My boss makes me want to quit but I can’t afford to

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week, a bullying boss, spending too much on your own company, and how to ask about pay rises.

I have only been back from maternity leave for a few months and my boss has, on multiple occasions, berated and belittled me about the completion of my workload, even though I have said it is too much. My confidence is absolutely shaken, I get nervous and I am constantly feeling paranoid. I am sadly not in a position to quit right now due to family commitments. How can I better manage the crappy confrontation without ending up in tears?

Dealing with a toxic boss when you can’t afford to quit means it might be time to look for an internal transfer.Credit:Dionne Gain

It sounds like you are going to need some help to manage this situation and find a solution. Is there someone at work you trust who you could speak to about what is going on? If you have tried to speak to your boss about your workload and their response is to berate and belittle you, it is going to be difficult to work through this on your own. It also sounds serious enough you need to seek support within your workplace. If there is someone at work you trust you could ask them to advise you about any processes or people within your organisation you can seek support from. You may even need to try and move internally within the business if that is an option and no changes are made by your boss.

Importantly though, your health needs to come first. Please consider speaking to your GP or a health professional about how you can get some support to work through how you are feeling about work.

I work for a small company that imports goods. As part of my role I regularly have to apply for permits, however they can cost $250 per permit. I am reimbursed for my expenses on a monthly basis, but due to my personal circumstances I just can’t afford to be waiting on this reimbursement. How can I tell my boss my personal budget is tight at the moment and I need to use a corporate card?

I think this is going to need a respectful but also very direct conversation with your boss. It is simply not OK for your employer to expect you to be out of pocket for regular business expenses like this every month. You are effectively funding a loan each month into someone else’s business. Your employer needs to provide a corporate credit card for you to use, or else some other way for you to pay these business expenses. If they don’t agree to put these arrangements in place, that would be a red flag to me about the financial health of the business (not to mention the ethics of your boss) and I would probably start to look for another job.

I started working in a new company earlier this year and the month after I started, I heard that all the employees within my team were given an out-of-cycle pay raise (even for those who started three months before me) – but I did not receive it. As this is a startup, I understand things may not be consistent and can be disorganised at times as they also don’t have a HR person. How should I approach this? Should I ask for a higher raise in my first annual performance review, which is coming up, and mention this missed off-cycle raise?

It is unusual to expect or receive a pay rise just one month after starting a new job. My assumption is you would have still been in your probation period and it may be that your employer had already agreed to the pay rise to those within the business well before you started. I would not recommend you go into your first performance review raising the fact you missed out on that particular payment.

At your performance review, I would be seeking as much feedback as you can to ensure your employer is happy with how you are going. You might also like to raise any professional development opportunities you would like to be considered for so you can progress within the company. If you have been in the role less than a year it is still quite early to expect a pay review but you might like to enquire how the remuneration review process works and how you might best prepare for that when the time arrives.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to [email protected] Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson is a company director, executive coach and author. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the QUT Business School and former Deputy Chair of the ABC.

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