5 Emotions That Could Be Stopping You From Leaving a Toxic Workplace Behind

The other day a former colleague (I’ll call her Ashley) reached out to me out of the blue. I had not heard from her for nearly four years.

After I left the government, Ashley experienced a toxic workplace and decided she needed to leave and heal. She left government for a while, which she said brought some peace; however, she felt like a “fish out of water”, because she had always worked in government and that was the place she felt most comfortable. Two years ago, she returned to the government in a healthy work environment.

As I coach a lot of women who have experienced toxic and abusive workplaces, I was curious what Ashley did to heal when she left the government. She shared with me that she found a therapist to help her work through her emotions because they were getting in her way of moving forward. She found that her growth was being stifled by the hurtful toxicity that had influenced her life.

Recognizing these emotions and turning them into a positive force that pushes you ahead rather than holding you back is important. Here are the emotions that Ashley identified as holding her back and what she did to live life to the fullest again:


This is a natural response to a perceived attack or injury. When Ashley allowed it to simmer, anger depleted her of energy that could be used to improve her life. It was only hurting her. She had to make herself let go. She actually envisioned herself throwing it out every time she would feel it start to bubble up. Ultimately, she was able to leverage the energy to throw out anger and bring in peace. I love that she visibly traded one emotion for another.


Often, revenge is the first cousin of anger. It was robbing Ashley of strength in the long run. The person who injured her most likely moved on with her life and Ashley eventually realized that she should too. When Ashley was stuck in her thoughts of revenge, she realized that she wasn’t able to grow. She learned to shift from a desire to harm the perpetrator to wanting to become someone amazing, because that’s someone that her perpetrator would never be.


According to Ashley, sadness is more crippling than anger because it drained her from the start, sapping her will to go on. Unlike with the other emotions, sadness seemed to be an emotion that took a long, slow time to leave. She found that keeping a list of things that make her laugh and feel positive about life helped her when she was really feeling sad.


Ashley found that when she felt resentment, which usually happened when she talked with people who loved their bosses, she had to remind herself that life is not always fair. When she reminded herself of this, she could more easily let go of resentment.


Ashley said there are things she felt bad about and regretted. Carrying this guilt around kept her from moving forward. When the voice in her head made her feel guilty, she learned to say to herself, “No matter what you say to me, I am still a worthwhile person.”

Ultimately, to rid yourself of these past emotions, put them in a perspective that is positive, rather than negative, and thereby cut off their painful roots in your subconscious. Some day I hope that toxic and abusive workplaces will be a thing of the past.

Work with me

I am not a trained therapist and it is important that you get the help you need from a professional. When you’re ready to jump back into your leadership journey, I’m here. Click this link and schedule a time to talk. I would be honored to work with you.

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