I Never Knew I Was at a Toxic Workplace—Until I Went to a Healthy One.

I love my current workplace. I mean, the work itself is incredibly difficult: grief counseling at a hospital, notifying family members of an accident, bringing up end-of-life decisions. But it makes a difference to have co-workers who are more than faceless employees. We are fellow sojourners on a mission together.

One of my previous workplaces was not like this. There was bullying, nepotism, high suspicion, and hateful gossip. The people were just mean. No one cared about seeing the best in each other. Every call or email from the higher-ups would throw me into a panic. Of course, I had my issues too. But I walked through them alone, alienated, with constant dread.

I recognize now that I’m lucky. At my current job, we’re all on the same page, we pause and listen, we clarify our communication without fear of retaliation. We deeply care about each other and the work we do.

The thing is, I didn’t know how awful my previous job was until I landed where I am.

My guess is that most of us will tolerate an abusive, toxic, punishing work environment because “I’m paying my dues” or “This is all I can get right now.” And that’s true. We often have to do things we don’t like to get where we want to be. We can still thrive in those places. Sometimes it’s the best we can do, and we can still be our best there.

My hope is that if you’re stuck at a harmful workplace, you still wouldn’t let it determine your worth. To not let it push you around. To not let it exploit you. It’s a privilege to have a job, but a job at the cost of your soul isn’t okay.

I say all this knowing we’re not all so lucky. I speak from a place of high blessing. I live a first-world life. Our situations vary so much. But I do remember how much I was abused—and I wish I had those years back. My youth and time and talent were stolen. I remember now that everyone was telling me to quit, but I stayed out of loyalty and the hope “things could change.”

What’s crazy now is I sometimes feel guilty that I love my job so much. I feel ashamed when I hear others hate their jobs. Then I realize how truly crazy it is that workplaces get away with so much abuse. Something is desperately sick in our culture when I should feel ashamed to work in a good place. Still, I feel very guilty. It’s like I can’t function normally in a healthy relationship anymore. I’m trying.

Only now do I realize that most abused people end up as a sympathetic hostage and attempt to stay because of “sunk cost”—they’ve already invested so much. It’s scary to leave. I wish I had the courage then. I hope I have the courage the next time, and that we’d all be so blessed to love the best we can where we are.


Photo from Unsplash

8 thoughts on “I Never Knew I Was at a Toxic Workplace—Until I Went to a Healthy One.

  1. Someone who is very dear to me works in a toxic environment where there are no morals. So much lying going on. He is trying his best to stand up for what’s right, but not getting the support from upper management. I never dreamed things could be THAT bad. Do I encourage him to be the light and maybe that’s why he’s there? Or do I encourage him to get outta dodge? Because I see how it’s wearing him down.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Teri4sure (what a neat screen name). I feel for your husband. I’ve been there and most of me thought “be the salt and light”. Meanwhile, I was being torn down. We are supposed to be salt and light, yet at times, there’s only so much we can do. It seems to be ingrained in human nature that we point out each other’s flaws, especially if they’re living out some kind of good habits such as a heathy diet that we feel inadequate to do. I pray that you and your husband get wisdom.


  2. Hi J.S.! I have every respect for the work that you do, and I’m so pleased that you are in a working environment that sounds really healthy. So often people get ‘stuck’ in jobs that suck their energy and enthusiasm for life, and it just becomes like being on a treadmill. It can be really difficult to escape those situations. I hope your blog post inspires someone to break free from the shackles of an unhappy work place!

    The only other thing that I would add is that God is still with us in the tough times, unfolding a plan for our lives with great care and intricacy. Sometimes we can’t see a way out, but God sees the bigger picture and holds us in the palm of his hand. As the saying goes, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going!’

    God bless you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My wife worked at a church that changed from a pleasant church where the people were kind to a place like you described where the church management got to where they were driving the workers out so they would be able to run the church into the ground. We now attend a very spiritual church that is kind to everyone where salvation is a priority.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very well put. I would predict that you will eventually begin to feel grateful for your current environment and come to recognize that you, as do we all, deserve such a supportive environment.

    I went the other direction, from very supportive environments to a very toxic, violent environment. It is a traumatic experience and, given enough violence, a PTSD resulted for many of my coworkers.

    Luckily, I was able to retire, but I loved the work and would have loved to stay, if only the management could have learned how to support staff, I’d still be working.

    I’m happy for you to have found a great place to work and pray you will recover quickly from the abuse you suffered.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CCOLE48: you make an excellent point about PTSD. It might even result in C-PTSD because it’s long term. The sad thing is that it seems very common. Very few people I’ve known have said that their work environment is healthy.


  5. My, is it a fairy-tale that a healthy workplace actually exist?? I was bullied during traumatic bereavement and after becoming ill was fired while my father was in intensive care just out of a coma. I didn’t handle all the trauma well myself. And I have little hope that I’ll find a truly healthy workplace.
    Thanks for this glimmer of hope that healthy workplaces do exist.


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