How do you let go of work-related bitterness after moving on?
September 4, 2014 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning to change jobs soon to get away from a toxic workplace situation. I'm really bitter and angry over how things have gone down here. How do I let go of this so that it doesn't poison my next position?

I've wasted the last year of my 15-year career being assigned to a company-wide transformational project without any management support or authority. My team has developed implementation plan after implementation plan and management refuses to support any of them. Now, some very expensive external consultants have been brought in to recommend the exact same course we recommended 10 months ago, which management thinks is awesome (with no apparent recognition of the inherent irony in this). Also, they are now hiring a "business lead" - the role I thought I was in! Basically for a year I've spun my wheels and fought management and accomplished nothing.

Luckily, I am in the salary negotiation phase for a new position at another company. I am really excited about the new job and new environment, not just because I want out of my current job but also because it's a great opportunity for me. So it won't be my problem for much longer.

But I am really, really bitter about the last year. I still have no idea what it is they actually wanted me to do here, considering everything I did was either shot down or blatantly ignored. Some days I am mad at management for not supporting me, and other days I am full of self-doubt because lots of other people are succeeding on the project and I must just be too stupid to understand. How do I let these feelings go? I really don't want to mess up at my new job, I want to move on and be positive. I also don't want to bash my soon-to-be-former company all the time, it's a highly respected employer in my town.
posted by cabingirl to Work & Money (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've had jobs like that, and, at the end of the day, as long as the paycheck clears, it's good enough for me. You weren't wasting your time for the past year, you were doing some dumb shit that they paid you for, which allowed you to clothe and feed yourself. Don't get wrapped up in whether the work was appreciated or understood.

You're in the You business, not your employer's business; you're CEO of Cabingirl Enterprises, and Cabingirl Enterprises was in the black, regardless of whether the actual workproduct went anywhere.

Incidentally, I found it took a good six months for me to adjust to getting out of the bad environment at my old job--but now that I'm on the other side (which has its own challenges), I literally never think about the old frustrations anymore. Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:25 AM on September 4, 2014 [23 favorites]

Best answer: You might be interested in this post from Ask Polly where she helps someone who can't get over mistreatment at their last job.
posted by CMcG at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Letting go is a big part of moving on, but especially in a business situation, it's important to learn from the past. Think about the problems you had, and consider: What specific thing should have been done in your previous organization, that would have made your task successful? If you saw a similar situation starting again, what specific things would you look for as red flags, and what steps could you take to nip problems in the bud?
Not only is it good to work through it, so that you can avoid subconsciously blaming yourself for things that weren't your fault, but it can be really helpful to focus your frustrations - it's very hard to get over "That company treated me badly!!" but "manager A created the project team to do X but manager B was expecting Y" becomes a matter of human mistakes, and once you know who to forgive, it's much easier to acknowledge the imperfection and move on.
posted by aimedwander at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2014

Best answer: Move on and do well at New Employer. You have 14 good or at least tolerable years at Old Employer; think of those.

I don't find that talk of former employers of mine comes up very often. I had one job that I left because I didn't fit in to the company's drunken and misogynistic corporate culture, and it was a very toxic environment complete with customers who hated us and a foreign office where the soon-to-be-laid-off employees refused to do any knowledge transfer with the software projects we were taking over from them. I left for good reasons and on good terms, and I don't think about it much. The experience I got there helped me to get my current job, but that's all.

Similarly, I left my first job after six years because they changed my management after I got my Master's degree on the company's dime, and I get the feeling a lot of people resented me and treated me poorly because I'd gotten that scholarship. Again, I think of the good years I had with that company.

Really, the only thing that will heal the wounds is time. I mention these things in passing conversation with co-workers at times, but it comes up very infrequently. Heck, my first job was at a very well-respected company in my industry, and I mention the name of the company in these conversations. I don't think any of it is seen as "bashing," but I'm not constantly talking about it -- because in most cases it would be irrelevant to the conversation.

You're leaving Old Employer because it's what's best for you. Your new job at New Employer is also what's best for you. Remember that.
posted by tckma at 10:29 AM on September 4, 2014

Best answer: Let it be bad, but know that it won't last. Forgive yourself for feeling bitter and eventually you won't be any longer.

Imagine that job as the "awesome character building" part of the novel that is your life.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:29 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Life is not fair.

You can do your best and still not get the outcome you want.

It is not a failure of you; it's just not in the cards right now.

Accept that success = skill + timing + luck.

You've moved on, so the timing + luck factor is now totally different at this new place.

Look forward! Don't look back.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:39 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my experience, consultants almost always make recommendations that frontline employees have been advocating (sometimes for years!). I don't know if it helps with the bitterness, but know that your situation is not at all unusual. There's just something about paying an outside consultant many thousands of dollars to state the obvious that magically gives management the confidence to do what they should have all along.
posted by betsybetsy at 11:10 AM on September 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing what betsybetsy is saying. That's been my experience as well. Also, in a situation where management devalues employees, they need to hear it from someone else. That may feel personal, but it's really management's issue in that they are behaving dysfunctionally in spite of your best efforts.
posted by jazzbaby at 11:50 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Similar situation here. I'm now so deliriously happy in my new job that I just feel sorry for people caught up in the web at the old place. And did I mention how ridiculously happy I am now? I don't have any more time or energy to waste on the past stuff.

Congratulations on the new job!
posted by harrietthespy at 12:07 PM on September 4, 2014

Best answer: Having been in a similar position I can totally empathize, but also say that it's totally natural to feel that way.

Leaving my last job felt like as much of bereavement as a death in the family in the sense of sadness, loss, regret, uncertainty and previous sense of myself and the world.

Being a witness to my own professional death through no choice of my own was heartbreaking, but I did survive, live on and found that with a new job, new friends and colleagues and a new purpose and impetus, my grief did too, and I now couldn't be happier.
posted by Middlemarch at 12:08 PM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Treat it like a shitty breakup. You’re allowed to be bitter, and it’s healthy to express those feelings. Maybe not so much to your new employer, but elsewhere. What you’re going through is normal.

Getting into the groove with your job will help a lot, I think. When you get there, just focus on learning what you need to learn and doing what you need to do. New jobs are mentally exhausting no matter what, but they’re hiring you for a reason.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:23 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The consultants simply verified that they were unaware of any better course of action than the one your team recommended. A "business lead" is a salesperson for your approach. You created it, and are now moving on to a better opportunity.
posted by lathrop at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2014

Best answer: betsybetsy and jazzbaby have it.

I spent a little over a year spinning my wheels as an in-house analyst at a company that just couldn't get out of their own way to utilize me in any meaningful way. It was supposed to be my "dream job" (and I moved across the country for it). That was incredibly frustrating, so I feel you.

I do the same thing now as a consultant, and a ton of my time is spent reiterating the same concepts I know these clients have heard many times before from industry conferences, peer groups, management coaches, white papers, and their own staff. Some people just don't like taking advice unless they paid dearly for it. :)
posted by nobejen at 5:04 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: While burning out at my last job, I used to say to myself, "I need to remember this. In a couple of months, when I'm frustrated with my new job and don't know what I'm doing, I will remember how bad this feels and know I made the right decision." It helped. Your new job is going to be awesome! But it'll have bad days, and maybe you'll tolerate them better if you remember what bad days were like at your crappy old job.

Also, you haven't moved on just yet. You might start your new job and be shocked by how little you care about the old one.
posted by orangejenny at 5:17 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I kept a small journal in my purse, and when bad feelings/frustrations/random bullshit leeched over from OldJob to NewJob, I would just take a few minutes to write about my feelings in the journal, then stash it back in my purse (NEVER leave it in or on desk).

If someone passes by your desk, it just looks like you're making notes or putting your thoughts together, and it gives you a way to vent those bad feelings. After a few months, I didn't need the journal anymore.

I don't really journal in regular life, but it really helped me in the transition.
posted by jeoc at 5:35 PM on September 4, 2014

Best answer: Can you take a vacation out of town between jobs? Even a few days would be good, but get away to someplace different, someplace new. A change in routine and travel, even just to a nearby town, can do wonders. It could really help clear your mind, which will put you in a better mental place for a fresh start.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! Lots of great answers, especially from those who have been there.
posted by cabingirl at 1:50 PM on September 5, 2014

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