Author Topic: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?  (Read 10323 times)

anoneemus

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Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« on: December 22, 2015, 08:32:34 PM »
I'm leaving a toxic workplace (have been there 11 yrs and it's been bad since the start) and negotiating my exit terms has been a very stressful experience over the last 5 days - it got so bad at one point that I brought someone to one of the meetings to act as my ally so they couldn't gang up on me as easily. I'm a part owner of the company so there are a bunch of financial issues to address.

I was more than fair in my separation terms offer by nearly any measure (main issues are: what 2015 expenses need to be settled up, and what additional costs will I pay) but I am getting continued pushback to concede more and more things to them. Their latest counter-offer to my reasonable 2nd offer is sitting in my inbox. I haven't replied.

I can't decide between saying:

(1) Fuck you, my last offer was fair, even generous to you, and if you don't agree to that then I agree to no additional costs. Pro: I stand up for myself after being shit on for years. They have no legal basis to sue me for the add'l costs. Con: they blacklist me from all future subcontracting work with them, and take every opportunity to smear my professional name. [Note: mine is a small professional community, but their smear campaign probably wouldn't do me much harm because I have a strong reputation.]

(2) Counter their counter, and say this is my last & final, and if you can't agree to this, then I guess we'll go forward with no agreement on the last couple of items. Pro: there is probably still room to negotiate back some dollars. Con: I have to spend more time negotiating with complete assholes. It has taken an enormous emotional toll already. And, if they don't accept my last & final, we will effectively be at war and I will probably be blacklisted - see above.

(3) Agree to their counter just to be done with it. Pro: I'm free! Onward and upward! In the grand scheme of things, we're not talking huge dollars (a few thousand). And, they claim they will keep staffing me on work which will help fill some income gaps at least in the short-run and likely make up for what I pay them. Con: I am giving in yet AGAIN to them; they get far more money from me than they are entitled to; and they haven't actually promised to staff me on things, just talked nicely about it.

Mustachians, what would you do? My DH, my sister, and my dad all have different opinions and I don't have a clear gut instinct on this one.

[Also, this is a really complex situation and I've left out tons of detail in an effort to be concise. I can add more if helpful.]

little_brown_dog

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2015, 08:41:24 PM »
I'd go with option 3. You are leaving and therefore, they have nothing left that you really want...except a quick exit and no smear campaign. Option 3 is most likely to get you these last 2 things. You aren't giving in...you are playing strategically to get what you desire most. If what you wanted most was the money, I'd say fight, but it doesn't seem like the extra funds matter that much compared to the relief of having this over and done with.

terran

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2015, 09:05:06 PM »
It sounds like it's not that much money (under $10k?), so I would definitely just walk. I'd also seriously think about whether you can never work with/for them again. Sounds like you have good industry contacts, so maybe you can find any work you want on your own? Maybe there's even a chance of taking a choice client or two with you?

deborah

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2015, 09:11:24 PM »
Counter offer: pay you everything, and you give them x amount of free time.

totoro

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2015, 09:13:00 PM »
How far apart are you?

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2015, 09:15:18 PM »
Haha terran, the big fight is over the fact that I am taking a particular client with me... that they feel entitled to even though none of them did a single lick of work on the project. And yes, we're talking under $10k.

I definitely have industry contacts - have already been talking with four other organizations (soon to be 5) who are interested in collaborating with me. I also have a side biz idea that I might pursue. It's all very promising, though nothing's quite materialized yet.

I do actually hope in the longer run to never work with them again, but in the short run I'm willing to if it means not dipping into our FU money too much. I will be able to avoid having contact with the worst person there, who has actively been avoiding me since I said I was leaving.


anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2015, 09:23:03 PM »
How far apart are you?

On the main issue we're $1500-5000 apart.



[EDIT: removed potentially identifying details.]
« Last Edit: December 22, 2015, 10:08:31 PM by anoneemus »

terran

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2015, 10:08:28 PM »
Any chance you can give up the equity buy back in return for no client profit share? Clean break and all that.

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2015, 10:08:51 PM »
terran that's what I had proposed to them and they rejected it.

11ducks

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2015, 10:16:45 PM »
How far apart are you?

On the main issue we're $1500-5000 apart.



[EDIT: removed potentially identifying details.]

Option 3 - walk away. You win, you are done and never have to deal with them again.

lhamo

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2015, 10:18:29 PM »
Option #3, definitely.  Just be done with them.  You will make back the small amount of money in no time, especially once you are no longer wasting mental/emotional energy on dealing with them.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2015, 10:26:39 PM »
Another vote for #3.

Take the high road and be happy you're free of that petty bullshit. That amount of money is not worth the hassle and you can feel secretly smug at being away from their nitpicky selves.


JJNL

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2015, 03:03:41 AM »
I vote for walk. It's not a lot of money you guys are haggling about - such a paltry sum is not worth the emotional energy it will cost you to get it. Also, a lawsuit is definitely not worth it. And don't put it past them to sue you, even if they have no grounds - in my experience, assholes will be assholes, and you would still have to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. Even if you win, this might wind up costing you money. So get out now.

Expatriate

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2015, 03:14:14 AM »
Agree, it's just money and not even a large amount at that. Not worth the stress. #3.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2015, 06:32:54 AM »
For $5000 just take the high road at this point.

thd7t

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2015, 08:00:44 AM »
Go with 3, but extract a promise of work in the future.  I don't know exactly how you'd go about that, but you should get some weight behind their "offer".

zephyr911

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2015, 08:31:51 AM »
I do actually hope in the longer run to never work with them again, but in the short run I'm willing to if it means not dipping into our FU money too much. I will be able to avoid having contact with the worst person there, who has actively been avoiding me since I said I was leaving.
Isn't that the point of FU money?

If you're experienced in your field and have a good reputation, and have FU money, maybe you're better off letting that door close. Don't provoke them or give them excuses to trash your name, but don't put out extra effort to stay on their good side either.

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2015, 09:30:24 AM »
I do actually hope in the longer run to never work with them again, but in the short run I'm willing to if it means not dipping into our FU money too much. I will be able to avoid having contact with the worst person there, who has actively been avoiding me since I said I was leaving.
Isn't that the point of FU money?

If you're experienced in your field and have a good reputation, and have FU money, maybe you're better off letting that door close. Don't provoke them or give them excuses to trash your name, but don't put out extra effort to stay on their good side either.

Yes, you're right about the purpose of FU money. I guess because right now a good chunk of it is also doubling as our house down payment fund, I am reluctant to use it for living expenses if I don't absolutely have to. Then again, another perspective would be to realize we actually have about a year and a half of expenses saved, and freeing myself from this shit-infested workplace is worth whatever FU money we have to use.
 
« Last Edit: December 23, 2015, 09:35:09 AM by anoneemus »

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #18 on: December 23, 2015, 09:47:07 AM »
Go with 3, but extract a promise of work in the future.  I don't know exactly how you'd go about that, but you should get some weight behind their "offer".

They will never promise work, which they'll justify by saying I don't have a non-compete, so they're not limiting my ability to get work from others. (The latter is true.) They are also never going to promise not to try to poach my most significant client (which they've already tried to do.) I asked for a simple contingency on the equity buyback - that even if I sell them my equity now (for virtually nothing), that I get my 14% equity cut if they sell the firm within 3 years of my leaving - after all, I have done as much to build the firm over 11 years as the rest of them. I am nearly certain they're not going to sell the firm - probably ever, but certainly not in the next 3 years - so it should have been an easy and cost-free 'yes' for them that recognizes how I have helped build the firm that exists today. But no, they rejected that outright.

This is precisely why I'm leaving. What's theirs is theirs, and what's mine is theirs. I think, in the end, I need to choose to adopt an abundance mindset - there will always be more clients even if they poach mine. And there will always be better people to work with.

I actually think that at the end of the day their narcissistic egos are bruised that I would dare leave. One of them actually said aloud, incredulously, "I can't believe you are choosing to leave one of the top firms in the world in our field!" Well yes, yes I am. Douche.

DH gave me a good mental image. I don't know where he heard this - I'm sure it's urban legend - but he told me the story of a concentration camp prisoner kneeling in a prayer of thanksgiving. A fellow prisoner asked what he could possibly be thankful for, and he answered, "That I am not, and will never be, like them."
« Last Edit: December 23, 2015, 09:49:52 AM by anoneemus »

Tyler

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2015, 09:54:23 AM »
One of my favorite books is "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne.  A major point of his that stuck with me is that freedom from any stress is always within your grasp if you're willing to pay the price (not just talking about $$$) to be free. 

The price of freedom in this situation seems known and affordable.  Your freedom from from this toxic environment is certainly worth more than that.  Personally, I'd pay up and celebrate.

nobody123

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #20 on: December 23, 2015, 11:39:39 AM »
I would counter back.  At this point they probably want you gone and this over with as much as you want to leave.  Why should you take more than a reasonable financial hit because they say so?  If they don't accept the counter, then say since you can't agree to separation terms, you'll be staying for another year and we can try negotiating next November.  The only reason they keep asking for more and more is because you keep conceding.

lhamo

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #21 on: December 23, 2015, 06:11:17 PM »
I highly recommend the following two books, which helped me extract myself from unhealthy work situations two times in the past decade:

1)  "The No Asshole Rule" by Bob Sutton  -- will help you confirm your evaluation of the people you are leaving as assholes, and also help you ensure you set up your new business in a non-asshole way (not that you are/would ever be an asshole, but it is surprising how much dysfunction you can gradually internalize and how hard it can be sometimes to get rid of its insidious influences.  In my case I will probably NEVER get away from some ingrained CYA techniques I adopted just to survive in one particularly dysfunctional environment, and that can be misread by people who don't understand what is motivating it)

2)  "Necessary Endings" by Henry Cloud -- this helped me pull the plug on my last job.  A less evangelically, more business oriented book than his more popular book "Boundaries"

The_path_less_taken

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #22 on: December 23, 2015, 08:27:00 PM »
#2

If it were me, I would write a reply/counter with every obscenity I know (in 5 languages).

Then burn that. But it would be fun to write!

I would SUBMIT a calm, rational, point by point explanation of why your counter is fair...

"We have been in business a long time. I don't want this to turn into a messy divorce scenario. I respect the firm, but I also will not be disrespected by you. I have contributed xyz and therefore feel that I am entitled to abc etc....

I would number my points, use bullets, etc. Spend the time you'd use in writing a proposal to a new client.

I'd close with something along the lines of: "Bottom line, life is short. At some point in the future, I will be referring clients to you. That reason alone is why you should accept my generous counter-offer: so we can all move on, not burn any bridges, or have to resort to a 'financial proctologist/lawyer' to hammer out the fine points of this situation. Because we both might as well just set our wallets on fire rather than hire attorneys: it would certainly be cheaper."

NorCal

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2015, 10:09:38 PM »
Go with option #3, but make them put in writing what they will staff you on in the future (as that sounds more important to you than the small dollars).

Making Cookies

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #24 on: December 23, 2015, 11:32:54 PM »
Speak to your clients quietly "off the record", prep them for your departure, hopefully they will work with you in the future. Get some sort of legal paper that insulates you from the company you are leaving. And walk. Soon.

Not worth the damn stress. If the situation is soured then restart a new business that is competing with the old one. May the best business thrive. Hopefully you can prevent the old company from suing you in any new endeavors you might start.

A relative of mine was in the same situation 30 years ago and was sued. He left and his clients chose to go with him. The old company wanted to knock him out of business but they could not.

Different company: At a previous job the guy that hired me did exactly this. He walked, took the cream of the crop (a dozen experienced engineers and mechanics and I was not yet experienced enough to be desirable to his new company), and started a new business directly competing with the old company. Has started small, they have captured some of the business that used to go to the original employer but have carefully managed the company growth to eliminate alot of the problems of the first company. First of all - they get to have better work/life balances, less stress, better outcomes, etc.

His departure was my first real understanding of the first company's problems and I left a year or so later for my own greener pastures as well with a third employer and a career with a future.

dess1313

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #25 on: December 24, 2015, 12:00:33 AM »
If its less than $5k i'd take option 3.  Keep someone with you as needed for help at these stressful meetings.  i would not concede anything else.  you could always tweak it a slight bit but think of it as your escape route, its more important to you than your mental well being/health being tortured

The poison they are inflicting isn't worth it.  they might think they're winning, but sounds like you're doing most of the work, so it'll be a surprise to them when you are gone.   I'm not sure why you'd want to come back contracting with them afterwards, seems like you'd be putting yourself back into a toxic pit doing so.

Make sure you are not restricted in your working with clients, and can act free and clear on your own after you leave.  talk to clients now, and let them know you're leaving and plant the seed of a good relationship, etc, good rate, what ever it is that makes it juicy for them to come to your side of the fence.  If you've built good relationships, it might be easier than you think.  If you're fed up, some others might be too

LeRainDrop

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #26 on: December 24, 2015, 11:22:53 PM »
Do you have a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement with your current company?  I suspect the last thing you'd want is to be litigating over that.

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2016, 10:56:56 AM »
I went back and forth about whether to counter or not. After consulting DH, sister, father, and therapist, I did end up countering, and made it clear that it was my last/best offer.

I have no non-compete - I will be able to take my clients with me, and I'm not out to poach the remaining partners' clients (*ahem* unlike what one of them has done to me...). AFAIK, there's literally nothing that they could sue me for. I did notice that they had already removed me from the partner roster on the 30th even though technically I was still a partner until yesterday. Uh huh.

The other day I listed out all of my 2016 pending or confirmed gigs (mainly through other orgs, but one is a client of mine that is definitely booking work for this year) and it adds up to almost 1/3 of the income we need for the year. In my line of work this is terrific news - I don't often have this much work booked by the first of the year. I have a good feeling about 2016. As soon as this piece of the transition is over, it'll be nothing but blue skies ahead.

Bergal

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2016, 04:27:53 PM »
Congratulations on doing what's right for you!  Please keep us posted and let us know what happens.  Best of luck to you in 2016.  Sounds like you are very well positioned, no matter what happens.

dess1313

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #29 on: January 03, 2016, 10:59:38 PM »
Congrats!  i wish you the best of luck!

Axecleaver

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #30 on: January 04, 2016, 02:55:32 PM »
When negotiating terms of this sort, you have to recognize that each side values things differently. They might put a lot of value on an equity restriction. If you think it's unlikely that they'll sell the firm, but they want to keep that right, make them pay for it. The more variety you can come up with, the better off you are. The guy who is focused on only the final number is usually the loser. This is why negotiating soft comp is often more successful than pushing for more hard comp in job negotiations.

Your goal in a negotiation is to frame the choices in such a way that you don't care which way your opponent goes, then give them the opportunity to choose among your framed options. If you strongly prefer one of the paths over the others, the person defining the choices has misjudged the value of one of the terms. (But also see point 1 above).

It's also good to identify the BATNA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement). What happens if your "best and final" is not acceptable? In this case understanding the BATNA helps each party to work hard toward a solution that works better for both sides.

Finally, you should probably not be trying to negotiate this over email. Find a way to get in the same room with the decision maker(s) or their proxies, and get this done.

Tabitha

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #31 on: January 04, 2016, 05:14:12 PM »
Sorry if I am a little late with my comments.

Since the drawbacks of #1 & #2 are a possible smear campaign, and the cost of #3 is ~<5k, I would be inclined to shoot for #3 with an included no bad comments clause, backed up by a reasonable penalty.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #32 on: January 05, 2016, 09:59:39 AM »
Talk to a lawyer before saying there is no way they could sue you.  People with weak claims sue all the time and it costs a lot to defend even those bogus claims.  Talk to a lawyer about a possible release that could be signed as part of your departure so they can't sue you.

maco

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #33 on: January 05, 2016, 10:38:51 AM »
#2

If it were me, I would write a reply/counter with every obscenity I know (in 5 languages).

Then burn that. But it would be fun to write!

I would SUBMIT a calm, rational, point by point explanation of why your counter is fair...
Bonus points if the left column of letters spells out "fuck you assholes"!

ender

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #34 on: January 05, 2016, 10:52:51 AM »
Is it more important to you to win or be happy?

Seems this decision comes down to that.

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #35 on: January 05, 2016, 11:52:43 AM »
Definitely to be happy; I'm certainly not going to be the one to pursue anything legal here. But I think once I realized that they can't really hurt my reputation (I'm learning I actually have a very good reputation around here), they are unlikely to throw work my way even if I play nice and give them more $$$ now, and I am already developing some strong new work opportunities completely independent of them, it did seem worth providing one last reasonable counter.

They now have a signed document from me sitting in their inbox, awaiting their countersignature.

tonyevans

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #36 on: January 05, 2016, 12:36:32 PM »
I didn't read every single reply, so someone may have addressed this, but you mentioned a point of struggle is that you're possibly taking a client with you. Could you go with #3, forget the cash, get out, and take the client? This doesn't put any cash in your pocket, but would give you future work and you'd be done with them. In the long haul, this could help soften the blow of losing that 1500-5000 dollars.

Josiecat

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #37 on: January 05, 2016, 12:52:51 PM »
Congratulations on your new beginning.

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #38 on: January 10, 2016, 02:26:38 PM »
Update: No real surprise...they didn't like me countering and they've written some pretty jaw-dropping stuff about me in response. I'm taking clients "without their consent" and it was terrible of me to "decide without consulting" that I was leaving, especially after all the years that they "invested" in me (I'm sorry, what $$ have I EVER cost the firm? I have more than covered my own costs from my first day).

So they pretty much are painting me as selfish and evil.

Which I will ultimately be okay with. I don't regret sending the counteroffer. It's not that their whole opinion of me hinged on my pushing back once more; they didn't feel fine about me and then suddenly I was evil because I suggested mildly different terms. All that my counteroffer did was expose what they actually think of me, thus confirming, yet again, why I'm leaving. There is a bit of a bummer in there that two women who had previously expressed sympathy for my frustrations co-signed the nasty letter back to me; it is too bad that the ringleader among them has gotten the rest of them to drink his Kool-Aid. I was friendly with those two women and we socialized occasionally. Obviously, that won't be happening anymore.

My always astute sister half-jokingly suggested that I not argue with their latest BS but instead give them a copy of the book "Conscious Uncoupling" and do a meditation wishing them all the very best: health, life, prosperity, and new love.

Fuzz

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #39 on: January 10, 2016, 04:28:26 PM »
Without knowing much detail, just walk away if the dispute is less than $5K.

These people sound terrible, and you're just going to get sucked into their games. At the end of the day, it doesn't sound like the fight is worth it. Maybe do a counter-offer or two, but be Buddhist about it.

I'd walk. I would not expect them to give you work. I would try to take the big client with you. Don't sign any non-competes or anything that would prevent that client from going with you. Let them believe whatever they need to believe to get yourselves untangled. In 2 months, when you're separate, contact that client.

After 11 years, your work should speak for itself, and their reputation and your reputation are what they are.


Josiecat

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #40 on: January 10, 2016, 05:10:44 PM »
Why did you counter?  Good grief, it's not that much money.  Walk away.

anoneemus

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Re: Escaping a toxic workplace - fight back or walk away?
« Reply #41 on: January 10, 2016, 06:35:58 PM »
Well, interestingly, by countering back, where we have landed is 3k back in my pocket.

After 11 years with them, and knowing how they think very very well, what I realized is that countering or not wasn't going to change their view of me. I'm on their shit list and I have been since the day I said I was leaving. The niceties of whether they'd throw work my way were just that -niceties. Certainly not anything to bank on.

I am glad for this last bitter exchange because it solidifies everything that was "off" about being there, and I have no reason to doubt or second guess my decision. Their casting aspersions on my character reflects on them, not me. No one in any other part of my professional or personal life would would recognize the picture they are painting of me - that's how distorted their view is.

My dad's reviewing everything just to be sure I'm not putting myself at any legal risk. I'll accept the new terms they've offered and then we'll be done with each other.