How To Recover After Leaving A Toxic Work Environment

by | Career Growth, Mental Health

Toxic work environments can negatively impact your mental health and well-being, so if your workplace is too stressful or anxiety-producing, you might consider quitting. According to recent research by MIT Sloan School of Management, toxic company culture is the top predictor of employee attrition.

How do you know if you’re in a toxic work environment and it’s time to quit, and what steps can you take to recover after escaping? In this article, I share how to identify the signs of a toxic workplace and strategies to help you recover once you leave one.

What Are The Signs Of A Toxic Work Environment?

To begin, how can you recognize whether you’re in a toxic workplace? In this Forbes article, I share three signs your workplace might be toxic and it’s time to get out. Here’s a summary:

1. Your boss’s expectations are unrealistic.

While good bosses empower you to be your best, they should also set realistic expectations. If your boss constantly demands quick turnarounds, you’re repeatedly asked to work long hours to catch up, or feel like there’s never enough time to meet all of your boss’s expectations, you might be in an unhealthy work environment.

2. Your boundaries are disrespected.

Lack of respect for boundaries is a common issue within toxic workplaces. Simply put, you deserve a boss who respects you. Consequently, if your boundaries are disrespected, or you feel uncomfortable speaking up in the first place, it might be a red flag.

3. You often think about quitting your job.

We all have bad days at work, but if you consistently think about quitting, you may be in a toxic work environment. I encourage my coaching clients to complete a quick tally of their last month of work. If their bad days outnumber their good days, it’s likely time to look for a new job.

Importantly, this list is just a start, as there are countless signs of a toxic workplace. If you are contemplating leaving your current job, listen to your gut and trust your intuition.

How Do You Recover After A Toxic Workplace?

Now, how do you heal once you successfully escape a toxic work environment? Here are four steps to recovery:

1. Release any pent-up emotions.

Because a lot of emotions can arise after getting out of a bad job, one of the first steps you will want to take is to find an effective method of releasing any negative energy you’re holding toward your previous employer.

Writing can be an effective method to do this. Consider the following journal prompts:

  • What feelings do you have toward your previous employer? Where in your body do you feel them?
  • What would be helpful to release these feelings right now? What do you need right now?
  • How can you show yourself self-compassion and love in this moment?

It’s okay if you’re not a fan of writing; you can still answer the above questions aloud, perhaps while taking a walk to clear your mind. The goal is to begin thinking about closure.

2. Work toward forgiveness.

Similarly, you may want to think about taking steps toward forgiveness, which means different things for different people.

I will often assign my coaching clients the “homework” assignment of writing a letter to their former boss. In this letter, they honestly express both their feelings and the actions they wish their workplace had taken. While the typical intention isn’t to share the letter, clients say that the process is incredibly therapeutic.

Another “homework” assignment clients enjoy is Hoʻoponopono, a Hawaiian teaching of forgiveness that involves taking responsibility for your actions and includes a four-step ritual they repeat to themselves:

  • “I am sorry.
  • “Please forgive me.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “I love you.”

If you hold negative energy toward a former supervisor named Karen, for instance, you might repeat the following ritual. Importantly, the ritual isn’t about accepting fault. Instead, it’s about clearing any negative energy so that you can move on.

  • “I am sorry, Karen.”
  • “Please forgive me, Karen.”
  • “Thank you, Karen.”
  • “I love you, Karen.”

3. Consider working with a therapist.

You may also find it helpful to pursue mental health therapy, as the road to recovery after leaving a toxic company can be long. In addition to providing a safe space to talk out your feelings, a therapist can also equip you with additional techniques for managing any lingering stress or anxiety you may be experiencing.

4. Hire a career coach.

Lastly, if you’re not already working with one, consider working with a career coach to support you in developing and implementing a job search strategy and reclaiming your confidence. It’s important to choose a coach who has experience in supporting job seekers who have escaped toxic workplaces, as rebuilding your confidence will be an involved process.

[Read: What Trauma-Informed Coaching Is (And What It Isn’t)]

On a final note, know that it will take time to heal and recover. Be patient with yourself and the process. You’ve got this!

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).



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