Bitch Nation, as the year comes to a close, so does season three of the Bitches Get Riches podcast. As they say, all good things must come to an end! In this case… mediocre things too, lezbee honest.
And we’re going out with a bang! Today’s question covers one of our favorite topics to vent about, and our least favorite to personally experience: toxic workplaces. Specifically: what do you do about them when you fear retaliation in your future job prospects?
The “Great Resignation” is a bellwether for wonderful advancements in labor rights and fair and equitable workplaces. But the very fact that we’re going through what amounts to an unprecedented general strike means… shit’s bad out there! Toxic workplaces are 2021’s other pandemic. And if today’s question is any indication, y’all are tired of dealing with it.
This week’s question
Today’s letter comes to us from Patreon donor Anna. Anna writes:
I have worked at a string of less than perfect places with toxic managers and owners. As a feisty Capricorn, all I want to do in my exit interview is to read the toxic motherfuckers I work under for filth. To say “You overwork us, lean on staff to the extreme, don’t respect our personal lives, force people to come in sick, and engage in serial wage theft!” But I live in a big small town where the owners of these places all know each other.
After some serious self-reflection, I can’t really say I do anything wrong at work other than being over qualified for the job, highly competent, and sticking up for myself so I don’t work for free or let people steal my wages. I know that bosses don’t like people who know their rights. But I swear I’m otherwise a good employee.
I’m finding myself in a smaller and smaller pool of places to seek employment because every time I try somewhere new it’s the same toxic bullshit. And I am SICK of pretending that everything is fine when I inevitably quit for better wages or because I’m sick of the manager’s BS.
TLDR; how the hell do you speak your mind to a toxic boss in a small town when you quit without royally fucking your future job prospects?Living embodiment of our hope for the future, Anna
As dedicated readers of Bitches Get Riches well know, it is my personal goal in life to become a professional firer of bad bosses. Which is why we’ve written so much on the subject of shitty managers and toxic workplaces:
- Bonus Episode: “I Can’t Stand Another Day at My Toxic Workplace! Can I Walk Away Without a New Job Lined Up?”
- Are You Working on the Next Fyre Festival?: Identifying a Toxic Workplace
- Ask the Bitches: My Boss Won’t Give Me a Contract and I’m Freaking Out
- My Secret Weapon for Preparing for Awkward Boss Confrontations
- Should You Trust Your Human Resources Department?
- Don’t Turn Your Passions Into Work
- Season 2, Episode 7: “How Do I Throw My Incompetent Coworkers under the Bus?”
- Antiwork Is the New American Dream
Ladies and gentlemen… our Patreon donors are the reason for the season. Two thousand years ago, these wise people saw a star in the East, and they traveled from near and far to bestow gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh upon your humble Bitches. And the Bitches spaketh unto them: “What the fuck is frankincense?” And it was good. You too, can show your appreciation for the Bitches (and help us produce our podcast) by joining our Patreon below!
Episode transcript (click to reveal)
This episode, like every episode this season, was brought to you by our patreon donors. Guys, we really appreciate each and every one of you but this time we’re thanking in particular Cory, Casey, Eli, Taylor, Pooja, Julia, Bridget, MCP, Dana, Polly, Sarah, Rachel P, Rachel T, and the Fantabulous Gender Emporium. And an extra-special thanks go this time to Meghan, Kelly, and Star. Now, we’re telling you about Meghan, Kelly, and Star because they went to Patreon.com/BitchesGetRiches. When you do that, you’re helping us make sure that this fine financial edutainment remains accessible and available to everyone. You’re helping to pay our assistant a fair wage. And you’re supporting us personally, too. But you’re also opening a portal into the astral plane, where I can see one fundamental truth about you. For example, because they donated, I know that Meghan is as majestic as a timber wolf howling at a silver moon. And I know that Kelly is as warm and welcoming as the first day of spring. And I know that Star is as awe-inspiring as a gun that shoots thunder. Okay? So if you want us to come back and make another season of this show, OR if you just want to gain that self-knowledge through a complex interplay of the astral plane slash the patreon platform, go ahead and join us on Patreon.com/BitchesGetRiches. We hope to see you there! Thank you all, we love you!
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It takes an investment and we were happy to make that investment for the first year or two. And after that we were like, the time has come. If you guys believe in us, we need you to cough up a couple of ha’pennies, and y’all have coughed up—
So many ha’pennies!
A substantial number of ha’pennies.
I’m actually worried about your digestion. Like the number of ha’pennies that have come spewing out of… [laughs]
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We are genuinely not worthy. I feel like they are owed the moon in return.
Being the Auntie Bitches to all of these little bitchlings in Bitch Nation is seriously one of the greatest joys of my contemporary life. And we take it very seriously, by which I mean, we don’t take it seriously at all.
If we ever take ourselves too seriously like, we expect you all to come for us.
I know that for so many of you, you followed our advice to get a raise or get a promotion or leave a bad relationship or whatever, and that has made you financially stronger and you are the people who want to pass that stability on to others. You recognize that there’s a lot of people who need our advice and we don’t ever want to hide our best advice behind a paywall, but we need someone to help us fund the podcast and it’s y’all. We appreciate you, the monetary support that you give to us keeps the podcast going. It helps us pay for an assistant to make our lives a little bit easier.
Shout out, Ducky!
[whoops] Thanks for all the hard work this season! And if you guys like what we do and you want us to keep going, please go to Patreon.com/BitchesGetRiches. It’s a really fun community.
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Theme Song 3:48
If you need some dough
You don’t know where to go
In this patriarchal capitalist hellscape
Well here’s the ‘sitch
We’re gonna help you, sis
Because bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
And so can you
Anyway, I’m Kitty.
And I’m Piggy.
And we are the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.
We’re two laboratory experiments gone horribly wrong.
And we are here to terrorize the city and cause general mayhem!
Our time on this planet is limited.
Alright, so let’s get started.
Today’s letter comes to us from patreon donor Anna. Anna writes, I have worked at a string of less than perfect places with toxic managers and owners. As a feisty Capricorn, all I want to do in my exit interview is to read the toxic motherfuckers I work under for filth. To say “You overwork us, lean on staff to the extreme, don’t respect our personal lives, force people to come in sick, and engage in serial wage theft!” But I live in a big small town where the owners of these places all know each other. After some serious self-reflection, I can’t really say I do anything wrong at work other than being over qualified for the job, highly competent, and sticking up for myself so I don’t work for free or let people steal my wages. I know that bosses don’t like people who know their rights. But I swear I’m otherwise a good employee. I’m finding myself in a smaller and smaller pool of places to seek employment because every time I try somewhere new it’s the same toxic bullshit. And I am SICK of pretending that everything is fine when I inevitably quit for better wages or because I’m sick of the manager’s BS. TLDR; how the hell do you speak your mind to a toxic boss in a small town when you quit without royally fucking your future job prospects?
Fucking move, Anna. Start saving your pennies.
You need to get out of this fucking town because if your employment opportunities are limited to shitty toxic workplaces with this like, Mafia cabal of toxic bosses? Like my god, girl, you in danger! Get the fuck out of there.
I grew up in a small town called Normal, Illinois. And Normal, Illinois has two employers. It’s Illinois State University and State Farm. This sense of small town interconnected-ness in an ooky ooky employment way, I totally understand. And I think Anna’s right about everybody who works for these companies, they all talk to one another. It is absolutely the kind of situation where if they’re thinking about hiring you, they are totally going to pick up the phone and call those mutual connections and say, hey, I’m thinking about hiring Anna. What do you think of them? So, you are totally right to be cautious in how you handle those exits.
Yes. So, let’s assume that Anna, for whatever reason, can’t move.
And needs to stay in this job market.
So, I have strong feelings about the whole exit interview thing. It’s a very destructive thing to hold onto grievances until you have already ended the relationship. If you’re leaving and the only time that you’re giving them that constructive criticism is when you’re already out the door, completely burnt that bridge, it just seems like you are being critical in bad faith rather than actually trying to improve. Now, sometimes that can be warranted. Sometimes you have a lot of access to observations or information that let you know, you know, this company is not really interested in changing and that you’d be wasting your breath. Like, they know that they’re committing wage-theft, I guarantee you that.
But what they don’t know is that any of their employees are aware of it. And if you are waiting to make them aware, then I think you are being courageous too late. It is not constructive.
But yeah, you’ve actually tapped into something that I never considered with this situation. ‘Cause my initial reaction was just like, read them for filth. Like make your exit interview a scathing indictment. But you’re right. I do think it is way more constructive to address these things and bring them up as they come up in your tenure at the company. You, of course, run the risk in that case of—if they really don’t like their sins being revealed and to know that somebody has their fucking number and is telling them to do better—you know, you do run the risk of getting fired or laid off before you’re ready to quit and move on. That said, honestly like you would be doing yourself and your co-workers a huge fucking favor by trying to improve the workplace before you move on. So that at least when you do move on, you can say, well I tried to end the wage theft.
The leading form of theft in this fine country we call America is wage theft.
It’s employers who, for example, insist that their employees come in and go through a long, rigorous bag check and clocking in that takes half an hour to get inside and get changed if they’re in uniforms or whatever, and not paying them for that time. Or forcing them to work overtime, but telling them that they need to clock out at 39 hours and 59 minutes because a minute over that, and we’re going to have to start paying you for real, real money.
Yeah. Exactly. Wage theft is a huge problem. And if you bring it up with a pro wage-theft person, they will say, well, what about time theft? which is when an employee does personal work on the company’s time. Wage theft vastly outweighs time theft in this country. When Anna is complaining about wage theft, serial wage theft at that, it’s not a small complaint.
No, it is a multi billion-dollar crime that’s being committed against poor and middle-income people and almost no one faces prosecution for it.
Yeah, they get away with it constantly.
It’s expensive and time-consuming and unpleasant to go through the kinds of legal hurdles that you have to in order to prove it and to get compensation for it. I think that—
We’re keeping it light, like a Wheat Thin, for this last episode. Again, I think that—to me, when you are invested in a relationship with a company by being their employee, you have much, much, much more leverage to ask them to change than after you’ve given your notice. The exit interview for them is like an HR check box that they have to check, and they’re used to people kind of saying like, oh good. I wrote a list in my special notebook of all the people who were ever mean to me! And they’re kind of used to shrugging that information off. Whereas if an active employee goes to them and says, hey, the way that you guys tell us to catalog our time sheets to make sure that we’re not working overtime, yeah, I checked my state’s regulations and that seems to be illegal. Can you elaborate on this? When you are still committed to the relationship, you have some pull, some weight.
When we are shy about direct action, we lessen our potential impact and we make it so that those complaints against a company are just sort of the buzzing of mosquitoes in their ears. If you’re not going to talk with your fellow co-workers about how much money you make, you are not a real threat to your company. If you’re not interested in doing the research of what local unions could you join and are you willing to do the work of organizing with your fellow employees to join that union, you’re not a real threat. All of your complaints are just kind of dust in the wind to your company, especially if you’ve already given notice.
The exit interview is too late.
Yeah. I think it’s quite rare for a company to recognize when its culture is one that is toxic, but toxic in a way that’s productive for the company and to take steps to change it.
Really they’re usually just concerned about their bottom line. Like wait, what’s the problem, that employees are working too much? Does not sound like a problem to me. It’s a short-sighted company, but I totally understand that that’s where they’re coming from.
To affect change, it has to affect the bottom line. If you want to change something about your toxic work environment, you need to make that toxic work environment the company’s problem rather than the employees’ problem. And at the risk of showing my Marxist hand, that’s kind of what unions are for.
I know, I said the u-word.
Even if you are not in a pro-union company, pro-union town, and you can’t make that work, like there are things you can do within your company to change the culture without unionizing, and to effect change.
Amen. For example, let’s say that your office’s main problem is that there’s this unspoken but pervasive feeling that if you go home at 5 pm, you’re not serious about the company, that you’re not a good employee. I’ve worked at companies like that. And when I stood up to leave at like 5:02, I had a boss who turned to me and looked with shock and said, are you leaving? And I said, yes, it’s 5 pm and my contracted time here is over. If you have something else that you need for me to do, I’m happy to tell you I’ll be back at 9 am tomorrow. And I think that kind of like, in the moment setting an example that all of your fellow employees can follow means a lot. When I did that, that meant 3 other co-workers stood up and went, yeah, you know what, my kids are already home. Like I got to get ho—yeah, you know what, I know I’m coming in early tomorrow, I’m not going to stay late. Like yeah, I’m exhausted—like I feel bad that any of them felt like they had to provide reasons for them to be leaving at 5 pm whereas I was like, nope. It’s 5:02. You are 2 minutes in my debt, sir-ma’am. I’m out. Anna, like in those moments where you’re being asked to do something that qualifies as wage theft, are you loudly within range of your other co-workers saying, I don’t think that that’s legal. I’m pretty sure that that’s wage theft. Can you look into that before you confirm that that’s what you’re expecting me to do? And can you do that in writing, please? Giiiiirl.
Oooooh. Yeah, I like that.
It takes a lot of courage to do something like that.
It totally does.
And you will often feel like you have a target on yourself. But if you kind of have the personality where you find that you keep falling into this pattern where you’re the shit-stirrer and you notice a bunch of problems and you get angry and you leave after 2 or 3 years, which is 100% the kind of person that I am and that’s what my career has borne out, like stir the shit while you’re in the pot. Be the immersion blender in your workplace. Dare them to fire you. Like, Anna! What if you made it your goal to get fired? Cause trouble. Make a stink. Call out when things are not right. Talk back to people who have never had a young woman show them the audacity to talk back to them in front of their peers, embarrassing them. Do that! Do that, Anna.
I want you to get fired like that. And then, fuck your small town.
Yeah, exactly. But also, keep in mind that we are not in any way professional career advisers or financial advisers. Just wanna throw that out there as a little disclaimer. In case you do get fired.
We’re award-winning court jesters.
As long as you are right, and you can prove it, there is nothing wrong with getting fired.
Yeah, we released a bonus episode at the start of the season with our pal Diania, who rightly pointed out that if you go into your next job interview and they say, why were you let go from your previous job? If you can say, with great pride, my company was expecting me and my fellow co-workers to break the law and I was not okay with it and I was fired as a result. Do you have any questions about that? Like, that’s a hell of a statement. And if another company doesn’t want to hire you after that, then—
You don’t want to work with them.
Fuck ‘em. That’s not the company you want to work for anyway. I want the kind of employee who has the moral integrity, the moral courage, to say this is unacceptable.
Yes. The last thing I’m going to say to Anna is that you should start your own business, because dude—
I was actually thinking about the exact same thing, yeah.
If anyone should start a business that they can then, you know, hire their former co-workers and take care of them in the way that employees deserve to be taken care of, I was like, it’s Anna.
So Anna, first simple advice is move. Second advice is to stay and start your own company where you’re going to show all those other assholes how it’s fucking done.
I regret that I did not have more people in my life who took me by the shoulders and looked me in the eye and said, you are an excellent entrepreneur and you could be a great boss. Literally no one in my whole fucking life has ever told me that. Piggy, I bet nobody ever told you that either, did they?
No, they did not. They certainly did not.
That’s just a message that is not reaching young people, especially young women and thanks, I hate it.
Everyone, go start your own businesses, go be entrepreneurs. If we can, so can you!
If you don’t believe in yourself, that’s fine. But just know that your bosses, who are bad people, they don’t second-guess themselves at all. They sleep soundly at night thinking, I am great at what I do. And the proof is in the money that I make. The proof is in the employees who stay year over year. I think you should shake ‘em up and make ‘em fucking scared, Anna.
And start your own business.
I’m glad we solved Anna’s problem by setting them on a path that requires enormous amount of community support—
Mental and emotional energy.
Money, mm-hm. Yeah, we killed it. We nailed it.
Listen Anna, it’s simple. Just do something really hard.
Exactly. Anyway, so having solved the world’s problems, especially Anna’s, ya good with that?
I am good with that.
Listeners, if you want us to answer your question, go to BitchesGetRiches.com and click “Ask the Bitches.” Production of this podcast is directly tied to our total number of Patreon supporters, so if you want to hear more, join us at patreon.com/bitchesgetriches. And if you need a little more Bitches in your life (and who could blame you?), you can read our articles and follow us on social media at BitchesGetRiches.com.
Hey, is there anything else they should know?
Yeah, I would love to leave all of our listeners with my very favorite poem, by a poet called Czesław Miłosz.
Go for it.
And the poem is called Gift.
A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
Goddamn, that’s good to know!
Kitty & Piggy 19:58
And that’s a wrap on season 3!
Oh no! [trapped in a closet noises]
Listen, these antique doorknobs are no joke.
[laughter] So this is the second antique doorknob to trap a Bitch in a closet.
Yes, for those of you keeping track at home.