Before considering a complete career change, I had to really decide if it was just, in fact, the toxic environment that pervades my office building driving me to seek such a major life change.
Have you ever worked in an environment that is so toxic you actually get sick?
Some of my symptoms have ranged from simple irritability to extreme insomnia and anxiety. Good times.
It is difficult for the folks who perpetuate such an environment to recognize that is what they are doing. For them, it appears, work is not a horrible place that they dread going to with every ounce of their being. It is not the soul-sucking black hole that it is to the rest of us.
I suppose that’s, at least in part, due to the fact that many toxic workplaces are toxic because of a bully or two and all of their followers, sycophants and yes-men. Just as in Jr. High, bullies stay in power because of all of the scared little boys and girls who follow them, laugh at their shenanigans, suck up to them and do their bidding.
It’s unfortunate that in the moment it truly feels as if we are trapped, there’s no way out, no hope.
But the truth is, these folks never last very long. They become more and more brazen the longer they get away with it and either end up getting fired themselves or if there is no one above them to fire them, the excessive turnover and employee disengagement runs their businesses into the ground. It may feel as if it’s never going to end but it always does.
In the meantime, all we can do is get out. Just like we would divorce an abusive spouse, we cannot stick around this sort of place dealing with this day in and day out. Sure, you could try to go over the bully’s head or to Human Resources but how well have you seen that work out wherever you’ve worked?
But, for me, my toxic workplace is not the reason I want to change careers. I know this because the thought of doing what I do, anywhere else, is no more appealing than my current situation. It is a very good idea to make certain, before you embark on the arduous journey to an entirely new career, that you don’t just need new co-workers.
Here are some excellent resources for determining if yours is a toxic workplace: