Monday, June 26, 2006

Should I give my bosses a chance before I quit in disgust?

I like my job and I like the work I do at it. The problem is that lately, I haven't had any to do. Literally nothing to do all day. On Friday I did about five minutes of work. Thursday, the only work I did was walking some charts back to the records office. Another employee that was hired at the same time as me doesn't have anything to do either. (Actually, she is leaving, and they're not going to replace her position. And unfortunately they aren't going to distribute her salary among us either. Poo.) Most of the problem is that I simply can't get anything done because no one will get back to me. I work on a variety of projects under different people, and some of them are responsive and some are not. So if I need their OK on something, or some directions, it could be a very long time before they get back to me and I can start working on the project again.

Let me give you the best example. When I first started working here last July, two of the doctors had this project that they were very excited about and we had several meetings and I got started right away and did a bunch of work on some patient files. These people are the cases, and since it is a case-control study, I also need to pick out some people to act as controls and review their files. The doctors had originally wanted the tech guy to write some kind of program to automatically generate matches from our database, but that is time consuming and not a priority for him, so he hasn't been working on it at all. Over the course of the next several months, I periodically emailed him or asked him about, and asked the doctors about it, and nothing happened. About two months ago I came up with a way to do it by hand, and emailed everybody and asked them about it, and nothing happened. This is really frustrating because a great many projects are like this, where the entire operation is on hold because somebody cannot talk to me for fifteen minutes. It really makes me feel like I am completely insignificant. I think what the problem is, is that every time one of the people I need to talk to sees me, they think, oh no, here is work coming! Because I always need something from them.

Well, news flash! I am your employee! You are supposed to help me! If I had discretionary power over whatever issue I am going to ask you about, I would have used it months ago!

I'm really getting frustrated by all of this. I do have projects that work by themselves without outside intervention, and I do work with doctors who are very responsive and get back to me immediately. But this underemployment is pissing me off. I could have lots to do, if only they would email me back. And it really undermines their position that they are SO excited about doing LOTS of research when they don't follow through on the baby steps that get research done. I just read The Millionaire Next Door and there is a complete parallel between this and the people who really want to be rich, and make lots of money and could do it, but they just never follow through on doing the paperwork, looking up the figures, etc, all of the actual boring stuff that encompasses it.

My dad has been encouraging me to start looking for other jobs. My dilemna is that I have only been here since July anyway, and they are going to lose another employee shortly. I know that my loyalty in this situation should be to myself, but it does seem like a lot for the department to bear. Adding to the complication, I will probably be moving in about a year, maybe a year and six months, when Boyfriend finishes graduate school. (This is not set in stone, as he may get a PhD, but is highly likely.) I would definitely change jobs then (what a convenient excuse!) but I am wondering if it is even worth it to try and acclimate to a new job here, or try and stick it out with this job.

The other thing I was pondering was that, if my bosses decided they wanted to fire me, it would actually take more time than I have left. There's a complicated multi-step procedure designed to allow the employee to be given the charges against her conduct, and then allowed time to fix those problems. Although I don't seriously think that anything would come of it, I dearly wish I could sit down with my superiors and tell them exactly why I am so frustrated and why I cannot get my job done. I wouldn't want to do that as part of a threat of leaving, since that would just cause bad blood all round, but at the same time I am new and the other employees have simply accepted it, so it might seem like I am the problem child, not them. My dad said that it's not unusual for somebody to spend a year someplace and then move on, and that it's usually the most talented people who move on quickly. Our department definitely isn't making any attempts to retain me and the other coworker (who gets the same treatment from our superiors) and makes me wish I had spent more time asking questions about the culture at the interview, instead of about the research. They all seemed to get along so well..

Is it even worth it to try and salvage things? I don't think anybody would listen to me (even if I could get a meeting) and the culture is just so set in stone.. Adding the complication is the fact that a job with practically the same job description as mine just came up on the job boards and pays at minimum $14,000 more than I make now. And the job title is the same as my supervisor's, so I'd definitely be launching myself upwards in terms of the future jobs I could get... It's very tempting.


kassy said...

I am kind of in the same boat, I've been here for 10 years and have spent the last 2 years complaining that I have nothing to do and my boss did nothing. About 4 months ago I switched to a different position in the same department with a different boss, but I still have nothing to do. I've decided to just suck it up mainly because I like where I work and I like most of the people I work with. So in my case if I were thinking of quitting I would definitely give my boss a chance first.

I think its best to try and have a talk with your boss first and if nothing changes, then quit. At least you will have tried one last time to fix the situation. If you quit now and got a new job, would you have to quit that job when you move?

Kira said...

Yeah, we would be moving to a different city. I would feel bad leaving again so soon, but on the other hand I think I am going to go stir crazy here. I just can't take being treated this way by my bosses anymore, like we in research are not worthy of their attention and they can blow us off whenever they want. I have this idealistic view that it might help if I talked to them, but I think realistically it wouldn't.

Chris said...


I too was in the same situation a few months ago. I kept telling my boss that I had nothing to do and he did nothing. Well I started to make my own opportunities by doing work for other departments and began getting noticed. Well, once he got word a lot of people began to inquire about my services, he decided to promote me to financial analyst. Don't worry it will work out for ya!!

Anonymous said...

Using your example about finding control cases by hand instead of waiting for a program to be written:
Maybe instead of sending an e-mail asking about doing it by hand you should send an e-mail proposing and descibing your hand method, and stating that if they have any questions or have any reasons it should not be done this way to let you know by a certain date. Otherwise,you will begin performing the task. Rather than waiting for an ok, make them be respond or else you'll get the work done. You can word this nicely, make them feel like you're trying to help by releiving the workload on them and the programmer, and that you don't have much to do, so you're helping them get progress on their work.

I also think doing something like Chris mentioned in his comment may improve your situation.

Kira said...

I did actually send them a long email about how I would like to do it by hand, and what happened is that one of the doctors decided that he would simply rather get data from ALL of the people who didn't die. WHich is more than 1500 people. The problem (even more emphasized now) is that in order to get their charts, we have to pay a significant sum of money to the storage facility, so I can't authorize the charts to be pulled on my own since the project doesn't have a budget or anything. I thought about doing something like that but they would have killed me over how much it cost. ;)