Say Goodbye to a Toxic Workplace Before it Poisons Your Career
Most employees spend more than 40 hours a week at their job, not counting any time spent commuting. If you’re spending half your waking hours doing something, it should be something you enjoy – or at least something that doesn’t suck the life out of you.
When you’re in a toxic workplace, it can be difficult to find the motivation to go to work and you’ll hardly ever be happy when you’re there. You might derive satisfaction a perfectly executed project, but a supervisor could quash that happiness with petty criticism. If you’re in a toxic workplace, you’ll know it instinctively, but here are three tell-tale signs.
1. Lack of Communication
Employers aren’t clear on job expectations, and team members fail to communicate important information that helps you to do your job. If complaining is the primary mode of communication, you’re in a toxic environment.
2. Managers Play Favorites
Do a few high performers have the right to walk all over everyone else? Do policies, procedures, and penalties apply only to those who haven’t gained the managers’ favor? From family businesses where the owner’s son is given special privileges to workplaces where one clique seems to get all the attention, benefits, and rewards, lack of equality can create a toxic workplace.
3. Everyone is Mean and/or Unhappy
If you work in a place where everyone is mean, negative, or always complaining, it’s time to get out. This environment can range from sexual harassment to hostility or passive-aggression, which may be more difficult to pinpoint. But, no matter what it is, you don’t have to live with it. If you work in a toxic environment, it’s time to move on – even if you don’t have another job lined up.
How to Say Goodbye with Your Head Held High
Once you’ve made the decision and mustered up your courage to quit, come up with your exit plan. Do you have savings set aside that will permit you to have a little fun while you job search? Can you cut expenses, find a roommate, or figure out some other way to live on less? Can you freelance for a while?
Once you’ve come up with a plan, give two weeks’ notice – no more, no less. Do not tell your boss you’re looking for a new job before you give notice. He can’t hire anyone else yet, because you haven’t left, and it will only create more awkwardness in a toxic workplace.
Learn from Your Favorite TV Characters
If you go home at night and wish you had an office to go to like some of your favorite TV characters, you may be surprised that you can actually take lessons on career success from these silver screen leaders.
Rayna James of “Nashville” recognized the toxic environment at Edgehill Records and set off to create her own record label. She knew when it was time to move on and become her own boss, and did so without looking back.
Another strong leading lady is Alicia Florrick of “The Good Wife.” She knew it was time for a whole new career and started at the bottom in a law firm to make a big difference in the world. It wasn’t easy, but it paid off as she moved up in the firm and then launched her own successful practice, relying on her intelligence, perseverance, and connections for success.
Raymond “Red” Reddington of “The Blacklist” also maintains an extensive network of people he can turn to. When you’re ready to leave your job, turn to your own networks (discretely, so your current boss doesn’t find out) for job leads.
It might be tempting to leave the HR department a long list of what’s wrong in the workplace, but it won’t help change the toxic environment, and it certainly won’t win you any friends. Don’t burn any bridges and don’t waste the emotional energy rehashing what was wrong in the office. Just move on.
Submit a letter of resignation that simply states your final date of work, and the position you’re resigning from. It’s a nice touch to include a “thank you,” as well. Dig deep to find the positive things you got from your job – even if it was just the paycheck – and thank your boss for the experience and opportunity.
Don’t Feel Guilty
You’re loyal and that’s good. But your first loyalty is to yourself, specifically your sanity and your values. As long as you’ve given your two weeks’ notice, you’re doing the right thing. You may feel a huge weight lifted as soon as you deliver that resignation letter, which will alternate with normal waves of happiness and fear over the next few weeks. You’ve escaped your toxic workplace and your next career adventure awaits.