More often than we want to admit, we’re all to blame.  

I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve done in the past months where I was told how their last company was “toxic”. Twice this week, at least.

It’s the new hot term to describe situations that are challenging.  Or hard.  Or that we didn’t enjoy.  Or where we were asked to do more than we wanted to.  And calling these situations “toxic” puts 100% of the blame … on them.  They are toxic, after all.  That job was toxic.  That VP was toxic.  The VCs were toxic.

Even the Wall Street Journal put out a piece on it:

If you’d asked me earlier in my career, maybe even just 10 years ago, while I wouldn’t have used the word “toxic”, I would have said — hey it happened to me too. 

I worked at “terrible” places. Earlier in my career, I had a terrible boss I literally made millions for, treated me terribly.  Earlier in my career, I worked at a BigCompany, and struggled to adjust to its cadence and pace and well, bloat, and got frustrated.

I blamed them. No, not aloud, but to myself. I said to myself it was my bad boss, or my uninspired colleagues. I never blamed any VCs, but I could have.  I blamed them for the crappy work environments.

But now some time has gone by after a global pandemic.

We’ve had so much change.

Now I see it was me. Not literally, and of course not entirely. I was the best in these organizations — literally. And I gave it my all. I always have.

But I chose not to conform. I chose not to do things their way. It wasn’t my house. It wasn’t my company. Yes, I delivered. But not the way I was asked to.

In 2024, we call this “toxic” in many cases.

But now I see, it was on me. If it’s not a fit, it’s never 100% their fault. Or at least, rarely. It’s tough to see you may be making it worse, even if you did some stuff well. I made it worse, even when I was the best employee there was.

Just move on. “Toxicity” isn’t untrue, it’s just it won’t lead you to the proper root cause analysis.

It won’t lead you to see what you too could have done better, and should do better, next time.

That includes me.

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