10 Steps to Help You Gain Courage to Leave a Toxic Work Environment

Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D 
Edited by Joe DeNoon


When your job environment is toxic, red flags pop up left and right. Things like inappropriate leadership, gaslighting, and petty behavior from your colleagues abound, leaving you overwhelmed and exhausted. This is not good for your mental health or your overall well-being. Leaving a toxic work environment can be challenging, but it’s crucial for your inner emotional health. 


Here are some steps to help you gain the courage to leave a toxic work environment:

  1. Reflect on the Situation: Take some time to think about the reasons the environment is toxic. Identify specific incidents or patterns of behavior that contribute to the toxicity. Understanding the issues can help you validate your decision to leave.
  2. Assess the Impact on Your Well-being: Consider the physical and mental toll of the toxic environment. Evaluate how it affects your health, happiness, and overall quality of life. This assessment can reinforce the importance of leaving for your own well-being.
  3. Build a Support System: Share your feelings with friends, family, or trusted colleagues who can provide emotional support. Having a support system can boost your confidence and help you feel less isolated in your decision.
  4. Research and Plan: Gather information about potential job opportunities, industries, or companies that align with your values and career goals. Having a plan in place can make the transition less daunting.
  5. Financial Planning: Ensure that you have a financial cushion before leaving. Save enough money to cover your living expenses for a few months. Having financial security can reduce anxiety about the unknown.
  6. Seek Professional Advice: Consult with career counselors, mentors, or industry professionals who can provide guidance and insights. Their perspectives can help you make a well-informed decision.
  7. Focus on Your Strengths: Recognize your skills, strengths, and accomplishments. Building confidence in your abilities can empower you to take the next steps in your career.
  8. Visualize a Positive Future: Envision a future where you are in a healthier work environment that allows you to thrive both professionally and personally. Visualizing a positive outcome can be motivating.
  9. Take Small Steps: If leaving immediately feels overwhelming, consider taking smaller steps first. This might include addressing specific issues with your supervisor, HR, or seeking external support. Gradual changes can build momentum towards a bigger decision.
  10. Prioritize Self-Care: Take care of your physical and mental health during this challenging time. Engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and a sense of balance.


Remember that leaving a toxic work environment is a brave and positive step towards a healthier and happier professional life. It may take time, but prioritizing your well-being is crucial for long-term success and happiness. Whether you’ve been bullied at work, experienced harassment, or experienced one of the myriads of other ways a workplace could be toxic, it’s in your best interest to celebrate your wins and re-emphasize your value.

Take note of the accomplishments you’ve made in your career, both in the toxic role and throughout other experiences, to boost your confidence. 

Consider what you’ve achieved and the impact those results and achievements made. There’s no better way to boost your self-worth than to see how you’ve made an impact on others. 


3 thoughts on “10 Steps to Help You Gain Courage to Leave a Toxic Work Environment”

  1. #5 and #6 were the key takeaways in this post, I feel. Many nurses feel that work will inevitably be a toxic situation. Upon reflecting on 20 years of nursing practice and leadership, nurses, nurse managers, and nurse execs agree that drama and negativity are constants. To my keenly filtered listening ear, it seems many are accepting a lack of professionalism and poverty stricken attitudes as the nursing norm.

  2. My recent job stressed me so much I was always working. More than one time I told my supervisor that with my travel time and visit time and documentation I was always working. End result I hung on and was suddenly told I would also have to cover my nursing assistant’s visits as they had suddenly terminated her. I voiced my opinion and said this was impossible and refused end result I was terminated

  3. #1, #2 and 3 were definitely something that I considered heavily when I left my job last August. The work environment was so toxic-and mind you this was a remote position. Leadership did not value the experience of nurses who between the 5 of us each having 20+ years of experience in oncology. Our nursing manager would gaslight us during meetings which made all of us feel awful. But slowly as I saw my other colleagues leave with no job lined up I really had to think hard about why I was still in this position where I would literally cry every morning before logging in. It was so unhealthy for my self care and mental health and I also saw how it was affecting my relationships with friends and family outside of work. After a lot of careful consideration and support from friends and family I resigned from this position last August-I felt I needed to leave on my own terms and have some self dignity as I left. During two exit interviews it was only then that the company tried to keep me on but I was just completely done. In my 20+ years of nursing I have never had more than a 2 week break. I took the next three months just taking care of myself mentally and physically. I really wasn’t sure what my next move would be and the possibility of not being in nursing was a possibility. And just when I wasn’t expecting a really great opportunity came along in the nursing field that I’m really happy to be part of. My advice is to know your worth and not allow an employer to dictate how you feel. I feel more empowered today about leaving on my own terms and know that I will never put myself ever again into a situation like the one I experienced. Thank you for writing this article!

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