When it’s Time to Leave a Toxic Environment

by Apr 28, 2022

Based on our episode “When it’s Time to Leave a Toxic Environment” with Hilary White


When you’re in a toxic work environment, you always feel like you could work through it or that it was your fault. You may also feel stuck in a bad relationship. You always think that you can change the other person. We think that it’s time to quit. In reality, it’s about choosing ourselves. It’s about not abandoning ourselves.


Some of the red flags in the work environment:
  • No work-life balance

When all of your time is all about work and you can’t even have a day off or leave.

  • If you feel really anxious

You feel anxiety on Sunday nights. You feel anxious because you have to go to work and you know your weekend is gone.

  • Feeling a sense of stress at work 

When you think about work and even when you leave work, it’s still there. 

  • You start feeling like you are not competent at your job and you start comparing yourself to your co-workers

Oftentimes, if there’s competition on your team or within the company, that can be degrading to your sense of self.

It’s about paying attention to yourself, how you’re feeling and acknowledging that you’re feeling a certain way. That means there’s something wrong, and you should always listen to your gut.


Here are some of the things that an employee can do to start to try to change the situation for themselves:
  • Determine the problem

If it’s you, if it’s something that you yourself need to change, or if it’s a company-wide problem.

  • Research about the company first before applying

It gives you some guidance in terms of the company’s goals, employee experiences, and its focus on building diversity and inclusion in healthy workplace cultures. There are so many resources out there now.

  • Talk with your manager

 Ask for guidance and provide a general overview of the problem.

  • Talk to someone you can trust 

If you can’t talk with your direct manager and you can’t even talk with your team members, you should talk to a friend, because if you don’t speak it out, it becomes something of a shame.


If you’re holding on to something and it becomes somewhat of a secret and you’re carrying that burden, it ends up frequently becoming a sense of failure and shame. Then, that just kind of begets more shame, and it makes you not want to talk about it. So, if you have an opportunity to be able to talk with someone that you feel you’ve got trust in a lot of times, that will help you process through and navigate through your next steps.

It’s important that you have a community and you’re talking to someone but then also be aware of how they’re responding to you because if they’re helping you go down a path of being a victim, then that’s not the best option. You want rational people who can emphasize but also help you solve problems.

You’ve got to be very choosy about who you share your information with. Most of us honestly very few people that we feel that we can personally trust and it’s important to get feedback that’s neutral because you’ve got to be able to navigate through that and you’ve got to find those trusted individuals.

If you do decide that the next step is to move forward, and maybe look at leaving. Don’t feel like just because you’ve made that decision that you’ve got to act immediately. It’s about looking at how to navigate out of an abusive relationship or a relationship that’s no longer working. That takes time. 

You’ve got to get your ducks in a row. You’ve got to make sure that as you exit, you’ve got some type of plan. That doesn’t always necessarily mean that you have to have a job; it just means that you’ve got to take the steps and look at what it is. You personally need it to allow you to move through it, and then even after that, if you do go, you’ve got to allow time to process through it. Just because you leave doesn’t mean that the emotions behind the experience will go away. You’ve got to also allow time to go through that process of having to make that decision to leave.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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