How to Leave a Toxic Work Environment

How to Leave a Toxic Work Environment

When the headaches first started, I thought it was probably too much caffeine.  That’s the funny thing about symptoms – it can take some time to track down their source.  But sometimes, that’s exactly the thing you need to do in order to clear them. Armed with both an IT degree and an organizational leadership degree, my post-college career was like riding on rocket – I easily slipped into a consulting job, traveling the world and making a salary with bonuses that seemed beyond my wildest dreams.  Student loans vanished, 401ks blossomed, savings accounts bulged. Life was good. After a few years, a corporate merger came along and I took the opportunity to downshift.  Often in life we’re presented with opportunities to shift, and with each shift we make tradeoffs.  In my case, I took a big pay cut in exchange for a host of benefits, like more vacation. Flash forward a couple of more years, and it was time to shift again – this time, by force.  I had to choose from an unknown future work environment, or join my colleagues in moving to a new company that had acquired us.  I took the merger – with it’s decrease in pay and benefits, but promise of a creative new opportunities. As you’ve no doubt guessed from the headline of this story, things weren’t as promising as planned.  I saw my once cheerful co-workers visibly age 10 or 15 years in the span of 6 months, due to stress.  On many days, our office was dotted with empty seats – colleagues who were sick with various ailments, mental &...
The Shocking Result from a Career Aptitude Test

The Shocking Result from a Career Aptitude Test

“We can each define ambition and progress for our selves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” ​- Sheryl Sandberg ​I once took a 240-question career aptitude test and the result floored me, but before we get to that, let me start at the beginning. The last few months of 2014, I attended several retirement gatherings for my coworkers. One with 43 years of service, a second with 40 years, and a third with 37 years. Several more will be retiring in the coming weeks, all with 30+ years of service. But honestly, while I greatly admire these people and their commitment to this work, it scares me to death to think that if I don’t do something about it, that could be me. Don’t get me wrong, I have a job that I like and provides some occasional fulfillment. But I know this is not where I want to spend the rest of my working life. I’ve been here almost 5 years now. I’ve made some good friends, and I’ve been well trained to do what I do. But I’m bored, and not in love with what I do. It’s not a job that makes me jump out of bed every morning. It’s a means to an end. It pays the bills. It’s easy work. Even on the bad days, it’s not that bad. In fact, I can completely understand how people can work this job for 30+ years with ease. I know I have financial responsibilities and...
This Is Why I Quit My Job

This Is Why I Quit My Job

“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Comfort is a wily beast. Before you know it, you can slip into an easy situation and languish. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, if comfort is all you seek. But if you’re looking for something a bit more meaningful, more challenging, and more fulfilling, comfort can be the enemy. About six years ago I began my job as an IT consultant. I had always been quite good with computers and I knew somebody on the inside. It was a great move for me, as I quickly learned a ton. Every day was fun. I got to experiment with new gadgets and implement what I learned into client systems. It was one of the best and most challenging jobs I’ve ever had. Flash-forward a few years and things started to taper. I wasn’t learning as much and the usual problems we dealt with became rote. I felt a longing to move on, to try something different, to strike out on my own. But despite the boredom I was beginning to feel at work, I couldn’t get up the nerve to make any moves. The job paid very well, I had a lot of freedom, and great benefits. I had grown comfortable and accustomed to a cushy life. Last year things came to a head. I was having a particularly stressful month, overloaded with work that was neither challenging nor interesting. I had enough. I reached out to...
Losing My Job Was the Best Thing That Could Ever Have Happened

Losing My Job Was the Best Thing That Could Ever Have Happened

I had a great job. Had great bosses. Enjoyed what I did and looked forward to going to work every day. Then one day, the company re-aligned and my office was disbanded. It wasn’t a new thing and it wasn’t personal. Companies do it all the time. It was simply a matter of necessity and geography. At 10 a.m. I was called into the conference room and the HR guy had a stack of papers for me to sign. He said, “OK. You can go now.” I was stunned. I said, “I have things to clear up. There were personnel files in that office. Payroll records. All kinds of things to wrap up and make sure they aren’t just left unattended.” I said, “I am coming back tomorrow to clean everything up. I can’t leave my office this way.” He said, “I have never had anyone say that they wanted to come back before after being let go.” My former boss said that it spoke to my character. I said it was just the right thing to do. The company did offer me a different position but I would have to move. That wasn’t really an option. A manager I knew offered me a lesser position because she knew me. I was at least happy to be employed. After spending 3 months at home, bored out of my mind, I took a job where I lost half my salary and demoted 2 levels. The job had no computer and was told that I couldn’t talk to or email groups of people that I worked with before because I was...
When Working Corporate Serves Your Purpose

When Working Corporate Serves Your Purpose

“Start where you are. Distant fields always look greener, but opportunity lies right where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity of service.”— Robert Collier I was flying back to Melbourne from Thailand after a week scuba diving in the Similan Islands, staring out the window at the star-studded sky, I knew for the first time in a long time what I wanted— freedom. I was in the midst of a career crisis and was shaken by the nagging feeling that I didn’t want to work in financial planning anymore after years of studying and working hard on my career. For months I had tried to figure out what else I was going to do but kept coming up blank, until I discovered this yearning in my heart to take time out for a while, to explore my passion for scuba diving, and to travel around Southeast Asia. I quit my job and contracted for a while before packing up my life and flying to Thailand to complete my Divemaster course as the starting point to my twelve-month sabbatical. During that time out, I hoped that I would find the answer to my career crisis. I quickly found a new way of life: I traded heels for flip-flops and bare feet; suits for wetsuits; driving a car for riding a motorbike; meetings and schedules for the freedom of following my intuition; the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 routine for what felt like Friday everyday. I discovered my great love for the earth and a way of living that felt free and expansive to my soul. After travelling around...
Turning a Decade Of Grinding Into My Life’s Passion: One Man’s Journey Out Of the Grind and Into His Calling

Turning a Decade Of Grinding Into My Life’s Passion: One Man’s Journey Out Of the Grind and Into His Calling

“There is no passion to be found by playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” – Nelson Mandela 11 years. 11 years I’ve been doing this shit I thought to myself as I glanced over my computer monitor at the half dozen other cubicle workers sitting next to me. How have I let my life turn into such a grind, I wondered? Why am I stuck in this soul sucking job? When will I be able to break free and do something I actually want to do? 2002 Rewind 11 years and I had no career. I had no goals. I had no long-term plan. What I did have though was a life of freedom. And although my “career” was as a waiter, I travelled the country frequently and was happy with my life. But when I turned 30, I thought that it was my time to join the ranks of responsible adulthood and find a real job. So, without any experience and very little knowledge of it, I jumped into the world of high finance. And as it turned out, it was not quite the right path for me. No, it was definitely the wrong one. I played the part of stock broker well. I dressed in nice suits, socialized with high net worth individuals, and tried to impress people with my credentials. But instead of my life being like Bud Fox’s from Wall Street, it was more like Peter’s from Office Space. I was bored to tears and every day was a drain. Every day I wondered...