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Toxic Work Environments - how to spot one and choosing when to leave

Earlier this year, I left an extremely toxic work environment. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but it was a potent mix of constantly changing and unreasonable expectations, disrespect, sketchiness, and hijacked evenings and weekends. It got to the point where I was having stress nightmares about my job. I was mentally and physically exhausted. Even now, months later, I’m still a bit shell-shocked.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience, particularly in the legal profession. Lawyering is generally demanding and stressful. However, though we enter the profession with the knowledge that our jobs will likely be challenging, we don’t always have the tools to recognize when that “challenging” job is actually super toxic. Below are some questions to help you determine if your job is ruining your life.

  • Do you get pushback from your supervisors or peers for doing things that are necessary to stay alive (e.g. eating, drinking, using the restroom, going to the doctor)? If yes, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Are the tasks you are given things that can reasonably be accomplished in the time you are given to do them? If no, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Does your boss belittle, insult, or harass you? If yes, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Are you working for sketchy people? If yes, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Are expectations reasonable and clearly communicated? If no, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Do you have literal nightmares about your job? If yes, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Do(es) your spouse, kids, pets, friends still remember what you look like? If no, GET OUT OF THERE!

  • Do you dread going to work so much that you wish a rabid raccoon would attack you so you don’t have to go anymore? If yes, GET OUT OF THERE!

You get the picture. Now, you may be thinking, “Claire, my job is toxic AF! But I can’t quit because I need money.” I know, capitalism sure is a bummer BUT there is hope! You can still get out, it just may take a little longer. All you need is a plan (and then you have to actually do your plan). It took me MONTHS to be in a position to leave my job. However, I eventually got there, and I believe you can too.

Remember, you are brilliant, you are qualified, and you are dope as hell. You don’t need to be working in a place where they give you side-eye for using the restroom.

- Claire

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