Why “just leave” (immediately) is absurd advice for a workplace bullying target

On Facebook, we’ve seen some people who’ve never been abused at work (or more likely who are abusers themselves or aren’t vulnerable and emotionally tough enough to admit they’ve been abused) tell targets of workplace abuse to “just leave” their jobs if they don’t like them.

I ask those people: if you were to “just leave” your job today, what would be the consequences? For many, it's loss of income and the health insurance that goes with it. 

For others, it's about damaging personal pride, the injustice of it all, and loving their jobs. That awareness, level of integrity, and self-defense are motivated by strength, not weakness, and a building block for a social movement to end workplace abuse.

“Just quitting” versus find another job
You might think this idea of sticking around is in direct opposition to my usual advice to targets of workplace abuse: leave since your health comes first and your employers won’t change. The difference is the hastiness of the decision to maintain your health. Consider:

  • Your safety net. Do you have savings? Can you collect unemployment? Do you have multiple family incomes you can fall back on until you find another job? Do you have dependents who rely on your income for basic needs?
  • How quickly you could find another job. What’s the job market like in your industry? How strong is your network? Have you updated your resume and your online resume?
  • Your health. How strongly is your workplace abuse affecting your health? How quickly is your health deteriorating? Can you leave on disability until you’re able to find another job?

The reality check
Employees “just quitting” (without speaking up) won’t do anything to challenge the status quo and hold employers accountable. What’s important is when you are ready to leave (and you do owe it to yourself to find a job where your employer values you), speak up to your employer in a way you feel comfortable. Don’t let your employer off the hook and perpetuate “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

In The New York Times article “What Women Really Think of Men,” a piece about not letting men off the hook for not recognizing women’s equal humanity, writer Irin Carmon uses the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations” to describe “just dealing” with the status quo. “Men taking responsibility, even retrospectively, is what it’s going to take for us to believe another world is possible, one in which we don’t romanticize female superiority to let men off the hook,” she says.

While we’re not necessarily talking about misogyny with workplace abuse (though for women, it's often the case), the same rule applies. If we simply replace Carmon’s bottom line with the different players in the power abuse struggle, we get “employers taking responsibility, even retrospectively, is what it’s going to take for us to believe another world is possible.”


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