Bullish Q&A: “My Boss Changes the Schedule Last-Minute and My Friends Say to Shut Up and Take It”

NegotiatingforSustainability

I work in a shop where the owner schedules shifts a month in advance but will often change them last minute w/o any warning or notice. (And the schedule is a handwritten calendar above her desk.) I’m increasingly frustrated that I can’t reliably plan my life around work. But everyone I speak to gives me a “*shrug* hey, whatever pays the bills”. It’s not unreasonable of me to want to quit based on this, is it? I just want control over my free time, but it keeps being jerked away from me.

 

This is insane and abusive.

It sounds like you spend a lot of time around people who are used to this kind of treatment. This is poverty-level thinking — and you need out.

Please read this article: How Do You Improve Your Life When Your Friends and Family Tell You to “Be Realistic”?

These “Hey, whatever pays the bills” people? You can keep loving them and hanging out with them if you want, but you will no longer talk about your work with them. Do whatever you have to do to find different, more ambitious, more take-charge kinds of people to talk about work with. Join networking organizations and mentoring programs, take classes, make friends in a different part of town. Do what you have to do.

Start looking for a new job immediately. Consider big changes. Can you move? Can you change industries? Could you go for a higher-risk position where your income depends on commission, but you have an opportunity to rise quickly? Get some other opportunities on your dashboard.

Now talk to your boss. “I enjoy working here, but last-minute changes in the schedule are really problematic for me. I’d like to talk about ways we can move me to a stable schedule.”

And then have a clear suggestion, with an implied threat that you will leave: “In order for this position to be sustainable for me in the long-term, I need at least three days notice to make changes.” Or, “I’d like to be permanently on the calendar for Tuesday-Saturday.”

The word “sustainable” is very helpful here. Instead of saying, “Stop changing my schedule or I quit,” or “The schedule changes are making my job terrible,” you say, “The changes to the schedule are making it so that the job is not sustainable for me.” It’s a good threat — you’re not saying “Do what I want or I’ll quit.” You’re implying that it’s actually not even possible for you to keep doing what you’re doing indefinitely. A dead end will be hit, a dam will be burst! It’s not sustainable in the long-term.

At no point in the conversation will you let your boss compare you to all the other employees — after all, they follow the schedule and they’re not complaining. Be prepared for that and politely deflect it. You say:

“Well, what my coworkers want to do isn’t really relevant to my situation — I have to compare my job here with the other opportunities available to me. While I’d like to stay and keep working with you and the team, I do need a stable schedule in order to do that.”

If this conversation is going to go well, you have to actually be prepared to quit. So make sure you are. Start your job search! And your new friend search! There’s a big world out there of people who don’t put up with that kind of shit.

Good luck!

Jen

p.s. I just want to be clear that I do NOT think that most people trapped in poverty-level jobs are there because they are victims of their own thinking. I support the $15 minimum wage and the Kansas City fast food workers, and I support the rights of workers to unionize. As an individual wanting to change your life more quickly than our society is going to change, thinking differently and advocating for yourself is one way to get a leg up. But people who work at McDonald’s and have kids to support are not likely to be “prepared to quit” if a negotiation doesn’t go their way. So please make a break for it for yourself if you are able, but don’t throw others under the bus, and engage in every political action available to you to help people affected by exploitative work situations. Thank you.