Should I put in my notice? How and when?

My job situation is beyond crazy right now.

I have had a suspicion for most of the year that my job (IT help desk) is being slowly phased out. Even if it’s not eliminated entirely, the conditions and atmosphere around here have become nearly intolerable (see below).

I would ideally like to get laid off so I can keep the company as a reference AND collect unemployment while I search for greener (albeit PT) pastures.

I have never been in this situation before, nor have I even anticipated that this would happen.

I really need advice.

Some details on the situation:

When I started here (10/13/10)

  • I was entry level help desk
  • The IT team had 1 VP (Tim - Eric’s boss), a director (Eric - my boss), a help desk person (me), and two programmers.
  • Made $30K
  • worked on third floor of a nice office building where no one bothered me
  • my boss (Eric) was also in the trenches with me; he was familiar with EVERY aspect of the company and EVERY aspect of my job. He was patient and showed me how to do things. I learned from him very quickly. He was great.
  • We were part of a large international company
  • This parent company provided all our software licenses. This made it very easy to keep track of everything…because no one had to keep track except the corporate folks.
  • If we couldn’t answer questions in IT, we could call the HQ Help Desk in NYC and they would answer it for us.

Fast forward to early 2012:

  • Everything is completely different
  • I was STILL entry level help desk (until September 2012)
  • Still made $30k (until 9/12)
    **- Our parent company dumped us 1/1/12
  • We were bought by venture capitalists**
  • They promised no lay offs
  • We had to immediately switch email providers (we now use corporate Gmail - YIKES - because we no longer had access to an Exchange server) and software packages (most of our people use a Chinese MS Office knock-off called Kingsoft Suite now…it’s pretty awful) The larger software switch is STILL an on-going project due to the scope of labor. I mean, EVERY bit of software we had was in the parent company’s name. We have to replace ALL of it…and by WE, I mean Eric and myself
  • No enterprise help desk in NYC anymore
  • Eric became impossible to get a hold of; I increasingly work the help desk solo, making these big projects considerably more time-consuming
  • We get news that we’re moving buildings (This is a MASSIVE undertaking for our little 5 person IT department)
  • A new programmer fresh out of school gets hired; one that had been there for 20 years promptly quits (she didn’t want to deal with the restructuring - had nothing to do with the new hire)
    - We move to the new building
  • the new server room is half the size of the old one - but with the same number of servers (29). The room is constantly hotter than Hades.
  • We had to throw away a ton of equipment (we moved from 3 floors of a large corporate building to one floor of a smaller one; the IT department used to have the third floor almost entirely to themselves…now we take up a sad little row of cubes in a sad sea of cubes…which is a less than ideal situation for the help desk)
  • My cube is IN THE MIDDLE of the only major walkway in this sea of cubes
  • People CONSTANTLY stop by and interrupt me
  • Productivity diminishes - frustration increases
  • The move is A LOT of work for us in IT; we can barely find the things we need to function
  • Eric assures me that things will get better
  • Power fluctuates A LOT, which disrupts work and downs critical servers
  • This happens regularly
  • A programmer gets sent to the Interactive team (IE - he no longer works on IT stuff)
    - Eric ALSO moves to the Interactive team. I am taking care of the IT department almost entirely on my own now - for a nationwide company of almost 175 users.
  • To recap, that means that our IT team is now 1 help desk person doubling as a sys admin (me), a very green programmer, and a VP
  • Eric’s boss (Tim - the VP) becomes my boss
  • Eric begins working from home because HIS new boss doesn’t want the IT team interfering with his Interactive work
  • This is a MASSIVE problem. He is an ENGINEER. He was the architect for our entire company’s computer network. He is the ONLY person on the PLANET who knows how some of this stuff works, especially PITA legacy crap…and he is MIA.
  • I am a good worker and great level 2 help desk person, but I am REALLY green to be playing sys/net admin. I start praying to every deity imaginable that they hire a replacement for Eric.
  • The company lays off 30 people, all long-time employees, and all over age 40. <–This is an important piece of information
  • Finally, I hear news (in June) that they are hiring his replacement for $45k. I am relieved.

June 2012 - present:
- They hire Dave. Dave knows less about computers than I do. He has NEVER worked in IT before…and he’s supposed to be our new systems engineer.

  • Dave needs trained on how to do basic things.
  • I am now doing his work, my work, and doing my best to fumble my way through Eric’s work. This is a terribly stressful situation.
  • I work nights and weekends, without a pay increase, and with increased demand
  • I begin to realize that the administrative work that Eric left behind was done sloppily FOR YEARS. he was great with computers - but was probably so busy/over-extended that all the software licensing and record keeping just fell to the wayside. NOTHING is up to date.
  • My work load become even greater, because Dave is incompetent, requiring me to do his work WHILE trying to teach him basic computer stuff (the man couldn’t even PING TEST!)
  • It’s a nightmare. I finally come to the point where I can’t take it anymore. I tell Tim to give me a raise (I was still making $30k) for all the projects, administrative clean up, inventory, purchasing, server maintenance, back up stuff, AND help desk stuff I’m doing and imply that he should fire Dave for lying about his abilities.
  • Dave gets demoted instead. (They laid off 30 people over age 40 at the beginning of this year and hired him as a cynical, empty headed gesture to avoid getting sued over it - Dave’s 51.) He gets my entry-level job and a pay decrease of $10k. I get bumped up to help desk supervisor with a pay increase of $12k.
  • Dave has grumbled about the pay decrease almost every day since it occurred. It’s as if he’s oblivious to the fact that A) He should have never been hired in the first place, B) He should have been fired once they recognized he couldn’t perform the functions of the gig he was hired for, and C) That I am the LAST person he should be complaining to about it because that situation put me through the paces in a way he cannot comprehend.
  • The pay increase is awesome…but this still doesn’t solve the lack o’sys admin dilemma. Additionally, Dave can’t even do Level 1 -2 help desk like I had been doing prior to all these changes, meaning that I have to redo almost everything he touches. I am also the project lead for most of our big projects - including massive workstation updates and server migrations.
  • This has been going on since JUNE. They keep saying that they’re going to hire a new Eric, but it has yet to happen.
  • The company, in the meantime, is being restructured again. They promised no layoffs…again.
  • Except…**they laid off the CEO. ** He’ll be done at the end of the year
  • All of the departments are going to be slowly turned into one…except NO ONE mentions IT. What about the IT department???
    My theory: They are going to lay us off. Even if they don’t, I spend most of every shift wishing they would.
  • Eric is still with the company. He will resume his old duties with a different job title
    Maybe CIO, as I anticipate they will lay Tim off soon enough…
    **- AND IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING THIS POST Tim called me into his office to announce that he has also been laid off. :smack: No one knows who I’ll be reporting to. **
  • Apparently, things just keep getting better and better. (smh)

I began looking for an alternative career path a few months back. I found out a week ago that I was accepted into the University of Georgia Graduate School and will be on track for a Master’s of Science - Artificial Intelligence starting Fall '13. So, I know I will be moving from Ohio to the South some time in the Spring of next year. I think my time is limited here due to organizational shifts, as well. I just need help coming up with a good, professional exit strategy.

Sounds like you need a red Swingline stapler or something.

Don’t do anything until you have a confirmed date to start something new. No less than two weeks before that provide notice. If you get laid off, you get laid off, don’t try to do anything to make that happen, you could disqualify yourself from unemployment compensation. The important thing for you to do is find something else. School would be fine if you can afford it, being accepted and paying for it are two different things. So until something else is definitely in place, you should be looking for work.

It sounds like maybe your part of the company (i.e. the part that got sold) isn’t very profitable, or isn’t profitable at all, and the venture capitalists are trying to hack their way into profitability by cutting their payroll, if they’re cutting all the old-timers, and not hiring competent IT people.

It’s short-sighted for a number of reasons- you lose all the tribal knowledge of the business that the old-timers possess, and you end up having the less competent IT people spend 2-3 times as long fixing a problem and putting all the people out of commission for that much longer than you would if you just had a guy who knows what he’s doing. This can easily add up to more than just paying someone competent a fairly hefty salary.

However, if they’re just trying to cut costs and shore things up long enough to pillage the intellectual property, customer base, contacts lists, or whatever, (my suspicion) then it doesn’t matter anyway.

It sounds also like IT in your company isn’t a mission-critical department- in other words you guys are more infrastructure providers than people who maintain, develop and support enterprise apps that the business runs on. That, and having management that doesn’t understand IT at all, tends toward IT being woefully underfunded.

I agree with your assessment 100%, Bump.

Tripolar - Sound advice. I think I’ve probably given similar advice to friends in the past. :slight_smile:

I have a friend who offered me a position with his small company. I can start whenever I quit, though the pay isn’t going to be anywhere near what I currently make. I’m ok with that as a temporary solution. I am currently searching for an assistantship through UGA. Tuition waiver + slight salary = a 100% upgrade from this hot mess of a job! Hopefully I will get offered a GA gig by late January.

A reputable master’s program will pay him to go to school… that shouldn’t be a concern.

While I agree that all this shit sucks a big fat one, I think you should seriously try to stick it out as long as you can. Frankly, your head’s probably next on the chopping block. You want them to lay you off, so just keep doing what you’re doing for as long as you can. I gotta say, you did so SO well to negotiate your raise and get Dave demoted–a pushover would not have done any of that. IMO, you are *still *being underpaid by a factor of 1.5 or 2, but it’s better than what you were getting. And, after being tempered in the raw shit that is your current job, working anywhere else will be a piece of cake, right? =)

Alternative plan: consider talking to a mental health professional and tell them you need a stress leave from work (with short-term disability pay, if that’s one of your benefits). Assuming you work in the US, your employer HAS to grant you FMLA leave if you get a note from your doctor. The leave may or may not be paid, but it will provide you with up to 6 months of job protection during your absence.

If you keep working, stop covering for Dave. Point him to google next time he comes to you with a stupid fucking question. Let him sink on his own merits.

If this company had a future, I’d have one set of advice. Since I doubt it does, I have another.

Do they pay termination money when people get laid off? Is it substantial? If not, try to avoid being laid off.

Don’t worry about references. First. many places have a policy about only saying that someone worked there. Even if they don’t, if you leave on a positive note, especially to go to school, you’ll probably be fine. They know what is going on, whoever speaks to someone will probably consider you smart to get out. And there might not be anyone left to give a reference. So don’t sweat it. Leaving to go to school seldom pisses anyone off.

Now, to survive until you leave for school. Remember, in a few months it will be someone elses problem. List all the stuff you have to do, set priorities, and ask whoever is in charge now to comment on your list and ask them to change priorities where necessary. Tell them right up front that you probably can’t get it all done with your current resources. It is better to do a subset well than everything crappily. You’ll also stop thrashing.

For Dave, figure out what he can do which won’t cost you more time than it saves you. Give him that, and let him work up to doing more. If he won’t, or he can’t, start documenting your requests (copy to him) and how he does on them. He should get the message. If he doesn’t it will help you dump him.

But again, don’t sweat it. They aren’t going to dump someone they just promoted and gave a raise to for not doing the impossible. Being a short timer gives you incredible power. If someone is paying attention to what is going on, they will know you are too valuable to dump. If they aren’t, it doesn’t really matter what you do so long as nothing explodes with such force the powers that be notice. Practice being a manager and stay sane until you get to leave.

One thing that’s fascinating me about this vignette are the tiny pay scales. $30,000 and $40,000 per year being acceptable salaries for people doing critical technical work? An experienced electrician makes twice that easily.

Quite wrong!

PhD programs typically pay stipends. Master’s programs are generally full-freight in order to defray the costs of the doctoral programs.

That’s why he’s looking for a TA gig at UGA to get a tuition waiver. However, these are very competitive and often PhD students (who, if they are on an academic track, will use the position not so much for money but to get teaching experience on their resume). It would be very surprising for a professor to take on a student as a TA who has yet to set foot on campus.

As to the OP:

It sounds like the job when you started was basically a sinecure. My worry is that you think getting a piece of parchment from a university that says “Masters in Computer Science” will bring that sinecure back. It won’t, and you’ll be many thousands of dollars in the hole for it.

What I also did not fail to notice is that you were promoted and got a 40% raise, which suggests that you are good at this job you hate.

It seems like you’ve been working for two years and are now, quite understandably having the Peggy Lee experience of asking “Is That All There Is?”

It’s not uncommon for those new to the workforce, particularly those who believed all the hokum about how college is a golden key to a life of leisure, to experience this sensation of the bloom coming off the rose.

The way to move forward is not to go back to school. PhDs in the sciences do not command much more than lower degrees in industry. A science PhD is really only advisable if you envision—and you have the consistently excellent academic performance—obtaining academic employment. Academic employment is not really available to masters holders.

That you are work an IT helpdesk suggests that your grades weren’t exactly McKinsey material.

So, my advice: Look for a new, better-paying, and more commodious job. Do not waste your money pursuing a masters degree. At the very least, obtain accurate data on actual costs and employment outcomes for your program. But almost certainly, your best bet is to advance your career, not to absent yourself from the workforce. Schools love to bamboozle new grads with slick masters marketing material and the siren call of taking a few years off. It is rarely worth it. Universities are not necessarily the honest brokers that people like to imagine, particularly when it comes to pure-profit masters programs.

Or worse, someone might try to make you a PI!

A lot depends on where you live. That may be true in the northeast, but it’s definitely not true elsewhere.

Here in Texas, for example, a lot of (most?) IT jobs fall into that 60-90k range, with the more help-desky ones being in the 30-60 range, and the more senior ones, and more director/VP level ones being in the 90-up range.

Some electricians may make 70k, but it’s unlikely that many do; it’s a solid blue collar job around here, which means salaries in the 40-60 range for the most part.

It’s just the job specifications. A basic help desk position may be 30K to 40K a year. But those are jobs the average teenager is capable of doing. Positions requiring more skills and background will pay 2 to 3 times that amount. Master electricians will easily make 70K or more a year anywhere, if they have the business. Journeymen will make much less. The OP just has a bad position at a dying company. The pay scale there wouldn’t reflect the industry at large.

I am a bit of an exception. You are giving sound advice…if I were a traditional student and in my 20’s. I am not one of those kids. I’m in my mid-30’s. I actually didn’t go to college until I was 25 because I was raised very poor and was basically required to join the labor force immediately after high school. I couldn’t afford college and didn’t want to take out the loans. I live in a very economically depressed part of the country where the opportunities are slim. I realized in my mid-20’s that I lacked the connections and resources to make a decent living without that “piece of parchment.” I went to school and got a BA. I have yet to regret the decision. It improved my life enormously. Your advice is very wise, though, for people who are just going to school because their friends are going or because mammy and daddy are paying for them to go. If they don’t have a goal - a very well-researched goal, at that - then they are setting themselves up for a long, hard climb.

Now that’s just harsh. The entry level degree for what I want to do is a Master’s. And the pay off is fabulous…six figures to start, if all goes according to plan. That is because it’s a field that is growing rapidly, is in high demand, and is so new that most schools don’t offer it, meaning that the competition for jobs is low. (And that is why I’m not telling you what my planned specialty is!) I am very well acquainted with labor stats and the industry. I have no doubts that going back to school in this instance is the right move.

As for my position/low pay: I started the game late. I work at a help desk because it was my first job out of college. I graduated in the middle of the Great Recession (2010). I live in a VERY economically depressed part of the country where 25% of the labor force was unemployed in 2010. The meager pay I get from this gig is still substantially better than what most of my friends make to this day. There are some places in the US where you sincerely have to fight every step of the way to create opportunities for yourself. It’s been depressed here since the mid-1970’s. I was fortunate to find a job. Most of my friends did not fare so well. Some are STILL looking for full-time work. (Some of them picked really impractical majors, and that’s on them.) Still, I don’t see landing a job - even a crappy one - as a bad thing. It pays the bills. I have health benefits. I took the first thing I could get, and was proud to have landed a job two weeks after I graduated.

And, for the record, my cumulative GPA was 3.5. That’s not really worthy of ridicule. I worked three jobs for virtually the entire duration of my undergraduate experience. I had no difficulty landing placement in a graduate program with only four open seats next year. The school is a “public ivy.” I could do way worse for myself. :wink:

An assistantship would eliminate the need for more debt (tuition waiver) and provide me a small salary in exchange for research. I am also studying for the CCNA so I can do side work while I attend Master’s classes AND, as I mentioned above, a friend has offered me a flexible job with his company after I move down South. I think I’ll be ok, as I don’t really see “help desk” as a viable long term career option. :wink:

I understand where you’re coming from. I actually think one of the best decisions I ever made was to avoid school until I was an adult. It forced me to appreciate the opportunity and financial costs of my education. I don’t have rose tinted lenses. I was homeless for a time when I was younger. I have no illusions or false sense of entitlement.

I spent a lot of time around college kids, though. Enough to know that I am definitely in the minority.

He is not going for any PhD, but if he were it would be a CS degree. I know lots and lots of people with Engineering and CS degrees in industry. Me, for one. My company which is quite big hires tons of them.

We also hire tons of Masters students. A Masters in CS is indeed a qualifier for lots of jobs, but more importantly it helps one stand out from the scads of BS students out there.

It is true that TA jobs are more rare for MS students, though I see plenty of resumes with them. It depends on the school,. also. One with lots of PhD students will give these jobs to PhDs - otherwise MS students (especially older with experience) might have a shot.

In many schools all but really crappy CS PhD students will get jobs as a matter of course. And TA jobs are usually less prestigious than RA jobs. (Research Assistant.) Turnover in graduate departments is obviously very high.