columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader asks:

A few months ago, I gave notice at my current position. The decision was necessary because of severe burnout issues (to the point where I have been having anxiety attacks) and a terrible boss who, despite repeated conversations about my burnout levels, only continued to increase my workload and micromanage my every move.

My end date is approaching in one month. This is not a job where a transition of workflow could happen with two weeks' notice, as there is no one internally to take on any of my work.

Ever since I gave notice, demand on me has tripled. I am being asked to complete projects that normally would not be addressed till after I depart. I want to do my best to make this a smooth transition and leave things in good shape, but I just can't accomplish everything I'm being asked to. When I say that, I'm ignored. My overall job performance is suffering as the burnout increases. It feels like a never-ending cycle. How do I survive the last few weeks?

Also, what advice do you have for interviewing for jobs with this level of burnout? I try to hide it as best I can, but this level of stress has had physical manifestation -- "worn down" has come up more than once about my appearance. I worry that when I have been interviewing, I am not effectively hiding the burnout, which surely isn't attractive to hiring managers.

Green responds:

You're not an indentured servant!

You're not required to work around the clock, or even beyond normal working hours now that you've given notice. You might have been required to work horrible hours to keep your job earlier (although often there's a way to push back on that, too), but certainly now that you've given notice, there's zero need for you to do that. In fact, you hold the cards here -- you're the one who's walking away, after all. Your boss doesn't have much to hold over you at this point.

Say this to your manager: "You've asked me to do X, Y, and Z before I leave. I'll only have time to do about half of that. I could do X and some of Y, or I could do all of Y and some of Z. Doing it all in four weeks isn't possible. I'm going to plan to do ___ unless you'd like me to prioritize differently."

If your boss tells you that you have to do all of it, then you say, "I have four weeks remaining. That's 160 hours, which is far less than would be needed to do all of this. I want to help you have a smooth transition, but I can't be working around the clock during these last few weeks. I can do ___ or ___ but not all of it. If you'd like to tell me what order to tackle it in, I can do that. Otherwise, I'll just do as much as I can before I go, but I want you to know that there isn't time to do all of it."

Also! You don't have to stay for the full remaining month if they mistreat you. If they're rude or hostile to you, you get to say this: "I'd like to work on a smooth transition, but it's clear that you're upset with me. I think it would make sense to move my ending date up to ___." (Ideally, you'd still give two weeks from this point so that they can't later claim that you walked off the job, but that also depends on how rude they're being. There's a certain level of rudeness where it's reasonable to leave earlier.)

Also! If this job is truly affecting your health (and it sounds like it might be), you can reconsider the amount of notice you're giving. You'd say something like this: "I'm so sorry about this, but I have some health issues that I need to take care of and I'll need to move my ending date up. I'll need my last day to be ___."

You sound like you don't want to do that because there's no one to cover your work if you leave. But that's not your problem. That's your company's problem, and it will figure out a way to deal with it. It's not going to fall apart (and if it does, that's not because of you -- that would be the sign of some serious mismanagement that you can't solve anyway). Your obligations here are to give notice and work a reasonable number of hours in good faith until you leave. Your obligations are not to extend your notice at the expense of your mental health or to work unreasonable hours just because they want you to.

And, if you can, I'd get yourself some distance from this job before actively interviewing for another. Take a week or two off and relax and recharge; don't try to perform well in interviews in the middle of all of this, when you can tell that you're not at your best.

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