I’m roughly 8 months removed from a 7 year, super toxic owner relationship.
I’d done fairly well at this place of employment. I crawled my way up into a managerial position after a few years in Creative. Once in management I found that 30% of my day to day was spent triaging distraught coworkers and shielding them from two very egotistical owners with substance abuse issues.
The guilt trips and open shaming from the owners were a daily routine. Late night incoherent negative text messages and voicemails about employees and my own inability to properly lead were the norm.
The culture set by upper management was simple: we don’t have a slow season, you don’t take time off, and you don’t question decisions or make suggestions. I so desperately wanted to change that, hence jumping into a management position hoping to right the ship. It was ugly. For the last two years I was there I developed heavy anxiety. The owner’s mood swings, constant gossip, and closed door meetings would create a palpable atmosphere of fear in the office. That affected me to my core and I felt responsible for all the misery.
I started to doubt myself as a leader, and the stress from that wreaked havoc on my personal and home life. I felt awful for all the employees and found myself making daily excuses to them. I never wanted to be a manager that fed colleagues bullshit. I respect candidness and transparency. It was like a pencil in the eye every time I would tell an employee, ‘it will get better soon, we are making progress.’ Barf.
Toward the end I had a terrible image of myself and my career growth. I truly felt worthless and stuck. It was really hard at times. Luckily my incredible wife and friend group helped get me out.
I’m now leading an amazing team of developers and creatives at a new agency. It took a few turbulant months to shake off the past trauma, but once I did I felt unstoppable and reenergized. I’m now taking the time each day to cultivate positive support and communication with my team. I am a kickass manager and I live!