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Ask L2: It's toxic here. Should I speak out or stay silent?

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

"I am a 48 year old white woman. My boss had a long line of young folks straight out of college who were afraid to speak out and tell the truth about what was happening there. They left without saying a word. Boss claims it was burnout from nonprofit work. It wasn’t."


THE CLIFF NOTES

​PROBLEM

SOLUTION

​How do you give honest feedback about a toxic environment? Should you speak up at all.

Evaluate your 'why'. Are you genuinely looking to help or are you looking for vindication?


 

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.


Lauren, I admire your voice and was hoping for some advice. How do you know when you are using your voice for good or crossing the line to out someone for bad behavior because of your own negative feelings? I left an organization (after less than a year) that has a long history of toxicity in leadership. When I resigned, (the 3rd person in our 5 person department in a month) I was only afforded an exit interview with HR regarding benefits. I was not given the meeting I requested with upper management and my boss told me not to come back at the end of the week. I wrote brief points on an exit sheet that asked “what did you dislike about your job?” Long story short, after the second resignation in our department, we had a meeting about morale. Our boss inferred that the last person who quit (after a week on the job) was tainted because we were “negative”. I was the only remaining full time employee left.

After asking for feedback about our morale, two days later she wrote me up for having a negative attitude and accused me of not completing work tasks. It was clearly retaliation. I am angry.

Because I have been working so hard to make improvements and positive changes. Because we accomplished so much with an absentee boss. Because I cared so much and it’s hurtful to be characterized as negative. And the “Ned Stark” in me also feels like I need to expose the abuses. I am a 48 year old white woman. My boss had a long line of young folks straight out of college who were afraid to speak out and tell the truth about what was happening there. They left without saying a word. Boss claims it was burnout from nonprofit work. It wasn’t. I want to speak out further. But like Ned Stark, I am wondering if I am just chopping off my own head at this point. And if I am just seeking some type of retaliation.


I feel so powerless, truly.


Your thoughts would be appreciated if you have the time and feel so inclined.


Many thanks, Mary

 

Hi Mary:

Thank you for sharing your story.

I think it's important, and I think you should share it, but maybe not now. I tend to live by some advice that my dad gave me when deciding what to talk about and evaluating my "why." "People like that will get what's coming to them, but you're not going to give it to them." If you want to share because you think it will help someone, bolster a population, create awareness of a problem, etc, go for it! If you're after revenge, that will never come because you forced it too, and it never feels as good as we think it will. There is a fleeting period of vindication, but after that, it usually just feels like exposure, at least to me. One thing I will say, though, is you are not powerless. There is much, much more for you to do with your mission and your time. Taking back your power is part of the healing, and you may not have healed enough yet. But you are powerful, strong and worthy before any job is even factored in, and the only one who doesn't believe that right now is you. I'm certain of it. Let me know if you want to talk more.


L2



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