Most of us have experienced at least one terrible job. Being in a toxic environment can be crushing, and your fight or flight instincts kick in: It’s time to find a new job.
We’ve been there. Finding a way out of a toxic working environment can be difficult, and you may feel trapped as you search for a position elsewhere. As draining as a toxic job can be, know that there is a path out of this fire.
Here is how some of us at Petite2Queen handled toxic jobs. As bleak as the prospects seemed, everything worked out in the end.
I had one job that was truly toxic. My boss would get angry at the smallest things and yell at my co-workers and people over the phone all the time. I was not given the opportunity to share my opinion and had to do things his way even if it was just plain wrong. My anxiety went through the roof and I dreaded coming to work to face his temper. I only lasted at that job for two weeks before I quit. I realized that his bullying attitude wasn’t going to let me be my creative self at work nor be conducive to a good, productive working relationship. There was no way I was going to grow and be happy in that position.
However, this is a decision that isn’t so easy to make for many people, and in fact, many do not have the luxury of making this choice. If you can, talk to HR about a boss who is a bully. If you can’t, I suggest that you keep your head down and do your work while gathering as many resources as you can to apply for other positions. Sometimes it isn’t easy, but be proactive in searching for other positions. Use tools like LinkedIn to make yourself stand out.
I’ve only ever had one truly terrible job. I knew when I applied that it wouldn’t be a good fit for me, but I was desperate to get into my chosen field. The organization and my co-workers were all wonderful, but my day-to-day duties were horrific. I worked remotely, spending most of my time traveling and attempting to collect money from anguished, angry, and even aggressive business owners. Being on the road every day was physically draining, but dealing with upset strangers was emotionally draining. Add on top of that long hours and endless stress, and it’s clear why the job made me miserable.
At the urging of my family, I resigned from my job. I knew it was the right choice, but I couldn’t shake my feelings of failure. With no income, I was also stressed about money. In the months after my resignation, I felt like I was stuck in a quarter-life crisis. I felt anxious, depressed, worried about my future, and like I was never going to amount to anything. It was a difficult time for me, and in some ways, it felt worse than that awful job had been.
Eventually – luckily – those feelings did subside. After a few months, I began a new job that I actually enjoyed. I’m grateful for the job I have now, in part because I know how bad the alternative can be. Jumping from fire to fire is difficult, but it makes you really appreciate the good times when they arrive.
Over the years, I’ve had several positions that were in difficult and even hostile environments. The culture of the organizations was steeped in negativity, yet each also offered me opportunities and learning experiences. I’m a strong believer in Nietzsche’s “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The Kelly Clarkson song “Stronger” is my jam.
With each position I looked for the good and the growth opportunities. I also started to plan my exit strategy. In each case I looked for avenues to improve my situation. I experimented with tactics and explored style flexing to address the challenges. Another vital asset was that I had a supportive husband, family, and friends I could use as my sounding board. Just being able to vent has always helped me tremendously to process and deal with what’s in front of me.
The key was taking control of my own path: Learning and growing from the experience, taking my time finding the next best big thing, then gracefully exiting when the time was right for me. No matter how strained or toxic the culture, never burn the bridge. People make up organizations, and you always want to maintain a civil and respectful relationship. Things and people change, so close the door gently as you leave.
Alison Rollins is Vice President of Marketing at Petite2Queen. She earned her master’s degree in Global Entertainment & Music Business from Berklee College of Music. An experienced marketer, Alison is an expert leader in social and digital media. She’s a talented videographer, with an extensive portfolio of thought-provoking work. At Petite2Queen, Alison focuses on meeting the diverse needs of women at all stages of their lives.