If you are currently wondering whether it is okay to burn bridges if you’re in a toxic work environment, you will find this article insightful.
As the world continues to adjust to more than two (2) years of a global pandemic, employees are paying greater attention to their work environments and cultures. In the confinement that consumed us, we watched and panicked as millions of people lost their battle with the virus because of ill health.
For those who survived, closer attention was given to the quality of their work life and how toxic work environments were impacting their health and lives.
Employees responded by ‘Quiet Quitting‘ and driving the ‘Great Resignation‘.
So, Is It Okay To Burn Bridges If You Are In a Toxic Environment?
Yes! It is okay to burn your bridges behind you if you are in a toxic environment! It is okay because NOTHING is worth sacrificing your health and well-being for. However, do your best to leave on good terms. Life takes unexpected turns and you may need to return, if only for an employment recommendation. Once the level of toxicity is so high that it leaves you no choice but to burn your bridges, save yourself first.
Just like personal relationships, it may take you some time to realise that the environment you chose is toxic. Or, changes such as a new boss or different co-workers could make your company’s culture go from good to not-so-good.
Whilst speaking out can be beneficial, sometimes it has no impact or can cause the environment to become even more toxic for you.
As bad as they may be, having negative experiences in the workplace does have an upside. It does make you appreciate a healthy and engaging environment.
When Should You Burn Bridges At Work?
“Never say ‘Never!'”
That is what the adage about burning bridges is built on (no pun intended). You never know when you have to backtrack.
Some environments could be so toxic that burning the bridges leading to them may well be your best choice. It keeps you moving away from the very environment that caused you pain and grief.
The action could actually be an enabler for you and force you to find something better for your health and future.
Some bridges desperately need to be burned for your own sake and self-preservation. Although burning bridges involves taking risks, you need to take a strong stand at times.
But, remember, burning bridges should be your last option.
Why Is It So Hard To Leave A Toxic Environment?
There is an irony here.
Making a healthy decision requires congruency – a clear mind, calm emotions and aligned behaviours. Functioning in a toxic environment pushes you towards incongruency.
It drains your positive energy and leaves you feeling pressured, stressed and desperate to leave. The conflict lies in the fact that you become so empty and distressed that you end up paralyzed and unable to move towards taking the necessary steps to leave.
Toxic environments batter you mentally and emotionally. Eventually, you fall into the fight-freeze-flight model. This is no different to how an individual would behave when they are subjected to physical violence.
Pay attention to your environment regularly. Become aware of its effects on your health and well-being and take steps early to mitigate the risks of damage to your personal wellness.
RELATED TOPIC >>>> Is Congruence Important In Business?
How Do You know If An Environment Is Toxic?
The number one sign that a workplace is toxic is turnover. This is something that you can research before you make a decision to join the workforce.
I recall not doing sufficient research when I joined a family-owned business later on in my career. The owner functioned as the Executive Chairman and all my interaction prior to making the decision was with members of the Executive Team.
The role was sold as an opportunity to eventually buy into the business. I did not pay attention to the fact that the CEO and Managers said little when we met. In addition, I knew most of them from my previous career roles.
That familiarity was what I based my decision on. But, that knowledge was limited.
So remember to do your research. It is a lot easier now to head over to Google, LinkedIn or other social media platforms and see what or who you find.
Reach out to people who know that organisation and get some feedback.
Other ways of knowing if your work culture is toxic include:
- Lack of trust.
- Unwillingness to speak up.
- No confidence in management or leadership.
- Conflicted words and actions.
- Disgruntled and unhappy employees.
- No desire to go the extra mile if/when needed.
How Do You Know When It Is Time To Leave?
When you have finally had enough of the toxic environment and the behaviours in it, it is time to leave.
This comes after you have made efforts to improve the situation and tried to bring awareness to what is happening. Not everyone or every environment can be “fixed“. Sometimes, the majority of people are comfortable falling into the routine and expectations of their workplace.
But, if your mental, emotional, professional and personal health are being negatively affected and you are ready to walk away, then it is the right time.
Act on what is best for you. That is the only thing you can control. You have no control over the actions of others, more so if you are not positioned with sufficient influence to change the environment.
And remember, this does not refer to a title. Even Executives find themselves outside of the circle of influence and control at times.
ADDITIONAL READING >>>> Why Is 40% Of The Workforce Still Looking to Quit Their Jobs?
Closing Thoughts . . .
No one likes to burn bridges even when they are in a toxic environment. It is not the best way to walk away and close the door behind you.
In my career, I have had to walk away from toxic environments, toxic employees, toxic owners and even a toxic Government. They were not easy choices to make but I felt that they were required to preserve my health and well-being.
There is a good side.
In 1996, while living in New Zealand, I started my own Management Consulting and Facilitation firm. I also continued to invest in my learning and development, acquiring innovative and effective skills that continue to serve me well.
As I built my firm, I continued to step into the corporate space still trying to “fit in”. Maybe my choices did not align with my values and ethics. Not everyone is called to be an employee and give up control over others.
Today, my boutique firm holds healthy spaces for our partners and clients to find their voice and their strength and discover their own greatness.
Even the worst experiences can be used as stepping stones to better.
The choice is yours. When necessary, choose to Change Your Script.
Share Your Thoughts And Experiences
What about you?
Have you ever been in a toxic work environment and felt that you had to burn your bridges?
Are you at that junction now and wondering what you should do?
Leave a comment below.
It would be a pleasure to interact with you.
Any ideas for an article? Let me know below.
About The Author
Cassandra is a Management Consultant, Internationally qualified Facilitator, Coach, Strategist and Behaviour Change Agent. She enjoys travelling, exploring cultures and learning about historical and social networks and dynamics.
Her driving force is the education and development of her tween daughter. The roots of her inspiration to diversify her niche markets and the motivation to expand and scale her business investments rest firmly in this relationship.
This is the reason for creating her legacy.