4 tips for leaving a toxic job to preserve your well-being

northIt doesn’t matter if it’s with a partner, a friend or a family member, the signs of a toxic relationship are often the same: your thoughts and opinions are not taken into account, you are the only one willing to compromise or work to improve the relationship . , and you constantly feel like you’re walking on eggshells. It can greatly affect your mental health and well-being, as I recently experienced first-hand. But in my case, my toxic relationship wasn’t with a romantic partner or a friend, it was with my job.

Toxic jobs are defined as negative work environments that strain the mental well-being of employees, with key traits including abusive bosses, discriminatory or harassing behavior, intense office politics, and a culture of gossip or competition. And these workplaces are more common than you might think: a 2020 Emtrain survey found that 41% of employees don’t think their workplace would take a harassment complaint seriously, and 29% have left a job due to conflict in the workplace.

If you are in this situation and you know that the time has come to separate, first I want to tell you: congratulations! Making the decision to leave a toxic work environment is not easy (or possible for everyone, depending on financial constraints or the need for health insurance). Being able to choose to do what is best for you is a source of deep pride. Unfortunately, while there seem to be endless resources, books, and inspiring Instagram accounts available to support us and help us find peace in leaving a toxic personal relationship, it’s much harder to find guidance for breaking up with an employer.

In an effort to support you through what can be a very harrowing transition, here is what I have found helpful as a mental health professional in making my own break from a toxic job.

Tips for leaving a toxic job while preserving your mental well-being, from someone who’s been there

1. Be kind to yourself

This is hard! It likely feels similar to a romantic breakup, and you may even experience symptoms of pain. Your job is a relationship you’ve invested a great deal of time, energy, and probably money in, and when it doesn’t work out the way you planned it is sad. Honor your feelings and be kind. Self-compassion and self-care during this time are absolutely essential! Do as many things as you can that make you feel happy and rejuvenated. Plan a walk with a friend, go out for a drink, snuggle up with your dog, and read a book—prioritize what fills your cup.

2. Don’t feel like you have to explain or justify your departure

It’s easy to feel like you owe all of your co-workers a detailed explanation, even those who may be part of the reason for your departure, especially if you’re leaving suddenly or with no other work waiting. The truth is, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you need to get out of a toxic situation, just that you’re leaving and when is your last day. If you want, you can reach out individually to any colleague you feel close to and say anything you want, but you certainly don’t have to. All you need to do is what’s best for you at the moment, and it’s your supervisor’s responsibility to take care of the rest.

3. Try not to take hostile responses to your departure personally

The way a person treats you is usually not a direct reflection of you as a person, but rather a reflection of their own internal problems. The same goes for your employer. If you get rejected for making a decision that is best for you and your well-being, then that is further proof that your decision to leave is the right one.

That said, it’s understandable (and valid!) to feel hurt or angry at those kinds of responses, whether it’s your boss treating you coldly or being even tougher on you during the last two weeks of work. I processed that pain and frustration by writing in a journal, venting to my partner or a friend, and working with my therapist. I encourage you to take the time you need and also work through your feelings.

4. Remember: a toxic workplace is not your fault

You do not control your employer or your work environment and therefore cannot be solely responsible for (or solving) your problems. Like any relationship, our relationship with work has to be two-way to be healthy. If you were the only one giving and sacrificing, or if you asked for support but your concerns were not heard or respected, then I am going to jump right in and say that the problem is not you. The need to leave has nothing to do with your skills or abilities, and there is no reason to feel guilt or shame. You can just smile and say, “Thanks, next!”

Whatever your situation, remember that you are worthy of a healthy work environment where you feel supported and respected. Give yourself grace and compassion for all that you have endured and accomplished in your career, and give yourself credit for all that you invested in that relationship. Our mental health and our time are priceless, so let’s approach our races with that in mind.

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