How To Get Over A Toxic Workplace

It started out of the blue.

When I started the job, I couldn’t stop telling people how awesome it was. My manager even said, “Here we don’t blame. We fix”. The first year working for the company was great. Yes, there were occasional people that disappeared, got taken away by ambulances due to panic attacks and even a suicide attempt by a co-worker (none of which could be tied back to the employer).

More than a year after I started at the company, when it was time for bonuses and increases discussions, my boss had a KPI meeting with me. 

For some odd reason, they were very unhappy. This was really the first that I heard of it. I was told that for my seniority, I didn’t measure up to their standards. 

When the bonus arrived, it was a fraction of what it should’ve been.

They told some of my co-worker friends that I didn’t perform. 

They screamed at me.

I had to do overtime whenever they called.

Imagine that.

But it’s not unheard of. It happens often.

The lack of honesty

I personally believe that the issue is not about being incompetent – I knew I was a good developer. The fact was that honesty was not part of the way they do business.

This is not an isolated case. People have a problem being honest. 

Think of disclosing needs in a marriage

Think of debt.

Think of friendships and business partnerships.

We need to learn to be honest. 

The overtime landscape in South Africa

When reading books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, one can understand why he feels employment is inferior to self-employment. One of my friends famously said:

The difference between an employee and a contractor is you can ask an employee to make you coffee

In many industries, it’s about hours. In other industries, it’s about the end product.

Employees, especially in the professional services industry, focus on delivering an end product. Product and business owners decide on a deadline, and this needs to be met at the cost of your time.

Let me be clear: I am not against overtime. I am against the abuse of power of some employers that force their employees to work on non-critical things after hours without paying them.

Detox from the work environment

When it comes to working, we need to realise a few things:

  • The work will never stop – there will always be more work
  • Not everything is urgent, even if people are screaming at you
  • It’s about your competence and the perception of your competence. It’s not about your worth
  •  A company will replace you as soon as you’re gone – Sometimes even before you’re gone!

Detoxing actions

I believe actions speak louder than words. And sometimes you can do small things to lift yourself out of the hell hole of a job that you find yourself in.

Here are some ideas to move on:

  • Be kind to yourself – What if this was your spouse or friend? What would you do for them?
    • Forgive yourself for situations that you could’ve handled better
  • Focus on something that you love for a while
    • I love making Chinese dumplings. I made loads of these over the last year! 
    • Maybe take some time to rest and get over it. If you don’t have to jump into a new job immediately (or can negotiate for a month’s sabbatical), do it!
  • Stop the negative self-talk
    • Become mindful of how you talk about your skills, abilities and worth. Speak words of life.
    • Set time aside for working through false beliefs.


Never let the beliefs of a toxic work environment become the truth that you believe. 

You’re not defined by a job.

If you were treated unfairly – it’s okay. 

You can live a life beyond the past.

Don’t believe their lies.

Happy investing.

Sources consulted