Working in a toxic work environment can drain every ounce of your happiness. It’s difficult to even walk in the door because you already dread going into work. If you feel unsafe, drained, or constantly fight back tears, it’s time to leave.
I learned this lesson the hard way by staying at a toxic part-time job for way too long.
I felt extremely happy there for over 3 and a half years. By the fourth year, though, I felt a 360 degree type of change where I grew miserable extremely quickly. I toughed it out for six more painful months. Finally, I reached a point where I could barely function. That’s when I knew that I needed a change.
People ten years younger and twenty years older than me bullied me. I watched the upper management manipulate others. At one point, I realized that others slacked off while I worked hard. Yet somehow I received all of the blame for the mistakes. I soon felt like everyone’s punching bag just because I had the most experience. Maybe people felt threatened by my seniority status. Perhaps they didn’t like that I had a backbone and stood up to the wrongdoers and fought for change. Regardless, I couldn’t handle going to a place where I knew I wasn’t respected.
It’s not about loving a handful of people. Nor is it just one person that tears you apart on a daily basis and makes you feel 3 inches tall. It’s about the constant negativity, drama, difficulty completing tasks and lack of peace.
You cannot fix a toxic work culture that’s broken beyond repair, especially if you’re fighting alone.
There needs to be a support of leadership, and without it, it’s pretty hard to make an effective change. Trust me, even a small group couldn’t change the problems in my workplace because one manager refused to see that he caused most of the problems.
In the workplace, everybody is unique and operates at different levels of effort, responsibility, and power. Tensions will sometimes build and personalities will most definitely clash. However, many organizations still fail to recognize the impact of a toxic work environment has on their employees. They also fail to recognize the negative atmosphere, the tension between coworkers or seeing people noticeably being unhappy.
Through this experience, I learned that you can’t take the way other people treat you personally. It’s tough to deal with, especially when you notice the toxic person (or people) have power or appear to have it. But you have to disengage yourself from that situation and make decisions that best benefit you regardless of what others think. Whether it’s talking to HR or management or just getting the hell out of there as fast as you can.
I felt extremely guilty about this decision for a while. However, giving the benefit of the doubt when you are truly miserable just isn’t worth it. Sure I felt terrible for how my co-workers were being treated. But I knew I was defenseless and had to believe that me leaving would hopefully help them discover that they shouldn’t tolerate it too.
If your workplace problems appear permanent due to the culture of the business, there is no shame in beginning a job search. You never know what opportunities are out there for you.
At the end of the day, only you and potentially your coworkers truly know how toxic work affects you. Don’t allow the judgement of others to dictate your decisions. Do what’s best for you and be unapologetic about it.