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What To Weigh Up If You’re Staying In A Toxic Job For The Salary

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As we inch towards the mid-2020s during a cost of living crisis, leaving a job isn’t as straightforward as it was for generations before us.
Inflation is causing the majority of people to tighten their budgets and, according to the Financial Review, almost 23,000 Australians are estimated to have been laid off in 2023, proving that job security in this country is shaky at best. 
With all of this in mind, the thought of leaving a well-paying (or, any paying) job can be incredibly daunting, no matter how toxic the workplace may be.
To learn if staying at a job for the money is ever worth it, Refinery29 Australia spoke with Carly Dober, a work psychologist from Enriching Lives Psychology

How to tell when a job isn’t serving you anymore

Firstly, how can you tell when you’re simply bored, versus when it’s time for a new environment?
According to Dober, if you feel you have no career progression, aren’t motivated or energised by the role, your interests aren’t aligned with the company and you’re not receiving professional benefits such as study leave or role sharing, then it may be time to start drafting up your letter of resignation. 

What if you want to leave? 

Even with an emergency fund saved up, many of us likely wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving a role with absolutely nothing lined up — those energy bills wait for no one. 
“You might have to stay in a role longer than you’d like to due to the need for an income. If this is what you’re experiencing, I highly encourage you to build a good life outside of work so it doesn’t feel like your current situation is your ‘forever’ one.” 
If you need to retrain in order to change careers, Charles Darwin University can fit learning around your lifestyle with its flexible, 100% online courses. It could make your life easier to keep earning your salary while you hit the books and then pivot to your new career path when possible. 
For people who are in a position to leave their workplace sooner, make sure your networking skills are on point, your LinkedIn page is up to date and you’ve had a think about what you want your next move to be. 
“I’d also encourage people not to make [rash] decisions,” says Dober, “say you’ve had a very difficult week, or a disagreement with a colleague, and are feeling very emotionally overstimulated. Talk to friends about it and weigh up all of your options and the potential issues that might arise.”
Otherwise, you could find yourself draining any savings you had and wondering if things really were that bad after all.

What should you weigh up if the money’s worth it? 

Under capitalism, we’re all exchanging our time, labour and skills for monetary gain. Dober says that, “It’s really up to you to consider if the money you're getting for your time is worth your mental health and well-being.” 
For some people, the security of a well-paying job (despite it not being their preferred career path or workplace) is worth the cost to their mental health or professional aspirations. And who could blame them when buying groceries is costing almost as much as eating out?
If you want to keep the lifestyle your high-paying job affords you, Dober recommends focusing on how you manage your life both at work and outside of it. 
“Do you have any colleagues or acquaintances you can be honest with? Make sure you maintain connections with them and leave the office during lunchtime or morning tea to get a [change of] environment and to be able to talk openly and transparently.” 
Dober also suggests building a fun and joyful life outside of work that includes hobbies, connection to family, friends and community – something we should all be doing, regardless of our work satisfaction levels. 
“Make sure that you take your sick and personal leave, and plan and take holidays! Also, ensure that you’re doing your contracted hours and no more if and when possible.” 
Dober notes that time boundaries are really important if you feel like your workplace is toxic, and the less that your work encroaches on your free time, the better. 
You also have to weigh up whether or not you're willing to continue heading down your chosen career path for the money, even when you'd rather be a pastry chef in the South of France. Because whilst security is incredibly important (and increasingly so), we do only get one life.
If you need more targeted tips and tools, consider connecting to a psychologist who might be able to support your mental health and well-being through this difficult time.
At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for you, and this decision can be massively swayed if you have any dependents such as parents or children. This is why chipping away at a flexible qualification whilst still earning a full-time salary could be a smart move.
But, considering the huge chunk of our lives that we spend at work, weighing up your happiness (or, at least, your professional satisfaction) and your pay cheque is something we all should be taking seriously. 
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