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.
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