How to Navigate A Toxic Environment at Work
Everyone has a bad day now and then; your pitch didn’t go as well as planned; you had to stay late to finish a project; your co-workers are obnoxiously loud all the time. But there’s a big difference between these annoying incidents and a full-blown toxic work environment. Prolonged exposure to an environment that aggravates you can lead to chronic stress, frustration and even poor mental health. Your thoughts may consist of “I want to leave my job”, “I want to change careers” or even the popular phrase “my workplace is so toxic” and on many occasions it can make you start to hate what you do. According to Gallup research, it shows that nearly half of workers have quit their job at some point because of their boss.
The mismatch of work styles, processes and methods of communication can create a deep resentment amongst a team and one by one they may leave to pursue interests more in line with their own wants and needs. This can leave you feeling very demotivated.
Let me tell you something – you are NOT alone.
What if we said you could overcome this?
What if we said that you can lift yourself out of a toxic environment?
Signs of Toxic Environment
First, we must recognise what is a toxic environment. A toxic workplace is a job where the work, the atmosphere, the people, or any combination of those things cause negative disruptions in the rest of your life.
I constantly see tips online “5 Signs of a Toxic Environment” listing furiously the sure signs your workplace is slowly killing you which may not be in line with what you consider toxic and can lead you astray in terms of auditing the situation.
Here’s a good article explaining how a toxic environment would make you feel.
It is important that you understand that a toxic environment to you may be the ideal environment for another. It really is subjective to your own wants and needs in your work. Ongoing conflicts can really take their toll on your well-being, as can other social and environmental stressors.
So how do I know what my wants and needs are?
1) Keeping a Work journal for 1-2 weeks
This can be beneficial in pinpointing the areas that are affecting you negatively. You may or may not already know but with this method, you write down daily your struggles, feelings and how certain situations made you feel and what you did about it. When writing a journal keep going and read-only at the end of each week with a fresh mind. When you are thinking logically unclouded by the emotion you may begin to start seeing common themes and this will help you understand what are the causes so you can decide what to do about them.
2) Reflect and think back past the last 6 months
Think of all the things you have enjoyed or accomplished in your work. If you can’t remember ask a colleague or manager and then think why did you enjoy those projects. What was it about those achievements that made you feel good. This can be a starting point in what kind of achievements you desire in order to be satisfied in your career.
3) If you could click your fingers and change 1 thing about your job – what would it be?
Whether it’s to remove or have something – what would it be? This will help you figure out what kind of things are blocking your way and so you can decide for yourself if it’s possible with guidance or something completely out of your control. Also, bear in mind how far along with your career you have got with/without this 1 magic thing and reflect how you’ve been during that period. Sometimes what you want might not necessarily be what you need and what you need might not necessarily be what you want. So see if this lines up with your past achievements and strengths.
4) How often are you upset by your environment?
It’s a sure thing to remember all the negativity on your situation and dwell on scenarios and situations but relatively speaking, how often do you encounter these issues. Sometimes the situation may be ongoing and weekly which can really damage your mental wellbeing but on other occasions, it can be a situation that is replaying over in your mind and have become part of your own thought-patterns that are stopping you from moving on.
5) Reframe the situation in a more positive light
Certain situations or the past may be bringing back negative feelings that you now associate with each other. This is bad as every time you encounter the same issue you will get those negative feelings back. What you can do is reframe that situation. If it’s in the past why let it affect your present?
When you repeat negative thoughts or a bad experience over and over in your mind, you begin to lose sight of the positive things around you and you spiral into a bad state even when you’re not in that situation. Your mind can get “stuck”. If you recognise when a negative thought is taking over you can start to become intentional about replacing that thought with alternative reasoning to see it in a more positive light. This isn’t the case of sugar-coating each bad experience – sometimes people can be mean therefore forgiveness of how you dealt with a situation and the other person can help bring that positivity back.
6) Communicate your problems to trusted supporters
It’s very hard when the work environment is busy. Everyone starts to think only of their own wants and needs and if you are someone who is usually too nice, or a people-pleaser your own wants can be put on the back burner. The best way is to try and explain how you feel to trusted sources and that includes your Manager if you feel like they can help. A good listener who is empathetic can really help wonders and might just be all you need as a release.
7) Focus on your work
The many different personalities, emotions in a workplace can really clash when it comes to teamwork so if you love your job but not the environment it’s important to focus on getting your task done. This way your energy will be put into your work rather than the other areas and you will feel less emotionally drained. Everyone will ALWAYS have different opinions of how things should be run so therefore if you do you and let others do their thing (providing it’s not harming you) then you will be able to manage the situation a lot better.
8) What can you do moving forward?
Sometimes, depending on your circumstances, it can be difficult to change your career or roles but knowing where there is a will there is away. When you focus on why you may start conjuring up fallacies so it’s best in these times to focus on the what you can do to move forward. When you understand what is making you feel stressed and what you need in your work environment then you will be able to bring about those changes. Sometimes doing this alone can be difficult so we have some resources for career coaches, life transformation coaches and also a free mentorship program.
Honestly, if you feel stressed, undervalued, bullied, anxious or even overworked often more than not you really need to check-in with the situation and compare it to your own values. If you are stuck in a cyclic situation then taking those first steps and doing any of the steps above will help you take charge.
How to never get angry or bothered by other people – Sadhguru
It takes time to implement and bring about change so, for now, here is a video by Sadghuru to help you build a better more resilient mindset.
“There are no good people or bad people everyone oscillates between the two. If you create a pleasant atmosphere everyone behaves wonderfully if you create an unpleasant atmosphere a whole lot of people act nastily!”.Sadhguru
What I love about this video is that he teaches the art of understanding that everyone is just being themselves. He talks about there being a variety of people and that most of us deem anyone who isn’t like us as “bad people”. The basis of goodness and what you think is goodness is decided by you.
Life is not about them its about me. It doesn’t matter how they are that’s their choice but how I am is my choice.Sadhguru
Your mental wellbeing can really affect your emotions which can filter into your performance, productivity and overall happiness so it’s vital you are in tune with what makes you mentally and physically healthy and implement them. You also need to evaluate whether your work aligns with those values and you do so by understanding yourself better. It could be your workplace or it could be your perceptions but either way, it’s your life and your choices and whatever one you make will always be the right one for you.
Knowing yourself and what kind of environment you thrive in will help your journey towards a life you love. It just takes those first steps so start today!