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. 🙁

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Last year I had the chance to visit Beijing, and of course while I was there I just had to stop at the Great Wall of China.

History – Great Wall of China

It was amazing to comprehend how much square footage this architectural feat encompassed. I had to look it up on Wikipedia, where it said the Ming Dynasty built about 8,850 km (5,500 mi) worth of the wall between the years 1300 – 1600.  And some parts of the wall are as old as 7th century BC. Most of the original wall is in disrepair and cannot be visited, but the areas that are still available to visit, have had to be renovated and maintained.

Once you are there, you completely understand why they did it.  It definitely made sense as a fortress against enemies – where the visibility across so much terrain would have been critical to their defense.

Some Tips for Your Visit

I must say, I was not prepared for this because I extended a business trip a few extra days, so I had only packed heels and sandals – which I will strongly advise against! You NEED sneakers. Need. So much of the surface area is uneven, slanted, wobbly, or comprised of stairs so no footwear can properly equip you for it. However, sneakers are probably your best bet.  I slipped and stumbled so much in my sandals that I want to go back just to enjoy it more carefully.

Another tip is mostly directed for the female visitors, but, the restroom situation there is BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) so make sure you keep enough for your visit in your purse or backback. The ride to/from the Great Wall of China is very long so you’re very likely to be visiting the restrooms there.

My Favorite Part of the Visit

That probably was my favorite part of the visit – the view of all the surrounding area. So impressive. So beautifully breath-taking. I do plan to return so I can bring my daughter. I’ll wear sneakers too.

Here are some of my amateur photos:

The Great Wall of China, Beijing / Image Source: Pepper V.
The Great Wall of China, Beijing / Image Source: Pepper V.
The Great Wall of China, Beijing / Image Source: Pepper V.
The Great Wall of China, Beijing / Image Source: Pepper V.
The Great Wall of China, Beijing / Image Source: Pepper V.
The Great Wall of China, Beijing / Image Source: Pepper V.

When Gifts Cause Problems, Part 2

When Gifts Cause Problems

Everyone remember the lady that was sending me random gifts by mail? If you need a refresher, here’s a link to the original post: When Gifts Cause Problems.

I had to tell her to stop bc it was getting to be too much… And then I stopped talking to her bc I didn’t want to encourage her to send more…

Well, I have an update…

… I just received a new gift from her in the mail today.

Image Source: Me

Considering that I haven’t chatted with her since I told her to stop, this was really unexpected. And it’s much more uncomfortable to me.

Another thing that’s bothering me about these gifts is that my husband even thinks it’s incredibly weird and he’s questioning who’s sending me all these gifts that are signed with hearts all over. I keep telling him it’s a lady I met on the internet but the more gifts that arrive, the less he believes me. I really don’t need this stress in my life.

And I don’t know how to make her stop. I’ve very clearly told her to stop. And I’ve even stopped chatting with her, bc I feel like engaging with her will only encourage her to keep sending. She doesn’t put a return address on her mail, so how can I block her mail from me without a return address? I can’t even return-to-sender so she knows I’m not accepting it.

Ugh, what would you do if you were me?

That Time I PhotoBombed Royalty

When going through my old photos, I found this one where I photobombed royalty when I found myself in the same room as a member of the British royal family about 4-5 years ago.

This was a business event for me and I had to make a work appearance at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London. And Princess Anne was there as well, also making an appearance.

PS: It was Paul at Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill that correctly identified her for me as Princess Anne, the Queen’s only daughter. Thanks so much Paul! I originally could not recall who she was. Oops. 🤗

My Site Migration Experience Wasn’t Great

Ok. I think I finally got everything back up and running after attempting my site migration from to If so, then I’m completely self-hosted! Woo! And I’m NEVER going through that again folks, so this is it.

None of the WordPress migrator plugins worked for me. Because I was originally on Premium, which doesn’t allow plugins. So wherever you read that there is a special migrator plugin that makes moving-over your site super-easy… it doesn’t apply to you unless you are on Business or already. I’m kinda upset they never clarified that. The wording always implied that the plugin works for WordPress. Period.

I feel tricked, bc I didn’t find out about that criteria until AFTER I already paid and started the installation process.

I even contacted SiteGround support about it, and they didn’t help me. They explained that the plugin wouldn’t apply to me and referred me to WordPress support. So now I don’t even believe what they say about excellent customer support either.

Anyhow, so I had to move over everything using the exporter / importer tool, which I actually don’t have any complaints over. THAT was super easy. But I’m still upset that the original path I had intended and planned for was denied to me. AND I’m still upset that I had to figure out my new course of action completely on my own. SiteGround support didn’t help me figure that out.

So after exporting everything, I did have to setup my theme, widgets, menus, categories, etc all over again. None of that stuff got transferred over. Also, none of my followers carried over either. That matter became another engagement with SiteGround support and they again referred me to WordPress. Didn’t help me at all.

I had to spend alot of time Googling that solution on my own, and finally installed the JetPack plugin for it. So far, it seems to have worked, but I’m not 100% sure.

Anyhow, I think I’ve gotten to a stopping point. I’m tired of working on it. Still kinda sour over the whole thing too. But will you all please let me know if something isn’t working for you anymore? I’m still in fix-it mode over this whole thing.

And I’m especially worried about Comments. They weren’t working last night, and I’m not sure if they’re fixed yet. I’m guessing the problem might originate with comments from Reader, but I’m not sure. I’ve reached out to WordPress support about this more than 8 hours ago, and I finally received an email response back from them saying they don’t know what my problem is. So I’m on my own. Again.

I’m not doing anything crazy with my site, so the fact that 3 separate instances of reaching out to support for basic needs have gone unmet, have left a poor impression with me. Because any direction at all from them, would have saved me HOURS of Google research and trial-and-error on my own.

I hope you all have been enjoying a better weekend than I have.

Delicious Spinach Tomato Tortellini

Spinach Tomato Tortellini

Anybody else tired of thanksgiving turkey yet? If you’re like me and craving something completely different, then try this spinach tomato tortellini recipe. It’s delicious, one of my favorite meals, and also quite easy to make.

Spinach Tomato Tortellini / Image Source: Pepper V.

You’ll need the following ingredients…

1 pkg (20 oz.) refrigerated three cheese tortellini
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/4 cups milk (I use whole milk, but 2% should work too)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes (undrained)
7oz fresh spinach (I buy the 10oz package, and save the remainder for a salad later)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)

And then follow these steps:

  1. Cook tortellini according to directions listed on package.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large and deep skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, flour and onion powder and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
  3. While whisking, slowly pour in milk and cream, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins barely simmer and thicken, then add tomatoes, spinach, basil, oregano and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Reduce heat slightly and cook several minutes longer until sauce has thickened and cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
  6. Toss cooked and drained tortellini into sauce mixture.
  7. Serve warm sprinkled with additional parmesan cheese and optional red pepper flakes.