My last job was so awful that I’m freaking out on my new boss

Today we’re discussing how to keep your last job from weighing you down with your new employer.

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When I started this new job, it felt like the right move. I quit my former job in December, worrying that if I didn’t leave, I’d have been placed on a performance improvement plan. I took a month off and carefully screened prospective employers, looking for ones that said they believe in a healthy work/life balance.

My former boss was a tough-as-nails manager and nothing I did ever met his expectations. I tried, though, working days, evenings and weekends. He’d say things like, “I know you can do better,” pushing me to work harder and forcing me to subsequently push the employees under me. They grew to hate me, called me a workaholic, and rebelled, going to HR and complaining about me.

The month after I left, my former employees got Christmas bonuses of hundreds of dollars based on the profits I’d brought into the company. So my employees slammed me but benefited from my efforts. And my boss came out of it the “good guy” who rewarded everyone with bonuses, except for me.

I’ve been in this new job for eight months. Whenever my manager pushes me to “do more,” I react inside. I’ve tried to hold it in, but this morning she told me that I’d been here long enough to learn the ropes and now needed to show what I could do.

I freaked out and asked her what she meant. She said that I was salaried but was acting like an hourly employee and that it hadn’t escaped her notice that I was working only 40 hours a week. I snapped back that I stayed late sometimes, and she said most exempt professionals worked 40 to 60 hours weekly and added that I needed to “up my game.”

I’m freaking out.

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You have an emotional reaction to being asked to “do more” that appears to be tied to what happened in your last job. Because that ended badly, with a final kick coming from others getting bonuses after slamming you, you have become your baggage.

If you want to succeed in this current job, you have to heal that wound and leave your baggage at the station.

Don’t keep your baggage alive by reviewing, reliving or retelling the story of what happened in your last job. That was then; this is now.

Evaluate your current boss’ expectations as a separate reality from your past “tough-as-nails” manager. She’s clearly allowed you to work 40 hours a week for eight months and now wants you to “up your game.” That doesn’t equate to pushing you to work evenings and weekends.

Exempt, salaried professionals consider 40 hours a week a minimum and generally work 45 to 55 hours weekly. That’s their reward for not being dinged when they have a midday medical appointment and for getting salaries generally higher than hourly employees make. Are you currently working fewer hours than your current employer has the right to expect because you want to balance out your past overwork?

Finally, you may partially be freaking out because you’re particularly vulnerable to accusations you’re not meeting expectations. What do you think about how you’re doing? Are you playing less than your “A” game because you don’t want to “give too much”? If so, what’s the right balance between overdoing and not doing enough?

© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you’d like an answer to your career question, it’s easy. Write Lynne authored Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM, 2016) and Solutions. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, or

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