Hi, my name is Rahkal Shelton. I am a 35-year-old professional and newbie edupreneur (educator + entrepreneur). Recently, I fired my employer after 5 + years of partnership.
I fired my employer for a couple of reasons.
1. It was time to go. I had outworn my welcome and hit a glass ceiling in my role. I would have considered staying longer, but only in a different capacity.
2. Five years is a reasonable amount of time — upward mobility.
3. Stress associated with "playing the game" (wearing a mask/suppressing my authentic voice), being an ONLY and the toxicity of my workspace was too exhausting. My health was impacted gravely.
Work stress can be very difficult to address and process. I mean, we need our jobs, benefits, and compensation. Right? But, isn't peace, priceless?
THIS BLOG IS ABOUT IDENTIFYING TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENTS & CHOOSING YOU.
Working five years with the company, I had the privilege to work in multiple departments. Each department was unique, and further allowed me to learn the business. I interacted with various people and talent from all walks of life. I loved working for the company and moved specifically to Atlanta to do so. While a great deal of my time was positive and rewarding, many experiences were also negative.
My Granny would say, "tell the truth and shame the devil."
It's really no other way to describe it. Being there, I learned the value and importance of creating and sustaining healthy work cultures. Additionally, I observed the importance of and need for effective leadership to weed out toxicity. I mean people will be people (which we can't control), but culture checking and correcting must be a priority. Period.
Listen, it's often the environment that forces great workers out the door, in the hospital, and on therapy couches. Yes, crazy clients, strict deadlines, stretching thin, heavy workloads, prejudices, and unrealistic expectations are significant factors, too. But, the environment and the culture is KING.
Don't get me wrong; it's tough to speak up, especially about leadership and negative cultures... publicly. There's a real fear associated with speaking up at work. Heck, there's fear in speaking up anywhere despite us knowing how dangerous silence can be. It's the reason things stay the same, people depart, and growth never happens.
Furthermore, no one wants to be blackballed or blacklisted. Who wants to be a whistle-blower or hated by colleagues? Tough, right?
Well someone will need to speak up at some point, suffer in silence or exit stage left. Me, I will rather be hated for speaking up or standing for something that I believe.
I can see if I were a trouble maker, discreditable, or have an HR wrap sheet as long as CVS receipts. I don't. I can honestly say every job (including my first job at 16), and every performance review has been nothing short of positive.
Not to be cocky, but my work ethic, reputation, and resume speak volumes. Is there room for me to grow? Yes! By all and any means, absolutely! I am an advocate for professional and personal development. I am an agent for change. I care about ethics. I care about people!
I mean, how can companies, nonprofits, individuals and business grow if the feedback isn't received, issues addressed and cancerous behaviors exposed?
Hopefully, I can help you identify your environment and if you should take action.
What makes an environment toxic? I'm so glad you asked. I do not have all the answers, but below are a couple of points to ponder. Hopefully, they're helpful in case you need to identify something in your workspace.
5 Ways to identify if you're working in a toxic environment.
1. Oppressive GOSSIP Cultures - nothing and no one is safe in these. Specifically, if colleagues engage in sharing information and their own opinions of others with no filter, loyalty, or concern about the harmful effects of the narrative they created or the venom they spew. Yea, it's a problem.
If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything.
2. Cliquish, Privilege, Nepotism & Favoritism - can be tough to observe, especially if you're on the other end of the inclusion spectrum. It's painful watching under-qualified individuals advance ahead of you, receive preferential treatment and perks not available to everyone, or earn more than you because of who they know or their ethnicity. We've all witnessed this in some capacity. It's just painful, period.
3. Conniving Behaviors - are prevalent in the workplace, far too often. THESE PEOPLE ARE MISERABLE! Their behaviors are sometimes covertly masked by warm smiles and fake energy. They'll befriend you, ask about your weekend and family while sending negative emails about you, unnecessarily CC and BCCing others. These people conspire and plot ways to trip others up, have them fired, written up, etc. You have to watch out for these people. If you've observed them demonstrating conniving behavior towards others, they'll do it to you.
4. Ineffective Leadership and Management - massive distrust in management to do their jobs, be professional, keep confidential information, confidential and to govern justly, unbiased, and professionally. Oh and anytime leadership partakes in 1-3 listed above, it's highly problematic.
Leadership is not a Position… It's a Posture.
5. Health changes - If work is causing you to feel sick, stressed, depressed, or anxious: this is a problem! If there is stress, introversion, or a desire to avoid colleagues and conversations: your health is likely impacted. If you have anxiety when pulling up, parking, or walking in the building, and If you struggle to sleep at night or fear missing an email, getting something wrong, being reprimanded, responding timely, or reaching deadlines:
Ma'am/Sir, listen to your health.
Lastly, If you feel you can't be yourself, you feel heavy, sad, or disturbed by your environment and your personality shifts dramatically at work or around colleagues: something has to give.
These are all signs that toxicity not only exist in your workplace but is harmful to your health.
If you resonate with any of this, you are in a toxic environment. My advice is to preserve you, speak up, take action, or exit stage left.
Situations like these can kill you, kill your spirit, confidence, and essence.