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We Need to Talk About ‘The Ellen Show’ Ending and Toxic Workplaces

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Ellen DeGeneres has announced that her talk show will be wrapping up next year, at the conclusion of the 19th season. Ellen conveyed that she felt the timing was right and that she was looking forward to other creative pursuits. Truthfully, a lot of folks felt something was missing from this announcement — any mention of the prior allegations of “The Ellen Show” being a toxic workplace.

There were no comments regarding the past claims made by former and (at the time) current employees, which spoke of a workplace where folks were experiencing bullying, racism and fear — allegations that Ellen did address at the start of the 18th season.

In the days following her big announcement, Ellen did do some additional interviews that touched on this topic, and at that time she did state that she was not ending the show due to these workplace claims. Some folks remain skeptical of this assertion.

As with most things in Hollywood, perhaps we’ll never really know. Yes, to some it may feel like silly gossip. In fact, though, I do actually think it is worth our attention. One good outcome in this could be that this bit of Hollywood spectacle can help us to keep this important workplace conversation at the forefront. We need to remember that this type of environment can be extremely harmful to an employee’s mental health and that employers have a responsibility to provide a psychologically healthy workplace.

As a matter of fact, I personally know all too well just how damaging a toxic workplace can be. I know the dread of waking up in the morning, and not knowing what to expect at work, but being certain I would spend the day feeling demeaned and belittled. The gaslighting, lack of accountability and overall stress were daily, and it tore me apart inside. On what turned out to be my last day in this job, I came in, worked the first few hours, had a breakdown and checked myself in for inpatient support. Now, I’m not saying the job was the only problem, but it certainly played its part.

A few years after finally freeing myself of this job, I wrote this piece on how to recognize a toxic workplace. Instead of sharing my personal experience, I made it a piece of factual writing — yet without having said so, all the points I made were based on my prior position. In all honesty, it was a small bit of rebellion on my part, and I was not expecting what happened next to occur.

That story blew up — the header photo I provided may have helped, haha. Due to the popularity of this writing, I learned a valuable lesson, as did I think many of the folks who left comments. We suddenly understood that toxic workplaces are common, demoralizing and can cause all types of serious mental health concerns. We learned there might be a tendency on some folks part to say, “well hey, just get a new job.” An important reply to such a statement, many folks left in the comments, was that it can in fact be very difficult to find a new job, especially if you take in factors like medical insurance or being in a less populated location. I learned that I was not the only person to have gone on a mental health work leave, and it was an eye-opening conversation.

There is no denying that Ellen is a cultural icon, and has been a key figure in moving society forward regarding LGBTQIA+ rights and other key matters. I personally recall when I was a teenager and she came out on her sitcom, it was a huge deal. I also once had the pleasure of being in the audience of her talk show, and I continue to treasure that experience. Many folks hold her in high regard for many different reasons, and that’s understandable; she’s a significant person.

It’s important to remember though that people can be more than one thing, and that good acts do not erase the harm caused by bad ones. In my case, it was true that my former employer secured large sums of funding for important social projects, and yet it was also true that when I brought forward a serious safety concern I was asked if I wanted to remain in my position. All the way to the top I could find no one in leadership who showed they were in my corner, and the executive director was among them. Having a fancy office or your name on the building does not absolve those in leadership roles o workplace mental health safety.

If you have ever been in a toxic workplace, or if you are still in one, your experience is real and I believe you. If this news cycle around Ellen departing her show has stirred up feelings in you, due to your experience, those feelings are valid. And if you hold Ellen in high regard and yet you are also feeling let down or even some anger, these feelings are all OK.

Ellen’s talk show will be missed and her important accomplishments will still stand, yet so too will the damage caused to the folks who worked in a toxic environment. As they say in “Spider-Man,” “with great power comes great responsibility.” And truthfully, over her nearly 20-year tenure as a talk show host, Ellen amassed a lot of power. It was her name on the show and her brand was kindness — and the allegations against her painted a picture of a workplace where things were anything but kind.

As I said above, we may never know the exact reason she decided to not renew her show; she does though have a full season ahead where she can choose to more fully address this topic. She does indeed have the opportunity and power to help move this conversation in a positive direction, which could in fact help to repair past damage and prevent future harms for society at large. This could be another opportunity for her to improve the world, and I hope she will take it. Whether or not she will choose to do this remains to be seen.

If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Image via Facebook

Originally published: May 17, 2021
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