Life lessons I learned from a toxic work environment

For those of you that read part 5 of my life story, you are aware of how my first real job out of college ended up being a very toxic work environment. Given how long my life story was, this was just a chapter in it and one that I did not get to talk about enough. In some ways, it was one of the few transformative experiences I went through in my life after college that remain with me to this day. 

The back story.

After a handful of interviews, one promising opportunity came across but they took almost 3 months to get back to me. The day I get the news, I have an onsite the following day with a very popular company that just happens to hire a lot of people from my alma mater. Brand name on resume, younger team, and an interview that was kind of fun, it was a no brainer and I went with them.

My manager was a chubby black guy with glasses who came off as a very friendly person at first, imagine Gus Fring’s fat cousin. Under him we had this happy-go-lucky Indian girl who in the first couple months was super nice. After a couple months or so in, I saw such Machievillian antics displayed that it would give me a key insight into human nature. 

To make matters worse and what really made the environment more toxic than normal, we had daily “team meetings” that often went over the hour mark they were meant for. Typically, they could go all the way from when you first get into the office to lunch. Then after lunch we had a couple more “team meetings” depending on an event and they also went on for longer than usual. Key thing to note here is that the team meetings had little to do with work and everything to do with, well, controversial and personal topics with bickering and arguing thrown in. If you were to leave the meetings? Unless it was an emergency, it was very frowned upon.

A lot of team meetings were spent gossiping about others at the company, their families, politics, entertainment, and yes, throwing certain team members under the bus in front of others. You had to have a thick skin to survive in that kind of an environment and I slowly became a target for my boss who was way too interested in my life outside of work. On top of all that, you had to hear the manager whine and whine about every little thing and have you be his shoulder to cry on. The manager I had also loved to target people on the team for, whatever reasons really.

Occasionally, you’d get a long fucking life story out of the guy. We also had to cheer when people our manager hated throughout the company got fired, if we didn’t, we were seen as schemers. Numbers and performance were largely ignored, the manager had favorites, one who was the worst performer but the manager tried to get promoted anyways due to “soft skills”. Our manager was also a racist hypocrite who cried racism one day and said the most racist things the following. On top of that, he even made certain team members do embarrassing dances and practically be tamed dogs for other team members he liked. 

As much as I hated the job where I wanted to quit before having another job lined up, I made sure I had 8 months of savings first. I learned so much about human nature at its worst in that place. Many of you who work in toxic work environments where managers ignore results and play favorites, gossip is the law of the land, and you are constantly around people who love to stir the pot will see that value too.

Yet, it left me with a lot of life lessons that can actually be applied to work, dating, and life in general.

If you could not apply these life lessons to life and dating, this post would be pointless to what this site is about. As much as I hated that work environment to the point that I have everyone on my old team blocked on social media, I walked away from there with some serious lessons. Sometimes, I think that it should almost be mandatory for anyone coming fresh out of school to be a part of such an environment. Not only do you learn life lessons by being a part of a toxic work environment, you also become more grateful once you do get into a good work environment with a cool boss and awesome coworkers.

Without further delay, here are some life lessons.

Once you start to climb to a high enough level, do not expect any friends in the vicinity, it’s a dog eat dog world.

When there is a good bit of money, prestige, and life advancement on the line, you are not making any real friends in that situation. Now granted, coworkers can be friends once you no longer compete with them and don’t screw them over too hard. When you are actually competing, expect for everything you say to be used against you, control how much you drink and what you say at Happy Hours. No one is a friend and expect to run into competitive situations where eventually, people you once thought of as friends turn into enemies.

Same goes for dating and meeting attractive women, do not expect for guys at the bar to wing you. If there is a hot girl on the line, the guy who you thought was your wing (even if you have known him for a while), will immediately turn his back on you. “Bros before hoes” is a load of crap and only the case in certain situations which I will talk about in future posts. 

Never judge people based on the mask they put on in front of the public.

Outside of team meetings, my manager was a very harmless looking guy who wore glasses, dressed like Steve Jobs, and sounded like a clean-cut suburban dad. In team meetings? You’d hear him talking about how he would take someone into an alley and beat them to death. Away from others, you’d see him talk to the team about how great it would be to: ruin someone’s marriage, sabotage their relationship, how ugly their handicaped kids were, how he would love to beat down a Jew (he was not very fond of Jews….), photoshop pics of company employees whose appearance he made fun of (he got suspicious if you didn’t laugh), and the list goes on. If you never knew him, you’d think he was a well-meaning harmless guy who could be trusted, unfortunately he did keep that image for quite some time.

Now how can you apply this to dating? Don’t always assume that the girl with a smile on her face and a happy-go-lucky vibe is safe to approach, she could very well be a total bitch and even more of a psychopath that knows how to put on an act. In social settings, do not assume that the well-meaning guy is always well-meaning, sometimes people have ulterior motives and are quite good at disguising them. Look out for the wolf in sheep’s clothing, you’ll find plenty of them in life, especially the corporate world. In other words, it is fatal to judge a book by its cover.

Ending on an optimistic note here, you might find that people with tough exteriors can often be the sweetest and kindest people once you get to know them. The girl with a resting bitch face who looks unapproachable? She might just greet you with a smile!

Always lie down and undersell yourself, never oversell yourself.

Friends with a celebrity? Nice pad in the city? Going out to the fanciest clubs? Dating hot girls? Don’t let everyone find out about it, you’re going to make more than enough enemies than you can ask for. Most people by nature don’t make the effort to live a fulfilled life or go for what they want, they just hate others for doing so. In the corporate world, this is usually the case and in middle management, it is the norm. I made the mistake of sharing with my boss a good roommate situation and left my social media accounts open, at the time I had hit it off with a few cool girls and was in their stories as they were in mines. Along with my previous deed, you can see it was a huge mistake.

Same is true for life and even dating, if you have a lot going for you, lie down. Nice job? Say you got lucky and how much it is stressing you out. Making a good salary? Shut up about it and lie down, especially for women, say it is “just enough to keep you happy”. Hot girls you happen to be spending time with? Say they are “just friends” and you all hang out, you’re stuck in the “friend zone” with them (this is more for coworkers and fellow guy friends who might get jealous).

Now there are exceptions here, if you are interviewing obviously bring up your strongpoints (but don’t brag too much). The other exception is if you happen to have friends and coworkers who are doing way better in life than you are, then it might be okay to occasionally brag. If you are doing better than everyone in life outside of work, lie and say your life is hell even though it is not, MAKE UP problems. As for dating, don’t tell a girl too much about your financial situation, you will attract gold diggers.

Instead of having a role model, sometimes you’re better off seeing someone who you do not want to end up like.

Role models can motivate us but sometimes, fear is even better. I saw what a sad case my manager was at his age and promised myself in my final days there, I would not end up like him in my forties. To some extent, he showed me my own weaknesses that I needed to work on. By seeing how he turned out, I realized that if I do not fix my bad character traits, I will turn out just like him. I noticed how bitter I was, envious I was of people who had it better than me, and how I saw myself as a victim always blaming others than taking accountability for my life.

For dating and life in general, look at the Pickup Artists that are getting socially shamed, the guys who just whined on internet forums all day, and the guys who did not invest in making anything out of their lives. Still living with their parents, no financially scalable skills, falling behind in terms of money, and a personality so toxic it drove friends away or even drove people away from associating with them. You will quickly get off your ass and fix whatever is wrong with you, in most cases, once you have seen how your bad traits if left unchecked can have major consequences in the future.

As bad as this post sounds, there are still plenty of amazing people out there who make life worth living, be cautiously pessimistic.

So this post is a bit more pessimistic than most of my other posts but if you do not take away anything else, realize that there are still a lot of amazing good people to be found. As bad as my work environment was, I found managers, directors, and employees on other teams who became my champions (even references) later on in my career. One person I met was so awesome and ended up being a VP at a prominent and fast-growing company making news, his reference helped me secure a job where I earned double my salary.

Same with dating, life, and meeting women; for every stone-cold ice-queen you find at a bar, there is a sweet-heart just waiting to be approached. For every toxic woman, there is a quality girl waiting to spend a great night with a deserving guy. In the same way, for every slimeball willing to screw you over, there are good people tired of such slimeballs and want to bring them to justice. As easy as it can be to get dragged out into the negativity, we kind of overlook the countless good people that exist. Only by bringing those people into your life can you actually live past the age of 25!

Despite the allure and weird respect they get, terrible people actually live lives that lack a lot and had pasts no one would envy.

My manager was one of the worst human beings I had known but after looking at it, his life was not worth envying. The guy had a past where he was kind of seen as “Urkel” growing up (his words not mines) and that led to him overcompensating in a corporate setting, in front of people with college degrees. Similarly, the most senior team member was constantly friendzoned by her love interest Abbas who I would have an interesting exchange with years later, and could not find a man to give her any time of the day. 

We tend to secretly love bullies and the thought of treating others like shit, as I have found, but most of the people doing it are doing so to cover-up. Go out long enough, your worst rejections won’t come from the hottest girls at the bar, their rejections are more subtle. If you do get rejected from a beautiful woman, she probably is going through a lot of shit, maybe that modeling contract never amounted to anything and she’s stuck to just Instagram. Even if some rich trust fund kid decided to be a douche to you, it’s probably because deep down inside he knows without a trust fund and daddy’s connections he has no skills of his own for anyone to pay him. Maybe your rude manager has a wife that is cheating on him and deep down he knows it (noootttt like I am hinting to anything here….).

In some weird way, karma might actually be real.

A few months after I left my old company, I found that my manager and the whole team I was on gets let go. Apparently, he tried to stage some kind of a mutiny or something against a senior employee who was not going to let him slide and he lost his job and the company decided they did not need the team. The whole office in the city was so worthless at some point that the company opened a new one in a cheaper city and months later laid off everyone. Last I checked, the manager and the most senior employee ended up at a company that can barely get funding.

Being that I try to stay away too much from superstitions and such, I was long against the whole karma stuff and thought that it was all a part of the Just World Fallacy. Scumbags prosper and get ahead, good people pay the price in the end, and you know the whole ordeal. Maybe the universe is rewriting its own rules or something but lately, I’ve seen a lot of people around me and even from my old workplace get revenge served as a cold dish to them by fate.

I think it applies in dating as well, while you don’t want to be a “nice guy”, I have known guys who treated women like crap and eventually paid for it. One such example was a guy in college I knew through mutual friends who ended up on the end of an “accusation” years later, he made girls cry and rumors said even traumatized them, now his life got more complicated. The same I even noticed in my run-in with Abbas who got knocked out cold by a bouncer when visiting NYC.

Maybe karma is just made up to make people act better but I rather not play around with it. Try to be the best person you can be!

Years later.

I have had the chance to work a job at a great company with an amazing boss and amazing coworkers that became my friends. At the start of this year, I took a job at a very prominent company which actually bumped up significantly in revenue after the dot com bubble burst, the Great Recession, and is seeing demand come in high recently. I am working on other pet projects to produce more income and get up every day trying to be grateful for what I have. Now I don’t want to brag too much, have to listen to my own advice, but thankfully readers know my life is not perfect. Sometimes, I think it is better that way, gives me something to work on and look forward to.


2 thoughts on “Life lessons I learned from a toxic work environment

  1. Thanks for sharing this man. I don’t know how the hell you worked there for so long as it sounds like hell. I basically see every job as a learning opportunity. My perspective is I’m going to learn all I can and contribute my best then bounce as soon as I get a better opportunity.

    You can’t underestimate working with good people and the ROI of that. I remember I had an internship at a small company (about 50 employees) where almost everyone liked me and the CEO and CTO loved me. (They were assholes to everyone else though)

    But my direct manager hated my guts and would seek to humiliate me every time he could and he would yell at me every morning. One time I literally wanted to fight him because I had had enough. He didn’t like how I was favored by his boss for not deserving it.

    They offered me full time but I turned it down as happiness was more important for me. From that toxic experience though I met amazing people as well as my best friend who I talk to every week.

    Thankfully I have a new position starting in 3 weeks.

    Looking back I realize that my direct manager had difficult circumstances. Apparently his family was from Japan and they didn’t have a lot of money. He wore the same clothes everyday, drove an old van, and seemed overwhelmed and depressed with having to manage a team of incompetent interns.

    Anyway thanks for your articles man. 🙂👍🏽

    1. Oh man not to be a racist dick but I have had bad experiences with FOB Asian bosses in my career. Let me know how the new position goes man and glad to have your feedback on the posts, it does mean a lot.

      As for how I worked at my place for that long, you have to have inner strength man. It got so bad to where I was a zombie by month 11 and had to force myself out of bed. I was starting to be 5 to 10 minutes late and lost all passion for work.

      I got sick more often, drank more, and was a drag to be around. Took me a year to recover from that hell!

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