Fear the Working Dead: Rejoining the Living

Today, I quit my toxic office job. It’s funny, because for the last 3 years, I was always afraid that I would be fired. I did everything in my power to keep this job, and in the end, when I was summoned to my manager’s office, it was my decision to leave.

To be honest, that was the best decision of my life.

But, let’s go back a bit. Prior to this job, I was unemployed and desperately looking for work. It is not easy to find a job. Your friends and family, who have held the same job for years, look at you with a mixture of pity and curiosity. “Surely it shouldn’t take a NORMAL person this long to find a job?” Then there are the talking heads on the t.v. whose answer to unemployment is to simply “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. None of these people, it seems, have ever had to look for work.

After a while you build up this idea in your head that your self-worth and happiness is defined by a job and that you are nothing without it.

When you finally get a job, even a toxic job, you are filled with a sense of gratefulness. Finally, you say to yourself, you are a positive number. You put up with unhealthy levels of toxicity. Verbally abusive bosses who exert control with micromanagement and threats. An office where colleagues were pitted against each other for the sake of the “results” and childish cliques that kept the office from communicating with each other to accomplish the simplest of tasks.

For 3 years I endured this type of environment, telling myself that it can always be worse, that you can work harder to make your environment better, that you should be grateful, that you never want to go back into the wilderness of the unemployed.

And for 3 years the toxicity chipped away at my resolve. Chipping and chipping until what remained was that I was just as unhappy, if not more so then when I was unemployed. And I began to ask myself questions that I was too afraid to ask. What if hard work couldn’t make it better? What if it wasn’t worse elsewhere? What if I no longer feel grateful for this job? What if there was more to my identity that just work? All of these questions started to creep in slowly. Ironically, it was these very questions that I was pondering the day that I decided to quit.

It was around 4:30 when I was summoned for another round of verbal intimidation. The excuse was the same as always; my performance was terrible (everyone got the same threat) and that I was to move my desk immediately to the hallway to be visually monitored. I was also required to create a daily report of my activities.

This was my manager’s way of molding me into a “performer”. Humiliation and extra scrutiny by my boss would somehow make me want to contribute more. Wearing the dunce cap for the whole office to see and snicker. For those who are afraid, he would be correct. That day, however, I wasn’t.

A swell of emotions rose up in me, and then for some odd reason they all calmed down. The next words out of my mouth were “I think today is my last day”.

And just like that, it was over. By 5:00 p.m. my desk was clean and I was out the door. No plan, and yet oddly enough no worries.

It was a first step, a step that we all must ultimately take when our intuition tells us the opposite of what our society tells us we must feel. A step when we have grown to a certain point where we must challenge our fears or forever be tied down to them, never knowing what our true potential is.

And that is the purpose of these postings. To exam what keeps us stuck in a shitty office job, and how to channel that energy in a positive direction. In this FEAR THE WORKING DEAD SERIES, I exam those feelings and how we can explore them, challenge them and ultimately channel them for greater understanding of one’s self and how that can guide us to career/life path that is more satisfying.

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