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How to Break Up With a Bad Job – and Get Over It

Ah, love. Such a fickle feeling. One day, you’re lost in pleasant daydreams about the object of your affection, and the next, you’re regretting ever having committed to that no-good jerk.

So it goes at work, too. Maybe you took a new position that seemed too promising to be true – and it is. Or your beloved boss was replaced by a manager whose style is driving you crazy instead of driving you wild. Perhaps it’s slowly dawned on you that those company culture irregularities you once wrote off as “quirky” could more accurately be described as “toxic.”

The bottom line? You’re caught in a bad romance with your employer.

If it’s truly an unhealthy partnership, don’t let the fear of being single keep you tied down. This expert advice will give you the skills you need to cope with a bad job, the confidence to break up with it and the wisdom to successfully move on.

Like all heartbreak, it may sting a bit. Fortunately, updating your LinkedIn status is infinitely less painful than removing a tattoo of your ex’s face.

Signs of a Bad Relationship

Some occupations and industries are more challenging than others, and having to work hard under difficult circumstances shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker. But there are a few situations no worker should have to endure just to collect a paycheck.

“You may be in a toxic workplace if you don’t feel psychologically safe at work,” says Jessica Gallus, an organizational psychologist and director of programs and partnerships at Forefront Suicide Prevention.

Office leaders have a lot of influence over that sense of safety. Toxic bosses often “kiss up and kick down,” Gallus explains. They may be respectful or even obsequious to their bosses but lash out in anger against those who report to them, belittling them publicly or behaving erratically, a la Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

“If your leader has created a context where you can’t make mistakes, you’re walking on eggshells and you worry how this person is going to respond, that may be a sign you’re dealing with toxic folks,” Gallus says. “The focus is on abuse, ego, power, unpredictability and self-promotion. They create a situation where work is a game and employees are pawns.”

Other signs of an unhealthy workplace include poor communication, a lack of clear expectations and feedback, excessive drama and gossip, sexual harassment, poor morale, bullying and a pervasive sense of powerlessness, says Melody Wilding, a social worker and career coach.

In contrast, a healthy work environment fosters trust, development and free expression. It allows workers to take risks without undue negative repercussions.

Read: 5 Reasons to Leave Your Toxic Job Right Now. ]

The Consequences of Toxic Work Environments

Sure, you’re not exactly happy with your job, but what’s the big deal? It’s gotta be better than unemployment, right?

As a wise friend would advise about your love life: Don’t settle. Especially because the consequences of an unpleasant or abusive job are often worse than just misspent time. The fallout can include anxiety, depression, burnout, self-doubt and losing trust in your own instincts.

“For folks who have been through it, it’s so damaging,” Gallus says.

She knows from both her research and personal experience. One of her first managers behaved unpredictably – with kindness some days, cruelty others – and set her up for failure on important projects.

“I think he took pleasure in being sadistic,” Gallus recalls. “It was such a blow to my self-worth. I ended up going to therapy.”

And you may not be the only victim. According to Wilding, people in bad work relationships often bring their unhappiness home, where it damages their interactions with children, partners and friends.

Dealing With a Bad Job

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Sometimes, quitting your job is easier wished than accomplished. If that’s the case for you, keep quitting on your list of long-term goals and heed the following tips for coping in the meantime.

Start by documenting your problems in case there’s the possibility of a human resources intervention. Even if HR representatives won’t help you now, those notes may come in handy in case news of your toxic workplace leaks out and stirs up a public scandal, Gallus says.

Consider confronting your noxious co-workers or supervisors to set better boundaries. Although not everyone will feel comfortable doing so, taking this step can sometimes improve unpleasant situations.

To the best of your ability, emotionally disengage from your office and seek validation of your self-worth outside of work, Gallup says, recommending “not putting all your psychological eggs in one basket.”

After all, it’s not you. It’s them.

How to Quit a Job – With Dignity

Maybe you’ve got a new, better opportunity lined up. Or maybe you simply can’t take it anymore. Either way, it’s time for what movie stars call a “conscious uncoupling.”

Keep your dignity intact by following proper etiquette when you break the news. Give at least two weeks’ notice, finish the projects you can and thank your employer for the opportunities the company provided (even if you’ve got to say it through clenched teeth).

If you’re tempted to vent your complaints during your exit interview, proceed with caution. Preserve your good reputation by staying calm and professional and focusing on suggestions for future company improvement, says Vik Kapoor, career coach and president of Extra-M Coaching and Consulting.

After you manage to escape a nightmarish job, its ill effects can linger. It’s smart to be proactive about managing the side effects. That may mean seeking therapy from a counselor or other health professional or making extra effort to care for your physical, mental and emotional needs.

“Some folks have post-traumatic stress from these experiences,” Gallus says.

When It’s OK to Quit Your Job Without Another Lined Up

When the unhappiness of your workweek starts to affect your personal life, it might be time to leave your job.

Vicki SalemiFeb. 23, 2016

How to Avoid a Toxic Work Environment

Some people seem attracted to trouble. They’re blind to red flags, rushing headfirst into relationships that won’t meet their needs and may even do them harm. Others self-inflict heartache, taking every comment personally and fretting unnecessarily about what their partners think.

Remember that part about it being them, not you? It may be a little bit you.

Perfectionists unaccustomed to failure and sensitive folks easily burdened by other people’s negativity may be extra vulnerable in toxic workplaces. Unfortunately, “manipulative environments and people take advantage of people who are kind,” Wilding notes.

No one deserves to suffer at work, of course, but everyone has a responsibility to look out for his or her own best interests. Especially if you’ve just gotten out of a negative job experience, take time to analyze “your own patterns and habits, the way you relate to your work and how you go about it, and how that contributed to landing you in burnout or a toxic situation,” Wilding says.”People-pleasing, being a pushover, not setting the right boundaries: that can really overrun you.”

Before you commit to a new role, identify harmful workplace qualities you’re no longer willing to accept. Wilding and her clients “take a lot of the things that were toxic in the last job and we turn them into filters and qualifiers for their next role.” [

Read: How to Deal With a Co-Worker Who’s Rude to You. ]

With pickup lines and job interviews, sweet talk and charm are cheap. Perform your due diligence in researching companies and roles that interest you, and try to figure out if your prospective manager and teammates are likely to be supportive and respect boundaries. Talk to current and former employees, read reviews on sites like Glassdoor and consider asking to shadow a worker for a day to get a more accurate sense of what the environment is like.

After Gallus’ bad boss experience, “I got pretty savvy about organization climate,” she says. On job interviews, “I asked everyone I talked with, from the secretary to someone making copies, ‘Hey, what’s your climate like here?'”

In these conversations, silence can be especially telling, she says: “Sometimes it’s more in what people do not say.”

Signs of horrible bosses include:

  • Kissing up and kicking down.
  • Publicly belittling others.
  • Lashing out in anger.
  • Behaving erratically.
  • Using employees as pawns.

Company culture red flags include:

  • Poor communication.
  • A lack of clear expectations and feedback.
  • Excessive drama and gossip.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Poor morale.
  • Bullying.
  • A pervasive sense of powerlessness.

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