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Life is Too Short for Toxic Work

In the last year I have had four good friends become disillusioned and fed up with their 9-5 jobs and have either quit or come to a mutual decision with their managers to “part ways.”

Four women in my small circle leaving high paid, professional career positions in one year. For me that is statistically pretty significant especially when HR managers around the country have spoken publicly about the difficulty they are having in keeping highly skilled women in the workplace.

While the reasons women leave good positions is varied what I’m hearing and reading about in terms of why they leave good jobs falls into the following categories:

  • Frustration dealing with personalities and colleagues who aren’t professional or all that skilled
  • Unable to justify the cost in time and dollars of commuting to work
  • Strong, burning desire to have more control over earnings and work hours also called the “entrepreneurial bug”

We really have left the era of where work was just something you did until you built up enough pension to leave. I’ve always looked at work as something that MUST be about the things in my life that I consider important.

My husband and I have moved across state lines and even countries to accept job offers that reflect our personal interests and life priorities.

I think some friends thought we were a little nutty in deciding to move so often with our household belongings and babies in tow, but we have tremendous memories and experiences from our many moves. We feel blessed to have our health and to have the choices we have as residents of an affluent continent like North America.

Of course it also helps to have dual citizenship and grandparents who will travel to babysit in a pinch!

My friends’ recent experience with abrupt career changes highlights another fact we can’t ignore – there is no more job security. We hear plenty about companies closing in this struggling economy or going offshore for cheaper labor. The message is pretty clear: you are expendable.

You can’t look upon employment in any company or organization as a sure thing anymore. Each of us has to look upon our skills and abilities as our personal assets and then figure out how best to market and secure the best compensation for the abilities we have honed and developed.

Headhunters, job boards and good networking can help to get you into the career you want. But it will be up to you to market yourself so that you can get that job that truly fits your idea of quality, satisfying work.

The same applies to your business. If you have a skill, profession or interest that is steering you towards entrepreneurship, what’s holding you back? Research, talk to others and don’t lose site of that goal. The Internet has opened up a WORLD of opportunity allowing more people with modest resources to start businesses of their own.

I realize that sometimes we have to do what is necessary to care for our families and address urgent needs like health care and housing. But I have never understood how healthy, able people torture themselves in jobs that are life draining and toxic. Life is too short for that.

I have a career that is ideal for me and I’m thrilled that I’m also able to pursue my entrepreneurial goals as a business writer. My life is very purposeful. My thought process has always worked something like this (for better or worse!):

  • This is what I love and what gets me up in the morning, so…
  • How can I find a job that allows me to do this work for competitive compensation AND/OR
  • Start a business around my passion to give me the independence I’ve always cherished

For more than 15 years these questions have guided our family and I doubt that will ever change. Both my husband and I have learned tremendously from the different and amazing people we have worked with through the years, in different countries and states as our clients, colleagues and business partners.

Work need not be a four letter word. We need it to survive so why not ensure that what you do fits in with your life priorities?

Are you running a business or in a career that reflects some goal or passion in your life? If so, please share your comments here!


  1. You know Sharon I am so there. Before I married my husband I was moving up in rank in my former corporate position. I was already training new hires but was not officially promoted to “Training Manager”. Just as I was about to leave they offered me the position and I was so tempted to tell my husband to move to LA.

    But then I thought about the pressure that all the management team was dealing with and I said “no way”.

    I enjoy the path I am on. I has not always been easy and I know that it won’t always be easy but I really would have it no other way.

  2. Latara – good for you for taking the time to think about the impact that job would have on your quality of life. Glad you’re on a path that you are enjoying!

  3. This is going to become a crisis, I think, for employers sometime in the not so distant future. I think many people my age, both women and men, are less and less inclined to accept the status quo.

    I also think a huge issue for those with kids is that so many employers flat out refuse to be more family-friendly with things like job sharing, telecommuting, flexible hours, part time hours, etc.

    And the benefits you get from the corporate world, such as paid insurance, are eroding or disappearing entirely. A decade ago, I could get halfway decent health insurance from my employer for just a small amount of money or nothing. It’s been getting so expensive that a big motive to stay with a traditional 9 to 5 job – cheaper health insurance – is no longer so enticing when they’re deducting $300/paycheck for family coverage with big deductibles and co-pays.

  4. Kelby that is true. I have so many friends who think that tomorrow on their government job is a promise. I keep telling them to look at the trend of big businesses, even the gov. and you will see that tomorrow is not promised.

  5. Kelby – I agree. Employers are going to have to get with the program if they want to hang on to their best employees. Job sharing, telecommuting and flex hours are such logical, practical choices – it’s a shame so many employers don’t get it.

  6. Yes, AND these choices benefit the employers! They don’t even need to do it as some act of charity for employees. They save costs on space, they save costs on equipment…

    I usually don’t post gratuitous links to my own content in comments, but this happens to also be a huge pet issue of mine. Feel free to delete this, but I’d love to share my Mother’s Day Wish post that is very closely related to your topic here:

  7. Excellent point and very helpful too. Thanks for the link Kelby – it’s one that should be spread so that more moms know about the choices that are available or should be available.

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