Job Disaster: Steering a Shipwreck


Soon after I accepted what appeared to be a terrific job opportunity in March, I discovered I was steering a shipwreck. A recruiter had hired me and let me know I wouldn’t be able to speak to my predecessor, but that the chief executive officer himself would meet with me via Zoom.

He met. He was warm and comforting. He told me I’d “do great.” He said all I needed to do was to “maintain a department that was working well” and prepare it for “record growth with the arrival of upgraded technology” in June 2022. He offered me a salary nearly twenty percent more than I’d made in any prior job.

After I came aboard, I learned my department wasn’t working well. Systems weren’t working; they were squirrely. Employees had low morale. But all, I was told, would be fixed with the new computer system.

In April, the operations coordinator who was to handle the transition to the new technology left. Soon after, my employer fired the computer vendor. The new technology initiative was pushed forward to mid-2023. No one was assigned to pick up the slack in handling the transition. I stayed. I thought that showed I had resiliency.

I hung on without complaining through May, trying to help my team navigate the dysfunctional systems, but it wore on me. In June, I voiced my concerns directly to the CEO via text. He told “patience is a virtue” and everything would be fixed.

Fast forward to October. A complaint in my department resulted in an investigation that unraveled inefficiencies that had existed long before me. The CEO left during the investigation, but not before leaving me holding the bag and the blame because the complaint came from within my department. I learned from the investigator that the CEO had said my department had “worked well” before I’d gotten there, and that any “personnel problems” were due to a poorly chosen manager (me) being hired by the contract recruiter.

I feel disheartened and demoralized. More than that, I’m exhausted. At the same time, with the “all is good” CEO gone, and the analysis done, I see opportunity. How do I handle this going forward?

That depends on how tired you are and whether you can renew.

Start by looking at what’s true. You weren’t told the truth when you took this job and walked into a problem situation. You hung in with your employer despite your doubts because you thought things would get better, were paid well, and thought it showed your resiliency. You voiced your concerns and were given fluff.

Things unraveled in October. If the investigation is done well, it will make it clear you’re not to blame for everything that’s happened. This doesn’t mean your boss can’t point the finger at you; it simply means that the blames that he casts won’t stick, except for what you’ve been responsible for in the last nine months.

You made choices all the way along. You now have a fresh choice. Will you stay disheartened and deflated, or will you pick up the pieces and march forward? If you have a sense for how to fix what’s happening in your department, stay and fix it. If you don’t, vote with your feet and out the door to a job that offers more sanity.

Two final thoughts. Run from anyone who says “patience is a virtue” when you discuss substantial problems. If you decide to leave because you’re exhausted, take several weeks off to heal before you jump back into the job market.

I answered 65 real-life questions like this in Solutions: 411: Workplace Answers 911: Revelations for Workplace Challenges and Firefights,

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2 thoughts on “Job Disaster: Steering a Shipwreck

  1. “Patience is a virtue.” That’s a great way to try to shut down comments and questions in the midst of unfolding crises–well remarked-upon. I don’t think contract recruiters have the authority to hire on behalf of an employer. Hiring is supposed to be the employer’s decision. If this guy is trying to blame everything on the contract recruiter and the poster the recruiter found for the employer, the employer is not willing to take responsibility for their actions, and as shown here, is not good at seeing consequences and unwilling to take action or face confrontation with problem situations.

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