update: I resist pressure to work long hours — but my coworkers don’t

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where all month I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who resisted pressure to work long hours — but their coworkers didn’t? Here’s the update.

When I submitted my question to Ask a Manager, it was the beginning of 2020. A lot has happened both in my workplace and the state of the world.

Looking back I was clearly asking for a bandaid solution for a secondary issue to my main problem. The majority of my time at my current position we have been understaffed. All of my coworkers including myself feel this is due to toxic management.

As some guessed during the initial post I work in healthcare, specifically medical admin work. I acknowledge there are systemic issues within the field as your workload does directly impact patients wellbeing, making healthy work/life boundaries difficult.

However in my department, it’s clear now that’s only part of the issue. I have tried writing this part multiple times, but I can’t communicate how awful it’s been to see COVID decimate my work life. All departments in my field are having staffing issues (COVID). Since our management has chased away all the casual staff they hired at the start of the pandemic, we are once again expected to keep ourselves afloat. All of our time sensitive workloads are heavily behind, work days are about managing the most urgent fires. Every piece of work is done late if it at all.

Unfortunately, obviously with this work climate my co-workers continue to not take their breaks. I do, as was encouraged in the comments to support my team verbally, and celebrate any of their small victories. I have picked up some shifts in other areas that take breaks though!

I would argue the straw that broke the camel’s back for me happened closer to the start of the pandemic. We had to scramble to cancel everything for an undetermined time. Then they asked us to restart booking from scratch but only week by week, not allowing us to prep future dates. I am part time and independently manage schedules on top of all my other work. I knew from the start I could not manage this change in workload and begged for help. Instead I was put under the microscope for weeks. It ended with a meeting with my manager where they said they couldn’t understand why I was so upset and crying (after weeks of criticizing my work, saying it was my fault I couldn’t keep up with the newly ‘changed’ workload) and they asked me if I was so upset not because of work but instead because a close family member of mine had passed a month ago. Frankly I was livid that this was said to me, but I didn’t pick a fight, I’ve moved past it determined to leave the job.

Months later, my coworkers’ workloads are worse than mine now. Management has been implementing new changes to our processes since then, causing extra work for us while we struggle daily. Our pleas continue to fall on deaf ears.

I have been more bold, being honest to my team since then and I haven’t regretted it. I was upfront with my Physicians/NPs/RNs this summer that I was applying for work elsewhere. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as management had already told me they receive an unprecedented amount of positive feedback (previous to COVID), about how well I do my job from both staff + patients… but boy have my doctors/nurses/fellow admins made my management uneasy. They’ve sent management emails with glowing feedback about me, requesting for me to be made full time. My coworkers regularly make my management uncomfortable, asking them why they can’t make me full-time in meetings when the topic of our under-staffed department arises. It’s more attention than I want, but has been so uplifting to hear.

I requested to not be put on my department’s schedule as a casual anymore, which they obviously didn’t take well (they did try to interrogate me about why). They don’t know it but I recently applied for full-time work in one of those other departments I mentioned before (that actually take their lunches!). Most of the admins (all much more senior then me) on my team have independently confessed to me they have or are planning on exit strategies out of our workplace in the next year. COVID has really just put a big spotlight on previous issues.

Long term I’m not as sure about, I am mostly hoping that leaving the toxic environment will help a lot. But as I write this cases are spiking here. COVID for me at least has a huge negative impact on my job in every aspect, and that isn’t going away soon. On top of this where I live they have decided to lay off thousands of healthcare support staff in the middle of the pandemic. Facing likely mass layoffs and private sector rehiring with a wage decrease in the next few years for myself, I am researching career alternatives (payroll/time clerk business admin? Suggestions appreciated from your readers!) as I’ve already seen the stress negatively impact my physical and mental health.

Thanks to all who commented, please stay safe.