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I've been working at a startup for 9 months. Except for the first 3 months, I've been miserable.

It started when I joined the organization. I didn't join as a fresher. My first task was to create a replica of the mobile application that was being developed by a senior developer. Mobile development was new to me, but I managed things gracefully and the application got client acceptance. During this time, that senior developer got fired, and I was the only developer left on the team. Soon, I was told to move over to the new mobile development platform to help the team there, who was having trouble with the initial release of the application. I helped them, and they were able to ship the initial release gracefully. With my efforts, I got management's attention, and as the fog of worry (temporarily) faded, they told me to do some research about a core piece of that app. The research took me two months, and meanwhile the team messed up the application. I was told to take charge of the main development and abandon research until further instructions.

Those "further instructions" never came. When I took charge, we were a team of two. We were both new to technology and we were struggling. Within a month my teammate left the company, and I was alone.

While my learning process continued, the client reported some serious design issues. During the development phase, it took me 10 days to troubleshoot these issues and another month to solve them. During this time, I was doing 4 tasks (i.e. development, design, research, and QA) all alone. I was weak in design and QA, and for that I was criticized a lot by both the client and management.

It took me one week to cope with the burnout; and it took me three months to stablize the project. I wasn't granted any leave during those 3 months, was called every weekend for 5 weeks, and forced to work for at least 12 hours each day. I once tried to oppose this and my salary was on hold for 10 days without any explanation.

Today, the status is this:

  • Among three versions of that application (including mine) every team has at least one feature that is not acceptable.
  • The whole project is 3 months behind schedule.
  • Two weeks ago, our project leader, for the first time, acknowledged that his initial work estimates were wrong.
    • So he wanted us to estimate the remaining time.
    • He told us that he would convince the client to accept these new dates.
    • In three days, our estimations were rejected thrice by the project leader himself and weren't discussed with the client.
    • We were three days behind our schedule for the release (and a week behind the schedule reported to the client).
    • Still, the project estimates were not accepted by the client and there are 5 minor bugs open in that application.

After this, they moved me from that application to a different application which was abandoned by a developer some 7 months ago. The client wanted its beta delivered quickly with all of its issues resolved. There were 12 issues and, among them, 10 issues were resolved. I sent a "test beta" to the client and he mostly accepted it. But there were some problems and the client forced me to solve the remaining two issues at any cost in the given timeline. As the sole developer, the project leader requested my opinion about those two bugs. Both tasks were impossible. One was unsupported by the api and the other couldn't be completed in the given timeline even if somebody worked 24 hours/day. But he wasn't convinced and he asked me to complete these two bugs in the given timeline, thus forcing me to work the weekend. He even froze my salary again, and this time I am in a financial crunch.

What should I do in this situation?

I am inclined to leave, but the question is - Should I leave immediately?

If I do, that will put them in jeopardy and will make them realize that something was wrong on their side. I am not worried about relations with them, but I am worried about the next developer who will take my place (if they can find one). The only problem is that I have to suffer economically somewhat for a month.

OR

Should I wait for my salary?

I do not believe that my salary will be credited tomorrow, and I don't have enough mental strength to face them and still be calm and able to work. But if I pursue this tact, it's at least somewhat more likely that I will have some money and that I can support myself and my family.

Or do you have some other option in mind?

Thanks for patiently reading my question.

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Career advice questions are off-topic here unless they can be sufficiently generalized to a problem relevant to programmers in general. Please see our FAQ as well as Are Career Advice questions useful to anyone except the poster? for more information. In general, the advice for when you're unhappy with your job is to leave, consult a lawyer, or talk with people who know you well. –  user8 May 22 '11 at 21:01
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@Mark: Yes, I have to agree, but it's such a good bad example. –  David Thornley Jun 9 '11 at 14:53
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closed as off topic by Mark Trapp May 22 '11 at 20:57

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6 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It sounds like you really are unhappy. It also sounds like a lot of things have gone wrong in different places. It's difficult to handle such situations correctly, but here are a few concrete actions you could take:

  • Leave this company and start from scratch in a new place.
  • Talk to people that you trust and that know you. If they give you advice that you hesitate to follow, don't. They most likely know what is best for you in this situation and can think about the problem more clearly and distanced than you can right now.
  • Ask friends and/or family for help with regard to short-term finances. This is what friends are meant for. Noone will ever blame you for asking for help in such a situation.
  • Concentrate on your well-being for the moment. Try to sleep a lot, keep your body in shape. Don't try to handle other issues at the moment.
  • Talk to your team leader as clearly as you have here. It will not only be an eye-opener to your team leader, but also help yourself to think clearly about the issue.
  • If you don't know any friends that are able to understand your situation and assist you in decision making, go see a psychologist. These people can help you help yourselfs.
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I'd also like to add that things like 12h workdays and constant weekend calls are partly the OP's fault as well. He needs to draw the line and say no. In such escalated situation that he described it is nearly impossible, so it's only an advice for the future. Even if you have the time and energy - if it's you free time, don't do it. Do it in business hours, that's what they are for. –  Tamás Szelei May 22 '11 at 16:17
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I saw a movie featuring a guy just like this. He got hypnosis, stopped caring so much, which ultimately led to promotion into management. –  Kevin May 22 '11 at 21:06
    
The title of that movie is Office rats, a very entertaining comedy indeed. –  Tamás Szelei May 24 '11 at 10:55
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Office Rats? Isn't that Office Space? "It's just we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now" ... –  Tom Anderson Jun 9 '11 at 16:34
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I can only say what I would do in a situation like that, and the answers is leave ASAP, for several reasons:

  • They seem to be unable to keep developers, schedules seem to be completely confused (a client project abandoned for 7 months and then needs to be done yesterday? Yah right, pull the other one) and generally seem to employ the work and leadership principles more commonly found on Roman galleys.
  • Withholding your salary, no matter if there's a reason given or not? Suuuuure. Meet my lawyer from the notorious office of Runne, Grabbit & Sue... Seriously, the (potentially implied) contract is that you work and they pay you, if they don't pay you, you don't work there.

Get your CV/resume out as soon as you can and go find another job. The only problem I can see - but your ex-colleagues seem to have been able to work around that - is that they might give you a bad reference on top of all the other fun, too.

Life's too short to work for bad employers. They don't care if you are burnt out, they'll just chew through the next batch of developers. Get out. Now.

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Agreed. They don't respect you. –  Christopher Mahan Apr 8 '11 at 20:28
    
Strangely I don't have issues with my co workers... Some of them are already in same position of mine. But they are mostly co operative till the date. And I hope that they will be when needed. –  Alex The Droog Apr 8 '11 at 20:34
    
Nitpick: the Venetians were much less likely than the Spanish and Muslims to use galley slaves, and there's limits to what you can do to a free oarsman. –  David Thornley Apr 8 '11 at 20:36
    
@David Thornley - nitpick fixed :) –  Timo Geusch Apr 8 '11 at 20:51
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...It took me 10 days to troubleshoot these issues and another month to solve them.

  • This sort of thing happens a lot in software development.
  • Yes, it happens less frequently to senior developers.
    • But when senior developers encounter this kind of difficulty, they're usually up against much more difficult problems.
  • You shouldn't feel any shame for this.
    • And when your organization scolded you for this schedule slip, this should have been the first red flag.

[I] was called every weekend for 5 weeks, and forced to work for at least 12 hours each day.

Red flag.

[Many developers either left or were fired.]

Red flag.

I wasn't granted any leave during those 3 months, was called every weekend for 5 weeks, and forced to work for at least 12 hours each day. I once tried to oppose this and my salary was on hold for 10 days without any explanation.

HUGE red flag!!!
Witholding your salary should have prompted you to look for another job immediately.

Now, you should not only look for another job, but you should seek legal representation too.

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I don't have an answer, I have another question: have you talked to a lawyer yet? Because you need to. And then you need to leave.

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Leave ASAP - You will be better off.

Do not worry about the next developer - they might enjoy this new hell; they might leave quickly or they might stick around. However, they are adults who are free to come and go. Hopefully your company will start feeling the pain due to a rotating door and change their tactics or die. Either way, you will be in a better place by then.

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Circulate your resume. Evaluate the possibility of moving to a better location for your career to get out of this. Contact a lawyer about the late pay. If there is an HR department that might be able to help you, contact them as well (maybe after you talk to a lawyer).

You are in a bad situation, and you will need to take some risks to get out. Your level of risk will only increase the longer you stay there. You are better off risking job loss at this cruddy job than clinging to it until you are no longer fit to work anywhere else. Keep your confidence and your dignity, and just do what you can about your finances while moving on.

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NEVER talk to the HR department about your problems in the company. HR works for the company and is interested entirely in the company's point of view. You are of interest only insofar as you keep things smooth for the company. Trusting HR is a newb error. –  JUST MY correct OPINION May 23 '11 at 2:18
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