Entrepreneurship / Lifestyle Freedom

Toxic Work Culture

Entrepreneurship, freedom, and why working for someone else is a fucking game of roulette.

(Originally published on my other blog in 2019,

I almost didn’t write this.
It’s 10:51pm and I’ve just gotten the 3 crotchfruit to bed, one with a tooth ripe for the tooth fairy, and I have a bowl of cookie dough ice cream with chocolate syrup and chocolate sprinkles sitting next to me telling me it’s MY time now.
I really just want to turn on The Handmaid’s Tale.
Maybe Orange is the New Black. It’s the final season, after all.
But there’s a big old weight on my chest, a heavy one. And it’s thorny. And it’s burning hot, like red coals.
It’s growling at me from between gritted teeth and using all the words that it knows will stir me up.
And here I am. Stirred right the fuck up and typing while my ice cream melts next to my rage.
Let’s back up by about 1 hour.
At 9:51pm I was sitting in my minivan in the parking lot of the dojang where my kids attend tae kwon do. I was waiting for my oldest to come out after his class. Slight caveat: he’s also an employee there. He’s 14 and this is his first job, and he freaking loves it! Get’s to teach young kids tae kwon do, life skills, leadership, self-confidence… Clearly, his mother’s child.
However, I wasn’t just waiting. I was impatient. Not only because I had ice cream and Netflix waiting for me to wind down my evening, but because yet again he was staying after his class because he was expected to work.
Not so bad, right? Calm the hell down, Kara.
Not so fast.
Let’s back up a bit more to a few hours earlier: husband calls to tell me the corporation he works for is doing even more shittastic stuff to their employees – the long-standing dedicated employees like him. After December 31st, he gets a mandatory “across the board” (as if that makes and of it feel any fucking better) pay cut. Salary reduction of $2,800 annually.
Hey Lowes – fuck you, too.
Let’s back up a bit more yet to about 2016.
We had just bought our first house in August. HOORAY!!! HUGE family milestone! Big deal for a family with three young and growing boys.
January 2017, hubby’s job (yep, Lowes) – across the board elimination of his management position: you have 12 months to find a new role within the company if you want to stay. You get a temporary title and position we made up so you don’t feel bad about life in the meantime. Oh! And when you take your new job, there will be a significant pay decrease. Like by 25%.
Fuck you, corporate America.
Fuck you, shareholders.
Fuck you, CEO.

Let’s back up a little bit more – to 2004, and we’ll start in June.
That was the month I found out Nick and I were pregnant with our 1st kidlet (they were not yet crotchfruit, because we hadn’t yet experienced parenthood).
*wait a second. my ice cream is melting and dammit if I’mma let this bullshit ruin my ice cream
Once we had an approximate gestational age, I told my employer that I was pregnant, and I would keep him updated as to the due date when we were more certain (the oldest was not planned, total surprise, and with insanely irregular periods due to PCOS who the hell knew when I had gotten pregnant).
His name was Tim, the owner of the franchised Auntie Anne’s (you know, the soft pretzel place in the malls and airports) that I managed.
Tim’s response: “Let’s hope you’re not due at Christmas time.”
I began taking notes that very day about the things he said to me regarding my pregnancy and my employment. “Anecdotal notes” that weren’t technically legal documents, but something HE taught me to do around troublesome employees so we would be able to fire them more easily if need be.
Thanks for teaching me that skill, Tim. It came in super handy when you fired me just before Thanksgiving because you realized I would be absolutely unable to do what I typically did physically come the Christmas season. Mall and everything, that was when even the in-line food stores made it into the black for the year. And I would have been severely physically limited.

Luckily, my anecdotal notes beat his money-loving, person hating ass in court 3 times, proving his real motive for firing me.
Pregnant women ARE, in fact, protected classes that cannot be fired for being pregnant.
Imagine that. Women have a right to procreate and it should be protected. Men have that right too but are rarely trampled on because they don’t own a womb.

It’s a fundamental human right. Basic human respect. You would think a guy who owned many franchises would know about these protected classes and be a little more clever about how he goes about firing pregnant women who have no history of poor performance…
You’d also think that considering his college degree had been in clinical psychology, he would have some kind of moral standard about how to treat another human, or at least just before the holidays.
Money. Work. Business. Commerce.
Ok. Fine. I’m an entrepreneur, and I get it. Businesses are only businesses if they make money.
Yes. True.
But human beings are the center of all businesses and any business culture that prioritizes the PEOPLE in the company, their health, their well being, their balance, THAT company outperforms others hand over fist. How? Just look at their P&Ls.
Why does this matter to my continually melting ice cream saga unfolding beside me?
Because my 14-year-old son is protected as a minor employee in the State of New York. His employer is not allowed to schedule or expect work from him after 9pm on summer vacation.
And it was 9:51pm, and I knew what was happening inside.
He was “expected” (read: pressured) into doing cleaning chores as all of their employees are, after his class ended. Unpaid, mind you.
A minor. After employable legal hours. Unpaid.
And this is “across the board” (hey! Let’s use it against the corporate structure this time!) expectation of their minor employees in violation of New York State labor laws was pissing me right the fuck off.

Injustice for my son being taken advantage of? Yes.
There is a more significant reason, though.
We have a toxic work culture in our country. It’s seen as honorable, “having a good work ethic,” being responsible, dedicated, “team player,” to put your own life aside for a company. I’m not talking the occasional staying late because shit hit the fan.
I’m talking about chronic and systemic abuse of employees using emotional manipulation to get more out of them without payment and without any concern for their wellbeing.
I’m talking work a little more here, a little more there without pay because it’s just a little bit and you’re contributing! That’s nice for the company that’s getting necessary operational work done for them for free, benefiting their bottom line.
But you know who it sucks for? The wife who just wants her husband home on time for dinner, who wants to feel like the bigger priority, who wants to connect with her other half.
It sucks for the mother who doesn’t want to be the whistleblower on her kid’s first employer because her kid really enjoys the meaningful scope of his work there.
It sucks for the entire working class of our society who actually believe that working and money matters MORE THAN THEIR LIVES AND PERSONAL FREEDOM AND HAPPINESS.
The insane indoctrination of toxic work culture is so deeply embedded in our social narrative that we are proud to say, “I work hard for what (little) I have!”
We’re boastful of “Oh yeah, well I’m expected to do all this for my company…” as if missing time with your 1-year-old child and husband because work “voluntold” you about a project that was outside the scope of your job, outside the scope of your working day, is somehow honorable and worthy of martyrdom. We are taught to value doing this!!!
I spend my days as an entrepreneur looking for ways to optimize my impact on the world, increase my income while maximizing my hours and moments spent with my kids and husband doing the things we love and living good, fun, free, meaningful lives.
And I earn my income by helping others do precisely this: break free from this toxic work culture and social construct around how saintly it is to bust your ass for an employer who doesn’t pay you enough for what they expect of you.
*ice cream update: it’s total soup
I’ve watched businesses abuse my trust and goodwill for their own profits.
I’ve watched senior managers tear apart my husband’s sense of worth and stability and cause a 12-month-long panic attack about being able to provide for his family. (Yep. Out of the 365 days they gave him to find a new position, and despite applying and interviewing for 4 during that time, they waited until day 359 to provide him with a job at a severe pay cut.)
I’ve watched employers show so little care or concern for a human being that when she was pregnant, all she was seen as was a possible ding to the busy season bottom line.
I’ve seen how manipulative businesses can be towards getting the revenue they want, and by cultivating a “strong team player, community-based culture” that’s really just the scaffolding for inducing fear of not doing what everyone else does for the pat on the unpaid back from the head manager.
I’m not going to allow my kid to absorb and become part of this toxic indoctrination and culture of work work work.
I will not have the next generation of my gene pool believe that violating labor laws to please someone and be part of the gang is ok.
They will learn that being taken advantage of is NOT acceptable.
They will not become more mindless drones.

They will know they have the right to challenge the fucked up ideas that are so commonplace and accepted in our society that we see them as social scripture.

My children will not be ideal working class bees.

They will NOT just accept what is considered “the way”.

They will live freely.

And it begins with me living out this life in front of them and making the tough decisions I do.

I want to invite you along on this entrepreneurial journey with me.

If you are a cake business owner, get into my membership site, CakeLife Academy. The only way to unlock your earning potential and financial freedom from a j.o.b. is to learn how to run your business better.
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And if you’re really serious about living life on a different level, consider private coaching with me. I’m not the right coach for everyone – but if you think I could be the right person for you, that’s a big step in the direction of change and transformation. If you’re interested in personal coaching, subscribe to my newsletter as there will be updates routinely about coaching offers, events, and cool growth challenges I curate 🙂

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