On Toxic Workplaces

I just finished annual training that included a segment on how to not have an abusive workplace. Having worked in abusive workplaces before, it gave me pause to think.

The advocated response, “go to HR with your issues” is not one I’m 100% on board with. HR’s job is to protect the company, not you personally. Feel free to do so, but don’t expect it to save you from abuse.

You have a right to not be treated with abuse in your workplace, so when you find yourself in a toxic environment, don’t panic. Slow down your thinking and plan your exit. I have never seen anyone fired for being an abusive person: they are not going away, so you need to get moving to a new place where the abuser you know doesn’t work. Update your resume, start applying for new roles, and expect a few weeks to months of looking before you are free. In the meantime, you have power to take sick days, vacation, and to do the minimum for your job. Save your best efforts for a non-toxic environment that will appreciate them.

If you contact HR, let them know that you plan to leave because of the toxic environment. If they’re worried about legal blowback, they won’t fire you and they may very well transfer you to another group. If you get the transfer, you are lucky in that you now have a quieter place to work until you get the new job. You’re still a marked person at that firm and your career is at an end there.

DO NOT POST COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYER ON LINKEDIN. There are software tools that can flag comments for potential bad PR and that move will just make that toxic environment even more so. I don’t have my employment connected to my FB, so I’ll post here about that sort of thing. My current employer is great and I really love the culture there. I know of many other places to work that have a strong, supportive, and inviting culture where people really do work well together. I’ve seen the places and know they are out there. That’s the good news. If you’re not at one of those places yet, then keep looking, you’ll find one.

But if you’re currently at an abusive workplace, don’t blame yourself. Don’t believe in the myth of the personality conflict. It’s not up to you to make where you work a better place. It’s up to you to get out of the abuse and to a different place that has a chance of being better than the one you left.

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