Dear Employer: It’s Not Me, It’s You

To all the broke, frustrated, stressed new grads who hate their jobs, it gets better. Yes, even during a pandemic.

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Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Like many 2020 college graduates, I didn’t get to secure a job after graduation. I had barely started looking at job listings when my goals suddenly seemed unattainable. I am currently taking a gap year before attending grad school. However, I still wanted a job that would allow me to grow as a leader, serve my community, and challenge my mind. I was very self-reflective about how I could add value to prospective employers. I wish I had also emphasized whether my employer was the right fit for me.

Interviews are not only for employers to discover talent. They are also the perfect medium to evaluate whether a prospective employer would be a good fit for us -the employees.

So after about half a dozen interviews, I received a couple of job offers. I thought the worst was behind me as I was one of the lucky 2020 graduates with job offers. However, I didn’t know that I should have researched the work environments and found myself in a toxic one.

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leaders are willing to tolerate.” -Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker.

I have reflected on three early signs of toxic work cultures, so you don’t have to stay a minute longer than you absolutely have to.

3 signs that you need to start looking for another job

1. You brace yourself before entering the building.

I remember the way I used to feel during the first month. I always looked for ways to improve systems and had ownership over every aspect of the job. I was genuinely excited to do a great job and to grow every day in my leadership position.

After about a month, I slowly lost my excitement and pride in the job I was doing. My employer insisted on unrealistic deadlines and crazy schedules that jeopardized employers’ health in the name of delivering fast, quality service to customers.

Being an effective leader means to utilize one’s privileged position to serve others -it is about uplifting people, not denigrating or abusing them. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to foster growth among the people I supervised. I also wanted to protect them from abusive managers and a toxic work environment. This earned me being the preferred target of microaggressions and abuse from one of the managers.

Being in constant fight or flight mode started to take a toll on me, mostly since I usually reacted by fighting for the people I supervised. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting to fight for 40+ hours per week.

I knew it was time to start interviewing for other jobs when I realized that I was taking a deep breath and bracing myself before entering the building.

2. You start separating yourself from your employer.

I had a tremendous amount of ownership over my job and space I worked at in the beginning. If there was a problem, I would go the extra mile to fix it, and I cared about whether the business was successful or not. When the company achieved a milestone, I would celebrate the achievement as if it was my own.

As my work environment became increasingly toxic, I realized that I started to remove myself from the business. I was no longer invested in whether a project was successful or not, and I often mentioned the company as separate from me in everyday speech. I switched from using “we” to “I” and “the business.” I was no longer proud to work at this company. I had already begun to speak as if I had no interest in being perceived as having the same values, goals, and achievements.

3. You clock out the second you can.

Towards the end, I would be asked if I could stay longer, and my answer would always be no even though I used to love getting overtime. I used to be so invested in my job at the beginning that I used to have to put an alarm to make sure I remembered to clock out.

As the situation worsened, I didn’t need a reminder anymore. I watched the clock and slowly counted down the hours and minutes before I could escape to the safety of my car.

I also started to take my lunch the second it wasn’t too early for me to do so. I used to eat lunch with my coworkers to talk and often get an early start on the afternoon workload. However, I started to rush out of the building and into my car to eat my lunch. I needed those precious thirty minutes of peace to get through the day.

So dear employer (aka Jeff Bezos): it’s not me, it’s most definitely you.

“People don’t leave jobs, they leave toxic work cultures.”

—Dr. Amina Aitsi-Selmi

While working for you, I voiced my thoughts so often that it soon became painfully clear that you don’t care. I advocated for myself and the people I supervised. Still, you continued to take advantage of people’s needs to make an income when unemployment is at an all-time high.

It’s a shame that instead of working on yourself and fixing what’s wrong with your management team, hiring process, and overall company culture, you seemingly plan to become a revolving door of employees.

I couldn’t tolerate it any longer; thus, I started applying for a new job. I now work for an employer who is as obsessed with my well-being as you are with your customers. I hope you understand one day that it is not okay to abuse employees even if it is in the name of customer service.

P.S. I used to be your customer too.

Advocate for yourself and others! But also learn to identify when you need to leave a toxic environment for your own mental and physical health. You can’t help others if you need help as well.

To all the broke, frustrated, stressed new grads who hate their jobs, it gets better!

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Katherine Ardon (She/Her/Hers)

Written by

Happiest writer and babysitter! B.A. in Psychology and Child Development. Self-care enthusiast. Low impact/waste life.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 128,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Katherine Ardon (She/Her/Hers)

Written by

Happiest writer and babysitter! B.A. in Psychology and Child Development. Self-care enthusiast. Low impact/waste life.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 128,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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