People don’t leave their companies, they leave their managers.
My dear friend and leadership expert, Dr. Bernice Ledbetter of Pepperdine University’s Center for Women in Leadership has often made this observation.
Based on emails from my readers, mountains of research, and my own personal experience, I know how hard it is to decide to leave a position because of workplace bullying.
I once decided to leave a toxic boss and when I gave my notice he said to me, “I just hope you are as good as you think you are!” While that was hard to hear, it solidified my decision to leave.
It turned out that I WAS better than I thought, as I went on to co-found a company and grew it to a global 1,100 person team with $200m in revenue!
However, leaving that environment left me feeling numb for awhile. After working for a toxic boss, our clarity and confidence is eroded. Adding to the stress is the sadness we often feel because we miss the people we worked with, some of whom have become like family. Worst of all, we begin to question ourselves and our value.
You may have done your best to manage your toxic boss, but if (and when) you do decide it’s time to go, there are steps you can take to begin a new and better path that builds on your strengths and experiences and opens new opportunities you may not have considered. These steps below will also give you something positive to do so you don’t wind up in a spin cycle of negative emotions.
By taking these steps, you will continue moving forward and channel your positive focus and energy to accelerate growth and progress.
1. Remind yourself of your value
There’s no better way to boost self-confidence than to take the Strengthsfinder assessment – it costs $15 online and you can finish the assessment in 20-30 minutes. It’s highly accurate and based on 40 years of research. It is chock full of insights and you will recognize attributes in yourself you may have previously discounted.
Also, if you haven’t already, write down a few of the successes you are most proud of in your career.
These two acts alone will build your confidence, give you clarity, and give you tools to use for your next steps.
2. Keep in touch with the colleagues and team members you are leaving behind
Most of your colleagues will be open to re-engaging after you leave – and these relationships are potential sources of friendships and referrals moving forward.
When you consider who to stay in touch with, think not only of personal friendships, but also those professional relationships that will be good for your career – such as references, or potential referrals for a new job. As you think about who to stay connected with, consider characteristics like trustworthiness and track record. You want to continue relationships with people you respect and admire.
Also consider others with whom you worked with, such as suppliers, partners, or anyone with whom you had a positive relationship with. Go as broad as possible in retaining and building relationships. And when you do retain these relationships, think of ways you can help these people, such as giving them introductions to others in your network or giving them information they would find helpful in their career.
Bottom line, do not stay disconnected with former colleagues or business relationships for too long.
3. Take the high road
No matter how toxic the situation was, be friendly and positive. Don’t gossip or trash talk you’re your former boss or employer. By taking the high road, you will be demonstrating good leadership. It will not serve you well to share unflattering things about your boss with people who are still working there. Gossip eventually catches up with you.
Your position in the company will always be part of your story and resume. Honor that by not tearing it down after you leave.
4. Make a plan
What do you want to do next in your career? What steps do you need to take to get there? Do you want to work for a similar firm? If so, would it be the same size, smaller, or larger? Or, do you want to work for another type of firm who would value your expertise and past experience? Keep taking steps and new insights will emerge.
Also, be sure to take this time to invest in your personal development – In fact, I recently wrote about the importance of continually investing in your professional and personal development: The Three Most Important Career Investments You Can Make.
5. Find a variety of mentors
Good leaders know they must continually grow; and to do this, they need the advice of a variety of mentors. Whether you already have mentors, or you are seeking mentoring opportunities, here’s my advice on how to gain the full benefits of your mentoring relationships.
6. Above all, allow yourself to recover!
Working for a toxic boss takes a toll. Treat yourself to fun activities and spend time with people who care about you and respect you. It may take awhile to feel better – and you may want to be aware of how your recent experience may influence how you perceive future jobs.
Toxic bosses and workplace bullying are unfortunately too common! On the positive side, this experience will make you a better and more empathetic leader. Many of us who have had horrible bosses look back later and realize that we not only survived, we later thrived!
One thing that will help you detach objectively, recover, and move forward is to write down what you’ve learned from the experience.
Here are a few articles with food for thought. This will also help you let go and forgive, which are essential to moving on:
- Amazing Lessons I Learned from a Bad Boss
- My Thank You to All My Past Horrible Bosses
- What You Can Learn from a Bad Boss
There is no time like right now to get started on these steps. Recognize the important role that these steps have on your success and commit to developing your potential today. Trust me, your future will be even brighter if you follow these steps!