Surviving The Toxic Office – Intros

Surviving The Toxic Office

I’ve worked in the corporate environment for 22 years at 3 different companies. (Lol, don’t even try to calculate how old I am). Surviving the toxic office and workplace politics is definitely a skill that I have not perfected, but, I’ve experienced enough of it that I can share my trial-and-errors here… and perhaps others can benefit from my lessons learned.

Intro – What’s a Toxic Office?

I googled what could be a good definition for a toxic office and found this definition on Wikipedia: A toxic workplace is a workplace that is marked by significant drama and infighting, where personal battles often harm productivity. Toxic workplaces are often considered the result of toxic employers and/or toxic employees who are motivated by personal gain (power, money, fame, or special status), use unethical, mean-spirited and sometimes illegal means to manipulate and annoy those around them; and whose motives are to maintain or increase power, money or special status or divert attention away from their performance shortfalls and misdeeds.

For the most part, I do believe that the majority of employees will utilize office politics ethically. They will maintain transparency and communication with everyone involved, and will not use this influence to hurt others.

Intro – “Cloudy”

But then I spent 2 years of my life at the brunt end of the most unethical person I’ve ever known, who utilized his ability to manipulate and threaten others to gain power and attack those that didn’t conform. I did not conform because I could not bring myself to do some of the things he required of me – such as LIE to customers, such as falsify documents to make him and his buddies look good, such as take the blame for mistakes I did not make, such as allow myself to be sexually-harrassed at work because he’d rather protect his buddy, etc.

Unfortunately for me, this person was at the top of the workplace food chain too. So my career there was basically over. He definitely created a toxic office for me. But for those coworkers who rallied around him instead, they had a completely different experience working there.

I think I shall nickname this guy “Cloudy” in this series of posts about the toxic office. I’ll name him Cloudy, because for all his buddies there – for the coworkers in his circle of protection – he always proudly claimed that he was “their sunshine” and “the air they breathed”. Well, he certainly wasn’t that for me. Whatever the opposite of sunshine is, that’s what he was for me… so, Cloudy it is.

Intro – My Headspace During This Time

I did put up a good fight at first. Tried multiple escalation paths. Tried HR (HR is such a joke!). Tried building an alliance to protect me. Consulted with lawyers. But nothing worked and I eventually gave up. And giving up was absolutely the best solution for me. At first, I felt so wronged by this whole situation that I was blindly driving towards fighting for fairness. It wasn’t fair and I needed to fight for what was fair. That was my motivation.

But this fight continued for almost 2 years and my mental health had deteriorated greatly during it. I had started to drink heavily everyday as a coping mechanism and I also got prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. I was in bad shape. That whole situation broke me.

I’m out of that situation now and feel like I am finally ready to talk about it in small chunks via regular blog posts here. I’m doing it for my own catharsis. I’m also doing it so if anyone else is going through something similar, perhaps they won’t feel so alone now. I certainly felt alone at the time…

I have a more recent post regarding another experience I had at my toxic office, specifically about when HR failed me. You can read it here.

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Online Job Applications are a Waste of Time

Online Job Applications are a Waste of Time

I’ve been trying to find a different job for a year and a half now, and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that online job applications are a waste of time.

Because I am still employed, my new job search was a part-time effort at best, and predominantly consisted of online job applications. I extensively utilized many online job search engines such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and CareerBuilder. And I also paid for the Premium LinkedIn package where you are visible to recruiters and you can see the salaries of the posted jobs.

I also stalked the Career pages of the companies I was interested in working for, and applied directly there whenever I saw a good fit for me.

So in about 18 months, I applied for 172 jobs online. Only received 4 interviews. From the 4 interviews, I received 2 offers but they were too low and I could not accept. And I received 2 rejections.

This is a horrible track record. And I can’t blame it on the pandemic economy because I started this effort almost a year prior to covid closing everything down.

This is also an incredible amount of time invested. Because it’s not as easy as just uploading your resume whenever you apply online. You have to create an account with the company, and re-format your resume to fit their specific formatting which isn’t standardized, and also include a customized cover letter for their specific position and company. I would estimate I spent approximately 30min to an hour on each online job application.

And it was ultimately a huge waste of time for me.

See, I have a former coworker that started his new job search in early December. We have very similar work experiences and histories. His first day at his new job is today.

I asked him about his track record. He said he received 4 job OFFERS within the first couple of weeks of his job search. He applied for ZERO jobs online.

I asked him what he did, and he said he just reached out to all his contacts, basically told them that he was looking for something else, and his contacts brought potential opportunities to him. He only networked. That was it.

Holy cow, I feel so stupid in comparison. Like, has anyone found any success with these online job applications? Or is it all a scam? I mean, alot of these job search sites ask for money for better services and visibility, and I fell for it with LinkedIn. And I got no results from it. I kinda feel like a fool and I want all my time back. :(