Workplace Looking for advice/support

Aug 14, 2006
This will be long so please bear with me..

I am a senior level HR professional with 14 years of experience. My last job almost ruined me. I was there for about 3 years, it was incredibly stressful and a dog eat dog environment (not my thing at all!), mixed with a bad economy and 900+ layoffs. I spent the last 1.5 years there with extreme anxiety suffering from almost daily panic attacks, and my mental and physical health took a major nosedive. It also made me question my future in HR and if this is the right career for me. I went into HR because I wanted to help people, but it seems like all I do is help to legally hurt people. I ended up finding a new job, still HR, but a different industry, and I started in April 2016. It's a maternity leave cover so it's only 15 months, which at the time I thought I was perfect because it will give me some time to do what I know but also give me a kick in the butt in June 2017 to really decide what I want to do with my life.

It started out ok, but within a month turned extremely stressful. It's a small team and I'm the only one with very diverse HR experience so most of the projects and major tasks fall on my plate. The organization is in a constant state of change and due to the amount of projects I have been on, I have been the main person who has been dealing with all of this change. Right now I have 26 projects on the go in addition to my regular day to day job. I have tried to explain why this is unreasonable, but because we're a smaller team with some limited skillsets, I have no choice other than to just do it. I'm running on empty.

Now, 9 months in, the anxiety is creeping in again, but this time it feels almost worse. I don't have the same awful physical symptoms that I was dealing with before, this time it's more mental. Lately it's been worse than ever with days where I've gone home from work and can't even move because I'm so mentally and physically exhausted. I have a constant headache, my entire body hurts from being tense from the stress. I can't relax, I feel like I'm a mess and people who are close to me are worried that I'm going to end up having some kind of breakdown. On Sunday out of nowhere I did have a sort of meltdown and my husband almost took me to the ER, he didn't know what else to do. I saw my family doctor and he thinks I'm under extreme stress and won't get better unless I mitigate those stressors. We all know it's my job, but I've been under so much work stress now for 3 years that I don't think it's so easy to just "get over it" anymore.

We are a small team - my director, myself, another person at my level, let's call her Judy, and two administrators. The lady who I am covering for is returning from her maternity leave in June, which should have left me without a job (which I have planned for and am ok with!), but it looks like that is changing now - My director is planning on letting Judy go so that I can be on the team permanently. She has been trying over the past two months to get Judy to quit on her own by giving her tasks she knows she can't complete, and doing various things to make her want to leave. Since that hasn't worked, my director has finally gotten approval from our VP to let Judy go in order to keep me.

As much as I hate what they are doing to Judy, I'm flattered that they want to keep me that badly, however I still have some major reservations about it. After what happened on Sunday, my husband wants me to quit right away. He thinks that the stress of this position is too much and not worth it anymore. In addition to work stress, one of our dogs is very sick and this is my "heart dog", I've had her since I was 21 (33 now) and it's always just been me and her. I'm trying to keep it all together but my heart is breaking.

I keep weighing up the pros and cons but I feel like I'm getting nowhere...

- Great benefits: free parking, no dress code, flexible hours, 5 weeks vacation, nice offices... things that are hard to find around here
- I get along with my director and could learn a lot from her
- Permanent job
- If HR is something I want to do longterm, then this is a great opportunity
- The new offer is pretty attractive financially

- Effects on my health
- Stress levels, pressures, and projects have been increasing
- I'm not sure if this is even what I want longterm. I have no passion in what I'm doing, and I feel as though I'm going through the motions
- The way that they are chosing to do this concerns me.. they are firing someone to keep me, and not only does that feel wrong to me morally, it worries me that they will expect even more from me once she's gone because of what they did to keep me
- My director admitted to me about a month ago that they are aware that they have "used me"... they know I'm underpaid and overworked for what's on my plate. Everyone works 8:30am-4pm, but I'm so busy that I'm working 6am-4:30pm (when the office closes), and then doing work from home.

And the big question, If I quit, what if I hate not working?! What If I can't find something that suits me?! How will I handle not making my own money for a while?! My husband has a well paying job and we would be fine financially, but I have been working full time since I was 18 years old, I don't know anything different. What would I do with my life?! The economy is bad right now and it won't be easy to find another job. I also feel as though I need to be picky right now so that I don't end up in the same situation that I have been in for the past 3 years.

I'm not looking for someone to make this decision for me, I know that's all me, but I'm really hoping to find someone who has been through something similar and what they did and what helped them to come to the decision that they made. Any advice/support is greatly appreciated!


Mainer in exile.
Mar 1, 2008
First, huge hugs to you! That is a TON of stress and you need to take care of yourself, above all else. :flowers:

I just need to point out, if this company is willing to treat "Judy" like this (whilst she's on maternity!!!), they'll do it you. :yucky: Is this really the company/position you want to sacrifice your health and wellbeing for?

Something to think about...
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Lovin' Life!
Apr 21, 2006
To me, this is a no brainer. Your cons far outweigh your pros. You are getting physically and emotionally ill from the stress. Can't enjoy a pretty office if you're dead. Seriously. Look at the Sara Lee CEO who died after her 2nd stroke at age 63. Don't tell me work stress didn't play some part in her untimely death.

On your pros, It doesn't sound like your Director has your back with 26 projects currently in motion (!) plus your usual operational tasks. Are.You.Kidding.Me??! A good and capable Director who gives a rat's a$$ about her team and function would realize this is:
1. Completely unreasonable for one person
2. Setting the employee up to fail on many fronts thus making you, her, and her HR organization look horrible to the business leaders
3. Sets the stage for even a high performer with a high tolerance for long hours to throw in the towel and leave the company
And do something to address the extremely unreasonable workload. I also dislike how Judy is being treated, especially by an HR leader who then TOLD YOU what is happening? OMG. The ethics on this is simply mindblowing. If they will through someone out on mat leave under the bus, why would you think you would be immune to unfair treatment?

I think we've exchanged posts before. I'm in the HR field and have been for over 20 years - large companies, small companies, start ups, fancy offices downtown with lunch allowances, and casual start ups with free food, etc. For the last 5 years I've worked in an external consulting capacity and love it. You couldn't pay me enough to go back internally into a company full-time. The 'gig' economy is growing, particularly for internal business functions like HR, accounting/finance, marketing, etc. And if you're too nervous to hang out your own shingle and do biz dev/sales for yourself, why not look into HR/Talent consulting job options with established firms. I don't know where you are geographically but many allow for telecommuting vs. facetime in a client's office on a daily basis.

If you like being internal, there are better, more reasonable HR jobs out there that don't bring constant stress. You may need to make tradeoffs to a comfy office, etc. but isn't your health and work-life balance worth it? Your current workplace and responsibilities are destroying your health and mental wellbeing and I agree with your husband to GTFO before there are serious longer term impacts.

Best wishes. :heart:
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Feb 15, 2014
'over the rainbow'
I didn't even have to (or quite honestly) read the pros and cons after reading your need to think of your health at this point and seriously consider your future and what you want to do. HR can be a very stressful job these days. Perhaps you need to delve really deep and see what kind of job "speaks" to you that you would be happy performing.
I would never stay in a job that never allows me to completely relax.

Life's too short for that kind of job. Good luck!

Minty Tea

Jun 14, 2015
Agree with everyone. You need to look after you well being and health.

Since your dh has a stable job and you are not financially strapped, I would seriously look elsewhere. 33 yrs old is still young, take some time to recover and look for an organization you want to be a part off. It isn't written in stone that you have to be in the same career that you studied for in college or uni. It's perfectly normal to change careers several times in your work life. Reports suggest that people averages 5-7 career changes in their lifetime. There is nothing wrong with changing career.

Working in a small department or organization can be very stressful or unrewarding if you do not get along with your co-workers. It also doesn't help that you feel overworked and underpaid.
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Mar 26, 2015
just make sure you truly can afford to quit and that the financial burden that your husband then has to face is going to be ok with him. he is being supportive by saying to quit, but one partner earning everything is very very hard on them. the stress of being in a ho-hum job is nothing compared to financial stress when you don't have that added income. since you do enjoy working and have done so for so many years maybe consider leaving the job for something p/t?, at least until you can find something you're more passionate about. as a p/t worker you won't feel entirely dependent upon your husband and will still feel like a contributing partner, if that matters to you.
Oct 20, 2008
Get out, get out, get out of that situation! Tell your director you will not take the job (save Judy's job in the process) and tell her why: it's hard to see yourself sustaining that amount of workload in an environment of constant unexpected change, and there is no reason to expect that things will change for the better with the permanent job.

If you don't get out, you are basically putting a monetary value on your health because you are willing to risk a total physical and emotional breakdown for whatever that job is paying you. Take advantage of being secure financially, thank your lucky stars that you have this option, and get out of the poisonous situation you've found yourself in before you keel over.