Surviving The Toxic Office – Intros

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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11 Replies to “Surviving The Toxic Office – Intros”

  1. Hi! Happy New Year to you and your family!Somehow I missed lots of your posts. Also, your “like” button not show up on some posts. It says Loading and never appear. I read your articles about your headaches and MRI. I really hope that you figure out what cause these headaches. I wish you health, happiness and may your dreams come true this year! Stay safe! Angela

    1. Hi Angela! I’m sad you’ve missed posts and don’t have a “like” button! Sounds like there’s a technical issue, as I noticed similar when I was trouble-shooting after migrating to SiteGround in November. I figured something got scrambled during the migration, and hoped that it would just shake out with time. But I guess not since you’re still experiencing them. Hm… I wonder how to fix? Still no clue on the headaches, and I’m still trying-out different relief remedies, but nothing has worked. Thank you for all your kind words! I hope you’re having a great weekend! 🙂

  2. Toxic work environments can take a toll on all parts of our life and the journey back to normal can take a long time. I’m glad that you got out of there and seem to be doing better. Sending you lots of love and good thoughts.

    1. Thank you Ann! Yes I’m doing better and soooo thankful to be out of there. I actually REALLY like your word “toxic” about this. I might have to re-write this entire post with toxic included bc it’s a much better description than I was able to come with. Thank you for your editorial help! 🙂

  3. Just recently the owners “son” took over the primary leadership role, the whole dynamics of the company has changed as his “favorites” are now getting all the say in key positions of management whether or not they had the skills to make such decisions. I see a failed company coming soon and have been keeping my eyes open to something else, however in the midst of this pandemic and downturn in the economy i am feeling sort of stuck where i am.

    1. Oh shoot! I know how it feels to feel stuck there. I hope you find something else soon! That’s kinda what happened at my workplace too. The BOSS boss retired, and the guy that took his place wasn’t his son or family, but he definitely built an empire there of close family friends, where there was already a relationship outside of the office. And that clique was TIGHT. And it was definitely an “us” vs “them” mentality where if you weren’t one of them, then they treated you like trash. So terrible. I hope you have much better luck than I did!

  4. I’m sorry you went through this and I relate! Things can get pretty nasty – even in the least suspecting places. I’m glad you’re somewhere new and I look forward to your future posts!

  5. I’m sorry that happened to you, but your sharing the experience will help others. Being able to talk about it is a huge step in healing. HR’s function is to protect the company, not employees so people are often frustrated when HR is a dead end. Wishing you nothing but healing and happiness moving forward!

    1. Thank you for your comment! Yes, I was completely betrayed by HR with my experience. I found out the hard way that HR doesn’t protect the employee at all. This really should be more common information because I don’t feel like employees realize this until it is too late. We need to learn how to protect OURSELVES in the workplace, and not rely on HR or anyone in leadership for that protection, despite what they say.

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