6 Things You Need to Do Right Now if You Think Your Job’s Killing You

If Jeffrey Pfeffer had to sum up his latest book in one sentence, he’d say that “the workplace is killing us and nobody cares.” Take a minute, because that’s quite a summary.

You should care, obviously. Employees, employers, governments, and societies all suffer from the effects of toxic work environments.

“If I work you to a point where you’re so sick physically or psychologically you can no longer work…you become the public’s problem,” says Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business whose research has focused on organization theory and human resource management. Companies are squandering money via medical costs, lost productivity, and high turnover, and governments and societies have to deal with the long-term consequences and costs to the public health and welfare systems.

In the U.S., 120,000 deaths a year could be attributed to work environments, according to Pfeffer’s book, Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It, racking up about $180 billion in health-care costs. He estimates that about half the deaths and a third of the costs could be prevented.

So once you know and care, what can you do to fight back?

1. Get Out of There (or at Least Take Your Vacation)

Pfeffer believes that “in every single industry, there are better and worse employers.” If your office is toxic, you should follow your instinct and try to leave for something better before you “get so psychologically and physically ill that [you] simply cannot keep going,” as Pfeffer writes.

dying for a paycheck

“The way to buffer yourself is to get out. And if you can’t get out permanently, then get out temporarily,” he says. “Many people for obvious reasons don’t take all the vacation to which they’re entitled.”

2. Establish Your Own Support Network

Again, it’s not always possible to jump ship as soon as you’ve realized how much the ship’s grinding you down. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, and it takes time and effort to find a new job—a tall order especially while you’re doing a soul-sucking job.

The irony of the situation is that the very things making your job miserable might be preventing you from doing something to make it better, like spending time with people you care about and who care about you. But remember that “friends make you healthier,” Pfeffer says. Find people at work and away from work who can provide the support you need.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Have More Balance

The cliché goes that the first step to fixing a problem is to recognize there is one. But it’s hard to do that in a society where harmful work habits are so common.

“Surrounded by people who act as if long hours, an absence of job control, and work-family conflict is normal, people come to accept that definition of the situation,” Pfeffer writes in his book, emphasizing how potent social influence can be.

dying for a paycheck

So if you can’t change your company, change who you spend time with. “Find some people who don’t work all the time, who have relationships with their family and friends that extend beyond pictures on screen savers, and who have work that provides a sense of autonomy and control,” Pfeffer writes.

4. Don’t Rationalize What’s Not Rational

People know when they’re being overworked. They know when they’re starting to take drugs to stay awake. They know when they’ve taken to self-medicating with alcohol. They know when they’re not eating well. They know, Pfeffer says. But often people stay anyway, “even when know they should get the hell out.”

dying for a paycheck

In his book, Pfeffer details some reasons people stay, including the tendency to rationalize decisions we’ve already made. People don’t want to admit they’ve made a mistake by choosing that job or company, so it’s easier to tell themselves “It’s just a crazy few months” or “They’re paying me so well” or “The commute is so easy.”

They also don’t want to be seen as “quitters,” by themselves or anyone else. “The ability to survive tough work circumstances has become a badge of honor,” Pfeffer writes, and the decision becomes a binary: “You can either hack it and thrive, or you can leave—and thereby admit to yourself and your family and friends that you can’t take the pressure and that you aren’t good enough to compete with the best.”

Remember two things. First, it’s okay to admit you were wrong about the job and to take steps to find a better one. Second, sometimes it’s not you that’s doing something wrong, it’s the company.

6. Ask the Right Questions on Your Way Out

Once you’ve decided it’s time to get out, make sure you’re not moving from one toxic office to another. Pfeffer recommends asking questions not only of your potential boss, but also of your potential peers about anything that’s stress-provoking to you.

dying for a paycheck

Try some of these: What are the normal hours? How accessible are you supposed to be off hours? How much travel is there? How much notice do you get in advance of work trips? Is this place where you have a fair amount of say about what you do and how and when? Do most people take their vacations? Do people come to work sick?

But don’t just take their word for it. Look around if you’re visiting the office for an interview. Does everyone look exhausted and sullen? Probably not a great sign. If the company is big enough, check up on recent press. Have several rounds of layoffs been reported? Might be a red flag.

Pfeffer’s summary of his book is pretty depressing. I have a feeling that if you’re reading this (and if you got all the way to the end), a lot of it felt familiar. And that might be scary, but it should also be reassuring. You’re not the first or only person to go through it—and there are real ways to get out.

So try not to feel overwhelmed by the toxic situation. Acknowledge it. And then figure out what you’re going to do next to get the happiness and better health you deserve.


This Is the Right Way to #Apologize When You’ve #Messed Up

You probably say sorry at work a fair amount. And that’s because you probably make mistakes that entail apologies. That’s just part of having a job.

But most of us don’t think about how we go about making these apologies. Especially when we don’t feel we’re 100% responsible for what happened. Instead we blurt them out and don’t think about them again—which, as anyone who thinks they deserve a more genuine apology would tell you—can make people dislike or distrust you.

Here are the five steps to a sincere, professional, and respectable apology if you want to avoid this.

1. Actually Say the Words “I’m Sorry”

Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people apologize without actually saying these two words.

“I realize I made a mistake,” “I understand you were hurt,” “I feel bad,” are all great prefaces, but they don’t actually mean the same thing as “I’m sorry.”

No matter what happened, who was in the wrong, or how drastic the situation was, if what went down hurt someone else in some way, say you’re sorry. You only really mean it when you say it out loud.

2. Get Specific

Say what you’re sorry for so the person on the receiving end knows that you’re not sorry you’re in this situation, but you’re sorry about what put you there. Make it clear that you understand the consequences of your mistake—serious or otherwise.

By simply stating the impact, you’re making it clear to the person that you know why you’re having this conversation.

Bonus part of this step is that it lets you take responsibility for your part in what happened, without taking collective responsibility for a large-scale team disaster.

3. Focus on Your Non-verbal Cues

Of course, words compromise only 7% of the message you send off. Your body language, tone, and eye contact all reflect how you feel about something, so make sure those are in check.

Think about it: If someone was saying sorry to you while crossing their arms and looking at the floor, would you really believe they meant it?

Instead, look at the person you’re speaking to. Keep your body open and welcoming (arms at your sides and shoulders back). Don’t smile, but don’t glower either.

When I’m nervous to apologize, whether it’s because I made a huge mistake or because the recipient’s intimidating, I always practice what I’m going to say with a friend—this can be a great exercise for you as well.

4. Avoid Excuses

It’s incredibly instinctual to backtrack on something once we’ve put it out there. We’re afraid to look bad, so many times we’ll follow our apology up with a “but” or “well” explaining why it maybe, kinda wasn’t our fault.

But saying sorry genuinely is all about admitting you’re wrong and owning it. So, when you’re inclined to tag on an excuse, resist the urge. Sure, your apology might sometimes be followed by an awkward silence, but you need to accept that everything won’t always right itself immediately.

After this, you can…

5. Offer to Resolve It (or Prevent it in the Future)

Once you’ve said it, show you’re willing to fix your mistake. If you can’t this time (because what’s done is done), then explain how you’ll avoid this from happening again in the future.

Put it All Together

Let’s say you forgot to send an email to a client that you were supposed to send on your manager’s behalf.

In the past you might say:

Sorry about that.


But now you’ll say:

I’m sorry for forgetting to send that status report to the client on Friday. I know they expected it to be there and it reflected badly on you that it wasn’t. I made a note in my calendar for every Friday going forward to send it so that this won’t happen again.

Mind you, it’s quite possible that even following these steps won’t ease the tension. So this is where I’ll sound like a broken record and say: Everyone makes mistakes. It sucks to make them, to have to apologize, and to have to deal with the backlash that comes with them.

But while your genuine apology may not go over well in the moment, over time—as you consciously work to fix things—the person will see your good intent. And you’ll be glad you made the effort to say “sorry” the right way.

10 #Qualities #Recruiters Never Want to See in #Candidates

When it comes to interviewing, there’s no such thing as one recipe for success — what a recruiter is looking for will largely depend on a company’s needs, job requirements and culture fit.

But even though the things recruiters like to see in a candidate aren’t widely agreed upon, the things they don’t like to see often are — few recruiters, for example, would disagree that being late is a turnoff. And if you’re hoping to ace the interview, the more of these pet peeves you avoid, the better.

We reached out to a handful of career experts to see which traits and habits drive recruiters crazy — read on to learn more, and avoid them like the plague.

1. Vagueness

When evaluating candidates, recruiters want to get into the nitty-gritty: metrics that illustrate the results you’ve achieved, specific ideas you have for the company, anecdotes from your previous work experience.

“The interviewer is trying to gauge your skill and ability level from a short meeting — not an easy task,” says Jessie West of West Coaching and Consulting. “If you cannot provide examples and stories that prove you really have the abilities you promoted on your resume, they will not believe you are a good fit for the role.”

Make sure to “prepare examples from past jobs that will highlight what you can do for the company and the type of employee you will be in the position. Practice telling the story of a past accomplishment to a friend and get their feedback,” West recommends.

2. A Lack of Loyalty

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: even if your former employer was really, truly awful, trash talking them will get you nowhere.

“It’s never a good idea to bash your old employer or throw your former boss under the bus because it just makes you look petty… Employers are looking for versatile and adaptive employees, so harping on the bad things at your prior company will only make you look like a Debbie Downer,” says Wendi Weiner, Resume Writer & Career Transition Coach.

Beyond that, “being a jerk will make us question whether you’ll do the same if someone asks you about us,” adds Bill Kennedy, Senior Recruiter at AWeber.

Instead, if asked about why you’re searching for a new opportunity, “rephrase the negative into a positive. Consider focusing on the things [about the current company] that elicited you to search for a new role, such as a solid work culture, better growth opportunities or even work-life balance,” Weiner recommends.

3. Indifference

The honest reason why you’re applying for a job might be that you need a paycheck — but even if that’s your primary motivation, don’t highlight it. It suggests a lack of enthusiasm for the company and opportunity at hand, which is guaranteed to rub employers the wrong way.

“Recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to hire candidates who are looking for any job. Candidates who aren’t really interested in the job aren’t likely to perform well or stay long,” explains Chrysta Bairre, Career Coach at Live Love Work. “Throughout the hiring process, including [in] your cover letter, interview, etc., be sure to indicate why you’re interested in that particular job. Show your enthusiasm and interest in the opportunity and organization!”

4. Excessive Agreeability

Just because a company wants you to fit in with their culture doesn’t mean they want you to be a yes man (or woman).

“Recruiters don’t want to see candidates that don’t have their own opinions or parrot things back,” says Elizabeth Becker, Client Partner and Career Expert at PROTECH. “Hiring managers want strong thinkers who can provide their own insight — not someone who simply says what they think is expected.”

That being said, you want to make sure that you don’t come off as a steamroller, either.

“Finding respectful ways to present counter-opinions to a recruiter or hiring manager is still essential,” Becker says. So share your thoughts, but don’t come across as insulting or condescending.

5. Disorganization

Don’t arrive on time, have your resume on hand or remember the key achievements you want to highlight? Don’t expect a call back from a recruiter.

“Interviewers never want candidates who are unprepared, as that suggests you might be unprepared when you show up for work,” Bairre says. “Come to your interview prepared with 3-5 talking points [and] supporting stories and accomplishments that highlight how you are uniquely qualified for the specific job you applied for.”

6. Abrasiveness

It’s pretty tough to find a job where you primarily work on your own without interacting with others — most companies today are highly collaborative. Because of this, verifying in an interview that you play nice with others is often top-of-mind for recruiters and hiring managers.

“Being rude or disrespectful is a good way to remove yourself from consideration,” Becker says. “Since good recruiters have a strong relationship with their clients and hiring managers, it can reflect poorly on them to present a candidate with a poor attitude.”

So make sure to say “please” and “thank you”, practice active listening and generally treat others the way you would like to be treated.

7. Arrogance

Another way to prove that you’re a team player is showing humility. Otherwise, you risk looking like a know-it-all.

“Confidence is a great skill to have — however, there’s a fine line between being confident and arrogant,” Becker says. “As a recruiter, I’ve had candidate proudly tell me their six months in the industry is equal to someone with three years of experience” — a major no-no.

You want to flaunt your skills without making it sound like it’s your way or the highway. To do this, be realistic about your abilities, share stories that illustrate your wins rather than just saying “I’m awesome at XYZ” and make sure to give credit where credit is due.

8. Verbosity

When you first meet with a recruiter or hiring manager, you probably have about 15-30 minutes to make a lasting impression — so make it count. Avoid the flowery language and details, and get straight to the meat.

“Recruiters and hiring managers never want your entire life story. Candidates who include too much information… make it harder for the hiring manager to sort through all the information and decide what information may be relevant,” Bairre says.

Instead, Bairre recommends sticking strictly to your relevant experience and leaving out the rest.

9. Ignorance About the Company

If there’s one way to become forgettable in an interview, it’s to reveal that you haven’t done your research on a company. Learning the basic facts about a company — like their industry, competitors and names of their executives — as well as a little interview prep is a must if you want to impress.

“Always do your research about the position, department and company where you are interviewing. Read company websites, reviews on Glassdoor and ask your contacts for information” ahead of an interview, West advises.

“Come prepared with questions like ‘What makes your most successful employees in this role thrive?’ or ‘What pain points/challenges can the right candidate in this role solve?’” adds Kennedy. “Coming with a pre-written list of questions and taking notes on the answers will really show me you are motivated for the role.”

10. A Lack of Professionalism

No matter how casual the office, you always want to mind your Ps and Qs. I’ve worked at places where employees dropped the F-bomb on a daily basis and hoodies were practically a required uniform, but if you displayed that same behavior in an interview, there’s no way you’d move past the first round. Interviews are all about showing your best self to your potential employer.

“Using profanity or slang, mentioning personal or health problems, talking bad about a past employer are all considered unprofessional,” West says. “If you are not on your best behavior in the most professional of arenas (a job interview), hiring managers will see you as too much of a risk to represent the company to clients.”

And “if you have any doubt whether something is okay to say in an interview, err on the side of caution and don’t say it,” West adds.

This Is How You #Follow Up After You Send a #Rude #Email (#Template Included!)

We’ve all been on the receiving end of those emails that literally inspire smoke to start billowing out of our ears.

One minute, you’re totally calm, cool, and collected. But, when your inbox dings? That one seemingly innocent message pushes you right over the edge.

Before you know it, you’ve fired off a brutal and curt response that says something like, “Seriously, Janet, how many times do I have to tell you to swap out the number in the top corner of the spreadsheet?! This is getting RIDICULOUS.”

Cringe, right? Typically, you’re wise enough to take a pause and collect yourself before responding. But, today? Well, Janet and her spreadsheet incompetence got the best of you—and you replied before you had a chance to rein in your own short fuse.

You know that your email was rude, and perhaps a bit more aggressive than the conversation called for. So, how can you backpedal out of this situation—without garnering a reputation as the co-worker who’s going to lose his cool at a moment’s notice?

Well, start by replying (as soon as possible!) to that same email with a message that looks a lot like this one.

rude email

Hey [Name],

I want to apologize for the email I sent you earlier.

It’s no excuse, but it’s been one of those days when [reason you had such a short fuse]. I snapped at you when I had absolutely no reason to, and I’m so sorry for my [adjective] message.

The next time [description of circumstances that made you snap], I’ll make sure to take a pause before responding—so I don’t take my own frustrations out on you.

Sorry once again!

[Your Name]

rude email

In our example of that pesky Janet and her perceived inability to fill out that routine spreadsheet correctly, here’s what a follow-up email would look like with the necessary details filled in.

rude email

Hey Janet,

I want to apologize for the email I sent you earlier.

It’s no excuse, but it’s been one of those days when everything is piling up. I snapped at you when I had absolutely no reason to, and I’m sorry for my insensitive message.

The next time my to-do list starts to get the better of me, I’ll make sure to take a pause before responding—so I don’t take my own frustrations out on you.

Sorry once again!


rude email

 Here’s an important thing to note: While you can and should provide a brief explanation for why your response was rude, keep that fairly general and resist the urge to rattle off a bunch of excuses.

The recipient of your overly angry message probably won’t care about the fact that you stubbed your toe that morning, you have bad indigestion, and your car wouldn’t start on the way to your client lunch—he or she just wants to know that you’re aware of your insensitivity and are willing to be accountable for your own actions.

Unfortunately, there’s no way for you to take that bad-mannered email of yours back (that’d be nice though, wouldn’t it?). But, immediately following up with an apologetic email should help to smooth things over and undo some of that damage you caused with your far-too-rapid response time.