Leaving a toxic workplace.
If your mental health is in jeopardy, resigning from a toxic job is one option to consider. However, being without income or medical insurance while you figure out what to do next can create more problems. Unless you have the resources to support your actions, you could be creating a bigger mess. Another option is to get help dealing with the issues you face while you create a plan for moving on. Either way, staying without getting help will cost you and leaving without a plan can cost you, too. The choices are clearly easier for the privileged.
Leaving one toxic workplace doesn’t guarantee you won’t jump right into another.
But leaving one toxic workplace doesn’t guarantee you won’t jump right into another. Quitting without a plan may cost you in more ways than the financial considerations. There are several other factors to be aware of before you make an abrupt move. It’s important to step back and analyze your current situation. Take time to examine how you got there and the clues that may have missed along the way. You’ll want to know how to immediately spot red flags and learn coping mechanisms in case anything similar should arise again. Consider when things changed and how everything escalated. Without a clearer idea of all the factors involved you could walk right into another toxic workplace.
Full disclosure: I am not a therapist. I can’t diagnose a mental health condition or prescribe treatment. However, I have spent a lifetime working with people to help them find rewarding work. I have guided hundreds of people through employment transitions. Many times my clients are working with a skilled mental health professional to deal with the emotional aspects they face. Simultaneously, we work on the strategy, planning and tactics of making a successful employment change. It’s possible that the mental health issues you are facing or have faced in your prior workplace can resurface and become equally devastating without both types of support through the transition process.
If you’re completely over your current situation, resigning may look like an easy solution. But many times it’s not. The process of extricating yourself from a tough situation isn’t easy. I’ve helped people move out of toxic workplaces, return to work after an extended absence, move from the military to civilian employment, from industry to academia or academia to industry, for profit to nonprofit or vice versa. Most of my clients have had financial obligations that prohibited them from simply walking out on a job. Others have come to me after they had already quit, to help them pick up the pieces. The process can be far less frustrating or damaging if you get help before you decide to up and quit.
Identify the root cause behind the problems you face.
After you identify the root cause behind the problems you face, you’re ready to move forward. The next step is to determine what it will take for you to be in a better place. It requires a thorough review and clarification of all factors connected to your employment. Cutting and running without a plan can create havoc for sole supporters of their families. Loss of healthcare benefits and income are the most obvious financial considerations. The less obvious factor is how you will cope with the change. It isn’t fun to be unemployed when you need money and must rely on a job to get it. There is considerable effort you’ll need to invest in your job search. If you’re already feeling exhausted, unappreciated, disrespected and otherwise burnt out, it’s important to know what you’ll be facing as you search for the right opportunity.
Revise how you view yourself and how you tell your story.
No one should have to suffer in a toxic workplace. But contrary to what you read or believe, the booming job market does not apply to everyone equally. The great resignation may be occurring all around you, but it doesn’t mean you should jump on the band wagon. Although the constant churn in our current market makes it a great time to make a change, it won’t automatically happen by throwing a resume at an interesting job announcement. It requires industry knowledge and industry connections.
You’ll need to be able to respond directly to the next employer’s needs. If you’re moving in a new direction, you’ll need to revise how you view yourself and how you tell your story. Your resume will need an update or a complete overhaul. Before that happens, you’ll want to talk with people already doing the work you plan to move into. They can provide definitions for key words and suggestions for the type of information you’ll want to add or delete on your resume.
It’s unlikely you’ll fall into your dream job without help.
As you consider your options, you’ll want to know how your skills measure up to the requirements of the positions you only think you can do. A mid to late career candidate who has not kept up with the technical tools in their field will be left behind. If you’re moving in a completely new direction without relatable experience, you’ll need to adjust. You’ll need to be able to speak to a role that may only be the first step on your journey. Realistically, it’s unlikely you’ll fall into your dream job without help.
If it is only your department at your current company that is toxic, it could behoove you to stay and look internally. It is often easier to transfer within your company into a new role, than start cold at a new company without demonstrable experience. If you’re planning to pivot, you can hone new skills in a different role before you make the decision to move on. You’ll be much more competitive if you can show experience in the same type of role you’re pursuing outside of the company.
It’s ok to take a step back to move forward when you are moving to a healthy supportive environment. You can look at current or past employees’ Linked In profiles to guesstimate how long your next move might take. Just remember that more is not necessarily better. A fancy resume won’t make up for an inability to articulate value when speaking to the next employer. Presenting your best accomplishments can completely overshoot the role you are going after. You’ll want to make sure you are clear about what the work entails and communicate your excitement about joining the team. You could be the best dressed person at the dance and still end up in the corner by yourself. Hearing you’re overqualified for the job as you wrap up an interview really won’t help you.
A remote recruiter is not poised to “find” you a perfect job.
It’s common for people to believe the hype they see online or on television. (No, a remote recruiter is not poised to “find” you a perfect job while you’re outside gardening or inside playing video games.) The weight of the job search process can be overwhelming when combined with other family commitments. It’s hard to face repeated rejections and your self-esteem can suffer. Many jobseekers are unaware of the work required to make a change until they’ve been unemployed a long time. By then, their mental state has returned to where it was when they left the toxic situation that prompted the change.
Consider all of your options carefully.
You don’t need to stay in a toxic workplace. Yes, there is always opportunity to improve your circumstances. But please don’t make a knee jerk reaction to a bad situation.
- Consider all of your options carefully. If you quit and don’t have another job lined up, how will that impact you financially? How long would you be able to sustain your household? Are you able to take time off through paid, unpaid or voluntary leave of absence programs offered through your employer? With some planning, is an early retirement a consideration?
- Use your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or research counseling covered by your medical insurance provider.
- Find peer support or professional groups to participate in.
- Start talking to people outside of your organization to learn what their workplaces are like.
- Research the skills you need to build to move in a new direction and start working on them.
- Establish a controlled plan for getting where you want to be without putting yourself or your family in a position that is hard to recover from.
Bottom line: don’t run from a toxic workplace without a plan. Run to the right job, in the right workplace, with a plan that allows you to live your best life.