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After reading a lot on this forums, it seems that my current employer isn't a really great place to work and I'm wondering if I should move on, or stay a bit longer and then leave so it looks better on my resume (Only been here 3 months).

Things that I'm worried about with this company

  • A completely non technical manager with little management experience leading this team. Fine in a bigger company but we're a small team (< 10 employees)
  • Alright hardware but no choice of OS and we can't get any decent software bought for us
  • Terrible salary and no overtime pay, not great benefits
  • Mandatory overtime. If I didn't work tons of overtime nothing would be done in time and I'd get in trouble
  • Stuck fixing old code which is terribly written, unstable, undocumented and full of bugs. We don't use it anymore but lots of clients to maintain
  • We must track ALL of our time, billable, non-billable and internal
  • No bug database (I'm trying to implement one, hard since I have no time since I'm working crazy overtime and I want some time to myself when I get it
  • I'm the only programmer

So I work for a web development company that works with Joomla quite a bit, and I'm a PHP/Python guy with Java/C++ experience and a willingness to learn many other languages. I've also got experience in technical but non programming related fields such as System Administration.

I'm wondering, should I call it quits, wait a while longer so I can use the job on my resume, or try and fix the problems we have?

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I would retitle this question. e.g. I am in a rather difficult work situation. Should I stay or should I go? –  George Marian Oct 2 '10 at 18:30
    
Excellent question. Widely applicable. –  Mike Dunlavey Oct 3 '10 at 17:20
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If you go it will be trouble, and if you stay it will be double. –  mipadi Jul 15 '11 at 17:18
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8 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You can see the current situation as an opportunity to prove you are a great problem solver. Being the only programmer give you much more power to change for the better.

Imagine yourself in an interview for your next job:

Scenario 1, you quit

I had to quit because my manager sucked (he was not technical), we did not have bug tracking system, I had to fix crappy old code, and we had mandatory overtime! What a crappy job. I hope your are good manager, will not ask me to do overtime, will pay me premium, will not ask me to track my time!

Scenario 2, you wait

I hoped that my previous crappy company would evolve, but they are a bunch of looser. No bug database, crappy code, manager that sucked, bad salary. Waited to a year or two, but nothing changed. I want to be hired by a great company like you that will not stay in the status quo. You will pay me premium isn't ?

Now consider the following:

Scenario 3, you try to fix things

My previous job was challenging, my manager was not technical so I helped him understand how developers thinks and the benefits of proper OSes and tools. There were no bug tracking database, so I proposed to install one and everybody started using it. We had some old code to maintain, so I decided to go ahead and started to refactor it. That was not easy, I had to do all of this with a very low salary, and had to do lot of overtime, but at the end, I contributed to change things. I'm sure your company has chalenging problems to solve, and I will be more than happy to contribute to your success !

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@Pierre: how about this? " Scenario 1, you quit. I decided to quit because my previous employer was unable or unwilling to provide the environment for me to perform at my best. Bad working conditions and a blind eye turned on any improvements I tried to make made it quite frustrating to work there. I felt treated more like a minion than an expert with my professional opinion completely ignored. Further, the work-life balance wasn't taken care of and while I'm more than willing to do my hours I'm not willing to already burn myself out." -- You see, it all depends on the words you use. ;-) –  Baelnorn Oct 2 '10 at 18:42
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While it is applaudable to try to fix things, don't burn yourself out doing it. Make a good-enough effort, and if it's still not going anywhere, quit. –  gablin Oct 2 '10 at 19:11
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@bael Yes, how you frame it does matter. Though, if you leave "to soon" you may be seen as flighty and not dedicated. That doesn't mean one should stay in a bad situation, but one should try to improve it first. –  George Marian Oct 2 '10 at 19:46
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There are ways to handle scenarios 1 and 2 in an interview perfectly well without being whiny or dissing the employer. –  Bob Murphy Oct 2 '10 at 20:35
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I think it boils down to whether he can get a better deal elsewhere. Heroics are fine if they're appreciated, but given that the salary is low, I don't think that is the case. His efforts may be both better rewarded and produce a more pronounced effect elsewhere. No need to quit before securing another position (just cut down on overtime). –  dbkk Oct 3 '10 at 2:12
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What are you like when you get home from work?

I'm about a month ahead of the same situation you're in. I talked to my fiancee about it extensively and it boiled down to this:

Her: "You're never happy when you get home. You're always frustrated and mad."

And that's it. For me: no job is worth a marriage. I gave in my notice, told them I'd stick around until they could find a replacement. It's been a great month where I do my best work, but I don't worry or fret about anything. What's best? I get home and spend time with my family, and we're all happy.

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This is so true. It's not worth it to sacrifice your family's peace and happiness for a job. I just went through that with a startup that was jam-packed with craziness, and even got in an auto accident because I was angry and frustrated about a problem at work. When I left in July, my wife was very, very happy, and she said I looked ten years younger. –  Bob Murphy Oct 4 '10 at 16:38
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@Bob Murphy: It's been 4 months since I wrote that, and I can confirm - I'm happy as a clam at my new job, my wife and I are doing great, I've lost weight... life is just good now. Leaving was the best decision I could have made. As odd as it sounds, I laugh at work these days: and it makes a world of difference. –  Steve Evers Feb 28 '11 at 21:20
    
+1 It sounds weird, but even just getting someone's opinion on how you look before you go to work, after you come home, and/or especially the day/night before you go back to work for the week, speaks volumes. In the worst job I've ever had I was described as "becoming white as a sheet by Sunday". At another work place people asked me how I was always so happy! So, +1 for the appearance/family/loved-one opinion test. Sometimes you just need that 2nd opinion (outside yourself). –  BrianDHall Feb 7 at 17:22
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If you're the only programmer, then it sounds like you should have a fair amount of pull to tell them "shape up or I'm shipping out." Of course, you need to do it diplomatically.

Mostly though, I would first advise a sit down with who ever is in charge. Fact is that programmers that spend too much time coding rarely do a good job and the problems tend to enter a feedback cycle where it just gets worse and worse. That said, 45-50 hrs a week is probably sustainable (at least in my experience) and seems to be about what most folks in IT in the US consider "normal". Any amount of poking around on the internet will turn up lots of info on what a healthy and sustainable amount of hours are.

IF they have you tracking time, then make sure you are tracking ALL time, including that OT. Let it bite them. No matter where you go, don't under report. If you are being told to not record it, then send out the resumes as fast as possible. That's just a statement that "we intend to abuse you". It also may mean that the company is breaking local overtime laws.

If you are the only programmer in the company, then you aren't helping your resume. The best experience comes from working with other people who write code.

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+1 for the last 2 sentences. –  Terence Ponce Oct 3 '10 at 2:37
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A lot of that stuff won't be better elsewhere.

What can be better elsewhere, and is therefore enough reason to go in and of itself, is:

"Mandatory unpaid overtime"

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Agreement! The only case in which excessive hours/week make sense is if you're the founder or owner of a startup, or you're dealing with some sort of big disaster like a forest fire. Otherwise it's just insane. –  DarenW Nov 13 '10 at 0:26
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"It's like when my new girlfriend turned out to be crazy: since I couldn't change her, I really only had two choices: put up with it, or hit the road." FTW. No better explanation necessary.

Explain your situation to boss, boss' boss, owner... if things don't change hit the road. No job is worth the stress.

Mandatory overtime + no overtime pay? No thank you. I don't demand a "premium" personally, but my time is valuable. My current job doesn't pay overtime BUT They do give comp time off. if I work an hour overtime, I get 1.5 hours off.

The only other thing that really stands out to me? "Only programmer"? How fucked would this company be if you put in your notice? That's bargaining power. That's resume gold.

I can stand not being paid a lot, working overtime, being under-appreciated... but you add all that stuff up? You better fix something or I'll find a "girlfriend" who DOES appreciate me.

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It's quite true that if I left the company may just as failed as they have a dozen or more signed contracts with set deadlines that wouldn't get done if I up a left. It also took me over a month to get all the information and knowledge I have now, good luck having somebody relearn all of that... So great bargaining power :) –  Brandon Wamboldt Oct 3 '10 at 19:10
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I've been through too many like that. I would say don't expect you can fix it, and you won't be there long anyway. Whether you leave right away, or wait awhile, they probably won't be in business for long regardless. I would sound out people I know and have my eye on opportunities, and avoid the HR circuit if possible. When people are hiring, especially small firms, they are casting around for good people in bad situations, like you.

One thing I've learned to look for in an employer is, above all, do they care about people, or are they just in it for bucks and the golf circuit? That kind of attitude is founded at the top. So just measure up the founder / CEO / top management. Nobody with a decent attitude can stay long in a company if the attitude coming from above is rotten, and I've seen too many like that.

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Actually, it's astonishing how places like that can keep going for a long time. I know of a software company that's been limping along like that since the early 60s. –  Bob Murphy Oct 2 '10 at 19:46
    
@Bob: I'm sure you're right. I haven't worked at any (well, maybe one - a lottery business). Some were just trying to start up something that sounded good so they could sell it in a few years and go buy a yacht. –  Mike Dunlavey Oct 2 '10 at 22:21
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Like Mike Dunlavey, I've been through that too, and seen a lot of friends go through it.

Can you fix a broken company culture that hires unqualified managers, underpays people, and doesn't provide you with adequate tools to do your job? Nope. Only the owner/top management - or somebody who can influence them - could do that, and you're not either of those. Worse yet, anything you might do to try to even improve your own situation it is likely to put you in a bad spot by annoying the people who made things that way.

It's like when my new girlfriend turned out to be crazy: since I couldn't change her, I really only had two choices: put up with it, or hit the road.

If I were you, I'd start sending out resumes. But unless you just can't stand it, keep your current job until you have a new one: it's always easier to get a new job when you already have one, and unemployed desperation doesn't come off well during the interview process.

Incidentally, I'm not saying to look for a new job any time something annoys you. There's a balance. I worked at a company that had some foolish policies, but the work was interesting, the pay was okay and I really liked everybody I worked with, and I'd probably still be there if bad strategic decisions hadn't put our entire division out of business.

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++ Very wise, especially the part about staying in the job while you look for another. –  Mike Dunlavey Oct 3 '10 at 17:19
    
+1: Worse yet, anything you might do to try to even improve your own situation it is likely to put you in a bad spot by annoying the people who made things that way. - Yep. :) –  Jim G. Nov 20 '10 at 15:26
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For me, it would depend on where you see the company. This company sounds your classic startup trying to keep their business afloat. Do you believe in the success of the company?

If they're not going anywhere, I would jump ship. After all, for someone of your expertise, you can find better work under better conditions elsewhere.

If however, you think they're onto something, I would think hard about putting up with it. Being the only few with technical knowledge of the systems, it's not going to be easy to make do without you.

And when they strike success, you'll be in a prime position to negotiate better conditions. Realistically, I would work towards owning a share of the company.

It's one thing to be passionate about what you do, but at the end of the day, it's a job, and if you're underpaid, you're essentially paying your employer to work for them, since you could be earning more elsewhere. That's not always a bad thing, as money isn't everything, but I would seriously think about what you're gaining by being at this company.

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