Remember the school playground bullies who terrorized the smaller kids? Some of those bullies have climbed corporate ladders and continue terrorizing others, but on bigger playgrounds–workplaces.
Now they use more subtle psychological weapons; and unlike their days on the playground, they often have the support of the organizational hierarchy.
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Carlos worked for years under an abusive boss–until the boss fired him. At first he felt devastated, and he struggled to find a new job. Now, four months later, he’s thankful to have found a position with a decent, respectful boss.
When Carlos recently encountered Michelle, a former co-worker, he had a flash of unpleasant memories. He felt bad to learn that Michelle was still under the boss’s thumb; he was shocked to see how gaunt and exhausted she looked.
This column is for Carlos, Michelle, and anyone else who has stuck with an unbearable situation for far too long. Here are five steps to get out of an abusive workplace.
1) RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT THE SITUATION FOR WHAT IT IS
Because quitting immediately, without having another job lined up, is seldom an option, practice accepting your present situation.
Say to yourself, “This is the place where I am for now and for me to learn what I need to learn in life.” You can’t afford to waste your precious energy mired in hating your job.
Externally, you may still lobby for change, stand up for yourself, document abuse with your human resources contact, stop taking it personally, set boundaries with the boss, and/or restructure tasks so you’ll have less contact with him/her.
2) FIND THE LESSONS
Take time to assess what you have learned from this experience, and write down at least three lessons.
Could you have gotten promises in writing? Asked more detailed questions before taking the job? Researched the company’s reputation? Sought out former employees? Noting the lessons will help prevent you from repeating mistakes.
3) GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
Whether it comes from trusted friends, a career counselor, or both, you need to have someone standing with you. This is no time to be stubborn and face it alone.
With the office bully inflicting frequent blows to your self-esteem, you need to have some external validation of your abilities and self worth. As author Robin Sheerer says, “You need to have a ‘Hallelujah’ chorus rooting for you.”
This doesn’t mean having “ain’t it awful” gripe sessions. It means finding positive people who will encourage you to go for it, make plans, and risk change. This support is priceless–and crucial.
4) VISUALIZE THE IDEAL
Imagine your ideal work scenario. What kind of work would you do? What type of people would you work with? Describe your work environment. Allow your visualization to be as detailed as possible. Our thoughts have tremendous power to influence our decisions and actions.
5) TAKE ACTION
Plan your next steps, but don’t get bogged down in the planning stage. Then take action! This could include: Taking a stopgap job, even if it means a temporary pay cut; Updating skills to improve your competitive edge; Learning to interview more effectively; or Learning how to tap into the unpublished job market.
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With the serenity of internal acceptance, the precautions of your “lessons learned,” support from your Hallelujah chorus, a strong image of your goal, and persistent action, you CAN leave your abusive workplace. You’ll be freed to achieve more, feel better, and advance your career.
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the contact form on my website.