managing my emotions while navigating exit from job
March 6, 2019 7:51 AM   Subscribe

I have to leave my job - there is no 'should I stay or should I go' business here. I am actively jobhunting. I am looking for advice on how to keep myself calm, stable and positive while in a toxic environment. Strangely enough I am also experiencing anxiety and sadness at the idea of leaving some of the best colleagues I have ever known. I know, it's contradictory! Please help me manage my emotions and keep my head up.

I am being bullied by my terrible new(ish) boss and it's time to cut my losses. I have spent months flip-flopping about this decision but I am fairly sure I have to leave. I can't spend my waking hours so constantly miserable and worried I'm going to be yelled at by my boss. He's taken an active dislike to me, our face to face meetings are filled with personal attacks against my character, my work is scrutinized to within an inch of its life, and he holds me to a different standard than he does his other direct reports. (Recently, I asked to come in half an hour late as I had a doctor's appointment and he blasted me; on the same day, and within my hearing, he effusively and smilingly agreed to a fellow colleague's request to come in late.) He also stares at me whenever I speak with this look of absolute disgust on his face, like, why is this woman speaking?

My general reputation within the organisation is of being conscientious and diligent, and I've always thought of myself as being so. But nothing I do is ever good enough for this person.

So ANYWAY, time to go. My question is twofold:
(1) It's going to obviously take a while till I find a new job. How do I cope till then? I know I can't save the situation. I know from seeing a fellow colleague's experience trying to escalate matters when HER terrible line manager was harassing her, that this organisation will not do anything to help people in that situation. I just want to get through the next few months not completely demoralised. I have a longish notice period so even though I've made the decision to leave, it's going to be a while till I am actually out the door.
(2) Ironically, despite the fact that my boss is terrible, I really like my colleagues and will miss working with them. I know from experience that one doesn't always retain relationships at the same level of warmth with ex-colleagues, and this makes me really sad - a lot of these people feel like friends even though I know that once I leave it won't be feasible to maintain those relationships. It's been hard work building up a network over the past few years, and it feels like such a shame to have to leave now that I feel like I actually have friends here. I know this isn't a strong enough reason to want to stay, but it makes me sad anyway. Some advice on how to deal with this would also be helpful.
posted by unicorn chaser to Work & Money (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a similar situation. If not for my colleagues, I would not be able to tolerate my toxic workplace. To answer your first question, I started reading "Working for You Is Not Working for Me" recently, and feel it has good advice on managing one's emotional state and sense of self in the face of toxic leadership. I borrowed it from a library. I recommend it.

My advice to your second question is less straightforward, but if you haven't already, start planning activities outside of work to bond over and discuss non-work topics. This way you're laying the groundwork for the future for having a relationship that doesn't revolve around the workplace.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 8:56 AM on March 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Check your Mefi Mail!
posted by melodykramer at 12:16 PM on March 6, 2019

If I had a boss as you describe yours, I'd be concerned that shortly after I gave notice - as long as it took nasty boss to talk to HR and put on paper all the complaints he has - I'd be fired and escorted out of the building. Most people are at-will employees, meaning there is no legal requirement to be kept on or paid after notice is given, although you are entitled to payment for earned vacation. If you are counting on the salary you'd earn after you gave notice, give minimal notice, start cleaning out my files and desk, and be strategic about giving notice. In fact, I might not give notice until EOB on my last day.

This approach might also help you feel more in control of the situation, knowing you are going to leave with something of an upper hand.
posted by citygirl at 1:05 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

The above concern about getting fired is going to depend way more on the company than on the manager. In my experience when people get walked out on giving notice, they get paid through the notice period even though they aren't at the office any more. Most companies have a process in place for firing due to performance issues, and if you've already given notice there's very little incentive for them to rush the process and open up possible liability just to save themselves two weeks of your pay.
posted by Lady Li at 1:18 PM on March 6, 2019

Addressing your original question, however, it's hard! We get attached to the people we spend time with, and starting a new job is super stressful even when it's the right choice and even if it'll be terrific in a year. You have to be kind to yourself in acknowledging the challenge of that.

See if you can meet your work friends for happy hour or lunch a few times after you go. It may not be the same but it can help tide you over and give you something to look forward to when you're still in the rough part of getting to know your new colleagues. Spend time with your other non-work friends too.
posted by Lady Li at 1:21 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is a judgment call, depending on how well your job search is going and what the culture of firing is (that is, most biggish organization, firing is slow and rare, so if you keep on behaving semi-normally you're not going to get fired.) But you might be able to make yourself feel better by recognizing that this job is over, you're not trying to make your boss think well of you or treat you well anymore, and politely pushing back in the kind of way that you can't against a boss you care about.

It's hard to describe the precise kind of thing I'm talking about -- not that you shouldn't keep working, or that you should be impolite, but once you genuinely don't care what the boss thinks and you don't mind if they figure that out, you can do a lot less groveling.

This is from the period after I had literally given notice from a terrible law firm, so I was completely safe -- I had my new offer in hand. But I had been given a research assignment by a horrible, abusive partner, and I told him that there was no case law that came out the way he wanted, and I was going to work on something else. And he started shouting at me and telling me that it was my job to find the cases he wanted, and I got to look him in the eye and say "Bob, I've already quit." It was the best feeling. You can't do that until you have a new job, but you can do things sort of like that.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:44 PM on March 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

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