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Is It Toxic? I Want to Tell the World How Awful My Old Bosses Were. Should I?

By | Benish Shah |

Welcome to “Is It Toxic?” our new advice column for all the most pressing questions you have about toxic work situations but didn’t know who to ask—until now. Here to help is Benish Shah, a startup operator who’s coached executives and managers on navigating toxic workplaces, negotiating exits, and architecting workplace policies to combat toxic cultures. She’s currently working on a book about creating anti-toxic workplaces. Have a question to submit? You can reach her at or @benishshah. And for more advice, visit our “Toxic Aware” hub.

Dear Benish,

There has been all this news about how the new labor board rules nullify non-disclosure clauses in severance agreements and I want to know if it’s OK to talk about what I went through with my old job. I know this is not the typical question you answer but my experience was terrible and I want to speak about it. Whenever I see my old bosses get high-fived on Twitter or LinkedIn, I want to scream because no one knows how terrible they are. They keep hiring and hiring and no one knows that they are horrible people. Toxic workplaces should be exposed and I want to be able to do that but I don’t know if I should.


Silenced in San Francisco


Dear Silenced in San Francisco,

You’re right. This isn’t the typical question I answer, but it’s been popping up in my inbox a lot recently. It reminds us that the harm of toxic workplaces extends beyond your time in them. And the answer is a long one, so grab your coffee and be prepared for some attempts to lighten an otherwise distressing topic. Why? Because I want to scream, “Yes! Speak your truth!” But what I have to say instead is: “Let’s play this out.”

Disclaimer: I want to be clear before I continue that this isn’t legal advice. If that’s what you’re looking for, please consult a lawyer that can assess your specific situation and take you on as a client.

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