update: should I stay at a job I don’t like if it could lead to a big pay-off in a few years?

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

Remember the letter-writer wondered whether to stay at a job she didn’t like if it could lead to a big pay-off in a few years? Here’s the update.

I left my old company and started my new job in early September 2021. I absolutely LOVE the new job and have from day one. My work is interesting, I’m constantly learning new things, my boss and the rest of the team are amazing. The company really appreciates their employees and shows it with regular bonuses, raises and opportunities for career growth. In the year I’ve been here I’ve received two raises and two bonuses with the expectation of probably one more of each before year end based on normal company timelines.

As for my old company, that’s a whole different story. I stayed part time with dramatically reduced hours and about half my old pay until December 2021 when my replacement, Elsa, started. I answered a few one off questions for either her or my old boss, Hans, until mid March 2022. Hans then reached out and told me Elsa wasn’t working out and asked if I would come back part time again. While thinking it over (because I’m greedy lol) Elsa quit. I did end up agreeing to come back part time with the agreement that it would be short term and I’d come back about for about $20k/yr more than what I was making previously.

Then the founder and CEO of the company was fired by the board in April and the CTO resigned in May. That left Hans covering as both CEO and CFO while searching for replacements, meaning finding a new accountant was the last thing on his list. The new CEO, Olaf, started in June/July and Hans found my next replacement, Anna, who started in September. She lasted less than two weeks before she quit. I wasn’t even fully off the payroll yet! So I stayed again to help Hans even though it was even more dysfunctional than ever. At one point, in October I think, he tested out a part time accountant on a contract basis but that only lasted 2-3 weeks before Hans let him go.

It’s now December. Olaf was fired by the board for gross misconduct. Hans finally got sick of working 18 hour days, took my advice and found a new job (not another startup) starting mid January. As far as I’m aware he hasn’t told anyone other than me yet. The company is almost out of money so they’ve laid off 6 people, cut the salaries of everyone else by anywhere from 30-70% and if they don’t raise money before the end of the year they’ll go bankrupt in January. Definitely glad my horse isn’t hitched to that wagon anymore! Just waiting it out to see what happens and when I can hand over the job for good but Hans is well aware that I’m done immediately if I’m not being paid.

Overall I’m very happy that I left. I’m appreciated at my new job and I’m happy to wake up and go to work every day. That’s life changing! I like the company so much I got my 21 year old daughter a job there over the summer and she’s now full time. Thank you to everyone who commented on my original letter. I realized that I wasn’t being smart about how much money I “could” make, that the amount wasn’t even as large as my brain was trying to tell me it was and I was potentially ignoring the very real increase I would get by leaving. Honestly, due to coming back part time for most of the last year, we’ve been able to save a lot of it towards a house so I’m better off now than I would have been otherwise. In some ways I am still waiting for someone to yank the rug out from under me but I’m happier than I’ve ever been both professionally and personally. That’s not something I’m used to and I don’t know that I would have made the same decision without writing in and hearing everyone’s advice. Thank you so much!