The Broke Pocket Diaries: Paying for that cheque

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Yesterday, for International Women’s Day, and every day, companies across the land try to convince people, media and potential employees, that they are forward-thinking, women-positive, flexible and inclusive. They create beautiful websites and Best Employer applications–which I’ve worked on–but don’t be gaslit, folks.

There are many awesome organizations, but the majority don’t truly consider the employee and costs we pay every day for that cheque.

Y’all are like, what are you talking about?

Hear me out.

I worked for an organization that always highlighted their commitment to flexibility and to inclusion and diversity. At one point in time, it was true. Over the years, diversity and inclusion became less and less important to the point that it wasn’t even a second thought–it had dropped to maybe sixth or seventh.

Although I knew all this “women-are-important-we-are-DIVERSE!-flexibility-is-necessary” business was just talk with no real action behind it, I did benefit from flexibility and was able to work from home. And that, my friends, is what caught me in their snare. I didn’t want to leave because I could work from home and be with the girls. 

That was their attempt to mitigate the human costs of working and, for me, working in a toxic environment. No matter where you work–for yourself or for someone else–you pay a price. There is a human cost of dealing with other people and situations that drain you and destroy your confidence, self-esteem and suck your energy.

After about five months, the costs of a toxic workplace became too high. I was having heart palpitations, losing weight, not sleeping–but I could be stressed in the comfort of my home.

I was working from 8:30 am to 9 pm or later. I was told not to check emails after hours, but if I didn’t I was already 50 messages and requests behind when I would log in the next day.

I would flinch when my email would ding because I knew some ridiculous, time-consuming, illogical request would be sitting in my inbox…with about 10 additional emails asking if I was going to respond to the first email.

Five minutes after it landed in my inbox.

Just to make sure I was working.

I was anxious. I was stressed. I was angry. I was undervalued. 

This was their version of flexibility.

It was not sustainable–even if I was doing the job at home.

These emotions and feelings that I was experiencing were the human costs of work.

What kind of emotions, attention and energy do you expend to do your job? To further your career? The emotional costs are high in many of workplaces where we spend hour upon hour each week. And is it worth it?

You have to know yourself and know what’s important, what’s meaningful and what are your nightmares. What builds you up? Is money enough? Is ‘flexibility’ enough to keep you in a role that may be misaligned with your values, dreams and objectives? Are you so focused on stability that you are making do with being treated poorly for a cheque or for a flexible work arrangement?

Ultimately, my employer and I parted ways and it was a relief because for what I was getting out of our deal (a stable cheque), I was sacrificing life (my energy, my physical and mental health).

I say all of this to say, take some time to take stock of how much you’re paying to be employed and if it’s worth it.

For most of us, work isn’t going to be perfect and wonderful and sunshine and roses all of the time. I don’t think it has to be, but it should be a place where you can spend your day without weeping at some point or wishing you could do something else with your life or just feeling stuck and uninspired without the energy to do something to fulfill yourself after your 9 to 5.

And I’m not saying that all workplaces are toxic. Some are amazing. Some suck. Most are somewhere in the middle. There ain’t one thing wrong with a stable paycheque, but don’t be OK for killing yourself physically and emotionally for dollars.


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