Do you need a Career Cleanse?

Just like with our bodies, workplace toxins can build up over the course of years or even months – causing us misery, malaise and grief. The first step in doing a career cleanse is understanding if you really need one.

A few signs

  • You feel drained. You end each day and feel like the energy was sucked out of you.
  • When you arrive to the office you sit in your car for an undisclosed amount of time practicing your yoga breathes in hopes of mustering up the energy to attend that first meeting.
  • Each swipe of your security badge feels like a year has been taken off of your life.
  • You find yourself zoning out in meetings and when you finally refocus, find out you’ve just been nominated to participate in yet another special project team – that will most likely lead to nothing.
  • At team lunches, you start to picture each person around the table as a cartoon character.  It hits you – Frank from Accounting really does resemble Homer Simpson!  Lisa’s new hairstyle…Who knew that Trolls would make such a comeback?


If any of these statements sound familiar then you may benefit from a career cleanse.


Whether you work for a boss-hole, don’t feel you’re contributing to something of value, or are simply underutilized or bored, being proactive about a career cleanse can put you back in the driver’s seat and feeling re-energized!


Where do you start?

Quitting your job is, of course, a quick solution.  In fact, over 2 million Americans quit their job each month.  Although this is the ultimate career detox, it’s most likely not the best solution. For one, you may be swapping the stress of your current job situation for the stress of worrying about how to pay your bills. Unless you have a good back up plan, try a different tactic.

A great place to start before resorting to something drastic is to create an inventory.


A simple, but powerful, activity

Without overthinking it, make a list of everything that currently causes you career stress.  There’s no wrong answers, just jot down everything that comes to mind. Small or big, capture it!


Even getting it all out on one piece of paper will feel better.  Are there situations, people or even projects that drain your energy? Cause you stress?  Here’s an example.



  1. Long Commute
  2. Assigned to a project I don’t like
  3. Difficult manager who seems to have it out for me


Second, looking at your list think about how much control you have over each item you listed.


This step can be a little more difficult. When we’re feeling like we’re in a toxic waste dump we can feel like a victim who’s stuck due to outside forces.


Think about which aspects of each item are truly out of your control.  Hint: You can’t change people. You can’t change how someone else acts, but through your own actions can influence theirs.


The final step

For each item on your inventory, assign it an E, L, or an A as follows:

  • E = Eliminate – What can you do to eliminate this stress altogether?
  • L = Leave alone – This is out of your control, so no sense focusing on it.
  • A = Adjust – What changes can you make that can improve this?
1. Long commute

(A) Ask to telecommute one day a week.

2. Assigned to a project I don’t like

(L) This is important to my boss and will end in 3 months.

3. Difficult manager who seems to have it out for me

(A) Schedule a 1:1 with my manager to ask for feedback. I will use this as an opportunity to share my feelings in hopes of being seen as valuable team player.

(E) Eliminate self-imposed worry about what other’s think of me. I may not even be accurate in this perception.

Small Bites

If you’ve been honest with yourself about what you CAN and CAN’T control, then it’s time to make the necessary adjustments.  As we all know, this can be easier said than done.  You may have developed a few habits that are no longer productive for you.  Whether you’ve made a habit of indulging toxic co-workers, letting your meeting schedule prevent you from making it to the gym or even not following up with your manager to discuss your career aspirations, making small adjustments over time are the best kind of cleanse.


Just like a fad juice cleanse rarely helps anyone lose weight over the long haul, a career cleanse should be focused on long term success.  Celebrate small wins. They add up and before you know it, you may forget you needed to cleanse in the first place.