Thursday, May 6, 2010


You know your working environment is toxic when:

  • you brazenly surf for the latest job postings.
  • the C-level positions are a revolving door.
  • the whole company, including the CEO, is regularly copied on emails highlighting your latest foul up and everyone you pass in the hall gives you that wide-eyed, head shaking, apologetic look.
  • a hastily planned, last minute catered luncheon in honor of Administrative Professionals Day is met with much eye-rolling by the honorees
  • a submitted two weeks notice by a fellow assistant incites joy and envy by those who will be "left behind"
  • you're held up at lunch by extremely slow service that results in a comp meal and after explaining the situation in detail to the human resources director, you're told curtly that "the time cannot be adjusted" knowing full well that a few simple keystrokes would have been an easy courtesy
Welcome to my world!!!!

I've stated before, and will continue to state, that I love what I do. I thoroughly enjoy the role of assistant and really don't see myself doing anything else. However, the toxicity of my office is starting to curl its way around my neck and squeeze.

And what a shame! Once upon a time, six years ago, I embarked on what seemed to be a wonderful career at a great company that was small but growing and staffed with people who were genuinely friendly (for the most part) and seemed to care about me, as a person, not just another admin to schedule meetings and book travel. There was a level of warmth and concern that I had never experienced. At one point, a few years in, I remarked to one of my friends, "I can't even see myself looking for another job. I love it there!"

That was then. Now, I feel like a knot on a log, a log sitting halfway in some murky water in the middle of damp swamp. After multiple company reorganizations, annual retreats full of ideas that always fall flat, staff meetings that turn into lectures on appreciation for our jobs in a tough economy and a steady decline in morale across the board, this is not the same company I started with six years ago.

The announcement by a dearly loved, fellow assistant that she was taking another job in a few weeks has only added to my angst. Her new firm is huge, a global company in a high rise with all the bells and whistles of Corporate America. Great benefits, more pay that expected and perks like gym memberships and a break room stocked with free snacks and beverages (we long since lost our comp Cokes and the only free snacks are the cakes provided at the monthly birthday parties); it all makes my little log seem all the more grim.

I'd love to cast my resume out there and see what bites. I'm confident in my skills and ability to add value to any company. But, what I lack is the courage to make that great leap from my stable, albeit dysfunctional, home base. This company has been a six year supporter of my life and my children's lives. Every bill I have depends on my twice monthly paychecks. My whole life is affected in some way, by my job. Heck, I chose my apartment due to its proximity to the office, which determines my oldest daughter's school and the quality of daycare available to my youngest.
I've settled into a routine, a way of survival that allows me to be in the midst of the office chaos yet somewhat insulated from it.

And who's to say that jumping ship will lead to sandy shores on a paradise beach? I could find, after a short time, that my new island is inhabited by hungry natives who don't crown me and make me their queen like in the movies. Then what?
What's that old saying -- "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't."

I have recurring nightmares about winding up in the projects living off welfare checks and food stamps while my children run around with the bottoms of their feet black from filth. Seriously. Its a real nightmare. Failure of that scale is what wakes me up in the mornings.

So, that leaves me on the log, pondering possibilities and terrified of the same. I hate to sound like the spoiled ingrate who happens to have a job while so many others file into unemployment lines ready to take any job that makes an offer but this is my reality . . . and it bites!


Kelly Jo said...

Ugh. I'm so sorry you are professionally frustrated. I was in a similar situation where the environment completely changed and then I was laid off....Honestly, I feel that corporate america has been forever changed by the sinking economy and I truly believe that you need to be happy during the day or you're very unhappy at night. I hope you can find something that brings you joy that you felt 6 years ago. And, I hope your colleague is as happy as you think she will be. I would bet that even with all the bells and whistles of her new environment, there will be people that feel the way you do now. I no longer think we live in a corporate world where there is loyalty and that hard work is rewarded. It's all about the bottom line, rather keeping the bottom line from falling off the accounting books. It creates a horrendous work environment. Good luck to you.

~Elizabeth aka Lacquered Lizard said...

Time for someone to read, "Who Moved My Cheese" and then do some introspection. There are sacrifices we make for our children, BUT, if those sacrifices result in our inability to be present with our children, time to change. Change is scary, but ultimately, change is GOOD!

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nmaha said...

Hi Healthcare WG....I can relate to your situation in a way...though I am an employer, my family has put everything at stake (including our house) to get our business up and running....there are nights when i get up in a sweat wondering how we are going to take care of our daughter if things don't work out.....all I want to say is that, even though it's scary to make a leap of faith, your happiness and sanity are important in the long run

Luna said...

sorry about your work environment. thats how it is at many companies. the people dont really care about others. the are taking care of themselves. i agree with elizabeth. i have heard that is a good book. i would suggest also reading "rich dad, poor dad." its an amazing book by, i think, the same author. it has changed my life in the way i look at money. your co-workers new job sounds good. change can be good. the way the economy is many people with jobs feel bad about those who dont and those who dont hate the ones that do have a job. i have learned that you have to think of yourself and take care of yourself. i wish you luck in looking for your next job. as i said change can be good and you have to want it also. it is also smart to be prepared first and i would say have money saved up just in case. i'm sure your next job will be great and something that you love.

Amy said...

I felt like I was reading a post I'd written myself!! I just accepted a new job at a new studio--next Friday is my last day at my current agency. I'm sad to be leaving, because I genuinely like my coworkers and enjoy my clients--but the internal atmosphere is just toxic. We've had five people quit in two months and everyone's looking for new jobs. This is from a staff of less than 30. It's gotten pretty bad, and it's sad to see.

Ali said...

I also feel guilty sometimes, complaining about my job when I know so many who don't have one. But keep in mind that you're still allowed to complain, and people are here to listen! I think it's safe to say that comfort is often UNDERrated. People look at being "comfortable" in a relationship as a sign of bad things to come. In work, being comfortable is a sign that you need to challenge yourself. But sometimes, being comfortable means stability. And I know what it feels like being scared to leave a stable and comfortable environment. But what I've also learned is that, though it may take a few months, you'll end up being comfortable elsewhere. If you switch jobs, your new office and surroundings will eventually become comfortable to you. So if your current situation is making you irritable, or unhappy, then take the leap. It's not worth wasting any more time at a place that's making you miserable.

Rachel said...

Hold on. This "feeling guilty for having a job when so many others don't" excuse needs to stop. The working world is not the place to make sacrifices on behalf of a large chunk of the population that you don't know, nor will never meet. I know this sounds selfish, but honey, you sound miserable! You should not feel guilty about wanting a better working life for yourself. You're not going to quit your current job until you find a new one right? So the security of your paycheck will still be there. And you are NOT beholden to your current company after 6 years if they've changed so drastically and just because they're paying you. Guess what? So will another job, and maybe they'll pay you more and appreciate you more fully. Maybe by looking for another job, and understanding that, yes, you do deserve better, means that your job opening will provide a paycheck for someone who isn't working right now and could use a job.

You will develop a new routine, your commute might get longer, but you'll survive. But you are quickly on your way to bitterness with the current job you have and you should get out now while there are still people there who can give references and will wish you well. Instead of another year down the road when you've stopped caring and your work has really suffered. GET OUT NOW! No reading books, no soul searching. Start looking for jobs and see what bites.

And good luck to you.

Emma!! said...

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Kate Davids said...

I can understand where you're coming from, but if you're unhappy here, what's the worse that will happen? You're unhappy at your next job? Don't be afraid of success! Be optimistic!

Mrs Soup said...

*sigh* I totally and completely understand.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I know how you feel, and it's so draining. Don't underestimate the toll it takes on you physically, emotionally, mentally. It kind of creeps in slowly and you barely even notice. While you're figuring everything out be sure to pamper yourself every chance you get!

Anonymous said...

I completely understand what you're going through, but you've got to get out of there! This is a situation where you're living to work instead of working to live. It can't hurt to interview or at least try to interview. There's no saying you have to quit until something is solid.

Think about it in terms of breaking up with a guy. Some people's lives are wrapped around a guy-- they live with eachother, their stuff and money is combined, their social lives are intertwined. But if the guy is toxic... it would be crazy not to find a way to get out. Even if it's uncomfortable for a little bit.

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dating diva said...

I've actually been thinking of that quote "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't." a lot lately too. Fear of the unknown is always a barrier to trying new things. I've been trying to make some life changes lately too, and fear is definately the main thing that is keeping me down. Good luck in your search for a new job, if that is the direction you decide to go in!

Anastasia said...

It is so hard to take that leap. especially when you have kids. But if your unhappy, you should at least look at your options. Either way good luck.