Job shuffle - doing something I have no business doing

I was hired as a technical writer back in February on a contract basis for a natural gas project. I loved my job, my office, life was good. Then the division for whom I worked went through a “reorganization” which resulted in a Reduction in Force (RIF). Many people were riffed leaving much work with no one to do it. People were reassigned to incorporate this excess work into their schedules. This resulted in even more people leaving because of the stress of added work (many were already overloaded before the additional work). So the remaining few got even more work.

Here’s where I fit in: I get to keep my fulltime (plus) job as a technical writer AND I get to be office manager/accountant/secretary/etc. for this non-profit organization - also a fulltime job. I am totally not qualified to do this office management stuff. I’ve worked in an office doing secretarial duties, but never dealt with the IRS or juggling all the million things that have to be done to keep this place running. The financial system in place baffles me. I’m lost in this office manager world. I hate it. I’m trying my best to keep up with both jobs, and I think I could if I worked 12 hour days and all weekend - every weekend. As a single parent, working 12 hour days is not a possibility.

I can’t complain, because most other people in this division have the same amount of impossible workload. All of my co-workers are looking for other jobs. I’ve only been here 5 1/2 months, so I can’t transfer to another division. The natural gas project is a great resume builder if I see it through to the end.

Anyone been in a situation like this before? How did you survive?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I was in a situation identical to the one you describe, except that it was in a Soviet gulag in Siberia back in the 1970’s, and of course, I didn’t have kids then.

On a more serious note: All I can say is, as Ann Landers frequently says, “Nobody can use you for a doormat without your permission.” Or as my grandpa used to say, “The squeaking wheel gets the grease.” The economy’s on a upswing, babe. Go somewhere else. Or have they got German shepherds patrolling out in the parking lot?

Don’t mess with the IRS, for starters. If you’re not sure how to deal with their paperwork, then for heaven’s sake, speak up, before you find yourself up in front of a grand jury during your employer’s IRS fraud trial. The buck’s gonna stop there, on your widdle haid, darlin’. And I have to wonder, if you’re not a “financially qualified” person, i.e. an accountant of some kind, why in the world would any self-respecting employer even WANT a technical writer handling the office accounts?

Something don’t smell right here, sweetie. My advice is, start looking around before you come in to work someday and find the place locked and sealed by the bailiffs.

This actually happened to me once. The vice-president of the roofing company where I worked told all of us secretaries, very mysteriously, the night before, “take home everything you can carry, staplers, typewriters, the works.” And the next morning, when we came in to work, the place was sealed and the company’s president was in jail for tax evasion. The Veep and us and all the salesmen went down the road and re-opened for business under a new name like nothing had happened.

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I’m rescuing this from Page 3 because I think it sounds like a serious question and deserves more consideration.

Ack! All I can say is: get out! While the job was good for a bit, it sounds like it’s turned into some unrecognizeable horror. Even if it was a good resume builder, if it’s a failure because everyone leaves and those who don’t are overworked into mindless automatons, you could be doing something more productive and fulfilling in the long run.

Another option would be to get everyone together and tell your boss(es) that they’ve left you too understaffed to accomplish anything. You’ll all leave if they don’t hire more help (you did say everyone else was looking for new jobs, didn’t you?). They have to learn that in order to get work done, they need a certain number of employees. Employees are supposed to be assets, not burdens that should be cast aside to save on the bottom line.

And I can’t imagine working without a good office manager, these people are essential! Without them, every place I’ve worked would have fallen apart. If you don’t feel up to the task, don’t let yourself be forced to do it; if something goes wrong, even through no fault of your own, you’ll lose a lot of good will from your boss and co-workers which you might not be able to regain.

I hope you can work this out!

"Anyone been in a situation like this before? How did you survive? "

Yes, and I got out ASAP, with no regrets. The hold they have on you is in your head. The day after you quit, this will be clear to you and them both.

I have been there myself…needless to say I got the hell out. The ulcers are not worth it. Run find a better place. There are many out there.


That place is right on the edge. It is not unusual for organizations to cut back on accounting staff (after all, we’re unnecessary overhead) only to find out they went broke 3 months before it’s obvious to the blithering idiots at the top.

You do not do yourself any favors by remaining until the ship sinks. You will only be held responsible for any part of it they think they can pin on you.

No one really cares that I’m not qualified to run this non-profit organization - it’s just one of many contracts. I’ve told my superiors on several occasions. Most of my co-workers are doing work they are not qualified to do. Also, the RIF was the result of our division’s lack of funding (mismanagement of money), so there’s not enough money to hire more people. We told the non-profit that we are going to renegotiate our contract for more money, hoping that they’d drop it, but they want us to continue doing the impossible.

I’m working on my resume and have been checking the paper. Getting another job that pays enough will mean that I have to move - probably to Houston. I’m stuck in Grimes County right now until I take care of a legal glitch that will free me to leave. (Involves paternity suit & visitation issues between my son and his biological father.) As soon as I get the lawyer to fix it, I can move. I am hoping that will be before my contract is up February 2001.

The “hold” they have on me is just the benefits and money I need to care for my son. I can’t quit until I have another job lined up, unless I want to apply for welfare. As soon as I have vacation time available to take off for job interviews (and seeing the lawyer), I’ll be able to plot my freedom. That’s still a few weeks away. (The State won’t let employees take vacation hours accrued until they’ve been employed for 6 months.) I am hanging on to the hope that my dream job turned nightmare will all be over soon.

Start sending out Resumes now! That way you will have some interviews lined up by the time you do have vaction leave. If you get lucky and someone wants to interview you before then, take a sick day. What can they do? Fire you? They are so understaffed that they cant afford to let anyone else go, and there is no way they could hire someone new. No one would accept the job.

Be there, done that, got a whole closet full of T-shirts!

Last line should read… “Been there…”