Toxic: Work With Caution

Unless you are independently wealthy, you are probably a working stiff just like me. In addition to writing this blog and all my copious branding endeavors, I have a regular Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 gig working as a supervisor for a national nonprofit agency. However, unlike my previous job under another nonprofit, I absolutely don’t dread going to work; in fact, I love it.

I was reminded of how incredibly blessed I am to love where I work when I received a phone call yesterday from a former co-worker; she wanted to catch up and was seeking an endorsement from me for another position she was applying for. It was good to hear from her considering the last time I saw her she had been seriously hospitalized for a stress-induced disorder which made her unable to work for months. The biggest factor in her stress according to her: WORK! Having worked alongside her in the same position, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

My co-worker’s hospitalization incited a drastic wake-up call for me and my work friends to reevaluate where we were working, our value to the company and our immediate supervisors, our health, and our self-care. I began to pay attention to the environment I was working in, the messages and policies being propagated by upper management, and the treatment of the staff and the clientele by those directly above me. I was consciously aware of the company’s flaws prior to my friend becoming sick; however after the fact, my eyes were opened to the toxicity of my work environment and how it began playing on my own mental health. The writing was on the wall, and this place was TOXIC with a capital T, and I had to make a choice whether to stay or go.

A few factors played in my decision to go

  • The values of the company no longer aligned with mine. Anyone in social services will tell you that they didn’t get into this business to get rich but to help; I was not an exception to this mindset. I am not sure the company got the memo because everything came down to the dollar. I get it; it’s a business but I am a firm believer that a business should be about people first — the people they are serving and the people who work for them. I believe if a company takes care of its employees and its clientele first then the money and the business will follow. While the company touted this publicly, their actions surrounding their outdated and borderline unethical employee policies and reluctance to changing them didn’t sit well with me. Once you take the human out of human services, it becomes a lot more evident where the values lie.
  • Unsupportive Supervisor. When I first started my previous position, I had the best supervisor. I felt like I learned a lot from her, felt supported through some of my worst cases, and had a working relationship where I felt like I could openly talk to her and was therefore more receptive to feedback. When she left at the beginning of the year for full-time motherhood and I knew that she would be replaced by someone who was the antithesis of what she was, I had serious doubts. Turns out my intuition wasn’t wrong. My new supervisor was cold, inflexible to nontraditional counseling to reach a very tough population to engage, hyper-focused on seeing everyone over best clinical practice, and a hound for billing and notes. I can take feedback and handle criticism if I wasn’t doing my job or doing the bare minimum but I was working with 3 case loads and in charge of a company wide committee; every time I met with her I felt like I was under attack. I understand how my co-worker ended up in the hospital because by the time I was ready to leave the position, I was having full blown panic attacks before every meeting with her.
  • Toxic Company Culture. Like every family, a company is its very own culture and it is only as sick as the community members it holds. While I have a great fondness for the coworkers and employees I worked with more directly, I witnessed a lot of toxicity in the company from top to bottom. Leadership gossiping about employees; people not working as a team; different teams in the same department being pitted against each other. You would think management would do something about it with all the turn over as a result of toxic company culture but they were engaging in it too.
  • I was no longer happy or satisfied with where I was or what I was doing. While I can sit and blame the company for a majority of my reason to go, truth is that I probably added to the toxicity of the working environment because I no longer was invested. I hadn’t been happy doing what I was doing for a long time, and I was pretty verbal about my discontent and ultimately energies are contagious. I think the others definitely played a hand in my dissatisfaction but I am responsible for staying longer than I needed to and my own unhappiness.

Making the choice to go was ultimately the right decision for me, and honestly, I have no regrets. I am at a point in my life where I care about being aligned with my visions and goals than aligning myself with opinions and job security in a job I don’t even want. For the first time in a long time, I am able to focus on my peace of mind and happiness. I am working in a place I enjoy going to daily and am surrounded by good, supportive people and have an awesome boss. I am encouraged to play on my strengths and think outside of the boss, and I am no longer just existing at work but thriving. The difference between where I was at and where I am at is night and day. There’s no going back, just forward.

When you spend more time at work than home, why would you stay somewhere that makes you miserable and is toxic to your soul? Where we spend our time, our environment, who we spend time with, and the relationships we have, professionally and personally, all play a major role when it comes to mental health. It all comes down to choice, and while we may not be in control of those around us or the demands of the job, we do have a say on where and who we choose to invest our time and what will make us feel fulfilled and happy. Life’s too short to work somewhere that sucks. Choose for the better.

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