New Years & Forever Resolution – Saying Goodbye to Toxic Workplaces
By the time you reach your 30’s you’ve probably experienced what it’s like to work in some form of a toxic environment or know someone who has.
For me, starting out my career in the corporate world, that has almost been the norm. The vast majority of larger corporations seem to thrive on this type of mentality, no matter how much they advertise otherwise. Just look at what happened recently with the Kelloggs strike.
We’ve all seen it or experienced it before; answering to management teams that promote unqualified people to the top of the food chain who only get there because of their time served at the company rather than their actual ability to lead a team. Or having to deal with the dreaded HR manager who does nothing to protect the rights of his or her fellow employees whose only purpose is to serve on behalf of the benefit of the company. If you apply for an intermediate position and have to jump through 5+ interview hoops before they are ready to make a decision, its probably toxic. In my decade-long experience of working in an office setting the more often you see “great culture” written in the job description – the worse off the place is going to be, and the faster you should probably run in the opposite direction because although there are many workplaces that do offer fantastic working environments and a healthy work-life balance for their employees, those places don’t often need to advertise it too much. They have nothing to prove. Word of mouth spreads pretty quickly in most industries. These places hire qualified people to hire qualified people who can do their jobs with autonomy.
The biggest glitch with working under these types of conditions is that eventually, it leads to employee burnout which leads to loss of staff retention resulting in a never ending revolving door of turnover until the person in charge is eventually replaced and someone new comes in with brand new ideas and a healthier and better leadership style. Sadly, this almost never happens because it costs the company a lot more time and money to replace these higher up positions than it does to recycle through the little guys, or so they think. If corporations just treated all of their employees equally and with the same dignity and respect that they show their executives, I wonder what that would look like?
My biggest turnoff (aside from being a woman and earning less than my male coworkers, but that’s a different conversation) is when employers don’t respect an employees work-life balance but they still expect employees to go above and beyond for the company and reach far for that elusive gold star, meanwhile they guilt you when you take a personal day, PD’s that you are entitled to take. As Millennials, I think we are better than our parents’ generation was at drawing a line in the sand and saying no when we need to. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s just that, for example: The Great Resignation. People will quit, look for other work or stay home and collect a cheque from the government in the interim, even if it means partial wages rather than sacrificing their health or happiness for a minimum wage or minimum benefit job. We’re no longer satisfied with the bare minimum that companies offer and many of us are no longer willing to risk our health (mental or physical) for crummy places that give us so little in return.
I know that I personally am getting a lot better at walking away when I notice red flags instead of wasting years working at places that are abusive to their staff, although I realize that this also comes from a place of privilege. Not everyone has that option, or the backup options to put their foot down when they’re being treated unfairly. I’m a white Canadian. Finding work for the most part has been easy for me, despite the fact that I am not highly educated. My eyes are not blind to that, nor to the people around me who don’t have it quite as easy as I do and are forced to put up with toxic workplaces out of fear that they won’t have anything to fall back on if they do speak up and get let go from their jobs and its SO sad because a lot of these people in charge know this and will use fear mongering and manipulation to exploit these types of vulnerable employees with even worse working conditions and lower wages. But when does it end? Its not sustainable and something has got to give. I say we all say goodbye to these types of working conditions in 2022. Let’s put our foot down and say fuck you to greedy corporations and companies who exploit and take advantage of the little guys.
This is a new year which creates a new opportunity to reevaluate the things in your life that don’t align with who you are, or who you are trying to be. If enough of the population adopts this type of attitude and we shift our focus back onto ourselves, prioritizing our own needs instead of the needs of the company and we change how we think and choose to respond to these abusers who are in charge and still believe that they can get away with hiring young talent and treating them like shit, and we ask for more, then employers will inevitably be forced to change with the times.
Power in numbers, people.
If you don’t believe me just look around because it’s happening already with many corporate offices switching the way they operate. I have seen quite a few head offices bend to their employees during the pandemic and offering options to work from home. This is a prime example of solid leadership — listening to what your employees need in order to do their jobs better and responding effectively. I have several friends who have had this type of experience and are now able to choose for themselves if and when they want to be in the office or work from home, which for many has provided a greater work-life balance, especially for those who have pets or kids. In other industries where working from home isn’t an option, there is still plenty of opportunity to rise up and demand better working conditions and ask for a better work-life balance if you’re not already getting it. If you are working full time hours and you’re still not earning enough to pay your rent or buy food, that’s not okay and the fact that many people have just accepted this as their standard of living for so long is egregious. Just because you might work in a service based industry doesn’t mean that you should be treated any differently. All the opposite actually, because these people tend to work a lot harder for their pay cheques than any office pencil pusher that I know of.
Demanding better working conditions and higher wages should be considered a basic right but so many people shy away from having those difficult conversations with their employers out of fear even though it could drastically change their livelihood. Many of these giant corporations who earn so much and pay so little to the people on the ground who make it all happen on a daily basis are a disgrace to humanity, but they continue to get away with it because their employees show up quietly everyday. When you start looking at the world this way and seeing it for what it really is, it makes it much easier to ask for your fair share.
It’s good to get pissed off about the way things are because often times that emotion evokes positive change.
That doesn’t mean that you will always get to see the change you hope to see or ask for, but those who do not ask, shall not receive. Sort of like if you don’t purchase a lottery ticket you’ll never win the lotto. The small changes start in asking for what you need and deserve. If you allow a company to take advantage of you its really hard to blame the company for your hard feelings. Only you control your career growth and your future. And there will be times when asking for more or putting your foot down won’t always go the way you hope it will, either. Sometimes it leads to an ending or a departure, but I believe that whenever one door closes another one opens up just around the corner and the universe usually has a plan for you, you just have to know what you want and put it out there. In most cases these career transitions are a blessing in disguise. That is what I have found in my experience anyway. I haven’t left a company yet that I regretted leaving because every ending has led me to a new beginning.