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How to Plot Your Escape From a Toxic Workplace



toxic workplace

When you work in a hostile environment, crawling out of bed and getting ready for yet another day feels unbearable. If your toxic workplace is stealing the joys of life that otherwise are abundant, it’s time to plot your escape. Learn how to take steps toward a healthier workplace, clearer boundaries, and more balanced life.

1. Substantiate Your Record of Accomplishments

The fantasy of quitting with a movie-worthy rant makes for a great daydream, but doing so could do major damage. Despite the frustrations you may feel on the job, you don’t want to quit in a sudden huff. Rather, now is the time to get your accomplishments on the record.

As an employee, you have full access to your archived files, including past projects, statistics, and results. These tangible items are gold when you’re shoring up your portfolio, updating your resume, and revising your public profiles.

Review your biggest wins at work and create your personal archive — provided doing so complies with company policy. Redact any personal or proprietary information, which will maintain your professionalism and reputation once on the job hunt. Analyze campaign results you achieved; tabulate your impact on project work, deadlines, and budget; and add them to your files.

Upload your existing resume and updated LinkedIn page to an AI resume builder, which can help improve your resume’s effectiveness. Many employers use an applicant tracking system, and an AI resume-building tool can help your accomplishments fit ATS criteria. Use the tool to customize your resume so it has the most criteria matches for specific jobs.

toxic workplace

2. Identify the Toxic Factors in Your Current Workplace to Guide Your Search

You may have started your job with high expectations, but things, people, and processes can change. Explore the reasons why your current employment situation feels toxic and take note of your findings and themes.

A company merger may have resulted in layoffs, and now your team is overloaded. This situation can turn toxic when overwork is expected and requests to hire additional help are refused. Other times, it’s your supervisor causing the strife, and your reports to human resources go unaddressed. If your boss is the toxic factor, you’re not alone; many employees claim that their boss is the reason they quit.

List out the reasons why your workplace, team, or even industry skews toxic. Then rank them in severity based on your feelings, not what you think is important to others. This factor matters enormously — how you experience the world is vital, as you’re the one working in the job. Be honest with yourself during this exercise, as it will inform your job search.

Think back to the beginning, identifying any should-have-been red flags that you can now identify more clearly. Use this information and your toxicity assessment to analyze future job opportunities and companies.

toxic workplace

3. Leverage the Resources You Have Now

Employees are often offered a suite of professional tools and resources, and these can help you develop your exit plan. Log on to your employee portal to review your company handbook for career-building resources and the rules around them.

If you have a longer exit timeline, look at learning opportunities to bolster your knowledge base. For example, you could take relevant college courses if your employer offers tuition reimbursement. Be sure, however, you won’t be required to pay the company back if you leave before a certain time period. Where that’s an impediment, digital learning platforms can provide an alternative path to new learning and may even award certifications.

Deepen your current skill set or explore new career paths, which can be easier to access when you have learning on your resume. Tap into professional association memberships, too, especially if your employer will cover the dues. Attend networking sessions, luncheons, and conferences to build your network.

When you meet someone, be sure to follow up and solidify the relationship. Make a quick note on their business card about your conversations and reach out with a LinkedIn invitation to connect. Similarly, engage in company-sponsored mentorship or leadership coaching programs. Provided you ensure the confidentiality of conversations with mentors and coaches, these individuals can be a helpful resource for advancing your career.

toxic workplace

4. Test the Waters Before You Jump Ship

Assess your current budget and determine what you’d need to have saved up when you do decide to quit. Even if you’re transitioning immediately into a new role, there are financial considerations at play. Health benefits, retirement savings contributions, and employee discounts are built into your lifestyle, so consider what leaving means to your bottom line.

Create a spreadsheet with your current total compensation so you can accurately compare new opportunities. You may be willing to make concessions about some factors, like PTO, but others may be essential, like health insurance. Do this tedious task now so you can streamline your job search and more nimbly reply to interviews and offers.

Lean into your network beyond the new connections you’ve made at professional events. Ask friends and former colleagues what’s typical for team structures, benefits, and professional responsibilities in their workplaces. While no employer is perfect, there are common quirks and themes that span industries. Use this data to determine what type of environment might work best for you and weed out any unattractive options.

Branch out and offer freelance services for your non-core work, which can grow your bank account and your network. Get firsthand experience in new industries and companies, which can help inform your search. If you’re changing industries or work type, these tactics will build your portfolio and field-test your skills. After a few months, you’ll have fresh material and insight to launch a strategic search for a great job fit.

Making a Clean Exit From a Toxic Workplace Environment

Even in the worst situations, the way you leave a job follows you. End on a high note, with a simple “thank you” as you look toward greener pastures. Make good use of your exit interview, providing diplomatic yet candid feedback about your employee experience. Get your concerns on the record, especially if your feedback as an employee didn’t result in changes. You’ll leave with a clear conscience and solid reputation as you begin your new opportunity in a healthy, rewarding workplace.

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