I am struggling at my workplace. It’s such a toxic environment. I can’t just leave – so how do I cope with being there every day?
Signed: Toxic Workplace
Dear Toxic Workplace,
A toxic workplace environment is a mentally draining situation for everyone involved. While a person might want to leave, it’s not always that easy to do. Bills need to be paid. And there are usually some positive aspects of the work environment that entice us to want to stay (great colleagues, confidence in the skills we have, great benefit packages, etc). But, if we end up staying too long in a place that is unhealthy for us, we face the very real risk of burnout. And this might end up costing us more than we could ever have imagined.
There are some things you can do to try to more positively navigate the situation and protect your well-being.
- Recognize the signs: Be aware of the signs of a toxic workplace, such as constant negativity, lack of support, gossip, bullying, and unfair treatment. Understanding the issue is the first step to addressing it.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid taking work-related stress home with you and try to focus on activities in the other areas of your life that bring you joy and relaxation.
- Seek support: Reach out to a trusted colleague who shares similar feelings about the workplace. Talking (not gossiping) to someone who understands your situation can be therapeutic. You may be able to figure out some solutions together. Additionally, consider seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist to help you cope with the stress.
- Practice self-care and stress management: Make sure you are taking short breaks to de-stress throughout the day (before you feel you have reached your limit). Engage in re-balancing activities regularly (both during your working hours, and after hours, in your personal life) to reduce stress and maintain your mental and physical well-being. This may include exercise, breathing techniques, meditation, hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing personal interests.
- Stay positive: Try to maintain a positive mindset despite the negative environment. Celebrate small victories and accomplishments to boost your morale. Find ways to introduce positivity into the workplace environment, if possible (team building activities, social club events, lunch time relaxation strategies, etc).
- Limit exposure to toxicity: If possible, avoid engaging in office gossip or unnecessary conflicts. Focus on your work and minimize interactions with toxic individuals as much as you can.
- Document incidents: Keep a record of any toxic behavior you witness or experience. Having a log of incidents may be useful if you need to address the issue with human resources or higher management in the future.
- Seek professional advice: If the toxicity persists and starts to affect your well-being, consider discussing the situation with your supervisor or human resources department. Provide them with specific examples and explain how it impacts your work and mental health.
- Explore other opportunities: While addressing the toxic workplace is important, it may also be worth looking for other job opportunities. Sometimes, finding a healthier work environment can be the best solution in the long term. Just knowing there are other options that you might pursue can also be a great support (even if you are not ready to actively change jobs quite yet).
Remember that you have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. If you have tried coping strategies and the toxic atmosphere persists, consider whether staying in that workplace is worth compromising your well-being and career growth. Sometimes, leaving a toxic workplace may be the best decision for your overall happiness and success. But only you know what the right next/best step might be!
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