How To Heal After Leaving a Toxic Job

Updated December 20, 2022

When you leave a toxic job, the next steps can seem overwhelming. By taking time to process what happened and move forward thoughtfully, you can transform that experience into expertise about healthy work environments. This new knowledge helps you start your job search and begin your next position with a fresh perspective. In this article, we look at ways to heal after you've left a toxic work environment and recover your professional confidence.

Related jobs on Indeed
Part-time jobs
View more jobs on Indeed

Why should you take time to heal after leaving a toxic job?

Leaving a job that is harmful can be a traumatic experience, and it's important to process that carefully so that you can move forward to better opportunities. Keep things in perspective as you move forward, and be gentle with yourself, remembering that your job does not determine your value as a person.

You can learn a lot by analyzing what made your workplace unhealthy, like what you want and need from an employer and where you want to set personal boundaries to avoid similar situations. You'll be practicing coping mechanisms through this process, so you'll become more resilient. And in future workplaces, you can better understand your role as an employee or manager to maintain an encouraging work environment.

Related: How To Quit a Job the Right Way

How to move forward

After you leave an unhealthy workplace, try these steps to heal:

1. Take time to recover

Leaving a job often takes courage and strength, so you've already accomplished a lot. Give yourself time to recover by doing some activities that release tension and help your mind and body feel better. If you felt undervalued or overworked, look for activities that remind you of your worth—intentionally relaxing or working towards your own priorities. If your job was physically strenuous or dangerous, be gentle with your body for a few days and seek medical help if you have any injuries or concerns.

To heal from a job that was emotionally exhausting, look for things that can bring comfort, like spending time with a pet or a loved one. Try exercising or art to let out frustration if you found your job stressful or controlling. Once you've gotten a little distance from the emotional cost of your former job, you can be in a better mindset to think about the next steps.

2. Recognize your worth

If you weren't appreciated at your last position, you may not know your full professional and personal worth after you leave. Take some time to write down a list of your strengths and accomplishments. Start with the positive character traits that have helped you succeed in work and life. Then move on to what you brought to the most recent job. Consider making a chronological list of your accomplishments in that position, starting with what you achieved in your first few months on the job. List projects you completed and the biggest obstacles you overcame.

You can use this list to update your resume and any online profiles as you begin your job search. With your projects and accomplishments in mind, you're already prepared for interview questions about challenges you've overcome and how you've responded to conflict in the workplace. You'll also be able to screen jobs better as you browse, thinking of where your strengths can best be applied in the workforce.

Related: How To Write Your Resume Employment History (With Examples)

3. Review what you learned

This step lets you gain knowledge from negative experiences. Think back on exactly why the workplace you left felt harmful. Consider whether it was a temporary situation caused by one project, contract or coworker. If so, think about how you can avoid that environment in the future, maybe asking better questions in the interview, or talking to a prospective coworker before taking a job.

If it was a systemically negative environment, try to understand whether it was a certain company policy or office culture norm. Noticing these trends can help you know what to look for at your next job, but it can also guide you later if you are in a position to influence or control these aspects at another company.

4. Decide who to keep

Whether you stay in contact with your coworkers can depend on the situation. Consider who you enjoyed working with, and who provided you with insight into the industry or company. Think also about those who held positions that you admired. Connect with these people over a personal email or online profile, and maintain a connection with them outside of work accounts.

Even if your overall experience at a job did not end on a positive note, think about who at that job might be able to provide you with a letter of recommendation or reference later, or solid career advice. Feel free to let go of those who brought negativity to your workplace, even if they were managers or well-positioned.

5. Decide on a good attitude

To move forward with a fresh perspective, it's important to have a positive attitude. You can develop this habit through practice, reminding yourself of the opportunities in front of you and the achievements in your past. Habitual positivity can also help you as you meet new connections and interview with other companies. Your optimism and unwillingness to gossip show others that you are trustworthy and have a good attitude. If you still feel bitterness or resentment, process those on your own before reaching out to old coworkers or making new connections in the same industry.

Related: Positive Thinking in the Workplace: Benefits and Tips

6. Make a plan

The next step is to find a new job, but you want to go about it intentionally so that you find a better job environment. Prioritize companies with healthy office cultures and a willingness to listen to their employees. Reading online reviews of companies or reaching out to current employees there can give you a realistic impression of the company. If the work itself made the job untenable, consider searching for a different position in the same industry, or a similar position in a new industry. Even a new geographic area could bring new challenges.

These precautions won't guarantee that your new company is welcoming or your new job is perfect, so set personal boundaries. Decide what is important to you in a workplace, and what you find unacceptable. Writing down these boundaries can help you follow through on them and prioritize your own health and security.

A second step to your next workplace plan should involve evaluating your own professional behavior. Some dynamics of a workplace are set by the company policies and demographics of management and employees, but norms around social interactions and office culture might be more flexible. Try to think objectively about what you have the power to influence and how you want to use that power.

Related: 5 Types of Work Environments (and How To Identify Which Is Right for You)

7. Find positive influences and mentors

Look for positive leadership to take you forward into the next steps of your career. Consider finding a professional mentor in your industry, particularly one who has a leadership role within a healthy company. Let even the details of your job search encourage you, by listening to positive podcasts and following leaders in your industry who have a good outlook.

At your new job, build yourself a system of support by intentionally connecting with coworkers. Find those who are happy and successful, who encourage others and do not gossip. Be a good friend and friendly coworker to those you meet, and do what you can to maintain and improve your work culture.

Get interview-ready with tips from Indeed
Prepare for interviews with practice questions and tips

Steps after recovery

Even after the initial steps, your former job might stay on your resume and in your mind as you pursue further options. Use that job as a positive influence on your professional life by doing the following:

Maintain your positive attitude

Continue to develop and learn new personal techniques to preserve a healthy work habitat. Even after it has been a few years, remember to maintain your professionalism about the job you left. You may meet future connections who remember that time or company in unexpected places.

Maintain your standards and boundaries

Keep the standards and boundaries you built for yourself in place at your new job. If something unacceptable happens, follow your plans and don't contribute to the same kind of workplace culture that you left. As you accumulate experience, use this to widen your perception of what a healthy workplace looks like and your knowledge of how it gets that way.

Use your experience to look out for others

As you network with other professionals and possibly mentor others down the line, watch for others who might experience similar problems to yours. Offer your own knowledge and experience to help others get out of unpleasant situations, and try to find or make better opportunities for them.

Is this article helpful?
Indeed Career Services
Indeed Resume
Get noticed by employers
Upload a resume file
Interview Practice
Practice interviewing with an expert career coach
Book a session
Resume Services
Get your resume reviewed or rewritten
Upgrade your resume
Salary Calculator
See your personalized pay range
Get your estimate
Resume Samples
Kick start your search with templates
Browse resume samples
Company Reviews
Access millions of company reviews
Find companies

Explore more articles

  • How To Write a Formal Letter
  • How To Become a Journalist in 8 Steps (Plus Salary Info)
  • How To Write a Retirement Letter (With Tips and Example)
  • 12 Common Examples of Output Devices (Plus Benefits)
  • How To Export a File Directory To Excel (With Steps and Tips)
  • How To Make a Sales Journal Entry (A Step-by-Step Guide)
  • How To Open a Pages File (With Several Methods)
  • How To Write a Denial Letter (Template and Examples)
  • How To Convert Text to Date in Excel (With Steps)
  • How To Write Good Letters (With Formal and Informal Examples)
  • 32 Photo Essay Examples (Plus Tips)
  • 11 Business Analyst Certifications for Career Growth