Home » How I left a toxic workplace to find a new job with higher pay – Business Insider

How I left a toxic workplace to find a new job with higher pay – Business Insider

by Arifa Rana

This story was written by a 30-year-old elementary-school teacher in the US. Their former and current employment has been verified by Insider, and their story was corroborated by a colleague at their former employer who started their job around the same time. Their byline is anonymous to prevent professional repercussions.
COVID-19 set off a series of significant changes in my life. On March 2, 2020, I was 12 hours away from hopping on a plane to start a teaching job overseas when I found out my flight had been canceled and I wouldn’t be able to pick up the role. March is a bit late in the year to find teaching positions, but I immediately started looking on Indeed for teaching roles in the US.
The unexpected change in plans — and excitement about finding something else that was unique — led me to jump on the first opportunity I saw without doing my due diligence to ensure that it was a good fit. This spur-of-the-moment decision brought me to a workplace that was toxic and demeaning, and one I promptly regretted entering.
It was an environment that pitted people against each other instead of fostering collaboration.
Our administrator spoke negatively about a colleague the first day I arrived and expressed an expectation that I not align myself with this person. Gone was the friendly boss who’d told me about how well the teachers worked together when persuading me to take the position, and here was a woman telling me that I should lie to our colleagues about things she’d told us. I quickly started to experience a feeling of dread where excitement had been only eight hours earlier.
I loved the village I’d just moved to, my work, and my students, but the situation felt unmanageable. Our boss expected us to work extra hours every day — including weekends — and would call us about work situations at all hours, day and night. When my coworkers and I tried to get out of working on the weekend or after hours, she would retaliate and speak negatively about us to other colleagues. I was unappreciated, exhausted, and concerned about going to work each day. Eventually, I started to question whether this was the type of life I wanted to live.
I’d received high scores on my teaching evaluations — which were scored by the administrator and covered everything from what our classrooms looked like to what our relationships with the families were like — and I had experience with a myriad side hustles that qualified me for other positions (such as fundraising), but even that seemed like it wasn’t enough. Even though the scores on my evaluations were high, my administrator’s dislike of me was enough to outweigh that — strong enough that she was able to mark me as “ineligible for rehire” in the district. This was a possibility for nontenured teachers in several districts I’ve worked for. (Editor’s note: The writer’s colleague told Insider that the writer showed her documentation that the administrator had marked them as “ineligible for rehire” in the district. Insider was unable to view the document.)
I felt such a strong urge to get out of that situation that I eventually started applying to every job I could think of. In the end, I applied to more than 15 positions that ranged from classroom teaching to curriculum development.
I quickly found one that was suggested by three people whom I’d met through continuing-education courses and professional organizations. They were looking to fill a combined teaching and school-leadership position that would allow me to both teach and be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school. Beyond that, it provided me with a $10,000 increase between salary and benefits for the school year. 
The position was listed separately from other districts in my region, and the hiring process was one of the most extensive I experienced as a teacher. I first met with the hiring director and then individually with the superintendent, administrator, and teachers whom I’d be working with. Each interview included a different set of questions, and each person focused on the aspects of the job that were important to them. 
I’d debated with myself how to approach the topic of my former boss — as calling your previous employer is common in education — and I decided to be honest: I immediately let the hiring director know that my previous administrator and I hadn’t seen eye to eye. I gave concrete examples of topics we’d disagreed on and stressed how this made me a better teacher and employee. The hiring manager seemed to appreciate my directness and honesty about the situation, and I think this is part of what landed me the position in the end.
One thing the hiring manager did that the hiring manager at my previous employer didn’t was that she had me meet individually with the people I’d be working with to ensure we would work well together.
I also reminded myself that I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me, and I spent more time asking about aspects of the job that I hadn’t considered the last time, such as whether the other employees felt like they had enough work-life balance. This time, I read through the entire contract — something I didn’t think to do last time — and I asked questions about the parts that had become more important to me, such as what the payment would be for any extra duties that I took on. This allowed me to create a complete picture of what the position would look like and make an informed decision.
One of my favorite aspects of my new position is that I’m able to motivate the other teachers and staff members I work with. I work with students who are enthusiastic about learning and grateful for the opportunities I’ve brought them. I have bosses whom I feel comfortable talking to and a community of friends spread out across the district. I feel fulfilled in the work I’m doing, and I know that, finally, I’m in the right place.
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