5 reasons you need to leave your toxic job

usnewsIt might seem obvious that if you’re working somewhere toxic, you should be actively hunting for a new job. However, toxic workplaces often break people down so much that it makes job searching much harder. Toxic jobs can destroy your self-confidence, make you accept your workplace dysfunction as normal, or just leave you without any energy at the end of the day to launch a serious job search.

But it’s crucial to get out of toxic jobs quickly because staying can warp your norms and do real damage to you professionally. At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about five reasons to kick your escape plan into high gear that you might not have considered. You can read it here.

{ 162 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anonymous Educator

    I had a question about #3:
    The longer you stay in a toxic job, the more likely you’ll be to need your bad manager as a reference in the future.

    I’m currently happy in my job now, but I may eventually leave at some point (years from now). My last job, however, was extremely toxic. Even though my last job’s manager said he’d be a reference for me, I don’t know if he would, in fact, throw me under the bus. Would it look weird (I was there for less than a year) in future job searches to list my references this way:

    1. Manager at current job (yes, I would let my manager know—in education it’s standard to announce ahead of time you’re not returning in the fall).
    2. Manager two jobs ago.
    3. Manager three jobs ago.

    And then just skip manager one job ago altogether? Yes, I know you can’t prevent hiring managers from calling up whomever they like, but does that look weird to skip over one job completely?

    Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        I’m not leaving my job any time soon, but assuming I were to leave in 3 years, job #2 would have been 5 years ago, and job #3 would have been 7 years ago.

        Reply
          1. Anonymous Educator

            So to be clear, it would be something like this:

            Current manager – 2015-2019
            Two managers ago – 2012-2014
            Three managers ago – 2007-2012

            So you would want manager 2014-2015 from toxic job intead of three managers ago?

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              That job goes through 2012, so right now it’s reasonably recent and right now I think your original way would be fine. But if it were three years from now and that reference hadn’t worked with you in seven years, yeah, I’d be likely to ask you for some more recent if I saw that there was an obvious alternative. But again, not every hiring manager will — many won’t.

              Reply
              1. Anonymous Educator

                Thanks. I guess I can also cross that bridge when I get there. Loving my current job—not looking to leave any time soon.

                Reply
              2. Anon for this

                I was in a toxic job for eight months that ended with a DOL unpaid wages claim and the knowledge that there would definitely be no reference forthcoming afterwards (small company, no HR). Like Anonymous Educator I also have great references from the two previous jobs. Does your advice still stand? Do you have any suggestions for how to explain this to future hiring managers? (For my current job they assumed I wouldn’t want my then-current employer to know I was searching, so didn’t ask for her details, but I’m guessing for the next they will want to talk to my immediate past manager.)

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Yes — I’d briefly explain the situation (“the relationship soured when my coworkers and I had to file a wage claim to get paid”), so that if they do contact them, they have context. And then
                  offer up as many other good references as you can to balance it out.

                2. Anon for this

                  Thanks a lot – this has been weighing on my mind a lot especially given your advice that employers often contact non-listed managers for references. I guess the message is they can, but context matters. I’m lucky enough to have several other good references so hopefully that ends up well (not that I’m searching yet).

                  My family has also warned me that some employers might be concerned that I’m some “union troublemaker” for “tattling” to the DOL of they find out/I tell them – but really, I don’t want to work for anyone who thinks that. Being paid is one of the central parts of working!

    1. Elizabeth

      I actually tested one of my old bosses to see if she’d throw me under the bus as a reference while I was still in that job! She was toxic for a variety of reasons but always said she’d support my growth and career aspirations, so when a job came up that required me to submit references at the start of the application process, I told her I was applying and asked for a reference. I hadn’t been planning to leave the organization in that moment (though had been looking half-heartedly for a while) so wasn’t all that worried if she threw me under the bus, but she didn’t and I ended up getting a job that got me out of an otherwise toxic situation /and/ I can still use her as a reference going forward despite the toxicity. Of course, your mileage may vary significantly on this approach!

      Reply
        1. Anonymous Educator

          That’s good to know. In all fairness, he did seem happy to agree to be a reference. I don’t know for sure that he’d throw me under the bus.

          Reply
        2. Windchime

          I think some (most?) terrible, toxic managers don’t actually realize how terrible they are. They might think that they are supportive. I had a manager who was a great guy but not a great manager; he let some people on the team bully others, and he didn’t give good raises at all. But he was a very nice person and I’m sure he would give a good reference.

          Reply
  2. Jerzy

    That last one: I was at a toxic job for three years, and my physical symptoms of stress included severe insomnia (for which I had to be medicated), a worsening of my already chronic migraines (for which I then had to see a specialist for, and was berated for when I had to miss work due to complete debilitation), and various digestive issues. The place literally made me sick, and since i started there in 2009, while the job market was still pretty crappy, it took me another two years to get out of there.

    If you’re in a toxic work environment, get out as soon as you possibly can, even if you’re fairly new, because your health isn’t worth any job.

    Reply
    1. Bea W

      Same. Enough emotional stress will make a person physically ill. I also had to revisit medication for depression and PTSD which had been stable without anti-depressants and a minimal dose of an anti-anxiety med for years. Had to up the dosage on that as well. At that point I was worried I would eventually have to go on medical leave, evaluating my cash reserves, and actively job searching. I had been there 2 years, and had only been targeted by the bully Big Boss about 6 months, and was alarmed at how quickly my physical and mental health was deteriorating. Couldn’t escape fast enough!

      Reply
      1. Need cheering up

        I can relate to that. I had a bully boss for 18 months, but the thing really started to affect my sleep, caused me anxiety and even panic attacks from less than six months onwards. I took the whole thing to HR after 12 months and was a total wreck. I too contemplated taking sick leave or just resign without having a job lined up. For the past six months I have had a normal job and my world has changed. I can actually go into work without anxiety building up on the way to it etc…..

        Reply
        1. Jenn Sadai

          I absolutely can relate! I was a victim of domestic abuse and was in the process of healing when I ended up with a bully for a boss. My self-esteem was fragile, I started doubting myself and it took years to recover. I’m doing better now and am using my experiences to help others avoid the same pain. So many people don’t realize the damage a toxic work environment can have on a person. I’m grateful to Ask a Manager for discussing it in such detail.

          Reply
    2. Nobody Here By That Name

      Same here. I’ve been to various specialists (all out of pocket, of course, since our insurance is awful) and they all say that my health issues are caused by stress. My job is the only source of stress I have. I’d quit but not having money is also stressful.

      Reply
    3. ASJ

      Me too. My last job as a temp actually gave me heart palpitations from the stress (there was about a two month period where my heart was skipping beats/fluttering, and then over Christmas break I was ok… only for it to start again in January).

      Reply
    4. Ama

      Yes — I did not realize how much digestive issues in particular can be affected by stress until the cranky stomach I’d developed at my toxic job literally went away overnight when I started a new one.

      Reply
      1. KTB

        Pretty much the exact same thing happened to me! ToxicJob gave me digestive issues so bad that I took Prilosec daily, and I gained 15 pounds despite exercising. Both the Prilosec and the weight went away by the time I hit my 3-month mark at the job I left ToxicJob for.

        Reply
    5. Toxic workplace survivor

      I lost a significant amount of weight (and wasn’t overweight to begin with), had head and stomach aches every morning, a rash, and insomnia. Other co-workers in the same toxic environment developed ulcers, got the shingles, chronic headaches, and anxiety. All of us have moved on to bigger and better things, but the toxic manager is still there.

      Reply
      1. Anon for a moment

        I can relate by proxy. My BF left a toxic job in fall of 2014. A lot of the same symptoms – lost a lot of weight, unexplained rash, even low T, and that former horrible manager is still employed there too, even though several more of his reports have come and gone since. I don’t know how that manager’s “tribal knowledge” could still be so damn important at this point. Utterly amazing.

        Reply
    6. Pennalynn Lott

      I ended up with ovarian cancer, that I am 99% sure I wouldn’t have developed had it not been for the extremely toxic environment I was working in. I also had heart palpitations, extreme night sweats (like, changing clothes and sheets 3-4 times a night), dizziness, and general muscle pain. I was let go in a round of layoffs and all of the mysterious (non-cancer-related) symptoms disappeared in the first week.

      That was six years ago and I still have recurring nightmares about that place (and about my manager there, in particular). I was only there for two years and it has scarred me for life.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        A body fighting off that many issues, is going to have a hard time avoiding cancer and other diseases. Our bodies have a finite amount of energy to deal with things that go wrong, after that we become sitting ducks for whatever comes.
        I can’t for the life of me figure out why companies do not see the correlation between how they treat their employees and their cost of their health care.

        I am sorry this happened to you. May you only have GOOD workplaces for the rest of your career.

        Reply
    7. Vulcan social worker

      My first post-college job was extremely toxic, but I didn’t know any better since my only previous ones were college cafeteria worker, camp counselor, and restaurant hostess, which each have their share of not-fun parts but weren’t bad environments. Complaining about customers who leave sweaty crumpled $1 bills as tips is bonding with other staff! I knew I was miserable in that office, but I had health insurance and I could pay my rent, so I didn’t consider leaving. But I started getting sick, and when I went to the doctor, my always-normal blood pressure was 130/100. Doctors don’t make me nervous, so it wasn’t that. I was 22! After I got out of that workplace and into one where the managers treated staff with respect and kindness, my blood pressure went back down to 110/70 which is where I still come in 20 years later, if not lower. Glad I didn’t stay there long.

      Reply
    8. JGray

      Currently in toxic job and working hard to get out but I too am trying not to let the physical symptoms get to me. The biggest thing for me is acne.

      Reply
    9. Cassandra

      High blood pressure, chronic insomnia, poorly-controlled irritability to the point of alienating friends.

      A few years out of that job, I got to halve my blood-pressure meds, and I may yet get to discontinue them altogether. I also sleep fine, and am much easier to deal with.

      Reply
    10. NicoleK

      Yes, I almost had a nervous breakdown. I was irritable, couldn’t focus, anxious all the time, unable to sleep, temporary high blood pressure, and felt stressed all the time. The stress felt like 10 pound weight on my chest. Every. Single. Day.

      Reply
    11. Lena

      Suicidal depression, digestive problems, and my ME/CFS flared up worse than it had been since I was first diagnosed fifteen years ago, to the extent that I was on the verge of being fired for only managing 60-odd percent attendance.

      I ended up signed off work for three month with stress. When I came back, senior management had investigated the department and my toxic manager had been ‘reorganised’ out of the company.

      I’ve been working for my new manager for six months and it’s bliss. I’m slowly rebuilding my confidence, and I haven’t had a day off sick since I came back.

      Reply
    12. seisy

      I didn’t have the same issues you did, but I had a very similar experience: took a job in 2009, it was so toxic and awful that it took an unbelievable toll on me, until the point where I just walked away in 2012 because not even the stigma of having quit a job is worth your life…the only thing I regret is that I let the terrible economy intimidate me into staying longer than I should have. So here’s a very emphatic “ditto” to your advice to anyone in the same situation:

      No matter what, no job is worth your health or your life.

      Reply
  3. Mike C.

    Yeah, I had to deal with all of this, though I was lucky enough to have a direct manager that was helpful. It was the owner that was causing all the problems.

    For those that haven’t been through this and might be scoffing about “how bad could it be”, Alison’s post is spot on and it really screws with you.It’s really one of those things you won’t understand unless you have first hand experience.

    Reply
    1. Adam

      In the places I’ve been that haven’t been great on the toxicity scale they were maybe 6 or 7 out of 10. In its own way that’s pretty bad because it can easily screw with your head if you don’t have it on straight. For one thing it may take you longer to notice that things aren’t great, and even when you do you may go the “trying to keep perspective and be a good person” route of saying things like “Well I’m still really fortunate. People across the globe have it much worse than I do. So it’s probably just my own attitude.”

      But there are limits to that, and waking up every morning and thinking “Oh…God…damn…” before you crawl out of bed is not a good way to live. And you run the risk of becoming like the people in the article in thinking that you can’t do better or that this is just what working in the modern world is like.

      Reply
      1. CADMonkey007

        That sounds like my current job. Not enough toxicity to cause crying or anxiety/ health issues, but a very slow eroding away of my confidence and motivation. I tried the “be thankful/content” route for a few years, didn’t help. I’ve noticed myself avoiding talking about my work, I’m vague about who my employer actually is.

        Yet for whatever reason I’m too scared to make the leap and find a new job! Ugh. :(

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          That fear will not get better with time. So if you are waiting for a “good” time to do it, there won’t be. Just do it. Now. While you still have parts of yourself still intact.
          The worst thing that will happen is the employer will say no. So you fill out another app and wait.
          The problem with toxic places is that they distort our thinking and con us into believing that looking for a new job is HARDER than working at Toxic Job. And that is a lie, a total lie.

          Reply
    2. Anon for a moment

      It’s so true how it F’s with your head. My BF would sometimes come home (at 9pm after going in at 6am) and start berating himself and questioning himself but once he started keeping documents of all the conversations he had with crazy boss, and he saw how bad the dude contradicted himself, the light bulb went on and he quit on the spot shortly thereafter.

      Reply
    3. A Definite Beta Guy

      I used to think I just complained too much. My co-worker and I started right out of school at the same time, same department, same job title, same everything. We are slowly going nuts.

      But….

      Over the past 2 years, we’ve seen a couple people leave this department. They all look like Happy from the 7 Dwarves now.

      Crazy.

      Reply
  4. Bekx

    I’m going to casually post this on my Facebook and hope my coworkers at my last job read it for their own sake. SO many of them have digestive issues, anxiety, and heart problems since working there but they keep giving excuses on why they need to stay and why no one else would hire them.

    Reply
  5. AndersonDarling

    I’d like to add that the longer you stay at a toxic job, the more worthless you feel, and that makes you feel like no one would hire you.
    I’ve spoken to so many talented people who felt worthless because their managers berated them all day. They thought there wasn’t a point in searching for a new job because they would always be passed up for better applicants. Don’t let your managers do that to you! Get outta there!

    Reply
    1. Bekx

      Yes!!!

      I’m in a creative field. My work got shoddier and shoddier the longer I stayed in that job (for various reasons, extreme deadlines, demands, etc). I remember looking at designs other people were doing and feeling like I was just not cut out for this work and there was no point applying anywhere else.

      Cue getting my current job and suddenly my work just LOOKED better and my skills seemed to magically improve. Of course, not having to listen to every whim of Old Boss and her “designer eye” helped immensely, but I completely agree with you. It really does make you feel like you aren’t worth working for a better place.

      Reply
    2. Adam

      Yep. No one’s telling me I can’t get out, but I’ve been in my current position so long my own brain out of fear of change does a fine job of telling me this is the only thing I can do all by itself. Don’t let yourself box you in either!

      Reply
    3. Hattie McDoogal

      Heh, I was just thinking as I read this, “I think my job is pretty toxic, but I’m obviously stuck here. Who else would hire me?” Of course I’m so in my head that most of me believes that, no, no, *other* people are having their perceptions warped by their crazy workplaces — me, I’m really just that shoddy.

      Reply
    4. I'm a Little Teapot

      Some awful managers deliberately tell you you’re so bad at your job or otherwise worthless that no one else will ever hire you as a way to keep you from quitting. It’s like an abusive partner saying “no one else will ever love you.”

      Reply
  6. Murphy

    Before I left an old job that was truly toxic (e.g. I got screamed at for looking in the wrong direction once), I had no idea how awful or how ingrained the fear had become. After I left I found myself physically flinching whenever my boss would call me or if someone walked down the hall with change in his pocket (the tell-tale sign that my evil!boss was coming your way). It took months for that physical reaction to go away and years for the psychological trauma to heal. I truly feel for anyone who has to go through this and urge taking this advice seriously. Sometimes you don’t know how bad it is until you’re out.

    Reply
    1. Tris Prior

      Mine was keys. Jangling keys. Toxic Boss carried around a ton of them and as soon as I heard that sound – shoulders instantly around ears. Took several years before I stopped having that physical response. {shudder}

      Reply
      1. Num Lock

        One toxic boss I had would slowly walk out through the middle of the cube farm rattling his keys whenever he left early for the day to complement his loud, unnecessary goodbyes. Every time I hear keys jangle I think of him.

        Reply
    2. JGray

      Murphy- I feel for you in getting in trouble for looking in the wrong direction. The president at my current company screamed at my because FedEx didn’t come & pick up a package one day. I scheduled everything like we normally do but due to a computer glitch they didn’t come. I ran around trying to find a box to drop it off at but everything had already been picked up. I apparently am entirely responsible for FedEx. He keeps telling me that all my efforts are falling short. So essentially no matter what I do I can’t win.

      Reply
  7. GrumpyIntern

    I have PTSD and depression and my current job is making it way, way worse. My boss’ management style is heavy on the criticism and guilt tripping, and there have been times when it reminds me so strongly of my abusive ex that I go home and cry for hours. Things have gotten somewhat better lately but for a while I was completely miserable, my self-esteem was wrecked, and I couldn’t concentrate. I am trying to find another job but it’s taking some time and I don’t have enough experience in this industry to have a lot of options. I did start standing up to some of the more inappropriate comments at work, which helped.

    Reply
    1. Seattle Writer Gal

      Hugs.

      I grew up in an emotionally abusive household that was heavy on the shaming. Thought I had it under control as an adult until I went to work for a religious organization where the culture was so shame-centered that it managed to push each and every one of my triggers. The final straw was when the CFO called me at home to tell me I “wasn’t a good person” and I completely lost my cool and ended up being fired for “poor cultural fit.”

      Now that I’m several months out from that, I see what a blessing in disguise it really was…

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Your boss doesn’t know how to manage. Those types of activities, criticism, guilt trips, etc are the bottom of the management barrel. The guy basically has no clue how to motivate people and no plan on learning.

      Reply
  8. AnonEMoose

    Many years after leaving one of my first jobs out of college, I still feel anxious when my boss wants to talk to me. Even though he has never used my one-on-one meetings to ambush me. And he is very supportive and quick to praise my work. But in that previous job, any time my supervisor wanted to talk to me it was because I was doing something “wrong.” It’s really, really difficult to get past that “programming.”

    Reply
  9. Cat like that

    This is so timely for me– I literally cry on the way to work in the mornings because I don’t want to go in, then cry on the way home because of everything that occurs during the day. I’ve been looking for about 4 months and no bites yet, but I have an informational interview next week with a connection of mine, so here’s to hoping! Thanks for the reminder that I’m doing the right thing.

    Reply
    1. Vulcan social worker

      Oh, that’s terrible to cry every day both coming and going. I hope something comes through for you soon.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      I had a job where I cried going to work and cried going home. I finally quit. You know unemployment pushed my application through? yeah. They knew how toxic the place was and my application just sailed right through all the hurdles. If I had known that I would have quit earlier.
      My friend quit another place and she, too, was worried about unemployment. They said, “Let me guess, you were fired for stealing, right?” Her application sailed through, too. Apparently the unemployment office felt it was not possible for so many people to be stealing from one employer.

      Reply
      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        Hah, your unemployment office sounds awesome! Someone at my state unemployment office let me get unemployment without a hearing even though my employer had contested it because, as he told me, he knew that particular employer had a policy of contesting every single claim no matter what. I was so grateful. (And appalled by such a policy, which I think should legally be considered insurance fraud.)

        Reply
        1. Rater Z

          They closed down the plant my mother in law worked at, laying everyone off. Then, they contested her claim for unemployment. She had worked there for better than 20 years, I think. I understand that the person at the unemployment office let that owner know he was the scum of the earth.

          Reply
  10. Bea W

    The one thing that really stuck out for me at my last job was how trapped my co-workers felt. Many of them had been there for years and while they were miserable they were so beaten down they were afraid to leave, believing that the hell they knew was better than the hell they didn’t know. They believed all jobs were that bad or worse, and that they could not do better. It was heartbreaking. The people who got out, like me, tended to be those who hadn’t been there as long or still had some frame of reference that this workplace was not the norm.

    Reply
    1. Ama

      Yes, this. I think one of the only reasons I was finally able to get away from my toxic employer (I had three positions there over almost a decade), was that I got a new boss who came from outside the sector. Though her management style also contributed to some of the toxicity, she made enough comments about how dysfunctional certain things were that it really brought home that it wasn’t a given that all workplaces were like this, which gave me the courage to start looking for a job I really wanted.

      Reply
  11. Adam

    Trying. Just have to find a better job to replace it with first.

    Patience is a virtue…Patience is a virtue…Patience is a virtue…
    *repeats while softly banging head on desk*

    Reply
  12. Mimmy

    Ugh I think I’ve had several jobs that may’ve been considered toxic, but the absolute worst one had me crying every. single. night. I lasted only 2.5 weeks until they mercifully let me go. Then I later found out that a few subsequent people also didn’t last long in that same role (receptionist). Had I stayed in that position, I think my mental health would’ve tanked, and fast.

    This article is spot on – those first few jobs definitely affected my perspective of what a “normal” job is supposed to be like and certainly impacted my self-esteem.

    Reply
  13. Jennifer

    I’m on my what, fourth year of job hunting? But I think it’s better to be stressed out from a bad job (IN SOME RESPECTS, NOT ALL) than to be stressed out from having no income indefinitely, for what could be years. Plus I have no husband to pay the bills. So that’s why I put up with anything

    I have an interview in a few hours though, so let’s hope!

    Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Well. Good news and bad news on this front. Good news: I think I really impressed them in some ways.
        Bad news: My supervisor was on the interview panel, as was someone else who most of the time likes me but has ripped me new holes on occasion. And they asked two questions about my customer service, and both of them know how this office considers me terrible at it. And one guy on the panel was one that I know has gotten irritated with me multiple times over e-mail (never met him IRL before).

        So…. yeah, I probably need to write this one off too as a not-happening. Also, they want to do second interviews–why? What the heck are they going to find out that’s new and different?

        Reply
    1. pope suburban

      I know this bargain well, and I agree. What I am grappling with is the ability to make myself stay shiny and happy in the face of flagrant abuse just kind of…dissipating? There is just so much wrong that has been so wrong for so many years, and I (and others) have made so many attempts to change things that get nixed by Rude Boss and his feckless pet employees. I didn’t think it was possible for that all-consuming terror to become even slightly less total, but here I am. In my case, I’m consulting with an attorney later today because my workplace is that bad, but if I don’t have anything? I…honestly don’t know. It’s a new place to be, and it’s very uncomfortable as I know the material reality of my life is that I need to pay my bills and I can’t seem to get a bite to save my life. I hope things work out better for you! Go forth and crush that interview, and don’t look back!

      Reply
    2. Anxa

      Oh yes.

      I have never had a truly toxic boss, but I did have work environments where I was in constant fear of messing up and getting fired. Comparing my job now to my job then: I’m so much happier at work. I don’t dread going in. I don’t count down the days to the weekend. I hate long weekends and holidays because I miss work (I mean, I might enjoy days off more if they were paid, but still….I love going in).

      But I’m just a different type of stressed. Because it’s part-time and has no room for growth and is something I could have done probably about 10 years ago (but not as well). So money is an issue, as is worrying I’ll never transition to to full-time permanent work.

      Still, neither stress compares at all to being unemployed. Income aside, it was horrible feeling like I wasn’t earning my place in the world. My self-esteem was much better in the worst of jobs.

      Reply
  14. Argh!

    This is more about leaving a toxic boss. Leaving a toxic workplace includes coworkers who are abusive, back-biting, insubordinate, or competitive. Management in a big organization doesn’t always know what goes on amongst the “little people.”

    Reply
    1. ASJ

      So true. A big part of what made my worst job so toxic was the constant drama and gossiping. I mean, the supervisors contributed to it, but it’s super hard on the head when you know your every move is literally being watched, and that if you do anything wrong there’s someone waiting to pounce and report it.

      Reply
  15. Daisy Dukes

    I really needed this today. When I hear about people having severe health problems it makes me justify that my job is not that bad. I get raises/promotions and have really moved up. But reading about the culture of fear and stress really hit home for me.

    I remember one time reading a commenter on here say they are happy that they have a low stress job and are paid well and I started crying because I stress every day mostly because of fear instilled by my boss.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      “It’s not so bad – other people have it way worse than me” is SO COMMON a thought in people who live (or work) in an abusive culture. I hope you and everyone else in toxic jobs finds a better job ASAP.

      Reply
      1. Kathy-office

        This is so true, I did this to myself from toxic job to toxic job, telling myself it’s not as bad as previous jobs. It’s good to try to find some good in a situation, or be thankful to have a job, but no one deserves to be in a stressful, toxic environment just to pay the bills.

        Reply
  16. Anonymous Educator

    The toxic job I left (before my current non-toxic job) really broke my heart, because for so many of my co-workers at Toxic Job, it was their first real adult job after college, they didn’t know any better, and so they refused to leave. They thought that was what work life was like!

    Reply
    1. Num Lock

      I had the opposite, but also heartbreaking experience at my toxic job: so many coworkers were just a few years from retirement that they felt they couldn’t leave. They were all just waiting for that last 5 years to pass by and holding on for dear life.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yes, that’s actually more heartbreaking, because they genuinely don’t have a choice (try searching for a job when you’re close to retirement), but the folks I knew were 23-26 years and could easily find a job somewhere else… just didn’t.

        Reply
  17. Newbie

    This probably doesn’t apply to everyone, but staying in a toxic work environment can make it more difficult to get a new job. When trying to escape a toxic environment, I found that interviewing could be difficult. I had several interviews that were definitely not showing the best version of myself because I was so exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed by my current job. At one memorable flop of an interview, I’m not even sure how many coherent sentences I managed to put together.

    I fortunately did eventually get out of that toxic place, but I know that the negative effects of the existing workplace played a factor in how long it took to get out.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      I negotiated an exit with severence & took a few months off to recover with a therapist. The damage was so bad I continued to have nightmares about the place for years after finding another job!

      Reply
  18. Not an IT Guy

    This is spot on for me, lately ive been crying a lot more when I get home from work…last week things got so bad for me I actually went off on a co-worker. Not that he didn’t partially deserve it, it’s just so unlike me to do that. My wife thinks I should see somebody for stress/anxiety, but a toxic environment is making me afraid that I’ll lose my job for doing that. I’ve wanted to start job searching for years, but everything I’m hearing and reading is saying I am not a good candidate (lack of accomplishments, no references, quickly approaching the “point of no return”, can’t stay in the field due to a non-comp, etc.).

    Reply
    1. Lisa

      As someone who was in a toxic environment 1.5 years ago… It’s possible you might be selling yourself short. For myself, because I was berated so much, I felt like I didn’t accomplish anything. But it helped to sit down, create a list of all of the projects I was involved in, and then think about *anything* (no matter how small) I could say that was positive about my role in each project. From there, I was able to come up with a list of achievements. I hope this may help you.

      Another thing… This may not be feasible for everyone and it may take awhile. But a big problem is that I was not getting the experiences and (in my industry) good portfolio pieces to land better jobs. So I did MASSIVE amounts of freelancing and volunteering after hours to create those experiences and get good portfolio pieces. In my case, this also helped in building references and boosting my confidence. Independent projects really helped in reaffirming that I can do it and gave me a lot more to talk about in interviews.

      I hope that helps.

      Reply
      1. Not an IT Guy

        I wish it was as easy as saying I’m selling myself short. During my 3-year stint in my company’s IT department my manager would assign me several projects designed to help our sales department do their jobs more efficiently. Not a single one was implemented, and there was no rhyme or reason as to why the manager would have me compile so much data just so they couldn’t be used. If the manager couldn’t see them as accomplishments, how can any reasonable hiring manager see them as accomplishments?

        Reply
        1. seisy

          Trust me, you can make it happen. I’ve been in a similar mindset (part of the fun of working for an extremely dysfunctional organization is that your biggest victories are “managed to turn a FUBAR situation into a mere disaster”) and the funny thing is that it’s taken 3 years for me to realize I’ve actually got some impressive things I can talk about from the experience.

          However, it might be too much for you yourself to do. Maybe ask a friend to help you write a resume/cover letter or even hire someone to do it professionally.)

          Reply
    2. neverjaunty

      Ignore what you are hearing and reading and keep looking for work! A toxic environment beats down your ability to objectively analyze your worth. Trust that you should look elsewhere.

      Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      You can go to a private counselor if you need to. I shied away from EAP after the courts ruled files could be opened. So I chose a private counselor. The counseling itself was not great, but I never had any fall out from it.

      Reply
  19. Ihmmy

    The first one especially… though when I talk with my previous coworkers we’re all like “we can do ANYTHING after working for that crazy Russian Lady* for so long!” Honestly my job since then has felt like a breeze, save for a few bumps early on that were more remnants of behaviours/issues from Last Job.

    (*not actually Russian. Nor crazy, just toxic af)

    Reply
  20. stazatup

    The fact the you can be unaware of just how disfunctional your workplace is so true, at least for me. Years ago I had a horrible, horrible boss. The group that I was in did contract to hire and he was so bad that none of the contractors stuck around. One even walked off the job because of this boss. After 18 months of ridiculously high turnover, he complained about me (I finally snapped). Instead of backing him in whatever reprimand he had in mind, the folks above him decided it was finally time to make a change rather than continue backfilling contractors.

    I was so shocked when I heard that he was no longer our manager and spent the rest of the day thinking to myself “Oh, I won’t have to put up with that any more. Oh, I won’t have to put up with that other thing any more.”. Seriously, for the rest of the day I kept thinking about all the things that made me sick to my stomach that I suddenly would not have to deal with any longer.

    If only all toxic manager situations could have such a happy ending.

    Reply
    1. Adam

      It is truly amazing how much of a difference one awful person can make. It’s sort of like that saying where if you meet 100 people in one day and 99 of them are perfectly nice and one of them slaps you across the face the slapper is, sadly, the one you’ll remember. Glad your org finally clued in to where the real trouble was.

      Reply
    2. JGray

      Agreed. I am a firm believer that it is hard to see just how dysfunctional a workplace is when you are there. Sometimes it takes getting out of it to really recognize how bad it is.

      Reply
  21. Tilly W

    At old, toxic job it seemed that everyone else had accepted the terrible management, threats of being fired, unsafe practices, poor pay and benefits, back stabbing etc. For the first few months, I thought I just needed time to adjust and kept “self-reflecting” on what I could do to make it better and adjust my expectations since everyone else had just accepted it. Watching the CEO fire a director on-the-spot in the middle of meeting for bringing up a legitimate regulatory concern (we were a non-profit hospital) and constantly being sick due to my office having mold (acknowledged by facilities and administration but “there was no other desk available and I should be happy that I had an office at all since most people sat in cubes” still didn’t do it. (For the record, I asked to move to a cube knowing there was a shortage so this reply was still baffling.) The day that did it was the day I took PTO to attend my husband’s grandfather’s funeral (whom I loved) and I looked forward to it because it was a day off/escape from that nasty place. How dysfunctional is that? The tears in the parking lot every day before work followed and luckily three months later I escaped. Good friends still refer to that period of time because I’m generally the positive friend of the group and for eight months I was in a chronic bad mood. Get out if it’s making you sick, hurting your personal relationships and have you anticipating family tragedies for an excuse to be out.

    Reply
  22. Daisy Dukes

    Question: how do you know you’re not just moving into another toxic environment? Any warning signs to look out for?

    Reply
    1. stazatup

      Sometimes you can get a bad vibe from the hiring manager. If so, don’t ignore it. Also, do the folks you’ll be working with seem happy, enthusiastic, helpful, and do they enjoy each other? If not, that’s definitely a red flag.

      Reply
    2. AnonEMoose

      If you get the chance, observe the body language and interactions of people who work there. That can tell you a lot. Sites like Glassdoor can help, although I personally always take that feedback with a grain of salt. Still, it’s an indicator.

      Reply
    3. Anon Accountant

      Gut feeling is a good indicator. When I was at my worst job I walked in for the interview and instantly felt the need to turn and walk back out the door. Should’ve followed that instinct.

      Pay close attention to how the environment feels. Do most employees look exhausted and aggravated or relatively happy? When you see them talking to others how’s their body language? Do they appear engaged in their conversation or on edge?

      Reply
    4. AnotherTeacher

      At my previous toxic job, the director, who would be my immediate boss, said something in our interview that gave me a bad feeling. I had asked a “what brought you here” question. They responded that they had been in the same role I was applying for and then made the interim director. When the administration began the search for a person to put in the director position permanently, my future boss threatened to leave the department and was given the job. What struck me as icky was that the information was conveyed in a very mean-spirited and petty way. I didn’t really know what to do with that feeling, though, and so I ignored it. “Mean-spirited and petty,” I came to realize, defined my boss.

      If I had known how to interpret the feeling, I think I would have still taken the job. But, I may have been prepared for the toxicity and thus known to leave sooner than later. Because I’d had good bosses up to that point, I wasn’t prepared to work for someone so awful. Alison’s points #1 and #2 were especially applicable to my situation, and it took me a lot of time and personal work to leave the mindset from that workplace behind.

      Reply
  23. EvilQueenRegina

    Reminds me of how, when I left Exjob, every time I saw people from there afterwards they would say to me “You look well!” Then one day I passed my replacement in the street and took one look at her and thought she looked ill, and it made me wonder if I had looked as bad when I was there. (Having said that though, to be fair, I did have some personal problems unrelated to work which contributed to that at the time).

    Rumours about merging with Exjob again are circulating and I think if it happens I will consider leaving even though some of the issues with Exjob no longer apply. I won’t have the manager who learned how to manage from Cornelius Fudge, won’t have Cruella, Maleficent and Ursula as my co-workers again, won’t have the task that shouldn’t have sat with me. But I don’t get the sense that things are a lot better over there.

    Reply
  24. ASJ

    Sometimes you don’t know just how toxic a place is until you leave and experience the lingering aftereffects, or is that just me? Mine was just a temp job (year long contract) but I feel it really messed me up mentally/emotionally. To the point where, after I got a new position, it continued to affect me (and still does – I’m definitely paranoid about my coworkers, and I can’t tell if I should be or not).

    Reply
    1. Winner winner

      Haha, sad but true. I did some shots with a friend after work (left a bit early) after hearing the wretched boss got an award. Not the best coping skill but it worked that day. Glad I have left!

      Reply
    2. Stuck

      I go home at lunch sometimes (and know I am so lucky to be able to do so). I’m as light of a drinker as they come, but it is a BATTLE with myself not to have a beer before going back.

      Reply
  25. Winter is Coming

    We have a current employee who came to us from a toxic workplace. We’re currently coaching him through some of the defensiveness and aggressiveness which seemed to have followed him here.

    Reply
      1. Winter is Coming

        First and foremost, we helped him see how he was coming across. He just didn’t see it. In his previous job, people were nasty to each other, and frequently threw each other under the bus. I think with time, he’s begun to see that we just don’t operate that way here. It’s been a tough road though – the other employees were not hitting it off with him at all, and didn’t see him being here long term. We decided to work with him because he seemed genuinely interested in improving. It was kind of a two steps forward one step back situation though. I worked with his manager to come up with a way to give him specific examples of how he had talked to others, and how he might alternately get what he needed from them using different words, tone, and body language. We did this over the course of about a year, both in one-on-ones and in his performance reviews (We have one main one in December, and a follow up in June). He’s really made great strides, and I’m hopeful that he will continue on this path.

        Reply
        1. Liza

          Thanks! I hope that continues to work out well, it does sound like he’s making good progress. I’m impressed that you and his manager are putting in so much effort, too!

          Reply
  26. Revolver Rani

    It’s sobering how many of the observations about toxic workplaces also apply to abusive romantic relationships. Rationalizing away the problems, “no one else will have me so I better stay,” and other patterns. Much compassion toward folks who need to get themselves out of difficult work situations.

    Reply
    1. Anon for this

      My ex-boss found out I was interviewing and pulled the half-concerned-for-me, half-“You’ll get fired anywhere else, I’m the only one who is willing to overlook your many flaws” schtick.

      This ended up being the kick I needed. I always sort of wondered why people in abusive relationships didn’t just up and leave. It wasn’t until I got to the end of my time at ex-job and hearing things like that that I realised that it was essentially the same thing. For some reason I’d always judged people in the same situation in personal relationships (never again!) but just didn’t notice all the signs when it happened to me at work. It twists your whole sense of what’s normal.

      Reply
  27. ev

    Another question: How can you cope with being in a toxic job when you’re trying to leave but know that it may be awhile? (Such as searching for a job in a field where there are few openings and things move slowly.)

    Reply
    1. Jean

      The AAM archives probably have good posts and comments on this topic. Also try looking under the topic (if I recall correctly) “Your Boss Sucks and Isn’t Going to Change.”

      Reply
    2. Anon Accountant

      Things to look forward to outside of work. Hobbies, interests, go to events you enjoy, paint, draw if that’s your interest.

      Small goals such as I will work on my resume this week; next week attend a networking event; practice writing cover letters, etc. Small things you can control like even learning a new job related skill.

      Reply
    3. NicoleK

      Coping strategies are dependent on who is causing the toxicity, what is causing the toxicity, and how widespread the toxicity is. In my case, I stopped caring and reduced my expectations to nothing. My boss and BEC coworker weren’t going to change, and the sooner I accepted that, the better I’ll be.

      Reply
    4. I'm a Little Teapot

      I’ve found it’s much better to have a decent job outside my field than a soul-sucking job in it, but YMMV.

      Writing venomous, bile-dripping screeds about the evils of [whatever makes the job toxic] anonymously/pseudonymously online (naming no names). Naming names, if you can do it without exposing yourself (or “through the grapevine” to people you trust). Doing your best to (deservedly) trash your awful employer’s reputation. But I admit I have a vindictive streak.

      Reply
    5. Glasskey

      Two things:
      1. I look for ANY opportunity to add something to my resume to make me a stronger candidate when that opportunity finally comes up.
      2. I spend a few minutes every day envisioning my cube completely empty–it’s 6 months from now and I have left the organization. Weird, I know, but it seems to help. It reminds me that this, too, shall pass and nobody stays in the same place forever (though it certainly seems like I will).

      Reply
      1. seisy

        I used to write letters of resignation in my head- the long kind you never actually do, but still. It helped me, especially through long, awful meetings that were the wellsprings of despair.

        Reply
    6. AnotherTeacher

      Look for ways to find value in your abilities outside of work:
      – Volunteering allows you to use skills in a new environment and make connections outside work.
      – Take up a sport or get more involved in one you already practice. I went from running for exercise to joining a group and participating in races.
      – Do you have a hobby? Maybe you can share that on social media? For example, if you like to cook, take pictures and share recipes on Pinterest.

      Reply
  28. Anon for today only

    #1: Exactly. At horrible ExJob, I was so immersed in the toxic culture – overworked, underpaid, manipulated, slighted – that I actually tried to rationalize the horrible conditions. Varys took my idea and research, and presented it to the boss as his own? I didn’t protest. Varys dumps the work back onto me to execute? I did it. Cersei my new boss wanted me as her admin assistant (although she already had one), so she transferred someone from another project (completely unqualified), gave her my work, and told me to compile and write all the monthly reports and straighten out her desk. I didn’t object. Heck, for really stressful days, I figured out the least used restroom so I could weep quietly in a stall. This went on for nearly two years.

    I was wide awake one night (see #5 – I had chronic insomnia), trying to figure out how to appease toxic boss / coworkers once again. It came to me that I deserve to be happy, too. It sounds trite, but in fact it was a monumental change of consciousness. Instead of reacting to the work situation, I decided to take charge of myself and find something that made me happy and that suited my qualifications.

    Unfortunately the contract ended abruptly and I was laid off before I could realize any concrete changes. In the rush to find new employment, I didn’t vet the new company very carefully and ended up in a not-so-great place (although I probably brought some bad attitude and habits with me). Thankfully, I discovered AAM last year. I’ve been able to find advice, strategies, and scripts to deal with bosses, coworkers, and work assignments. My company will never be a great place to work, but I’ve figured out how to get through the day and leave it at the door when I go home.

    Reply
  29. Num Lock

    Oh the idea of a toxic job redefining your sense of normal is ringing so true to me right now! I was never allowed to pick up new projects or work that wasn’t expressly assigned to me by my toxic manager, and I’m struggling with initially dismissing things into the “I’m not allowed to do that category” that come my way at new job. I’m trying to be super aware of what I’m doing and I don’t think it’s a problem yet, but it is interesting to have to talk myself into doing tasks that I’m allowed and trained to do.

    I stayed almost 4 years. Glad I ended up where I’m at but… Eugh.

    Reply
  30. Master Bean Counter

    I am so happy to be on my way out from my toxic job. If I wasn’t sure before about it, the new office configuration where I’m basically under two different sets of eyes is confirmation. On the good side my boss and his minion are happy to implement the plan that got put aside when the other owners insisted on hiring me two years ago. Now they can run the kingdom with no interference from me doing my job properly.
    PS Not having a key board tray sucks, but I’m promised one will be here on Wednesday…

    Reply
  31. Anonymous Fed

    I read this while waiting for movers to arrive because my last day at my toxic workplace was Friday. I was only in my most recent position for a year (at workplace for 2) and moved here to join my boyfriend in a place where we’d both worked previously. Now I’m leaving a place that I love and forcing my boyfriend to quit his position too because I just couldn’t handle working here. I’m going back to work for a supervisor I previously worked for (in a different location). She’s the best supervisor I’ve ever worked for and I think I will be much more productive there, but I’m taking a pay cut and dismantling my life to go there. My supervisor at this most recent toxic workplace finds himself struggling with reason #3. He’s desperate to move on, but the toxic manager sabotages every reference check so despite his ability to get interviews he hasn’t found a way to get past the negative reference.

    Reply
  32. CC

    What does kicking a job search into high gear even look like when you’re lucky to see one or two relevant job postings per *month* across five different job boards and all networking events in your field happen while you’re at work because guess what, working weekday evenings is a thing.

    I’ve been on this shift for a year and job hunting for two now. It’s not as toxic as some described here, but it’s poorly managed and has trouble retaining good people because the pay sucks. I’m the only person on my shift who’s been here an entire year and believe me it’s not because I like it. The instant I find something else I am *gone*. But… my field isn’t hiring much, and I’d do a terrible job interviewing for a job I have no intention of staying for, which would describe every job outside of my field. (This one started as a temp position and the boss knows I’m job hunting and is just happy to have me for as long as I’m willing to stay.)

    Reply
  33. Bowserkitty

    I have apologized profusely to my current boss for the littlest mistakes. It’s so weird when he just shakes his head and blows it off, tells me it’s fine. OldBoss reamed me for the littlest of things. Like other commenters, I’m sure I had an ulcer. My lay-off from that company was a happy time.

    Obviously, I can’t explain to my new boss that my (at times) weird, groveling behavior is baggage from my previous boss, so I wonder he just thinks I am a bit off. :/

    Reply
    1. Cassandra

      I hear that. My first couple years at current job were a constant refrain of “wait, wut?”

      Wait, wut? My boss has my back?

      Wait, wut? I have an idea and the answer isn’t an automatic “no” or “here are the six committees you have to convince”? And if the answer does happen to be “no” there’s an actual reasonable reason?

      Wait, wut? People ask how they can help me with my idea?

      Wait, wut? People smile at me when I pass by in the hall?

      In a way, I never want to get used to this atmosphere — I certainly don’t ever want to take it for granted!

      Reply
  34. Nervous Accountant

    See, I don’t even know if my job is toxic. After struggling for so long, I wanted nothing more than to stay for at least a few years (3-5) but I’ve been rethinking it. If I look at all the factors that are making me re-think that plan, its’ not so much that it’s toxic (I’ve been in horrible environments before), it’s very slightly #3. I don’t know if my fears are legit or I’m just overthinking it and being a worrywart (as usual)!

    Reply
  35. Newlywed

    My last boss made me feel so horrible for making mistakes (even minor ones) that I always felt like I was on the verge of being fired. She would also give me horrible performance reviews that had nothing to do with actual performance and were based on personality traits and subjective criteria, and she told me I needed to be more “vulnerable” with her (super creepy). She loved me for the first 6 months that I was in the job, and then completely turned on me and I’m certain she was trying to force me out (she made my last year so miserable that I eventually found a new job and quit).

    My new boss gave me a 90 day performance review (all performance based!) and one of the big line items was him telling me that it’s ok to make mistakes at work and not to take it so personally! The new job is so much more flexible and results-based. That means, come in (don’t sweat it if you’re running a few minutes behind) and leave when you’re done with your work. Old boss wanted me to sit in my desk like an automaton and watch my facial expressions all day (no joke), and would give me the stink eye if I was 5 minutes late. New boss recognizes my work ethic and ability and doesn’t micromanage or base his judgments on stupid criteria.

    It’s great to be in a much better, healthier job environment where people treat me like a human being. But while I was in the old job (and three previous toxic work environments! what a workforce to graduate into :p), I started taking anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, and all the stress took such a toll on my relationships, not to mention that I started eating badly to cope with the insanity and gained about 15 pounds (at least). I’m still suffering from job related PTSD from working for horrible people, and while I was usually able to recognize that it was an unhealthy environment fairly quickly, it took me several months of job searching to get out of there. Staying in a job like that and hoping it will get better just makes you less aware of reality and you begin buying into the toxic craziness that other people are feeding you and you start thinking you’re the crazy one. Don’t do it!

    The other problem is that by the end of the last job, I just didn’t care anymore. I was so DONE with that place that I probably burned some bridges and didn’t handle a few situations or projects with the same level of dedication that I would have put towards a company that I cared about. So get out before you burn out!

    Reply
  36. JGray

    Currently in toxic job and working hard to get out of it by finding another job. I am mostly just biding my time at the moment because I am in a no win situation and get yelled at almost everyday over stuff that I have no control over. The president at the company just decides that you are wrong anytime anything happens and never lets you explain anything. They also hand out raises but tell you that you didn’t get a raise because you were a good performer- you got the raise because they are trying to stay competitive with other companies. So with that attitude as soon as they have determined they are competitive I guess the raises stop. They will also hire someone at the lowest possible salary that they can and they always try to get the employee to name a salary first so that they won’t seem like they are lowballing you when in fact they will if they can. Well, I have had a few interviews and have a few more coming up so hopefully something comes up.

    Reply
  37. Sunshine on cloudy day

    Can’t stress how important #1 and #2 are. First “real” job out of school was at a highly dysfunctional (though only moderately toxic) startup, second job was at an extremely toxic, tiny family-owned company… For job #3 I lucked into a great entry-level job at a lovely company and I am amazed at how distorted my view of the work place was pre-job #3, and how many bad habits/bizarre idea about how workplaces should be run that I developed…

    First job wanted things done, as in yesterday, no matter how slipshod or poorly done. I genuinely believed that’s how things should be done, and I actually started referring to that as a weakness in interviews (IE: Whats’ a weakness of yours. Me: Well, I’m a bit slow when given new tasks. I like to take my time doing things well the first time, but I have realized that speed can be much more important and have focused on improving the speed at which I turn projects in). I got a few strange looks at that answer, and now I realize why. I cringe when I think about how ridiculous that answer must have sounded.

    Second job made me feel insane – I questioned my work ethic (after being repeatedly told that I was lazy – for not psychically divining what the boss actually wanted) and my mental abilities (after repeatedly told that I was stupid or “easily confused” for asking followup questions regarding necessary info to complete tasks – info that had to come from boss that boss did not include).

    It’s reassuring (though totally heartbreaking) to hear that so many other people have faced the same level of emotional turmoil due to to toxic work environments. I also felt like there was something wrong with me for being so upset about my work situation, and that in addition to all the other horrible things I was starting to believe about myself that I was also over-emotional/too sensitive.

    Reply
  38. Life after burnout

    I resigned from my toxic workplace and gave myself a full year off from working. My health and happiness and that of those around me was worth more than the toxic job could ever pay me. That year off gave me time to recover enough that I am now able to work again, though it was touch and go for a long time. I will never be totally free from what I went through, but I do appreciate the different perspective I have now on what truly matters to me. My new job is amazing and I am thankful everyday for how my life and relationships are so much better now for having taking the risky path I did.

    Reply
    1. Looby

      Well done!
      I did this in a much less intentional way- last year I was laid off from my toxic job and was unemployed for almost 6 months. For me the stress of unemployment was much less than the work- I wish I had had the courage to jump rather than hang around until I was pushed.
      I have a chronic medical condition and 2 months after my layoff I had reduced my medication by half, my specialist actually commented on how well I looked (not just my actual test results, which were also good)
      I’m currently a bit under-employed but I took this position as it was 4 days a week, as I know I need more time to get my mental and physical health back to where they should be so it is a good fit for me for now.

      Reply
  39. Ruth (UK)

    “A toxic job will change your idea of normal.”

    This happened to me at a previous job… I’d tell my friends things about my workplace and they’d be horrified, and I remember thinking “yeah, it’s not great but they’re over-reacting” and not actually being able to see it properly until I had left and some time had passed.

    Frustratingly, a friend of mine in another city later experienced an extremely similar work experience to this previous one of mine, and also was of the mindset that it was normal. Even though I’d been there, I didn’t know how to explain to him that his workplace was not how it should be.

    It’s difficult to begin discussing working conditions at this ex-job without it turning into a long post, but to be brief it included things like not allowing employees to get a drink (of water) when they needed it (we weren’t allowed bottled water and had to ask permission to go and have a small shot-sized cup of water when we needed it). I know several employees (including myself) who collapsed on shift for various reasons (heat stress/dehydration and also just… stress). Shouting, swearing and abusive language from managers was common… and so on. It baffles me now how I thought this was ok but somehow I just believed all was normal and that working was just generally unpleasant everywhere anywhere, probably (this was my first full time permanent job).

    Reply
    1. Rater Z

      I had a supervisor tell the billing clerks they couldn’t use the restroom after midnight because they had to have all the billing done by 3am. The state came in and told her she couldn’t do that.

      She wrote me up for being a minute late one day. I had told her my wife had a late doctor’s appointment and she told me I could either use four hour PTO or take a chance. I was an exempt who routinely worked 12 hours a day five days a week, not by choice.

      She also wrote me up for making ten mistakes one time and expected me to sign off on it without reading it first. I spent two hours of my time going thru it bill by bill. Some were changed after I was in the bill, some I never was in the bill at all and the balance had reasonable explanations for what I did. She tore up the write-up without putting it thru but later on, laughed about it to others. In their system, we could actually pull up the backside of the bill which would show each time somebody had updated the bill, when they were in it and what they did.

      She said one time that while, she was finishing college in Detroit, she had been the third shift stocking crew supervisor at a big box store. Her comment was that she walked around all night with a pad of write-up slips in her hand.

      After she was there a year, they transferred her from the general office out to the local terminal but I think she was a big reason I was fired two months after that. I got my full unemployment check except that it was reduced because of my part-time job. In Indiana, they gave me a flat amount of unemployment comp so reducing the weekly check just gave me more weeks I got it which really helped out some.

      Where I am working now, the team leader just told us he is planning/hoping to be transferred to a new store out of state the company is opening up in May. We are all hoping he does NOT get it because we want to keep him. I noticed I am starting to get nightmares that he will be replaced by that toxic supervisor from 12 years ago.

      Reply
  40. Former Computer Professional

    When I was at my sickest, my then-toxic job was just making things worse, and my doctor was all but begging me to get out. (ex. A manager calling, while in the hospital with a life-threatening situation, just to tell me what what I should be working on when I returned to work.)

    For some reason I had convinced myself that this wasn’t toxic, it was perfectly normal. By the time they finally were able to fire me, well, I’m amazed I was still glued together enough to find another job.

    Reply
    1. FiveWheels

      Are you sure you’re not me?

      Bang on the same right down to calls in hospital and doctors begging me to resign. Despite nearly dying, I didn’t want to take time off because I knew it would get me fired.

      I knew I had to get out when they refused me a day off to go to a consultant appointment. In the end they made be redundant rather than firing me, and I ended up at a company that includes other survivors from ExJob.

      Reply
  41. Panda Bandit

    My job is toxic. I have regular therapy sessions so that keeps me from being in worse shape, though I still get constant headaches, stomach aches, and even hives because of my job. It turns out you can get hives just from stress.

    It’s really hard to muster up the energy to keep job hunting. It’s never been an easy or fast process for me and I’m at the point where I have trouble believing that most other jobs aren’t like this. I will keep chipping away at it. I’m feeling pretty good today because I’m away from that place for the next two days.

    Reply
  42. Winner winner

    I find it hard to talk about the old (toxic) job in interviews. I froze up once when they asked “what management style do you like?” which is a totally normal question. Once when talking to someone I would really like to work for, while still at old job, I was trying to explain why I wanted to leave. But it was so frustrating that I started feeling emotional, and to shut that down I stopped looking at her. So I basically turned into a “no eye contact” robot to keep from crying about how shitty it was. Not a great impression.

    Oh well. The hunt continues. Still glad I left, even though I’m living off savings.

    Reply
  43. AnonAdmin

    This is happening to me right now, I was bullied & reported it last year only now I am subjected to mobbing by managers & HR. This is my 4th year of working there & I am absolutely desperate to get out. I have set a deadline of when I will just leave but I am hoping to get severance first with the aid of my union- mostly for a good reference. I’m in England & here they always want your current or most recent manger as a referee & I do not trust I will get one, especially if I left without another job because then they wouldn’t need to give me one just to get rid of me.
    The worst thing is how many people will say “if you don’t like it leave” or “just quit”- they have no idea what it does to a person. If only it were that simple! I have zero confidence, I’m mentally spent & I need the money.

    Reply
  44. Sarahnova

    I was talking with my therapist while St OldJob, and in the middle of our conversation I suddenly realised that my relationship with my job was basically the cycle of an abusive relationship – I would get burnt out and tell them I had to cut back, they’d come on all “I’m so sorry baby, you know how much I value you, take all the time you need, think how good we are together!” I’d give in, and slowly we’d cycle back around to “why are you so weak, other people can handle this, no one else would ever want you anyway”. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    In the middle of sentence, I blurted out, “Oh God, I have to quit, don’t I?”

    She smiled.

    I did.

    Reply
  45. quietone

    my once great job is turning sour with the hire of a glorified project manager who has so far only managed to delay my projects and has just asked if I can “help the company out” by moving my vacation out.

    Reply
  46. Been there done that

    Took toxic job in August at very small business, all roses until property burned to ground in winter. Toxic owner wanted to blame it on me, but a) was very clear that fire started in maintenance garage and b) Thank Heavens I was NOT the last one to leave that night – Toxic owner was, which was very unusual. In the 12 months I was there turnover was 200% – and there were less than 10 FT employees and about same PT employees.

    During fire recovery phase – even though I was able to get all payroll, a/r, & a/p out on a timely basis – didn’t miss a hitch; there was constant criticism, my desk was placed so that I was in his eyesight at all times, my phone conversations were listened to and commented on. The last straw was when I got a call that my 80 yr old father was being taken to the hospital because he was turning blue. I had the other office person email the owner, I emailed him updates all evening from the hospital and came in to work the next full day on only 3 hrs sleep. For the next 3 months while I helped him get back to full strength all I heard was a) never ever use email or have another employee contact me when you have an emergency – you must call and get my permission to leave and b) even though I never shirked any responsibilities and met all deadlines while maintaining 2 households and checking in on him before and after work, worked 40-45 hr weeks unless there was a personal appt and then I worked from home at night and used PTO to make it up Toxic Owner insisted on telling me almost daily that I shouldn’t need to take care of my parent – I should just make someone else do it. Even though he knew my parent and I were both widowed and my only sibling lived over 4 hours away. I can honestly say in my 30+ year career, it is the only time that I did not give notice in advance. I did leave instructions and notes but walked out one day after covering all that was due for the week and didn’t look back. I had already seen Toxic Owner scream, yell, threaten and stab in the back others that tried to give 2 weeks notice.

    Before I found another job my dr, my therapist and my SO were telling me I had to get out – toxic job was killing me. Looking back it was – a year later I still have severe bouts of IBS that started while working there, gained 50 lbs trying to eat my way through the stress and other issues. Things are better now for me, but sadly the health and weight issues will take a long time to heal/go away.

    Toxic owner – not so much. He had to work really hard to find a contractor willing to work with him on the rebuild, my cohort in the office (the only other office staff) left two weeks after I did. His wife quit her job to work for him and the CPA/tax firm that did his work while I was there also decided not to provide services anymore.

    While I learned a lot about that type of business and have used the knowledge with current small businesses, it was awful. Get out – it takes time but you can make it happen. Do I have a retirement plan anymore? No, but I have my sanity back and that is much more important.

    Reply
  47. Stuck

    Hope I’m not too late to this comments section, but I have to try:

    I’m stuck in a toxic job. I say “stuck” because this is my first job out of my master’s program (graduated last June). I’ve only been here for 6 months, so I know I can’t leave. I go home and cry almost every evening; I almost cried in a meeting the other day. Accepting this position was an enormous mistake on my part, but I didn’t see it coming.

    My question for anyone reading is: how long until I can start seriously thinking about leaving? I’ve had it in my head that I need to stick it out for 2-3 years. The way things have been going lately, that will be a major challenge. The environment is horrible, and will not change unless my boss is let go (which honestly could happen due to ongoing restructuring and Boss’ less-than-stellar history of lavish business trips).

    Any advice you have is greatly appreciated, even if it’s not necessarily what you think I’d want to hear. I’m getting desperate and just need to know there’s a way forward that won’t rob me of my late 20s.

    Reply
    1. Kathy-office

      As someone whose been in the same exact position: still try to leave anyway, you can ALWAYS leave. It took me more time than I expected to leave my job, and I knew it wasn’t a good fit a few days in.

      Plus, do you want this boss to be a reference at all? Then leave as soon as you can. You don’t even need to put it on your resume. You just left school, so people will understand a gap on your resume. If you have the financial ability to leave for a temp job, then that can work as well. If not, then network extra hard to find a new position, that kind of connection counts for a lot.

      Reply
    2. seisy

      My advice would be to get out now- but if you feel you absolutely must stick it out, plan on leaving after a year. That’s perfectly respectable. You can say that it turned out not to be quite the fit you’d thought it was.

      Reply
  48. Kathy-office

    My absolute worst toxic job was one where I regularly had 12+ hour days, was only off 5-6 days in an entire 2 months (not including weekends, I worked then , too), regularly had animal s*** on me (probably mice, it came down from the ceiling), and was “strongly persuaded” not to quit (aka cornered in the owner’s office while I had to convince him I wanted to leave). Somehow I didn’t expect a job where you have to live on a remote campus without a car to make you feel not-so-safe. I am still recovering healthwise from the stress of this 2 month job, and it’s been 5 years. I’ve had other toxic jobs, but at least I could go home and never felt threatened.

    Reply
  49. Snowy Day

    Oh boy, add me to this miserable list. I am in a(n unpaid!!!) clinical internship in a medical setting where there are so many lawsuits from ‘something that happened,’ that local people will drive two hours away to go to get medical care rather than come here. The local joke is that you want to go to the (insert name of vet clinic) hospital for medical care.

    Anyway – another day in paradise brought me to today when I was being ‘trained’ but really, the person was berating me, angrily challenging and criticising me and when she ‘told’ me how to do things she would leave out about 5/10 steps so when she immediately would say: you do it now, I had to figure out all the steps she didn’t tell me in order to do the job right. When I still was able to do the job correctly even after she left out very important steps, she would get very angry and belligerent and insult me. I am from a big city and this is a very small town – but, there I go, trying to justify and understand their behavior.

    That’s the whole point, there is no ‘understanding’ their behavior. It is like an abusive relationship, and therapists tell me there’s nothing to understand about abuse – it just “is.”

    I know that God (or whomever you believe in) in His infinite wisdom watches over us all, and metes out justice in His divine way. I want to quit as well but have only three more months. Unpaid, did I mention that?

    Reply
  50. Newlywed

    I just had another thought. I know for some of you, the motivation to find another job is certainly there, but the energy is not. I would suggest you start with “passive job searching”…in other words, work on your linkedin profile and update your SEO and keywords so that you start showing up at the top of search results when recruiters are looking for people in your field. I did this last year when I was job searching and I still get an average of 2-3 hits per month from recruiters for various jobs. It’s not only a low-energy approach, it’s also a much needed self-esteem boost sometimes to know that someone else values your skills and experience.

    How to Start:
    – Search LinkedIn for top candidates in your area (you will need the professional job searcher premium account $$$ to do this)
    – Copy and paste the content from the candidates profiles into a keyword density analyzer and review the results (there are free websites that do this, just google the phrase “keyword density analyzer”)
    – Copy and paste the content from your own profile into the keyword density analyzer and review the results. You will probably be surprised! But the keywords are important, because that’s what recruiters are using to search profiles on linkedin.
    – Look at the keywords and descriptions/tags that top candidates are using, and incorporate these tags and keywords into your profile as often as you can (not plagiarizing their content, but naturally incorporating top key words and phrases, and make sure you only do this for skills you actually have)
    – If you see that the top candidates have additional skills training, consider taking an inexpensive or free online course so that you can add those skills to your profile
    – Apply to jobs through linkedin using your linkedin profile

    It takes a little bit of time on the front end to set up, but I’ve had major company recruiters reach out to me through this method, even long after I was done job searching, because I am still coming up at the top of search results. I highly recommend this method to give you a little bit of a boost in visibility. A note: once you have completed your profile to your satisfaction, you don’t have to keep the paid $$$ linkedin account — you just need it initially to get the information you’re looking for (although I did find it helpful when I was a candidate to keep it for a couple of months).

    Reply
  51. FreshStart

    I was in a very toxic hostile workplace for 5 years and was trying to find another job with no success for awhile. Finally found another opportunity but didn’t want to give reference to my bully boss there but would it be okay to provide the name of my assistant director who resigned and left. Is that fine or will they urge to speak to the bully boss still there?

    Reply
  52. SunnyGrl

    Hi I left a very toxic place to start a new job at a place where I thought finally will be with decent coworkers. The cons were lower pay, longer commute and two times the workload but manager and coworkers decent to where I was before. But one month into this job both the manager and director resigned. Did some research and ask questions to find the director was recruited out and the manager left because she knew she wouldn’t get the same support and structure needed once this director left her. She also said it was a toxic work environment always understaffed and her working many nights till 10-11pm and weekends. I am now very concerned for my future here and don’t want to get burnt out. What would you advise I do…been here only two months and thinking of getting out before it’s too late.

    Reply
  53. Help

    Hello everyone’s am so happy that I found this site. I have
    Been worked my at a toxic environment for years. My health
    Has been greatly affected. I had a female supervisor whose ultimate goal was to sabatoge, berate, harass and humiliate me. She would
    Not allow me to complete my assignments always disrupting my workflow, micromanaging. Due to the nature of my job duties which included meeting time sensitive deadlines, I felt that i needed a quiet place where I could focus on my job. When a space became available I was told that I could work there. I was happy about it. That was until she would call me on the telephone every ten minutes to come to her office to for me explain what I was working on, then she would tell me to bring the work to her and we would work on it together and she would sit right next to me and watch me and TELL me how to do it step by step like I was little child I didn’t need the so called “help”. Then she would make up “priority” assignments which interfered with meeting the required deadlines and ask me why the deadlines weren’t met. She would transfer other people’s work onto me to make carrying out my own job impossible. In staff meetings this supervisor was quick to say Well so and so is making strides”, never mentioned me. Imagine this going on continually for years.
    “Improved in taking direction” was written on my performance evaluation even though I had always taken direction. I was left out of important staff meetings. I could go on and on. I couldn’t take it anymore. I started feeling really bad mentally and physically. I could hardly get out of bed. I decided to go for my annual physical exam.
    Did the standard bloodwork only to discover that my blood count was
    dropping, no wonder I felt so bad. I attribute it to the stress lack of appetite.
    Some people say you should “hang in there”. But to what extent?
    Jeoparding your health? If you don’t have health you can’t function and do your job. How much do you subject yourself too?
    See the issue is that people have to pay bills provide for their families etc. SOME of these managers could care less about that. They want to squeeze every ounce of energy from you. They have no conscience and find it amusing to treat people badly. NOT funny. NOT nice. NOT fair. They get to keep their jobs. Human Resources is a joke. This experience has taught me how NOT to treat people.

    Reply

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