How to Survive and Stay Sane in a Toxic Work Environment

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Toxic work environments are bad for you, your boss, your team and the business. So how do you survive if you find yourself trapped in a toxic workplace?

Article 4 Minutes
How to Survive and Stay Sane in a Toxic Work Environment

An astonishing 83% of American workers are stressed because of their job. While there are many factors that can play into workplace stress, one contribution can be a toxic work environment.

The word “toxic” is something that can easily get thrown around a lot, but it’s important to know the signs of a toxic workplace, whether you’re an employee or the boss. Toxicity can be subtle, like lazy employees not getting their work done or coming in late, or it can be extremely damaging and dangerous, like an employer who doesn’t take action against inappropriate behavior.

Because there are so many ways in which a workplace can be toxic, knowing the signs can help to keep you safe, as well as the company you work for or manage. With that in mind, let’s look at some signs your workplace is toxic, and what you can do about it to get things back on track.

Signs you’re dealing with a toxic work environment

Because the phrase “toxic work environment” can be used a lot, how can you tell if you’re actually experiencing one? There are several key signs to look for, including:

  • A high turnover of employees
  • Office gossip
  • Lack of motivation
  • No opportunities to move up
  • Feeling stressed and overworked

These problems are usually caused by things like poor communication within the workplace, a lack of company values, or even discrimination.

These signs of toxicity can range from mild to severe, but one of the best ways to determine if your workplace is toxic is simply to trust your gut. Do you spend your days at work feeling like something is “off”? Maybe your boss has asked you to keep things from other employees or customers. Or maybe employees are constantly dealing with drama. Trusting your instincts and listening to your body can help you to realize that you’re not in a healthy workplace.

Managing your mental health

Whether you manage a business or you’re an employee, don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations with people. Have open, honest conversations about your company’s structure and values, especially with those who might not be living up to those values. It’s much easier to try to prevent toxicity than it is to reel it back in. If one or two specific employees are the ones creating a hostile environment, consider confronting them about it, or talking to your employer to see what can be done.

If you can’t prevent a toxic work environment, then make an active effort to keep yourself safe. Your mental health should be your number one priority when you’re dealing with a negative workplace.

There are things you can do to take care of your mental health if you’re stuck in a toxic environment, including ‘tuning out’ as much of the office drama and gossip as you can. Don’t let it distract you from your actual work, because getting involved in it will usually make things worse. Other tips to keep in mind include:

  • Not bringing drama home with you
  • Finding humor in certain situations
  • Taking breaks
  • Finding inspiration in other areas of your life
  • Practicing self-care

By keeping your mental health at the top of your priority list, you can disengage from the toxicity of your workplace and try to find some peace within that environment.

It could be time to quit

If you can’t find that peace at work and it is starting to have a negative impact on your physical or mental health, it could be time to leave. A poor workplace environment is one of the top reasons why people quit their jobs, so don’t feel obligated to stay if your place of employment is disrupting your quality of life.

Granted, it can be scary to quit a steady job, especially during uncertain times. So, make sure you take the right steps before turning in your letter of resignation. That includes deciding on other jobs that interest you and sending out applications. Having another job lined up can ease the stress of leaving your current one. Be sure to research any companies you might be interested in. The last thing you want to do is go from one toxic environment to another. So, invest in learning about company policies, values, and mission statements. You can also talk to current or former employees from those companies to ask about the work environment and culture.

It could also be a good time to update your resume with new achievements and skills. If you haven’t made changes to your resume in a while, taking some time to look it over and give it a fresh face can make a big difference.

Remember, nothing should make you feel forced to stay in a job with a toxic environment. Your career is important, of course, but it shouldn’t define your entire life or impact your overall wellbeing. If you can’t control the toxic environment in your workplace or implement changes, it’s likely time to move on.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, politics, and more. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected]


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