Toxic Work Environments

This morning, I was thinking of some of the more challenging experiences in my legal career. A few of my favorite little gems from myself and my clients:

Put your big girl panties on and figure it out (a first year associate trying to ask questions to the assigning partner).

You are just sour you didn’t get appointed to the Board (regarding being underpaid in comparison to male counterparts).

Sometimes people say the wrong things to the wrong people (from a managing partner a female attorney who just raised a sexual harassment complaint).

If you were [a male partner] I would fire you for this (after questioning why a male co-worker was getting paid nearly twice what she was making).

The practice of law is challenging and, for better or worse, the practice of law usually requires interactions with some very *challenging* humans.

Part of my work is helping women get to a place of self-examination–thinking on purpose and recognizing how those thoughts impact the results we create in our life. That work typically requires a hard conversation with one’s self about whether a thought is serving you.

I hate my body becomes I’m learning to love my body.

My boss is a jerk becomes I have a boss.

I hate working at this firm becomes I have a job at a firm.

Those subtle shifts have tremendous impact how we feel, how we show up, and ultimately on our reality.

But what about circumstances that you don’t want to feel good about?

What about that day you are sitting in that office having the most difficult conversation of your life, challenging leadership for an explanation why your male counterpart gets paid so much more than you and instead of listening to you, he threatens to fire you for raising the issue?

That, dear readers, is not a situation any of us would want to feel good about.

When we encounter these types of challenges, we don’t want to shift to a better thought. In truth, sometimes these experiences feel more like an out of body experience. We slip out of our bodies to watch these dumpster fires from a distance.

After these experiences, we don’t want to have flowery thoughts about it. We want to be angry. We want to feel indignant. We want to truly own the experience of being treated unfairly. To being ignored and belittled. Treated like a child.

Where do you go from there?

For any experience in our life, we have the power to decide:

How do I want to feel about this? What do I want to think about this?

We have choices to make.

What would my future self tell me to do? How would she tell me to show up?

While we truly believe that we have been belittled and treated unfairly, it is not productive to set up camp with those thoughts. It didn’t matter whether it’s true. Those thoughts created a spiral of unproductive anger, bitterness, and resentment.

Those feelings drive off on indignant rants and whining, complaining, and passive aggression. Those thoughts truly drive us to act like a bratty child throwing a tantrum.

You must challenge your angry thoughts and examine the impact each one has one you — how you feel, how you act from that space and the result that it gets you. Find one that sparks progress instead of combustion.

You have to find a thought that propels you to that vision you want for yourself.

In these situations, my clients want to show up strong and confident. They want to be truthful and unbiased and not cover up the experience.

They don’t want to spew hatred about their firms or their leadership; they want to shine the light. They want to be cool, calm, collected and HONEST.

A mantra we often discuss in our sessions is: This is my truth and this is what happened to me and I am not going to hide or sugarcoat it for anyone.

For most of us, those thoughts create confident, honesty, and strength. It makes us feel like a champion for women. When I have applied that mantra to some of my less than rosy experiences of my career, that thought made me feel a little bitter and indignant but not in a way that made me want to burn it all down. In a way that wanted me to open up about it.

Most of us ultimately walk way from toxic work environments. We do not transform them. We do not change their mindset. The firms rarely see any err in their ways.

So many of us have experiences like those above and we take it. We put our heads down and keep trucking. If we stop to ask ourselves – how do I want to feel about this? How do I want to show up in this moment? In 10 years, how will I wish I had shown up?

It’s easier to take the lumps as they come and just keep going.

It’s part of the job.

It’s just the way it is.

I will never change them.

Those thoughts keep us stuck in a world where things like this keep happening. Those thoughts are safe. They allow you to avoid the difficult conversation.

What would it be like if we all chose to speak our truth and be honest about our experiences? No matter what the cost. Would we be farther along than we are?

Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.

Marian Wright Edelman

If you are angry with what you are seeing in your work environment, how about some FREE support? Reserve a free mini-session before they are all gone!

Photo by Александр Македонский from Pexels

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