Bad bosses, toxic co-workers, destructive team dynamics, etc…: all these are symptoms of toxic work environments. Many of us have been victims of these types of environments, and have wondered how to keep their sanity and edges in place though it. While it may be easy to just call it quits, hop on a flight to the Bahamas and forget all about it with a sip of coconut margarita, escaping it isn’t always easy.
The most important thing I learnt in any type of negative environment is to make the difference between what you can change and what you cannot change. Let me say this again: There are things you CANNOT change, like the way some people will feel about you, which by the way, is none of your business. And thankfully, there are things you CAN change, like refusing to let the negativity take you out, and constantly re-committing yourself to your higher purpose.
It’s definitely easier said than done, especially considering most of us spend upwards of eight hours at work. When you add the pressures of daily life, unending laundry, crazy traffic and the fact that you’re not yet able to connect to a 24/7 caffeine intra-veinous device, surviving a toxic environment can seem like an insurmountable challenge.
Because we all need our edges, and sanity too, here are a few tips to not just survive, but thrive in a toxic work environment:
Look for the Bright Side (ANY bright side)!
I know it may be challenging to see any bright side to a toxic situation at work or anywhere for that matter…But if you’re at the point when your motivation is threatening to walk out the door with the rest of your sanity, seeing the positives can make a world of difference!
Fond the good, even if you have to dig deep for it. Whether it’s being thankful for having a paycheck that allows you to care for your family or pursue your passion, or being healthy enough to go to work, or having a strong support system, practice gratitude for what you already have! Then start looking for opportunities to use your current situation as a stepping stone to better opportunities. Maybe there are new training sessions you can sign up for to open up your career horizons, or interesting job offers coming up, take advantage of those!
And don’t forget to use the hard lessons you’re learning to empower yourself and others, whether it’s through starting a business to help other women (and men) in your situation, sharing your story, or simply encouraging someone who may be going through the same stuff…
Stay Away from the Drama!
Listen, the mean girls (or dudes) from high school never really disappear…They grow up, get jobs, and re-create the same drama they used to start back in high school. Remember when I mentioned those things you CANNOT change, this is one of them! You can’t change how people react or the kind of mindsets they bring to work, or to life, in general.
Simply make a commitment to stay away from all and any drama. That includes not participating in any watercolor gossip, or getting entangled in dark office politics. Will it cost you? Yes! But it’s a choice, you can either do business with integrity or not. You may not see the payback immediately, but in the long run, honesty is always the best policy, in and outside of work…
Communicate & Stick to The Facts!
The best way for a toxic situation to escalate is to let it fester. As much as you may have to stay away from drama, there are instances in which you’re going to have to step in the ring and clear up any misunderstandings or miscommunication. Address potential issues as soon as you can, in a professional and effective way. It may be a matter of sitting down with your manager to discuss a problem, or confronting a co-worker with the effects of their toxic behavior. In some worst case scenarios, you may even have to involved Human Resources.
However, make sure in any circumstance to stick to the facts. Leave the emotional part of the issue at bay, and focus on what exactly transpired. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t substantiate it with factual evidence, you may not want to bring it up!
Fight Back and Fight Smart!
Ok, let’s get something clear…It’s not because you may want to stay away from the drama and behave in a professional manner that you have to play the Office Doormat. Which also means there are times to put your career gloves on and fight back, the smart way…
Don’t lay there and take anything being dished out to you! Remember that you have a right to disagree and express your opinions. As a matter of fact, this may garner you more respect than desperately trying to maintain the peace at the cost of your sanity and integrity.
Find ways to de-stress during the day!
A toxic work environment will take its toll on you, whether mentally, spiritually and certainly physically! So make sure to take a pause and relieve the pressure throughout the day! Take a walk at lunch, call your bestie to vent, or practice prayer or meditation in an empty conference room (or in the bathroom) when you can!
Whatever it is, identify little (and big) ways in which you can take a mental and/or physical breather throughout the day! If you’re the visual type, surround yourself with pictures of loved ones and affirmations/quotes to lift my spirits at any moment during the day.
Set clear boundaries!
Repeat after me: NO is a full sentence! It’s so easy to start forgetting about your own needs, and actually putting others’ first in a toxic environment. The more you may be under attack, the more you may be tempted to prove yourself to others. Which can translate into taking on too heavy a workload, coming in early and staying late, and generally taking whatever’s dished out to you…
Instead, learn to set clear boundaries while still performing your work as required. For you, it may mean actually taking a break for lunch. Or refraining from putting in excessive overtime. It also means staying true to yourself and authentic to who you are and how you intend to live your life. Don’t let others change your image of yourself by violating your personal and professional boundaries!
Leave work at work!
Last but not least, don’t let professional negativity seep into the rest of your life. It’s tempting to bring all the negatives of work back home when we need an outlet or some extra support. Yet this also may mean poisoning your family life!
So refrain from sharing all the toxic work stuff, or checking email once you reach home, or even thinking about it as you park in the driveway. It’s certainly hard to do so, but this can make the difference between keeping your happy home happy, or seriously putting your edges in danger!
How do you deal with a toxic work environment?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sis.