Internal Dialogue in a Toxic Environment

You are enough

This saying has helped me feel that in the craziness of life I was still a good mother doing my best.

It has also helped me in my career.

Being on top of my game would also come with challenges. A miscommunication or a mistake being made. I knew my job and I did it well. Staff members came to me for help when there were others who had more experience or knowledge. I took pride in being someone they relied on for help, without shaming them or expressing annoyance (until I, myself became toxic).

I usually don’t intentionally break the rules, I enjoy following rules and having an order in life. Instances that challenged me in my career usually came as conflicts in decisions I made, whether right or wrong. I worked under the expectation and trust that I had the knowledge to make the right decisions, especially during emergency situations.

However, there were many times after a particularly harrowing evening shift that I would arrive to work the next day to an unpleasant message waiting for me. Notes like, “See [insert entitled staff member]”. I would immediately go into defense mode. My experience told me this person wasn’t happy about something, whether I was the one responsible or not.

(Apparently, it was also my job to make sure everything and everyone was kept happy and harmonious.)

Bitching would commence. [Who doesn’t love starting their day this way?] Entitled-staff-member would be upset simply because I reached the same conclusion or result in a different way. Other times, he/she would be upset because a different staff member forgot a small piece of an over-complicated process. The reason I needed to know about this? They wanted me to not only fix it but also transport the message via additional bitching to that person, as well. These issues were not used as a teachable moment. As a chance to look at the whole process, at all the pieces of the puzzle and make recommendations to change it. My opinions were occasionally accepted, but not always. Even in a “learning organization”, staff members may not understand how they fit into the mission or the goals.

This is an example of a toxic work environment. In an HR-world, we hear about this often. We learn about ways to fix these situations and how to avoid getting there. It would be a year after leaving this job that I realized how distrustful our department culture had become. We used Cover-Your-Ass techniques, a way to document steps taken to protect yourself from possible subsequent criticism, legal penalties or repercussions.

In my years of experience, I can not recall a single time during an emergency situation when all the pieces to the puzzle were available or operating correctly. It never worked perfectly, it was nearly impossible. Therefore, I had to make decisions based on my best judgment, after all, that is the reason I was in that position. It became a cycle.

Chaotic situation/shift ↣ Frustration due to missing puzzle pieces ↣ Return with a positive outlook ↣ Bitching.

This cycle beat me down. I felt as if I was never doing enough, never smart enough, never enough.

After a few years of this cycle, I was burnt out. I returned to school to pursue a new career and now I help employers and employees fix or avoid situations like mine.

When an issue arises or an error happens, it must be used as a teachable moment. In your career, as a parent or in life. This simple wording needs to be ingrained into our minds so we can recognize when the opposite happens. We can prevent feeling like we are not enough or making others’ feel this way by remembering ….

You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody. – Maya Angelou

If you are struggling in a toxic workplace or need help believing that you are enough, our team at Leadership Arts Associates can help. Email me at to set up a time to chat.

Internal Dialogue in a Toxic Environment

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