who has no plans to respect you, let alone promote you.

You're not young? So what. You're never too old for a fresh start. I think it's time to dust off your resume and play the field. There's nothing like a fresh romance with a new company to jump-start a stalled career.

Have a workplace-ethics dilemma? Ask it here, or email wherestheline@gmail.com

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.