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Free Therapy: My Job Is Destroying My Mental Health…but the Pay Is Great. WTF Do I Do?

Published by Daniel Brooks Moore on

Hey, you! Welcome to the little corner of Cosmo that we call Free Therapy. We’re glad you’re here. This is where we take reader questions—about family feuds, work woes, friendship fiascos, mental health headaches, and everything in between—and get answers on how to deal from our advice columnist extraordinaire, therapist Minaa B

If you need help setting boundaries, standing up to your boss, or finding the right words when talking to your toxic mom…you’re in the right place. And if you’ve got questions of your own for Minaa, send ’em right here: No health insurance (or $$$ at all, for that matter) is required.

Most of my career has been temp work—zero benefits, measly pay—but now I have a permanent position and it’s a major relief. I’m an administrative assistant at a hospital and I love the job. But my boss? An unbelievable micromanager. When I’m knocking out paperwork, she asks for updates every hour until it’s in her hands. And she continues to monitor my every move, despite regularly acknowledging that I’m a hard worker. It has started to make me doubt my abilities. It’s not just me—other colleagues have started pushing back, challenging her authority on the daily, and things have gotten heated.

What sucks even more is that those coworkers aren’t great either. They have been here for years and are super cliquey. I gathered the courage to ask three of them out to lunch, and they each gave me a separate excuse and declined. At noon, I watched them leave together for the cafeteria. It sounds so high school, but I was really bummed out. My mental health has taken a serious hit with all this—yet I’m making the best money of my professional life. I’ve of course interviewed elsewhere…but nowhere that pays as much. Should I stick it out for the money or GTFO? 

Dear Reader,

This question requires a lot of self-reflection. On the one hand, compromising mental health for money isn’t a great move. But financial instability also negatively impacts wellness, so quitting immediately might not be the right call either.

Instead of limiting yourself to the extremes of staying forever or leaving right now, make a pros and cons list to help you assess what you stand to gain from your current role…and what you stand to lose. Start with the cons. For every negative point you write, ask, Can I live with this for another year and a half? Depending on what’s on your list, you might realize that you can deal until you find a high-paying job somewhere else. But if it feels too daunting and you know you just can’t, it’s likely not worth pushing through.

Now, the pros. It’s great that you’re making more money than you ever have! But what other perks are there? Are you learning skills you can use in the future? Are the company’s health care benefits really freaking good? For each positive, ask yourself, Can I find this someplace else? If the answer is yes, keep applying for openings. It might take some time, but if you’ve identified enough positives, you can try to be a little patient.

For some faster relief, ask: Is there anything you can solve by advocating for yourself? For example, the fact that your manager acknowledges your efforts makes me wonder if she’s just unaware of how she comes across. A lot of the time, bosses with this behavior are dealing with some sort of inner conflict, like anxiety or insecurity. To cope with the pressure they’re under, they nitpick their teams. It’s not fair and it does feel crappy, but it has more to do with them than you—so try not to take it personally. Having a conversation with her about her management style and how it makes you feel might alleviate some stress.

Set up a meeting with her and start by saying, “You say I’m a hard worker, and I really appreciate that, but I feel a lack of trust when you manage me so closely. I’m hoping there’s something we can do to resolve this that will be comfortable for both of us.” These conversations aren’t easy, but if you don’t speak up, she won’t know that she’s making work hard for you. If she’s not responsive, well, you’ll know what to look out for while you interview for your next gig. You can ask prospective employers to describe their leadership styles to see if you’ll mesh.

And onto the office clique: Unfortunately, you can’t force a relationship with this group. It sounds like you’ve made a big effort to get to know them, and if it’s still worth it to you, maybe give it another shot. But if you get the same response, make peace with the fact that these are people you’ll have surface-level conversations with—and that’s okay. Accepting these relationships for what they are could make your life easier for the long term…or at least until you find a better job. 


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