Retiring from your job can be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make. We all hope we’ll receive recognition for a job well done. When that’s not the case, should you retire from a toxic work environment?
You should retire from a toxic work environment or, at least, get a different job. Your mental and physical health are far too important to ignore. No job is worth sacrificing your health and happiness.
A toxic workplace is one where the atmosphere and other people’s behaviors throw your life into chaos. When it becomes a pit of despair you loathe dragging yourself into each day, you need to re-evaluate things.
It can manifest psychological and physical symptoms for the person affected leaving them broken, exhausted and run down.
It’s only natural to assume everything's going to work out fine. After doing the same job for so many years, there’s a tendency to put up with way more than we should because it’s become comfortable.
For myself, in hindsight, I confess I learned my lesson the hard way. I was one of those people who suffered the idiocy for far too long. I remember quite vividly working in a hell hole like that.
I accepted the treatment to the point it was affecting my health, mentally and physically. Sleeping was difficult, my appetite dwindled and bringing a smile to my face, sometimes, seemed like a monumental task.
Why Do People Stay in Toxic Workplaces?
Many believe they can keep their home and work life separate. In reality, it’s not that easy. They’ll try their best however the two will intermix at some point. It’s inevitable.
Once a person recognizes they’re in a toxic workplace, why do they feel they can’t leave? A lot of it comes down to comfort with the familiar. It’s a case of, better the devil you know than the one you don’t.
That was my excuse. My job was close to home, I had some latitude being there for 7 years and the money didn’t hurt either.
When I would get home from work, there was always the same routine. A total debrief of the day with my husband. Everything that went wrong, what upset me or what stupid thing my bad boss did that day.
Then there’s the fear of not being employed. Questions that could arise are:
It’s tough to let go of that scary feeling. However, the truth is staying at a toxic job is way worse for you than being unemployed, according to a study from the International Journal of Epidemiology.
My husband and I talked a lot about my leaving the job from hell. I’d never left a job without having another one lined up. I was terrified.
When all was said and done, I retired at 55. And I thought that was way too young! I’d always thought I’d work until at least 62. It seemed like the best age for retirement. Our article should you retire at 62 discusses the pros and cons.
And really, if this is your life why are you staying and putting up with it? If you’re financially prepared, retire. If not, get another job. I’ll never make that mistake ever again.
In our post, emotional signs you need to retire, we cover eight reasons about leaving before it's too late and the damage is done.
Recovering From a Toxic Workplace After Retiring
Once the decision of should you retire from a toxic work environment is made, then starts the really hard part - the recovery.
While leaving may seem like the worst part, it’s not. The damage that's been done from this workplace is extensive and will take some time for you to get over.
When recovering from a toxic workplace after retiring:
Take The Time You Need to Heal, Physically and Mentally
It’s important to take the time you need to heal. Toxic jobs erode self-esteem, confidence and health. If you can take time off, do it.
For myself, Shannon suggested I take the summer off. I’ve worked all my life and haven’t had one off since I was a kid. It’s important to build yourself up by practicing self-care.
Examples could be bubble baths, watching comedies or getting back to nature. Another good idea is to cut back on social media especially if you’re connected to people from your former job.
There’s sure to be anger, sadness and a whole range of emotions to work through. Sometimes, relaxing isn’t doing the trick. A good way to release anger is by exercising or singing at the top of your lungs. Personally, a punching bag comes to mind.
If you can’t take a break, make sure to set aside some quiet time so you can process and deal with everything that’s happened.
You’ll also want to get a support network. It could include your doctor, friends, family, etc. People that're there to support you.
And most importantly, catch up on your sleep. It really is the best medicine. I slept so much the first couple of months. I didn’t realize how exhausted I really was.
Setting aside time to get your health, both mental and physical, back is important if you’re going to be able to move on from this horrible experience. Whether it’s to find a new job or just enjoy your life, healing is a vital step to living the life you want.
Work Through What Happened
Working through what happened is the next step in mending. As much as you just want to forget about it and move on, all that negativity isn’t going away just like magic. You’ll continue to think about it and run different scenarios in your head.
This involves, not only, the toxicity of the work culture but focusing inward to find out if you inadvertently added to it. Did you get caught up in some of the gossip? Or not be a team player? Be honest with yourself.
If you think you did have a hand in it, dealing with those flaws will make sure the pattern doesn’t repeat itself in other situations such as a new position or problems with family or friends.
Going through this process will bring all those bad feelings and thoughts out. This could include anything from your co-workers being mean to the ex-boss who took all the credit for everything you accomplished.
You’ll acknowledge what the real issues were and why it was such a toxic work culture.
When you deal with them, it’ll feel like a weight's been taken off your shoulders. You’ll feel like a new person, kind of like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Shannon and I talked a lot about the whole experience after I left. I know when I left, I felt beat up, stupid and I wasn’t a good manager.
When I was out of that place, I realized that all those shots at my self-esteem were not from me but my horrible boss. And, at the end, I really wasn’t a team player. I was just done. Once I acknowledged that, they vanished like wisps of smoke.
Focus On Your Strengths
You might come to realize the decision of should you retire from a toxic work environment was the best thing you’ve ever done.
Focusing on your strengths is a great way to let yourself know what you’re capable of and good at. Remember, you spent 8 hours a day 5 days a week in a toxic atmosphere. That’s not good and it’ll sap anyone’s confidence.
Start by getting back to basics. Think about old behaviors or habits that served you well. Take up a long-forgotten hobby or find a new one.
Explore creativity and new talents. Who knows, you might even shift the focus of your life in a totally different direction. The point is to find things you’re good at and build up self-confidence.
You want to regain the good, positive energy that was sucked out of you. Move forward to where you want to be not get dragged back to where you were.
My intention was to start looking for a new job in the fall. Well, that never came to pass! As we talked, we both realized a home-based business was the way to go.
So, we started our website. It’s exploring and re-emerging old creative talents I haven’t used in a very long time.
Deal With It and Move On
There are many ways to go through this process. Some journal while others prefer to talk to friends or family. Whichever way you choose is your decision. Pick what works best for you.
One example could be writing a letter to yourself expressing all your frustrations and angers. Also include what you’re good at and your strengths.
Occasionally, read the letter. If it still brings up all those emotions, put it away and read it again later. The same goes for conversations.
Once you can read or speak about your ex-situation with no emotion or pain, the toxic cycle you’re caught in is starting to dissipate. This is the time to put those experiences where they belong – in your past.
However, don’t forget them. You don’t want to ever be in that situation again. It’s time for them to be put into the memory banks. When you can do that, you’re ready to move on to something bigger and better.
As stated earlier, Shannon and I spent many days and nights discussing what happened at my old place of employment. Now, if I think about it or we mention it, it’s not a big deal.
Since I left 2-1/2 years ago, I can truly say those memories have been tucked away. My blood pressure’s back to normal and my health has dramatically improved. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.
And, believe me, our website keeps us very busy and fulfilled. We probably work harder now that we’re “retired” than we ever did at our places of employment.
Closing Thoughts on Should You Retire from A Toxic Work Environment
Retiring from a toxic workplace is, probably, the best decision you could ever make. Life’s too short to be working at a soul-sucking career that just eats away at your self-confidence, health and happiness.
Remember, you’re way more than just your work. How you decide to recover is a personal one but it’s necessary. In time, you may look back at how strong and resilient you really are because of this experience.
Just like the Kelly Clarkson song, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”.