Several years ago, I left a job that was emotionally draining and making me utterly miserable. Everyone was shocked, but the moment I left the place behind, I felt free.
After a few months, I decided it was time to look for another job. I quickly discovered that my old job had given me a skill I couldn’t put on my resume – I was an expert at identifying potentially unhealthy work environments.
Here’s just one example:
After being screamed at by the boss for putting someone into his voicemail when he was on his three-hour lunch, I was told by a female secretary: “Don’t worry. He yells at all of us all the time. You’ll get used to it. You’re new here. If you like your job, you won’t make waves. This is how we do things here. You have to obey him."
Excuse me? Did she say obey him? When did I go back in time to the 1800s? I really wanted to ask her what the punishment was for not obeying. Beatings? More screaming? Did he have a whip? Did her husband know that her boss verbally abused her on a daily basis? Was he fine with it? Because I sure as hell wasn’t.
I couldn’t leave the building fast enough. But I really shouldn’t have taken it to heart (at least that’s what they told me). After talking to a few of the salesmen in the office (women weren’t allowed to be salespeople) I was told that the boss: “…yells at everyone and treats everyone like crap, but the women get it worse. He doesn’t pull that kind of crap with the guys because he knows we won’t take it.” Lovely! And here I was hoping for Equal Opportunity Misery.
If you like your new job except for a few minor things, great! Stick it out and see how it goes for a few months. But if the boss threatened you (“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay past six and type this letter, or else.”), or insulted you (“What are you, stupid?”), then it’s probably time to go.
And go. Don’t be afraid to leave. Leave for lunch, then call them and tell them to stick it if you have to, but go. Leaving doesn’t hurt. Being out of a bad environment is much better than staying somewhere filled with worry, anxiety, stress, and fear every day.
Give two week’s notice if you feel you won’t be further abused once word gets out that you’ve resigned. Otherwise, quitting on the spot after a public humiliation (or other inexcusable affront) will work just fine. It won’t matter what they say about you once you’re gone, and if you’ve only been there a week or two, you’re not listing the job on your resume anyway.
When I questioned things at my job, I was accused of “putting ideas in people’s heads” and “starting trouble” in the office. Was I advocating a revolution? Only a personal one. Everyone has different boundaries. Ask yourself: What will you stand for? What is your limit? How much is too much? And when do you know when you’ve had enough?
We all have different tolerance levels. Some people are afraid to leave or stand up for themselves. Granted, leaving is easier if you have someplace else to go, but if you find yourself trapped in a bad job, don’t feel like you’re bound by indentured servitude to stay there.
Once, I started a new job right out of college. When I walked in the door on my first day I saw the owner screaming at a female employee. His exact words have stuck with me all these years: “Are you so stupid you can’t remember to empty my garbage can when you vacuum my office?” The grown woman was in tears.
Later, when I asked about the incident, I was told: “He does that all the time. She’s been here three years, she’s used to it.” At that moment, I swore I’d never end up that way. After three days of endless shouting, I left – unemployed, but wiser.
Oddly, it was always the women who told me to “accept it” for “the way it was” and not to “make trouble” and “get used to it.” A few times I asked them why. Why should we blindly accept bad behavior and tolerate abuse just because we work there? The men aren’t yelled at and they certainly aren’t forced to vacuum.
They looked at me like I had just landed a spaceship on the front lawn.
Over the years I’ve learned a valuable lesson: When it comes to difficult interviewers and/or employers, you have two choices: rise up and be respected, or leave. There’s no harm in utilizing self-preservation and demonstrating self-respect.
If anything, it’s a liberating, empowering feeling to know that you’re doing what’s right foryou, regardless of what anyone else tells you. Everyone has to decide what’s best for themselves in their own time and in their own way. You may not get others to follow your lead, but in the end, you’ll be on a much better path.
Until next time,