Leaving Toxic Work Places and Bad Bosses Behind

Today I’m talking with Sarah, a multi-passionate entrepreneur and founder of Sorry For Your Boss, ExploraSTORY Studios, and Resinating Designs about leaving toxic work places and bad bosses behind! In this episode, Sarah will be sharing with us some of the gnarliest experiences she’s had in her career from toxic workplaces, to bad bosses, and everything in between. She’ll be sharing her journey in which she worked at burnout levels trying to fit herself into all the boxes that weren’t meant for her only for the universe to keep shoving her repeatedly towards the path she needed to be on – sometimes these shoves felt like a gut punch and were rather unkind. She’ll be talking about the many things that cracked her over and over before reaching a very dark breaking point, and how she began to heal and come back from this dark place.

What to Listen For:

  • Multipassionates in the workplace
  • Starting her adult life in the midst of an economic downturn
  • A journey that started with the stress-inducing question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
  • Trying to fit herself into the box of societal norms and getting pushed out of that box over and over, sometimes in really nasty ways
  • Doing jobs that were mentally and physically draining
  • A few of her experiences with toxic bosses and workplaces

“It should have been a red flag from day one.”

  • A longtime winning strategy of taking on ALL the responsibilities in every job
  • The shocking reason one boss told her she wouldn’t be receiving a raise

“It’s not our fault that your husband likes to play video games. He should be able to support you.”

  • Employers that tried to cover being bad bosses with random acts of kindness
  • The job that didn’t break her but put the most cracks in place
  • Having the numbers to back up her work, being told she’s doing a good job, but constantly having to train a middle man to be her boss
  • Having her job given to a young man fresh out of college with no experience in the industry or the field
  • Still doing the same work while the new boss was getting paid nearly twice as much to basically go to meetings
  • Packing up her desk and being ready to leave immediately

“The entire time that I worked there, I was working all the hours at burnout levels, I was there early in the morning and I was there after everyone left at night, and I was exhausted.”

  • Leading a new organization for the same employers

“When the problem is a cultural fit, you can’t fix that with a different position.”

  • How the last year and half of working for this employer went
  • Feeling like the organizational stepchild
  • The wild thing that happened when it came time for her annual review
  • The shocking meeting that she thought was her annual review
  • Her bosses confirmed they’d “lost their passion for it and it had become a point of stress”
  • The part of the meeting she never expected

“We think the organization has plateaued. So, we think the only way to break that plateau and have it become like a really great organization would be for us to hire you a boss.”

  • Trying to be supportive because she wanted to get back to the work she loved
  • Paying a consultant to confirm a lot of the things she’d been trying to push through for the last several years
  • The consultant’s thoughts on hiring a new boss
  • Hiring and training her own replacement
  • Overhearing a conversation about how she was about to be let go
  • Being offered three weeks severance after 6 years

Extra piece for those who read shownotes. Sarah didn’t mention this in the recording but wanted to add an additional instance to the list of bad work days throughout her career. The tale below Sarah lists as probably the worst thing to happen to her in her professional life – but still not her breaking point.

As I drove away from that office for the last time, I felt a lot of things. I felt sadness that I likely wouldn’t see some of my international friends connected to the organization again and that I wouldn’t be likely to revisit some of the communities where I’d worked. I felt anger at myself for letting these bosses trample me yet again. I felt betrayed that I had built this org mostly on my own for the last several years, giving so much of myself to it, only for it to end like this. I felt longing for the projects I had in the works that I wanted to see through. And I felt relief that I would never have to go back to that office and again, and never have to see those people again.

Towards the goal of putting it all behind me quickly, I was in touch with HR and fulfilled all requirements requested of me in less than 24 hours. The HR rep thanked me for taking care of everything quickly and let me know that I would receive my last paycheck as well as my measly severance at the next regularly scheduled payday.

Fast forward a week. I get a message from a friend who worked at their for-profit company. The bosses quickly realized they were in over their heads and they needed my help with some of the projects that were in progress. Instead of messaging me themselves, they asked my friend to message me and ask for help on their behalf. I replied to my friend’s message with a message that said something like, “I’m pretty sure they decided they didn’t need my help the moment they fired me. I’ve met my requirements, so this is not my problem.”

Apparently, she passed along the message that I wouldn’t help and they asked to see her messages as she texted from a company phone.

Fast forward to payday. I wake up around 6AM. I see that my last check and severance have been directed deposited into my account, just as the HR rep had promised. I feel IMMENSE relief that all dealings with this org are officially behind me. I kiss my husband goodbye as he leaves for work and plan to move the severance portion of the payout to another account when I’m up and ready for the day.

Around noon that day, I get an email from my female boss. In it, she’s telling me that they will not release my severance pay until I help them with a laundry list of things they don’t know how to do (despite my having detailed notes on all the things in my files). I’m confused. I SAW the entire amount in my account that morning. I check my account, and they had REVERSED the severance payment.

I called a lawyer who had represented a former co-worker in a prior case against this employer. He told me their actions were absolutely illegal, and it would be an easy win for several reasons. Unfortunately, he also advised that while it would be an easy win, it would cost more in legal fees than what it was actually worth because the severance was so small. He told me the best course of action would be to play their game to see if they would re-release it and told me that if I did that and they continued to hold it to let him know and he would draft a letter.

So, being broke, however small that severance was, I NEEDED it, and I felt absolutely DISGUSTING as I wrote an email back agreeing to help people who had essentially spent the last 6 years making my life miserable.”

  • Cold outreach to a competitor’s CEO
  • Having a job created for her
  • Red flags at the new job from day one
  • Being included in mass layoffs 5 months later
  • The shocking way she found out she was included in the layoffs

“I found out by receiving an email. That said, ‘Hey, we’re sending your last paycheck here.’ And I was like, say what?.”

  • Learning just how terrible Florida’s unemployment is
  • Spraining her ankle very badly and feeling extra trapped being unable to move or drive
  • Going to an interview for a dream job only to find out it paid poverty wages
  • Interviewing with a company whose CEO was an old friend
  • A stream of rejection letters shoving her deeper into depression
  • Taking a job that felt like stepping backward in her career and life by 10 years

“I had a hard time accepting that, like, this is my job now. And it hurt in a lot of ways, but at the same time, like I said, that job allowed me the time and the space to heal and to understand what a good boss is and a good team is because not only was my boss great, we had a small team there and they were awesome.”

  • Finding coping and healing in podcasts and audiobooks during the darkest days
  • Feeling so stuck and so broken that she considered ending her life, feeling she couldn’t go on feeling the way she felt during this dark period
  • The biggest jumpstart to her healing journey

“I’d spent the last two years, trying to pretend that everything was okay when it wasn’t.”

  • Word vomiting her truth to a virtual stranger and the weight that was lifted with this action
  • Learning to listen to the universe and the ways that it nudges or full-on Sparta kicks you towards the path you’re supposed to be on
  • Unlearning and relearning her outlook on work, life, productivity, value, and more
  • The difference a good, supportive boss made on her healing journey
  • Learning to shut off and have clearer boundaries between her personal and professional life
  • Breaking the cycle of being always on
  • The incredible healing power of telling her authentic story

“Just being able to stop having all of the masks and put down some of the things that I was carrying as shields, as masks, as armor, being able to just lighten the load and take some of those things off, because now there were people out in the world who I was going to stay connected with, who knew what had really happened, and that I really was not okay. That was huge.”

  • Making more human connections and more people she could be real with
  • How some of her former employees helped to shape the path of the businesses she runs now
  • Her advice for employees not feeling happy in their jobs

“If you’re in a job and you think, man, this is like 90% great, but 10%, I just want to cry every day. Guess what? You can’t make that work.”

About Sarah:

Sarah is a multi-passionate entrepreneur specializing in career clarity and confidence as well as audio storytelling (podcasts, audiobooks, voiceover).

She is on a mission to be the supportive and action-oriented mentor she needed when she was trying to navigate feeling stuck, lost, and unhappy.

She’s a master of strategy, a big-picture thinker, a creativity junkie, a builder of innovative teams and profitable brands, a lifetime learner, and a sucker for a puppy!

Her biggest pet peeves include bad bosses and toxic workplaces.

Her passion lies in bringing ideas into reality and empowering people to live their best, happiest, and most authentic lives doing work they LOVE.

Website and social media links:


Check out Sarah’s free 30-Day Career Clarity Challenge at the link below. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A quick, daily exercise to help you gain clarity on what you truly want in work and life. Free worksheets are provided or feel free to purchase the companion journal for a few extra bucks to keep everything in one place. http://sorryforyourboss.com/careerclaritychallenge/


Access our free 8-part Journey Mapping™ sampler program and begin uncovering the purpose of your path at www.TalesFromTheJourney.tv/Free/.

Read my memoir, Unravel: Rising Up and Coming Back from a Season of Living that Damn Near Killed Me at www.TheUnravelBook.com.