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Toxic Ships


What I remember about North Sudan is how welcoming the staff were. What I remember about Romania, is how fun the staff were. What I remember about England, is how inclusive the staff were. What I remember about Spain, is how helpful the staff were. Workplace relationships are right up there with the most important ones we have, but of course, number one is the old cliché ‘the relationship we have with ourselves’. I have to admit, the longest lasting friendships that remain in my life to this day, have mostly been formed through workplace friendships around the world.


So how is it here? For the most part it is not so different, but in one’s home country some people are a lot more invested; and therefore, will defend their precious role in the workplace with an army of Knights; and this is where it gets tricky. What if you don’t care about their role? Can you tell them without making that person sound insignificant? Another balancing act begins. But what if you do want to progress because God forbid you’re actually good at your job? What happens to the loyal individual that deserves a promotion simply due to longevity? Because we all know, if they were to leave now, they would have to start at year 1 again.


For the naturally confident individual that happens to know their craft and know it well, add to that good looks charisma and a sharp sense of style to accompany that edgy wit; unfortunately, you are bound to create a few frenemies. Compared to being the foreigner, where you are always different, exotic and accepted for just being you, without compromise. But at home, like it or not, your awesomeness is a threat to someone’s carefully crafted position.


The carefully crafted position is the one that never really existed, but the employee is so loud and opinionated, that talking over the top of others is part of their self-imposed job description, along with the condescending tone to ensure you and others question yourself “Is it just me or are they talking absolute shite with no relevance to what we do here?” Because it doesn’t really matter what they say, as long they are loud enough to silence anyone with half a clue or the intellect of a 5 year old, all in order to ensure it doesn’t highlight their own stupidity. Yep, that’s right, even a 5 year old would look smart next to them.


So, what happens when you take on the self-imposed moron, when you simply cannot and will not listen to their dribble any longer? Well, be prepared to be told numerous times how to do your job, and by that, I mean their job too. It is usually around this time when the army of knights is called in to prepare for a bitch fest, that will evolve into the passive aggressive onslaught. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds are recruited. The army does not discriminate against anyone willing to get involved.


How does one survive such excruciating circumstances? According to workplace policy you go to your line manager, who will advise you to see the second in charge, who is of course too busy dealing with other “more important issues” and so in order to not be difficult you do nothing for another couple of months. Then you revisit the situation in the hope that in the new year you will be removed from that team like everyone else that managed to escape and is living their best work life ever. But no, this is not your destiny. Now, you have no choice but to avoid work until HR calls you in for a kind chat, to offer support that is as good as lifeboat with a hole in it. It’s there, but still slowly sinking and taking you with it, as there is no other choice in the sea of passive aggressive… people.


You drag your not so hopeful self into work again to be met with a barrage of seemingly computer-generated emails, offering support services from both your line managers and the second in charge. It’s as though they all got together and had an email party about you. Yay!


Finally, the inevitable happens, you decide to look elsewhere, all to the shock horror of your current employer who is devastated and makes leaving near impossible. Work becomes the cult you just can’t escape. After losing your hair from pure frustration, because apparently your concerns and suggestions to change teams for the past years wasn’t clear enough, you finally decide to give it one last shot. Cause it just might change now that everyone is crystal clear on the toxic nature of the workplace, they apparently never suspected. Wrong!


Week after week the same old army of knights finds a way to infiltrate your work life, despite making a conceded effort to become invisible and amalgamate into the walls and avoid every meeting. But no, they will find you. It’s part of the unspecified job description; must find and annoy all intelligent staff that want nothing to do with me. And then finally it happens, a job appears with your name on it. You apply and you get it. No more HR meetings or unnecessary conversations with the army of knights, the tunnel finally has a light at the end. Funnily enough you stop feeling tired and nauseous, instead, you feel light and energetic again. You go for a walk and begin exercising for the first time in 6 months; and that’s when it hits you. You are free. Free from the army of knights, the line manager that finds a way to make everything your fault, the second in charge that says they wish they could do more but can’t; and of course, the manager that wants a meeting to see how they can support you, like you’re the one with the problem.


Turns out that place is the problem and has lost as many as 4 leading female staff members in the space of 6 months. Normal? I think not. And I know that workplace is not the only one to experience such loss and toxicity, but that is how toxic environments flourish, by deflecting the problem long enough to make smart rational individuals question their own professional identity, until one questions themselves, how was it in North Sudan, Romania, England and Spain, just to name a few. It was never like that.

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