Don't Stay In A Toxic Workplace Out Of Fear: Opportunities Are Out There
I had been with the same company for the past 14 years. The pay was never great, but years ago it was a fun place to work. The staff all treated each other as though we were family and I enjoyed being there. At the same time, my bills were also lower, so perhaps that made it easier to handle working for lower pay. The business I worked for is family owned, and at one time there was actually a waiting list for people who wanted to work there. The original owner retired and his son-in-law took over. It wasn't the same at first, but still overall was a good place to work.
About four years ago they hired a new manager (one who was forced to resign from his previous job) and he immediately began recruiting others from his former employer. Very quickly, things began to go downhill. We all found ourselves facing an increasing work load. Our annual bonus money began to diminish, our medical insurance kept going up, and the company stopped contributing to our 401k. No money for them to do this, yet somehow there was always money for managers to drive company cars worth $60,000, have their car insurance paid, medical insurance paid, cell phone paid, etc. My own work load had nearly doubled in the space of three years. At the same time, I received no pay raises as compensation, no cost of living allowance, and not even so much as a thank-you for taking on additional responsibilities.
During the past three years I felt as though I was drowning in the work load. First, I had to reduce my 401k contributions to save money. Next, I had to drop my disability insurance. Then dental insurance, and finally, I had to switch to a medical plan with a deductible that was twice the amount of my current one. Soon, I had nowhere left in which I could cut back.
My work load was as such that I could not be away for more than three days without coming back to a mountain of stuff on my desk. I had no assistance, no backup, and nobody to fill in while I was away. It had been three years since I was able to take a full week vacation. Yet when I came back from being away, I was under constant pressure to get everything done. If it's that important, why was this not taken care of when I was away.
I felt increasingly depressed and irritable. I was no longer eating healthy, no longer going to the gym, no longer going surfing, and was losing interest in other activities that I once enjoyed. My family noticed how I had changed and was concerned. I was at a point in life where I had never felt so overworked and unappreciated, and was even beginning to question if it was worth it for me to continue living. Indeed, I felt as though the light at the end of the tunnel was gone. One can survive hardship in life, but when you believe it will only get worse, that is indeed a terrible feeling.
Then one week I got sick. I don't know if I had the flu, but it sure felt like it. I was sick for four days. I had high fever, wasn't eating, and by the fourth day I felt completely exhausted from being sick. When I came back to work there was yet another mountain on my desk. The same manager that brought all this about then came into my office to drop off another stack of work, and did not even bother to ask me if I was feeling better.
A week later I went to my psychiatrist. I was already on anti-depressants at this point. I spoke to her at length about all this, and she believed that the toxic atmosphere was damaging me mentally in a major way. It was at that point that I realized I needed to leave. It finally occurred to me, if I don't leave now, then when? Will it be when I have an anxiety attack? Will it be when I have a nervous breakdown? Will it be when I have a heart attack (as one of my coworkers went through which was brought on by stress) I knew that I was not going to sit back and wait on this place to destroy me.
A coworker of mine resigned the day after. He had been there 11 years, and was one of their best people, yet they did not even try to talk him into staying. Forget offering him additional pay, they did not even try to talk to him about staying. Indeed, the owner of the company never said one word to him. He never said one word to me either. It was not until I came to him on my last day to say goodbye that he expressed any sort of appreciation and wished me the best.
I am now free from them, and am working for myself with two ride share companies. The pay is better, it's low stress and I can set my own schedule. For the first time in three years I feel optimistic about my own future. Within a week of quitting, friends told me that I looked so much happier. I'm sleeping better, I feel my energy levels coming back, and I'm now going to the gym and surfing again. I'm eating healthy, and I'm even off the anti-depressants. It wasn't until I left there and was away for two weeks that I began to realize just how damaging the environment there really was. I have taken back control of my life and have no regrets.
For those of you reading this, and in similar circumstances, please know this: Opportunities are out there. No matter how bleak your current situation may seem, your toxic boss will only win if you stay out of fear, because it is under these circumstances in which they have broken you mentally. That is the only way they win. If you're in a toxic work atmosphere...leave. It is really that simple. No job is worth your physical and mental health, and there are always other opportunities out there.
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