In “10 things I realized after I quit my job without a plan” (Business Insider), life coach and consultant Anna Lundberg shares her experience of walking away from a job and creating her own business:
In September 2013, I walked out of my office and into the unknown. . . . I emptied my apartment of seven years, put my boxes into storage, and moved into my parents’ guest room as I thought about my next move.
My intention since the start had been to create a more independent and flexible lifestyle.
. . . So far, so good! This time last year, I officially incorporated my own consulting business and I’ve been busy on great projects ever since, working with big-name clients, making new connections, and sharpening my skill set.
Drawing upon hindsight, she then offers ten points reflecting upon her experience:
1. “Life on the other side is not as scary as you think.”
2. “You have to stick to your guns.”
3. “There are more options than you ever thought possible.”
4. “You can easily live on less money than you think.”
5. “New opportunities will appear from nowhere.”
6. “It doesn’t have to be perfect from day one.”
7. “Nothing is forever.”
8. “You are not alone.”
9. “You’ll never have all the answers.”
10. “Not all who wander are lost.”
Lindbergh offers explanations for each statement, and it’s worth checking out her full piece to read them. She may inspire some folks to consider their own options and futures.
The escape route
Many people discover this blog because of their experiences with workplace bullying and abuse. Long-time readers know, however, that I resist touting one-size-fits-all fixes. Each work situation has its own individual dynamics, rendering easy advice dangerous, especially when issued from an online perch. That said, for some the exit option is the most viable one. It should be weighed carefully.
Back in 2011, I wrote about the “Should I stay or should I go?” question for folks in bad work environments:
When should you hang in there, and when should you pursue an exit strategy? This question confronts a lot of people who feel stuck in frustrating or even toxic work situations. And given the realities of a tough job market, the dilemma of what to do becomes even more pronounced.
In that post (link here), I offered insights inspired by entrepreneur Seth Godin and the rock band The Clash, as well as more concrete suggestions about thinking through one’s options. To these points, I add this one: One of the most recurring regrets that I hear from targets of severe workplace bullying is that they didn’t remove themselves quickly enough from bad work situations, even as the abusive behaviors kept mounting. Among the costs was that it became much harder to pick up the pieces afterward, including developing options for moving forward with their livelihoods and careers.
It doesn’t appear that Anna Lundberg walked away from a toxic job. Her decision seems to have been grounded in a desire to change the direction of her life in a more positive way. Thus, the more optimistic tone of her piece understandably may not resonate with someone who is feeling trapped in a terrible workplace. After all, it’s pretty damn hard to be sunny about your future when you’re being emotionally pummeled. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that walking away from one job for any reason will lead to something better.
But until more employers start to take abuse at work seriously and the law steps in to create stronger legal protections, leaving a bad job — voluntarily or otherwise — will remain the most common “resolution” of severe workplace bullying. Whenever possible, those who are experiencing toxic jobs should try to get ahead of the situation. It is not an easy thing to do — at first glance, it may feel downright impossible — but it’s much better than waiting for others to impose the choices.
Potential intermediate steps
But before making a final decision to leave a toxic job, there may be some intermediate steps worth considering. They include measures to take stock and assess options related to employment, health, legal rights, etc., while being physically removed from the unhealthy work environment:
- Taking any earned/accumulated leave time (vacation, sick, personal days);
- Taking advantage of any family and medical leave rights, which in some states and countries may include paid leave; and/or
- Requesting a formal leave of absence, consistent with any employer-provided benefits.
Obviously financial considerations often figure heavily into such options and decisions. At this juncture, I will only say that it may be worth a short-term money squeeze in order to buy time to process your situation.
Those considering their exit options may want to review the Need Help page of this blog, which, among other things, collects a variety of blog posts that can help to clarify the decision making process.
This post was revised in December 2019.