Professional PTSD

15 December 2018
2 min read

When you start a new job, everyone gives you bits of advice to take your co-workers out for coffee, or study up before your first day. What they don't tell you is how to navigate the first couple days, weeks, and months if you're coming out of a toxic environment. I call this "Professional PTSD". Transitioning from a very dysfunctional environment to one that is much healthier, progressive, and productive (both for yourself and your psyche) is important but not well thought through or documented. I put together a couple of thoughts through speaking with some friends about how to adjust to this new chapter of life.

1. Give yourself the time to onboard.
Many times, we are rushing out the gate to get started on the project or program we're supposed to be working on. However, it is important to take stock of what is going around you before jumping on board.

2. Trust others.
In a previous role, the passive aggressive nature of individuals made me constantly second guess what their intent was. Even if I was assigned a task or had a discussion about how to move forward, it was hard not to pick apart the entire conversation analytically to decipher its hidden meaning. However, in a new role, is important to not only trust that others will say what they mean, but will also have the follow-through that they expect of you. This especially becomes important as you learn about the visions of the leaders of the organizations and have to trust their visions are grounded in deep thought.

3. You are trusted.
You do not need to prove yourself and your capabilities. You are a trusted member of the team and are held accountable equally to everyone else.

4. Find your focus.
When starting in a new organization, you're drinking from the hose. For the most part it works for the first couple of weeks as you're a sponge, but very quickly it's important to find your focus. Sustained chugging doesn't really work if you look at being set up for success from a long-term perspective. Finding and understanding the boundaries of your role help create that focus. In previous roles, those boundaries were probably various shades of gray and it's important to make sure they're defined early and well.

5. Find your people.
While it may have been hard to find "your people" in previous jobs, it doesn't mean that there aren't any in this new role. Be patient with yourself as it will take time but they're out there.


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I acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Custodians on whose land I live, play, and work. I pay my deepest respects to all Indigenous Elders past, present and emerging.

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