9 strategies to survive a toxic work environment
Despite more awareness and education, toxic work environments still exist.
Although every work culture is different, there are some common characteristics of toxic work environments:
- Profits over people – companies where employees are seen only as a means to making a profit. Employees are often given more work for the same pay. It is not unusual for a person to be let go and not replaced, forcing the team that is left behind to take on additional responsibilities.
- Fear-based – companies where fear is the main driver for action. People feel unsafe in their jobs. Intimidation and fear are used to drive change and make profits. Employees are discouraged from speaking up and seeking change.
- Rights don’t matter – organisations where employee rights are not taken seriously. Discrimination, unfair treatment and harassment of all kinds occur.
Many smart, capable people can find themselves working for a toxic culture. In a lot of cases, the organisation was not toxic when they started working there. Mergers, acquisition and unmanaged fast growth can all lead to a change in culture for the worst. If this is your case, it is not your fault.
If you are stuck working in a toxic environment, it is really important to keep your mindset positive as you explore where you want to go next. When we are stuck in a cycle of anxiety and stress, it is difficult to think or even to picture the possibility of a brighter future.
Here are some suggestions you can use to navigate a toxic work environment:
1. Get back to basics
Now more than ever it is important to take care of your body's basic needs - hydrate, eat healthily and move your body every day. Put some structure in place by having water and healthy snacks near you and booking off time in your diary to go out for a walk or exercise.
2. Establish a strong morning practice
Starting the day on a positive note can help you navigate any challenges that come your way. Journal, meditate, do breathing work, listen to a positive video or podcast - whatever is helpful to start the day off right.
Imagine that there is a wall between you and any toxic people or situations that you encounter at work - this way you can keep your energy protected.
4. Pause before responding
If a person or email upsets you, resist the urge of answering right away - take five minutes or wait until the next day. Pausing for even a short amount of time will help you answer in a way that honours yourself and the other person.
5. Use a mantra
I like to remember that "this too shall pass" - repeat this mantra in your head or out loud when you encounter a difficult situation or you feel stressed or anxious.
6. Seek support
Lean on your friends and family to help you get through rough patches. If you are having trouble getting clarity, it can be helpful to work with a professional coach who can support you in moving forward.
7. Find a healthy outlet for your negative emotions
Crying, punching a pillow and exercising are great ways to get rid of anger. You can also write down anything that you would like to say to the person/situation that is making you angry, with no filter and then burn what you wrote.
8. See the positive side
Ask yourself what is the upside of being where you are. It may be financial security, interacting with a co-worker that you do like, helping customers or even just having this situation as a learning experience that can help you grow.
9. Finally, remember that 'this is just a job'
The job is not who you are and although our jobs/careers are important, they don't have to affect how we feel about ourselves.
If it's not possible to leave your toxic job environment, following the suggestions above will help you stay in the right mental place. Keeping a positive attitude even in the face of adversity will save your mental energy so you can focus on finding the next steps as well as putting your best foot forward in interviews with future employers.
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