How To Survive When Your Dream Job Becomes A Nightmare

Even companies positioned as “best places to work” can become a nightmare when something goes wrong.

In this illustrated extended blog post, author Alison Green debunks myths that many of us have about the workplace. Read it here. Ms.Green points out that we should distrust myths like, “Companies are required to be fair and just,” and, “The HR department will help you.”

More recently, Emi Nietfeld write an op-ed for The New York Times about her disillusionment with Google, where she’d been an engineer for four years. Some comments called her naive; others insisted Google had treated her beyond badly.

Her Perfect Job prince had turned into a Very Ugly Frog.

A company’s HR department, “family-friendly” promises may be genuine. Often they’re efforts to convince you that you’re dealing with a gracious, princely organization. In reality, it’s a frog and always will be.

The best way to deal with difficult companies is:

1 — Have something going so you’re in a position to walk away from a tense or hostile workplace.

Photo by Egor Vikhrev on Unsplash

One reason employers get away with so many injustices — and even outright cruelties — is that employees feel chained to the company. If you have a weekend business — even if you’re walking dogs or mowing lawns — you’ll have a cushion to help when things go badly.

Learn more about side hustles from this free report — 5 common questions about side hustles.

2 — Be aware of non-legal concerns that companies have, such as a desire to be viewed favorably by customers and potential employees.

Many years ago a San Francisco newspaper featured a story about age discrimination at I. Magnin, then an upscale department store. Apparently, the store had decided they needed fresh, young faces on the retail floor. Of course, many of their customers were in the demographic that the company allegedly attacked. The day after the story appeared, the floors were empty, as customers chose to shop elsewhere.

3 — Always have a Plan B.

I’ve met too many people who were stranded in a small town, with no other employment alternatives handy.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I’ve talked to people who took a lower-level job “just to have a job.” a

Then they got so comfortable they were unmarketable 5 or 10 years later, when (a) their employer closed down or (b) technology made them obsolete.

If you’ve got a side hustle so you can walk away, you’re already there. But you may also need a plan to move to a new city, revise your finances, or change your lifestyle.

If you work with a financial planner (and personally, I recommend this path), initiate a discussion about worst-case scenarios and what-ifs.

4 — Keep building your skills.

Stay marketable. One corporate executive has survived multiple layoffs and mergers by adding one new skill a year. After 5 or 10 years, you’re well-positioned to change careers.

When you’ve got a full schedule, it’s hard to disconnect at the end of the day. Therefore it’s a good idea to take classes where you’re in a structured, live learning environment.

5 — Don’t get too comfortable.

Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash (cropped).

Too often I’ve heard people say, “I just lost my job … and we had just bought a big house.” Or, “Well, this job is good. I don’t have to think about the future.”

A job that’s fun in your 30s and 40s can feel like an albatross in your 50s and 60s.

A job that’s enjoyable because of your boss, office, or location will seem intolerable when any of those things change.

You may wake up one day and realize, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Of course, you want to enjoy luxuries and perks. I recommend consulting with a licensed financial planner to discuss your “what if” scenarios and make plans.

Download a free report — 5 Midlife Career Change Secrets Most Coaches Won’tTell You.

I offer one-to-one consultations for career changers. Click here to learn more.

Originally published at on April 7, 2021.

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time.

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