Have you noticed that work is making you ill or depressed?
There can be many different causes for this response, but one that can leave you feeling particularly out of control is the toxic work environment.
Such a workplace is defined as one where negativity reigns, incompetence at the top leads to bad morale among the rank and file, or bullying and other antisocial behavior makes you reluctant to show up each day.
Whichever combination of these toxic ingredients is making you sick, it’s important to take control as soon as possible to for the sake of your physical and mental health, your productivity, and your career. Quitting is not always an option, so let’s look at some ways you can make a toxic work environment bearable – and even improve the conditions around you.
In the morning
How you start the day can set the pattern and your frame of mind for what’s to come. A toxic workplace leaves you feeling out of control, so start with small gestures of control before you go to work to energize yourself for what’s ahead.
‘Control’ before breakfast doesn’t mean yelling at your children or forcing your other half to drive you to work! Rather it refers to little rituals you can do to ground yourself. Making your bed. Preparing a decent breakfast. Even getting up half an hour early so you can sit in a cafe for half an hour and read a book.
The important thing is not to let work infect this time, so keep your notifications switched off until you clock on.
During the workday
Getting by at a toxic workplace is a lot about creating your own space: your own social and mental space.
Think long and hard about which issues you’re willing to be drawn into and which you’d rather give a wide berth. It is probably not your job to deal with every problem that arises as a result of poor management or understaffing.
Concentrate on your own game, acknowledge learning experiences as they happen and try to take part in development opportunities as they come up. Ideally you will work with and for your employer as well as yourself, but if the employer treats you like trash then concentrate on excelling for your own benefit.
Take a closer look at the people around you, too. Which are the ones that are dragging you down? Cliques, emotional vampires, and bullies can all create a bad atmosphere and sometimes it seems like you’re the only one to notice. Slowly start to distance yourself from such figures the best you can.
If it’s possible to develop an alternative social group within work (without it becoming cliquey) then that’s a great idea too. Focus on colleagues who are supportive, and on being positive and supportive towards those colleagues who treat you with respect.
It’s a million times more difficult to get by when you have a toxic work environment if work is the only thing in your life.
If there’s no way out of your job, double your efforts to live your best life outside of work. Keep your body fit and healthy and your mind will be far better equipped to deal with what the office throws at you.
Keep your mind busy, inspired, and entertained and it will dwell less on the horrors of the day. It could be yoga, evening classes, a pub quiz, or long walks with friends: when you define yourself boldly outside of work, you have a suit of armor for when you return to the fold the next day.
Sounds winnable? Here’s some more tips to help you conquer that toxic work environment!