You’ve Left a Toxic Job, Congrats. Now Comes the Healing. (2023)

Watching less-qualified coworkers land promotions as she was passed over again and again made Raydiance Dangerfield, who was working in learning and development in Maryland at the time, question her skills and talents. Facing a barrage of constant microaggressions from her peers on top of that changed how she built—and felt about—her professional relationships. She ultimately left her job, but entered a new one feeling paranoid and distrustful.

Working in a toxic environment—which may manifest as ostracism, incivility, harassment, bullying, and other behaviors by leaders, managers, and colleagues—harms productivity and performance, erodes bonds among colleagues, and is associated with stress and burnout. Toxic environments can also impair employees’ lives beyond their workplaces, leaving them feeling emotionally drained and experiencing lower well-being and increased conflict at home.

So leaving a toxic workplace as soon as you can is a healthy choice. But taking that step doesn’t necessarily mean you’re over it. “I know from personal experience that even if you get another job, even if you move across her country, you can’t keep avoiding your past,” writes Minda Harts in her book Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace, which centers the experiences of women of color dealing with toxic workplaces. “If you don’t face trauma head-on, it’s just another bag you have to carry that was never supposed to be yours in the first place.”

After enduring a toxic workplace, you might, like Dangerfield, secure a new job. This one is different—new people, a new environment, maybe even new job duties—but that doesn’t magically erase your previous experience.Perhaps you’re anxious when it’s time to connect with a new manager because your last boss was a bully. Or maybe you don’t feel confident enough to speak up in meetings because you were silenced at your old gig, and that made you feel unsafe to share.

(Video) How Black Women Can Heal After Leaving a Toxic Workplace

Simply put, you may still be carrying the effects of the old toxic work environment with you. But if you want to start fresh and keep your career moving forward, there are steps you can take to put the toxicity behind.

Remember your “why.”

“To keep things in perspective, remember both why you left your previous employer and why you chose your new one,” says Farah Harris, LCPC, psychotherapist and well-being expert.

Identifying why you left helps you become aware of your boundaries, Harris says. “Was it because of a micromanager or racial aggressions, or was it a lack of effective communication?” If you’ve pinpointed the toxic behaviors that drove you from your last job, you can examine whether these same patterns are actually playing out in your new one—or if your past experience is coloring how you read and react to the present.

“Once you’re aware of and acknowledge your feelings, it equips you to make better, conscious decisions versus subconsciously informing your perspective and actions,” says Dangerfield, who is now a career coach and the owner of My Curated Career.

(Video) Friends: Ross Cheats on Rachel (Season 3 Clip) | TBS

And when you’re clear not only on why you left, but also on what you saw in your new employer that made you take this job, your focus is sharpened on whether it’s truly a good fit. Then you can start to realize what it is you need from your boss and coworkers to set you up for professional success and well-being going forward.

Go deeper.

“Sometimes you will leave a toxic work environment and don’t know exactly how it impacts you until [you] become triggered at the new place,” Harris says. Identifying your triggers—being intentionally interrupted during team meetings, for instance, or being thrown under the bus by a team member—is only the first step.

“You have to be self-aware, so you can’t just say, ‘This [manager or coworker’s behavior] makes me anxious.’ Why does it make you anxious?” Harris says. If a boss micromanaging you makes you anxious, for example, you might dig deeper to realize that autonomy is something you value and when that boundary is crossed it triggers a negative reaction—and it’s particularly upsetting because you have experience with a manager violating that boundary in the past.

Exploring those feelings by journaling or freewriting can help, Harris says. Use these prompts to get started:


  • What is the hardest, most uncomfortable emotion for you to feel at work? Explain.
  • Think of an earlier time in your work life when you felt similar negative feelings and write about it.
  • Review the situation that triggered you and write out the facts without personalizing it.
  • Is there an emotion that you want to feel (or feel more of) at work?

Talk to your manager.

If you’re fearful that you may be transferring feelings about your old job to your new one, consider having an honest conversation with your boss about what you’re feeling to reset expectations for a positive work experience.

Note that this does not mean you should go in and bash your previous employer or vent about your former boss, Harris says. A verbal dump with no clear objectives could tarnish your reputation early on.

Instead, focus on what will help you succeed. “If you can be clear about how they can get the best and most out of you, then both of you can be on the same page in terms of expectations,” Harris says. The more self-aware you are—remember when you identified your triggers and why you react to them as you do?—the easier it becomes to advocate for yourself. And using very specific language can keep you on track and communicate what works best for you in your new gig. Try direct statements like, “I am in my zone of genius when...” or, “I tend to do my best work when…” to convey to your manager how they can support you.

“That’s the vulnerability piece, and it can be a bit scary,” Harris says. But “a good leader will actively listen to see how they can put their employee at ease, take heed of what is being said, and follow up with consistent check-ins to see how the employee is doing and provide constructive feedback.”

(Video) Next Steps To Leaving Your Toxic Job For Black Women In Hostile Work Environments #blackwomen

Build your support network.

If you’re feeling like you’re looking over your shoulder at your new job, Dangerfield says this is a good time to reach out to your network or begin to cultivate a new one. A professional network or personal board of directors can offer guidance and encouragement, she says. “They can be used as a mental check to see if your trauma is responding, or if, in fact, you are experiencing toxic behaviors at your new workplace.”

And since you’ve been through what can be a pretty lonely and isolating experience that can have a negative impact on your life at and outside of work, it’s all the more important to tend to your professional as well as personal relationships as you recover.

Be mindful, however, that even the best-intentioned mentor or friend can’t necessarily provide all the support you may need right now. “Get a career coach. They can help you get really clear on the vision (for your career) and come up with a plan,” says Dangerfield, who sought help from both a career coach and a therapist when she was looking for a healthier work environment.

A career coach can also help you evaluate new opportunities, for example, or navigate setting boundaries at a new job. A mental health professional can do the same—and support you in other ways as you recover from your past experiences and develop new habits and relationships. (You can find a career coach on The Muse and you can access therapy and other mental health resources through your employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program or online using platforms such as GoodTherapy, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Latinx, and Talkspace.)

(Video) Black Women Leaving Toxic Jobs ✌🏾 w/ Dr. Kimani Norrington-Sands

Letting go of the after-effects of a toxic work environment can be challenging. But using a combination of strategies can help you recover—so you can take full advantage of this opportunity and kickstart your new professional life.

Read more on The Muse’s “toxic aware” landing page.


How do you answer why you left a toxic job? ›

Explain the growth and achievements that you've contributed to while at the company and state that the reason for the change is to experience new challenges and growth opportunities,” she adds. By starting with something positive, you'll be less inclined to veer toward the more negative reasons you're moving on.

How do you respond to a toxic workplace? ›

How to survive a toxic workplace
  1. Build a network of trusted co-workers. Toxic workplaces are filled with people who are selfish, judgmental, and manipulative. ...
  2. Stay focused on important goals. ...
  3. Be nice to everyone (even toxic co-workers) ...
  4. Strive for strong work-life balance. ...
  5. Know that nothing is permanent. ...
  6. Find better.

What is the aftermath of a toxic job? ›

Working in a toxic environment—which may manifest as ostracism, incivility, harassment, bullying, and other behaviors by leaders, managers, and colleagues—harms productivity and performance, erodes bonds among colleagues, and is associated with stress and burnout.

What is the most popular reason a good employee quits? ›

According to the Pew study, 57% of Americans quit their jobs in 2021 because they felt disrespected at work. And 35% of those surveyed highlighted this as a major reason for quitting.

How do you explain why you left a job quickly? ›

Example Answers for “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”
  1. Lack of Advancement Opportunities. “I was eager to advance in my career and independently lead more projects. ...
  2. Wanting a New Challenge. ...
  3. Changing Careers. ...
  4. Fired. ...
  5. Laid Off. ...
  6. Family Responsibilities. ...
  7. Be Positive. ...
  8. Be Honest.

How long does it take to heal from a toxic workplace? ›

For most of us, however, it can take weeks or months to recover. A toxic workplace can leave wounds and scars on our self-esteem and confidence. So what can you do to feel more grounded and sure of yourself?

How long does it take to recover from a toxic boss? ›

Some studies show that it may take up to 22 months to recover physically and emotionally from a toxic boss. While the idea of quitting may seem scary, the reality of staying in a job with a toxic boss can be even scarier. Bad bosses should be taken seriously.

How do you recover from burnout after quitting? ›

Here are some activities and lifestyle changes you can try out to recover from burnout:
  1. Keep Track of Your Stress Levels. You may be aware that you're stressed. ...
  2. Try Journaling. ...
  3. Move Your Body. ...
  4. Try Stress Management Techniques. ...
  5. Set Boundaries. ...
  6. Be Compassionate… ...
  7. Reset Your Sleep Schedule. ...
  8. Nourish Your Body.
Jan 17, 2023

Why is it so hard to leave a toxic job? ›

Most people perfectly understand they are in a toxic workplace. Then, why is it so hard to get out? First, we can mention inertia, also called status quo bias. People have a natural tendency to stay where they are even when they are aware there may be something better out there.

Do you tell a toxic person they are toxic? ›

Be honest about how the toxic trait impacts you

As we mentioned, many people don't realize they have toxic traits. So, telling someone that their actions have hurt your emotional well-being may help them understand they need to change.

How do you respond to toxic behavior? ›

Read on for tips on how to respond to this type of behavior.
  1. Avoid playing into their reality. ...
  2. Don't get drawn in. ...
  3. Pay attention to how they make you feel. ...
  4. Talk to them about their behavior. ...
  5. Put yourself first. ...
  6. Offer compassion, but don't try to fix them. ...
  7. Say no (and walk away) ...
  8. Remember, you aren't at fault.
Nov 20, 2019

Can you get PTSD from a toxic job? ›

What causes emotional workplace trauma? Research shows a link between workplace bullying and symptoms of PTSD. And you may be shocked at how often it happens.

Can you have PTSD from a toxic workplace? ›

PTSD can also be caused by the office culture itself, Marter noted. Ongoing exposure to things like emotional abuse, threatening behaviors, or sexual or racial harassment can result in PTSD in the staff exposed to it.

Is it better to quit a toxic job? ›

Leave if it's affecting your self-esteem.

"Feeling the same fear you do, I stayed at a previous position until it got so bad I was suicidal," says Jen Stephens. "The longer I stayed, the more my mental health deteriorated, making even looking for a new job all but impossible.

What is the number 1 reason employees are fired? ›

Unsatisfactory performance is the primary reason why most employees get fired. Such a reason encompasses a number of specific things that can cause an individual to lose his job.

Why do good employees get fired? ›

Assuming that you are performing your job satisfactorily and not acting crazy at work, firing an employee(s) is a business decision that companies make from time to time. The decision boils down to the fact that your skill set is not aligned with what the company needs from your position at a particular moment in time.

How do bosses feel when you quit? ›

Leaving a job can be an emotional experience for you and your boss. When you tell your supervisor you're quitting, you are essentially stating that you are firing him as your boss. He may feel shocked, angry, or defensive. He may have to answer to a superior about why you decided to leave.

Why did you leave your last job good answers? ›

I'm looking to take on new responsibilities that my current role does not offer.” “My current role isn't using all of my skills, and I would like to find something more challenging.” “I took (or am looking for) a position closer to home.” “The job no longer felt fulling.”

Why did you leave your last job in short time? ›

"I'm looking for an opportunity to advance my career. Thanks to my previous company. I have gained a lot of knowledge and skills from it. I want to grow myself further and I want to learn new things and challenges.

How do you put a positive spin on leaving a job? ›

Be truthful, but put a positive spin on it by emphasizing what you learned from the experience and how you grew. If you have a list of reasons for leaving a job, lead with the one that's professional and highlights your values and what you can bring to your future role.

When should you let a toxic employee go? ›

Never allow a toxic employee to fester in your office year-after-year and damage morale. But DO NOT fire that employee until you have a file full of documentation to show a legitimate business reason for the termination (i.e. negative behavior that affected the entire workplace).

How do you outsmart a toxic manager? ›

7 tips for dealing with a toxic boss
  1. Give them feedback. Some managers might not be aware of just how toxic their actions are, Casciaro says. ...
  2. Try understanding (not excusing) their behavior. ...
  3. Make other connections. ...
  4. Cultivate self-care. ...
  5. Ask for help. ...
  6. Join forces with others. ...
  7. Get TF out.
Jan 24, 2023

Do bosses get mad when you quit? ›

Depending on their emotional state at the time of your conversation, your manager may become immediately upset, or even furious that you are resigning. They may feel a sense of betrayal, as well as anxiety about how they will manage the workload without you.

Is it OK to quit a job due to stress? ›

If your job is causing you so much stress that it's starting to affect your health, then it may be time to consider quitting or perhaps even asking for fewer responsibilities. You may need to take a simple break from work if stress is impacting you from outside your job.

Do people come back from burnout? ›

Despite the grip that burnout has over so many of us, recovery is possible. While there's no quick fix to burnout, there are many ways to alleviate stress levels and return to a healthier state of being.

When your job is mentally draining? ›

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. "Burnout" isn't a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout.

What are signs of a toxic job? ›

What are the signs of a toxic workplace?
  • There are no boundaries around work. ...
  • People don't trust each other. ...
  • There's no room to make mistakes. ...
  • People treat each other with contempt. ...
  • The interpersonal relationships aren't healthy. ...
  • There is no support for employee growth. ...
  • People frequently feel gaslighted.
Jan 24, 2023

Can a toxic employee be fired? ›

Firing a toxic employee is not a personal decision, but a business decision. Keep the situation professional and ask the right questions before you fire someone. Once you decide a toxic employee needs to be fired, do it sooner than later.

What is the most toxic trait? ›

Controlling. One of the most dangerous traits of a toxic person is controlling behavior. They may try to restrict you from contacting your friends or family, or limit resources like transportation or access to money to restrict your ability to interact with the world around you.

What type of people are toxic? ›

A toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life. Many times, people who are toxic are dealing with their own stresses and traumas. To do this, they act in ways that don't present them in the best light and usually upset others along the way.

What are the traits of a toxic man? ›

15 Traits of Toxic People to Watch Out For
  • They're manipulative. ...
  • They take more than they give. ...
  • Their apologies aren't sincere. ...
  • They don't listen to you. ...
  • They make you feel bad. ...
  • They are self-defeating. ...
  • They abuse their power. ...
  • They use the word “I” incessantly.
Aug 26, 2020

Should I reply to a toxic person? ›

When it comes to surrounding ourselves with toxic people, or even listening to what they have to say, it's best to take the highroad and completely ignore them.

How do you respond to toxic positivity? ›

How to deal with toxic positivity
  1. Recognize toxic thinking. Toxic positivity is all about oversimplification and generalization. ...
  2. Don't ignore your emotions. ...
  3. Accept other people's emotions. ...
  4. Be realistic about your feelings. ...
  5. Embrace the complexity of emotions.
Aug 20, 2022

How do you respond without toxic positivity? ›

To provide support and be positive without being toxic, it's important to validate and acknowledge people's feelings and experiences, rather than trying to dismiss or minimize them. This means listening to what they have to say, empathizing with their feelings, and offering support and understanding.

Is toxic stress a trauma? ›

Trauma is the impact felt from high levels of toxic stress. This can be emotional or physical. We may feel toxic stress when we face strong, frequent, or prolonged challenges. These can include abuse, neglect, violence, or substance use in the home.

Can a job traumatize you? ›

Although some joke about being "scarred" by past bad jobs, workplace-induced emotional trauma is real — with long-lasting effects. Career trauma is an "injury" that occurs when an individual experiences a traumatic event in the workplace such as harassment, bullying or being passed over for promotion.

Can a job cause emotional trauma? ›

Emotional trauma can be traced to a variety of causes – from workplace violence, sexual harassment, racism, discrimination or a toxic workplace culture to natural disasters, the loss of a family member or loved one, or a childhood event.

What are the psychological effects of toxic workplace? ›

Similar to an actual toxin in the air, a toxic work environment is detrimental to your mental and physical health. If you stay too long, it can lead to high stress levels, poor self-esteem, and depression. If the toxicity comes from leadership or is a company mindset, there's not much you can do.

What are the signs of work PTSD? ›

Changes in physical and emotional reactions
  • Being easily startled or frightened.
  • Always being on guard for danger.
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior.
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame.

Is it smarter to quit or get fired? ›

The advantages of quitting instead of being fired include the possibility of negotiating severance and a positive recommendation. Disadvantages of quitting include forfeiting the right to claim unemployment. Any time you think your job is in danger, it's a good idea to start looking for a new job just in case.

Why do I feel guilty leaving a toxic job? ›

Feeling guilty about leaving a job is a totally normal reaction. It shows how much you care about the people impacted by your decisions, and how much you're invested. That's a strong reflection of your values.

How do you explain leaving a job you hated? ›

But often, if you truly hate your job, you might need to quit.
Tips for telling your boss that you are leaving:
  1. Give two weeks' notice, if possible. ...
  2. Tell your boss in person. ...
  3. Keep it positive, or neutral. ...
  4. Keep it brief. ...
  5. Offer to help with the transition. ...
  6. Write a resignation letter. ...
  7. Say goodbye to coworkers.
Mar 28, 2022

How to explain leaving a toxic work environment in an interview? ›

How to Explain Your Justifications for Leaving a Negative Environment
  1. #1: Don't Talk About Your Ex-Employer. ...
  2. #2: Keep It Short. ...
  3. #3: Use Specific Examples. ...
  4. You're in a Toxic Environment. ...
  5. There Aren't Opportunities for Career Development or Growth. ...
  6. You Feel Disconnected From Your Work. ...
  7. You're Under-Appreciated and Underpaid.
Oct 2, 2022

Why did you leave your last job best answer? ›

I'm looking to take on new responsibilities that my current role does not offer.” “My current role isn't using all of my skills, and I would like to find something more challenging.” “I took (or am looking for) a position closer to home.” “The job no longer felt fulling.”

What is the most respectful way to quit a job? ›

Here's how to quit a job gracefully:
  • Keep quiet. Don't tell coworkers you plan to quit before you tell your boss.
  • Quit in person. Don't quit by email or by phone. ...
  • Give two weeks' notice. More is better. ...
  • Write a letter of resignation. Turn it in after you quit in person.
Dec 8, 2022

How do you respond to a negative exit interview? ›

Simply note it, acknowledge their feelings by saying, “Sounds like that made you feel demotivated,” and ask them for specific things that could make things better in the future. Write it down, then let them know you'll be following each thing up.


1. God Will Give You A Miracle In 2 Minutes After Praying This Powerful Miracle Prayer
(Beyond Grace)
2. Marvin Sapp - Thank You For It All (Official Lyric Video)
(Marvin Sapp)
3. You Won't Break My Soul: Black Women Healing From Toxic Work Environments #blackwomen #toxicjobs
(Lifting As We Climb Consulting Wellness Services)
4. DOUBLE LUCK 🍀 HEALING SKY: Venus conjunct Jupiter (with Chiron) | All Signs
(Lunatic Astrology)
5. How To LET GO, MOVE ON & HEAL From A Toxic Relationship! | Dr. Ramani & Lewis Howes
(Lewis Howes)
6. You Must WALK AWAY From These People! (Heal From Toxic Breakups & Betrayal) | Dr. Ramani
(Women of Impact)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated: 01/14/2023

Views: 5487

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.