7 Ways To Know It's Time To Break Up With Your Job
You tried the EWB thing (employee without benefits), but somebody always ends up wanting something more. So you've stopped freelancing and have settled down with a job where you can see a future for yourself. You're done with the late nights, finding yourself in a new office at 9 a.m., and that awkward "onboarding" phase. Good for you.
But could your job actually be abusive? Sure, your job would never physically put you in harm's way by trapping you in a coal mine or holding your hand near a lathe, but that doesn't mean that your job isn't abusing you in other ways. New studies show that over 100 percent of people may be in an emotionally abusive relationship with their job. How can you tell? Here are seven telltale signs.
It Isolates You
One of the first things an emotional abuser will do is isolate you from your family and friends. At first, this may be done in a way that seems caring: lavish meals in a company cafeteria, department softball teams, paid training, even team-building exercises in exotic locales. Spending time with your job is healthy, but a job that coaxes you into spending time with it 24/7 is a red flag.
"You can still enjoy the weekend through the windows."
Look out for isolating behavior that gets worse as your employment continues. Did your job start as just 9 to 5 and now you find yourself spending every waking hour together? Does your job limit your contact with loved ones even when you're at the office? Some jobs may even physically block access to Facebook so you cannot reach out to those who care about you most.
It Uses Money To Control You
A textbook abusive job will use money to control you. For example, a job might tie how much money it gives you to how well you follow its orders. This is called "bonusing" and can quickly erode your sense of self-worth and self-determination. In extreme cases, bonusing may become a "commission system" in which nearly all of your income is determined by how well your job thinks you are meeting its needs. It's important here to remember that you also have needs and you should be free to be your own person.
"You need to work on Thanksgiving, or you'll need to redo your resume on Black Friday."
Some jobs may literally pay you to spend more time with them in an "hourly wage." They're sending a clear message that they find value only in your spending time on them. These jobs will often manipulate you into spending ludicrous hours with them by paying "overtime" or "holiday pay." Watch out if you're always doing what your job wants at Thanksgiving and Christmas and never the other way around.
It Puts You On A Pedestal
When you were first hired, you were showered with love and praise. Positive attention from your job is a good thing but not when one mistake can cause it all to come crashing down. This can be part of a damaging cycle in which you are praised whenever you are doing things "right," then dressed-down whenever you do something "wrong."
One minute they "couldn't do it without you" (a passive-aggressive threat to implode if you leave) and the next they're talking about terminating your position altogether.
"We love your work; we're just not in love with your work."
They introduce you to their parent company and then tell you they need more space before they can commit to any further hiring decisions. This can lead to an emotional hamster wheel where you must keep working hard just to keep your job happy.
It Constantly Puts You Down
One of the hallmarks of any emotionally abusive relationship is criticism. Rather than letting you be you, does your job give performance reviews to highlight the ways you can "improve"? You are not perfect, but neither is your job. Often jobs will criticize you without giving a single thought to how they might change to better suit your needs. When was the last time your CEO asked you what they could be doing differently? Sometimes criticisms may be veiled as compliments like, "I think you should go back for your master's." Don't be fooled: These are attempts to point out how your job would like you to be rather than appreciating you for who you are.
"I love that you have the intuition to know exactly how terrible you were last quarter.
It'll really help you get back on track."
Then, when things go wrong, it will inevitably be you who is at fault for not being diligent enough, well trained enough, or "at your desk" enough. An abusive job will often blame you for the failure of the business. Clearly that doesn't make sense: Each of us is responsible for ourselves. However, irrational blame patterns can be difficult to spot once you are trapped in them.
Some companies even ask you to fill out evaluations for yourself. This twisted mind game makes you both jailer and inmate, co-opting you into a self-imposed prison of blame. When your job gets you to start picking yourself apart, it can be very difficult to break away.
It Gaslights You
Gaslighting is when a job institutes insane policies and then makes you feel crazy for not understanding them. For example, you may be in an office that offers "unlimited vacation days." When you look around, however, you will see that no one actually takes any vacation days. How can you reconcile these unlimited-yet-nonexistent vacation days? You can't (and that's the point).
"You can take any number of days off you want. Zero is a great number."
This type of doublespeak is a clear example of gaslighting that can erode your confidence in your own sanity. As long as the employees are the ones behaving "irrationally," the job will never have to change anything about itself and never have to worry about its "crazy" employees finding another job.
It Controls Your Appearance/Language/Travel
"Don't wear tank tops; they're unprofessional!" "Instead of 'loss,' say 'growth opportunity!'" "Tell us before you go on a business trip!" Controlling jobs don't see you as an individual. They see you as an extension of themselves. Because of this, they will try to tell you what to wear by using a dress code, tell you how to speak with their preferred jargon, and even tell you what your priorities should be with their mission statement.
"Always ask, 'What Would Job Do?'"
A job's need to project success through you is a clear sign of its self-loathing being externalized. In extreme cases, jobs may even tell you to lose weight through wellness programs. Don't become a pawn in a company's battle with its own identity.
It Flirts With Other Job Applicants Right In Front Of You
Yes, it actually happens: Your employer meets another potential employee and interviews them right there in front of you. You may be standing there, with your mouth agape watching them carry on like you don't even exist. Or they may even have the gall to ask you to join in on the interview.
While open office plans work for some, they require careful communication between all parties involved: You are all put in a more vulnerable position with everything hanging out for everyone to see. The last thing that anyone wants is to be surprised by a new candidate in the office. When this happens, it is understandable for you to feel uncomfortable and is not something you need to "loosen up" about.
"Hey, Claire. I'd like to introduce you to Better Claire."
This behavior is not a loving invitation for a new person to join the team. It is a power move. It sends a message that you are replaceable, whereas your job is desirable enough to be filled by a multitude of other staffers. Employment should be a mutually enriching experience where both parties grow together, not a competition about who can get staffed and who can get filled.
If these behaviors sound familiar, you may be in a job that suffers from narcissism, low self-esteem, or full-blown personnelity disorder. Should you find yourself in a string of abusive jobs, you may consider spending some time just working for yourself. The most important employment contract you'll ever have is the one you negotiate with yourself.
"FUCK YOU, I AM BEST CLAIRE!"
We all deserve jobs that value us for our true selves, jobs that don't try to control us or make us more "productive" than we naturally are. Unfortunately, those jobs have all been taken by someone younger and more employable than we are. The best we can do is try not to repeat the dysfunction of our old jobs and create a better workplace for our future direct reports (if you decide to one day have direct reports).
Aaron Kheifets is an occasionally mustachioed comedian, writer, and director. You are allowed to follow him on Twitter, watch his videos, and look at his website.
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