When I was in Los Angeles working as an actor, I took a part-time job as the Director of Education for an acting school. I was really excited to land this job because it seemed like it was such a good fit in terms of my passions and skills. Some red flags came up during the interview process, but I wanted it to work out so badly that I went for it.

Lesson learned.

In the matter of a month, I went from an being an enthusiastic new hire to resenting my bosses.  They asked me to do things I felt were unethical (the BBB agrees with me, sweet justice), tolerated destructive behavior from employees, and gave me a talking to when I asked if we had a mission statement. Cause it’s hard to develop a curriculum when there are no clear goals. ANYWAY.

I had a co-worker who was hired on at the same time as me and we became bitching buddies. Every day in our shared office, we’d shut the door and whisper about the latest injustice or bozo move from the suits upstairs. When we’d go out for lunch together, pretty much the only thing we’d talk about was how backwards everything was being run. We had A LOT to say on the matter. And we said it. All the time. You wanna talk about bonding? We bonded. Because they were horrible and we were smarter.

And no surprise, all of our complaining to each other made things worse. Now, I’m not justifying the behavior of the bosses; they were pretty terrible. But my reaction to them was pretty terrible and childish, too. I complained all the time. I almost reveled when bad things happened because it meant I’d have something new and rotten to talk about. In some little way, that felt like winning.

It wasn’t. It didn’t teach anybody a lesson. It didn’t make me feel better. I made me feel right and superior, but not good.

I’m proud of the work that I did there. I’m proud of how I stood up for myself there. I’m not proud of the gossiping and complaining. That didn’t feel like who I was or who I wanted to be. It was reactionary, didn’t solve the problem, and lowered my spirits even more.

Have you been there? Have you found yourself thinking, “This is not like me,” or “I didn’t do things like this when I first started here”? Or maybe you’ve noticed that your relationships at work are based on complaining. Or maybe your work has started to slide because you just don’t care as much anymore.

If you’re in a job that’s not the right fit, I’m your number one champion for getting you out of there and into a career that feels like home. But as long as you’re at your job, don’t go toxic like I did.

There are some things about your job that you just can’t change, but you are always in control of how you react to what happens around you. Don’t let the negative stuff at work set the tone for you. You’re better than that. And you’ll FEEL so much better when you get back to being you.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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