I’m going to go deeper this time around and combine some of the things I’ve discussed in previous blogs. I’ve mentioned you should always be willing to take the job on the table, even if it’s not the one you thought or dreamed of. But what happens when you do that, and you absolutely hate that job and it’s a toxic environment? There are ways and there are ways to deal with this.
I’ve only once ever completely walked away from a job because I couldn’t take it anymore, but I stayed there for a year and a half. I knew when I signed the paperwork that it wasn’t for me, but I needed a job. And I needed an in, and this was it. In fact, I kept going to job interviews after I signed the papers. I hated the hours, the corporate structure, and I had a really, really horrible relationship with the executive producer (I wouldn’t find that out until later). Up front, I will say, I wouldn’t change the experience since I got my next job because I had that on my resume. I also was trying to conceive, they had full fertility coverage, and I was struggling to get pregnant.
Things came to a head several times. I had ambitions to grow and do other things, and this person was not letting me do that aside from being a person who really had to micromanage every little thing you did. I tried really hard to move to another department, to get away from the EP, and to also have better hours. It was considered a no-go because it would look like “poaching” within different departments. I spoke to my manager about it; I was not the only one who had issues with this person, but it was deemed we were both adults and we needed to find a way to deal for the good of the show.
I went on job interview after job interview and got no after no. So I stayed with it and worked every holiday. I focused on the work itself, and I did things I was proud of. After a while, I made friends with the hosts and some of the other folks on other shows. One of the hosts let me start writing the box office reports on Sundays, and another producer right towards the end let me put together a story (which aired on my last day there). But after one year and a half of stress, migraines, difficulty getting pregnant, and several SEVERAL conversations with management, I quit. I did it elegantly. I wrote a great resignation letter, offered more than the expected notice, and left on a high note.
I’ve never left a job with nothing on the horizon. I had enough money to get by for one month, and I was fortunate because I had a partner who also had a job. We didn’t have kids at that point, and we were in an apartment in Queens, so let’s say the stakes weren’t that high. It was terrifying, but I also knew I couldn’t take it anymore.
I sometimes believe that there’s an energy that keeps us from attracting the things we need, and for me, after I left this place, it felt like I’d liberated something. I received 2 offers within the month I left and actually had to choose. I landed at Futuro Media (home to Latino USA, etc) where I still work, and got pregnant like 3 months later.
I’ve made it a point not to burn bridges throughout my career and because of that, I’m able to check-in with old bosses and companies if I need work. Remember the audio world is small – everyone is connected, so don’t burn the bridge unless you plan on never looking back.
Tips for dealing with toxic workplaces
I hate my job, but I need the money.
First off, you should always give yourself some time to get used to a job. Don’t decide on the very first day or week that this job isn’t for you and you need to go. Every change in life needs time to adjust. For me, that’s about 6 months (could be less for you). It may seem like a long time when you’re miserable, but maybe you just need a minute to get in the groove. I came home from the first day of a new job crying; you may know it’s not for you, but you need to give it time to see how things play out.
So what do you do? Buckle down and focus on the job you were hired to do – you will inevitably learn something there. Try to find things outside of work that fills you with joy and helps you to decompress. Money is unfortunately an important factor, and unless you are able to just walk away, you need to put blinders on and just stick with it until you can find something else.
If after 6 months (or whatever number that is for you), you cannot fathom another day at this place, time to start thinking about your next move.
The environment is toxic.
A toxic work environment will wreak havoc on your mental (or physical) health. Whether it’s a specific person, being overworked and burnout, or physically damaging to your health, there are cases where you have to evaluate what this job is doing to you and figure out the quickest way out.
Some of these issues can be handled by being open and having conversations with your manager. If it’s a person, can you request to be moved to a different department? Ask to work on a different team? Have you had a direct conversation with this person as two adults willing to find a way to work together? Is your team understaffed, and you’re super burnt out? Do you work overnights and it’s affecting your health to do so? Those conversations are difficult, but you need to have them – especially if like point one, you need the money. It’s in your interest to find an immediate solution to make things better.
But, never have a conversation in the heat of the moment. (Or write an email for that matter). When you’re angry, your emotions get the best of you, and we end up seeming less professional. You need to have a plan of action, documentation, and propose different solutions to the issue. I’ve often written emails when I’m angry addressed to no one, saved them as a draft, and then come back to it the next day. It serves as a way to get things off my chest, without potentially having a falling out with its intended subject. I’ve written a lot of angry emails and have never sent them. No matter how #&*#$^ a place is, you have to manage things calmly and as a boss. A boss has a plan and a solution to everything, and that often comes from time to cool off so you can see things from another perspective.
The job is affecting my physical health
In this case, it’s important to find solutions quickly. No job is worth risking your physical (or mental) health. Be familiar with your company handbook and see what options are available to you. Can you take a leave of absence? It is really important to have some savings. I say this as a person who is horrible with finances, but you really need to have a small, humble cushion. Not talking about “retiring at 40” type savings, just enough to keep you safe during emergencies. Can you walk away and stay afloat for a month while you have time to find something else?
No matter what the issue is, make sure you find someone outside of work to talk to. Is that a therapist? best friend? Family member? You want to be careful of not sounding like a broken record on how horrible something is without actually doing something about it, but you do need to find someone to be able to unwind and let go. Sometimes just talking things out helps provide you with your own solutions. Otherwise, your fuse will burst a lot quicker.