The theme this past week has been people who are miserable in their jobs. It could be the winter talking, but it could be so much more.
People tend to minimize how much damage working in a toxic work environment can cause. I have met with clients with anxiety and/or depression severe enough to need to apply for a leave of absence (which can be traumatic, in and of itself). I have heard stories of narcissistic bosses that have torn people down and led to a loss of confidence. Ultimately, people end up feeling helpless and stuck.
Here are some ways to identify that you may work in a "toxic" workplace:
- NO appreciation... your boss, makes no effort to give positive feedback to employees. There are no incentives to do a good job. You feel like another faceless pawn, and you either receive no feedback at all, or you only hear the negative. You may ask your boss how you're doing, and get very little back. You may assume "no news is good news" until your annual review (if you get one), where you are unpleasantly surprised to see that your boss thinks are you underperforming. This may be the first you have heard of this. No encouragement, no coaching, no validation.
- NO boundaries... your boss or co-workers have no qualms about asking inappropriate questions about your personal life. They overshare their own personal information. You may decide to share something personal, only to hear that everyone else has heard about it. You have no personal space, and your possessions are not respected. They may be overly touchy-feely. And despite your requests for space, privacy, and ownership, these requests are not respected, or, worse yet, you are made to feel like you are being "sensitive".
- NO support... You may be struggling with work or something personal, and the boss doesn't have time to help you. You may go to your Human Resources department to seek out help or file a complaint that falls on deaf ears. You may be turned down for short-term disability. This is the biggest difficulty I have heard from clients-- when they finally get the courage to go to HR, only to be told there is nothing that can be done, or the complaint is never addressed. This is often the last straw for employees who have felt discouraged for a long time.
So what can you do?
As mentioned above, it is an option to contact HR, if you have a decent HR department, and inquire about short-term disability or FMLA benefits. While this may not work for everyone, it can help you feel like you have options. You can also ask your doctor or therapist, if warranted, to write a letter to your employer that you change your schedule temporarily, be allowed time for appointments, or be allowed to work from home.
If that doesn't work, or it isn't an option, start getting your ducks in a row. Finding a new job is NOT easy, but you can take steps towards doing that. Go to the library and check out some books that will help you update your resume and cover letter. Take some career assessments. Look for classes (many libraries have free ones!) about job searching and updating your resume. Many also have classes that can help you brush up on your computer skills.
Meetup.com is a free networking site to look for local groups, including networking groups. This could lead to potential job leads. I have also seen churches and work centers in our area with networking groups. Many of these are free.
Check out LinkedIn, which is a social media outlet for people looking for jobs (also free). Putting your resume on this website and joining some networking groups may lead to companies contacting you.
A (usually) non-free option is to meet with a career counselor. Community colleges often have some, but there are also independent ones that you can hire to help you determine what your next steps are.
Have you ever worked in a toxic work environment? How did you get through it?