We are more alike than we are different
We are more alike than we are different

One Day at A Time - A Survivor's Tale

I barely made it out of years in the most Toxic Work Environment [TWE] that I dare say has ever existed but for balance I'll accept it might just be the most awful work environment that I have ever known.

I'm in Healthcare, I work long hours and it's stressful but exhilarating fun when it is about the patient and helping the patient. My heart is filled and my spirit nourished knowing that what I do can make a positive difference in someone's health and life overall. However, the joy from whatever good I did do and change that I could effect was taken from me systematically working at this place.

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I came to the Healthcare Organization as an employee and student collaborating with a, now deceased, specialist on a Postgraduate degree. There were early warning signs of the things to come. Everything was there, but I told myself that no organization was perfect and I should just suck it up and get my shit done.

All of what I saw, I forced myself to ignore - I had observed that reporting anything to HR only put a target on your back and termination or demotion soon followed. The "salary" allowed me to survive and help my family, and I became addicted to the safety of a stable paycheck which was like an iron collar that I yoked myself to. I thought that I could advance myself, gain experience and earn a living. Sometimes, making safe choices can mess with you in major ways.

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I observed colleagues who traded sexual favors for promotions, and perks; I recall being forced to work with archaic data collection tools, [records kept on ledger-paper rolls -I am not kidding] all while being admonished for attempting to upgrade the systems through computerization; being verbally abused by a supervisor that was known to be unstable, but being told that I couldn't get a transfer because I was a junior staff member. Where everyone else had three month rotations in each unit, I was stranded working with that supervisor for thirteen months.

You get to points along the abuse journey where you feel simultaneously worthless and fully receptive of every bad thing that is shouted at you, day-in-day-out. The flow chart below shows how the corrosive nature of the Toxic Work Environment where the constant devaluation of your work and your shame couple to over time lead to the fulfillment of all the negative words that you internalize.

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Illustration for article titled One Day at A Time - A Survivors Tale

I am a hard worker and I am not difficult to work with I have worked across all of the disciplines within every unit of the organization, and I got on well with everyone. It just did not matter and at first I didn't see that this was not my fault or even under my control. I thought this was maybe just the hazing period and in time this shit would stop. It didn't and it would never stop, what was the incentive to do better? Those who could not stand it left - a great hint that I did not know, if an organization has a massive turnover rate......that is a big red flag, and you should consider, very carefully, before joining.

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I wanted to leave everyday, but always argued myself into staying, and then just as simple as pie, I stopped trying, I gave up, and cried a lot. I cried in the bathroom stall at work everyday - quiet bitter tears, I cried myself to sleep, and I stopped dreaming, mornings greeted me sitting paralyzed in my underwear at the start of each day overcome with dread and sorrow. I was ashamed to explain this to anyone, I felt that something had to be wrong with me.

So bitch what's up are you a fucking child or a grown woman?!! Woman up and get your head on right, stop whining and do something!!! I said these words to myself constantly, and no the money was not that good to justify staying on any level.

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I have spoken with others who used to work in the same organization as well as mental health professionals, and in a toxic environment you get broken down, pure and simple. You get mauled by the environment itself and the constant assaults - you are a battered person. I thought my experience was awful, but others had career sabotage, and demotions that were the result of the acquisition of a credentials, there were the usual direct threats and implied threats amongst other abuses of power.

I do not subscribe to pure victimology, I accept that I allowed this to go on as long as it did. I did and I have to forgive myself for the time I lost by allowing this to happen. I was pragmatic in my choice, the job market was/is not robust and with this job I had security. I let myself be abused, I allowed it to happen and only I could put a stop to it.

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I did stop it, and it was and is as simple as saying NO. I cannot describe it in any other terms than saying, "I hit rock bottom". I had been: shouted at unrelentingly while crunching data by my supervisor a la Full Metal Jacket (too many times to count); threatened with the end of my career and destitution; locked in the archives and told I would only be released if I found the required documents, lied to, cheated out of overtime pay, denied training opportunities, and discouraged repeatedly. I discovered that taking the abuse invited more abuse and on a day no different than any other before, I was getting the "daily dose" when I responded by refusing to take in any more of the verbal filth. I mentally said NO. I was not rude, nor was I confrontational, I just stopped and looked at the boss who was shouting. I was told that I was behaving in an arrogant manner and I needed to adjust my attitude. I collected my things and walked away from that section and asked another supervisor if I could work in her unit under her, to which she agreed. I knew what this meant but it was the only way to reclaim myself.

There was no surprise when my contract was not renewed, which is the cheapest and most passive aggressive way to fire someone ever.

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I have not looked back.

Illustration for article titled One Day at A Time - A Survivors Tale
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Now, the first thing I had to do was forgive myself, for devaluing myself by staying in such a negative situation. I have been working hard each day to forge a new path for myself.

What about money? Well, I am living with my mother, and I am looking intently for a new position. I am working through my savings faster than I had calculated, but I am not panicking because that is how bad decisions get made. I have a few friends that have helped me out, with some utility bills, I am thankful beyond words for that.

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I have made a timetable for getting a job, and written an outline of what is ideal and then I have been matching this with what's available. I am also open to temporary jobs, be open it's all about moving forward in the best way you can, access your talents and as cliche as it sounds go out of your comfort zone, and think outside the box. Forget shame, be direct with close friends and family, but do not let the world know that you are on your face. Any negative persons need to be put out to pasture, take constructive criticism actually seek it out to toughen you up. I know I have been hurt, but not addressing my shortcomings will not help the healing, another point of view is good to have. Image is important, practice interviewing until it is natural, especially if you have been out of the job market for a while. Take any networking opportunity that you can on board. I dress for work every day, and keep "work hours".

I get up at 4am every morning and exercise, the endorphins are good for you, fend off the black dog of depression which will want a dance but that is not for me or you. if you are depressed and have no energy and cannot exercise get thee to a psychiatrist, do that irrespective of status, the check up is one you need as part of the recovery. Anyway, I exercise, get ready for "work", dress and I am out of my home to begin work at 8 am sharp, I give myself thirty five minutes for lunch, and my day is devoted to forging new connections, looking for work, updating my resume in different formats, making appointments and scheduling interviews for work. Make opportunities don't wait for them to happen.

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I will let you know, how it goes, but I am taking it one day at a time.

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