SOS: What to Do If You’re in a Toxic Working Environment

Going into a toxic working environment every day can be utterly draining and soul-destroying. To discover how to deal with this tough situation, stay tuned…

Do you dread going into work each and every morning? Are you worried that you’ll be fired at any second?

Toxic work environment anxiety is no joke. That said, sometimes it can be difficult to know what’s toxic and what’s pretty normal. What’s more, once you’re certain the environment is toxic, figuring out what to do next can be a struggle.

This applies now more than ever, with the state of affairs at the moment. If your company is not prioritising their employees during this time, then you know where they stand. So, if you feel as though you’re in a toxic work environment, and are unsure what to do next, keep reading…

Someone Typing on Their Laptop

What is a Toxic Work Environment?

In some cases, it can be confusing to decipher whether a working environment is toxic or simply results-driven. With this in mind, here are some key toxic work environment characteristics you may recognise, that are sure-fire indicators for your situation:

  • The feeling of job insecurity: every day is frightening, as you feel as though you could lose your job at any second, for no reason.
  • You don’t want to get up in the morning: if you’re waking up every morning with a feeling of dread and fear, this is a clear sign you’re working in a toxic workplace – trust your gut.
  • The feeling that you’re being used: every day, you’re seeing people being fired left, right and centre around you. These people are viewed as dispensable and, once their necessary job has been done, they’re cast aside like mouldy vegetables.
  • A long probationary period: this may not be the case everywhere, as a six-month probationary period is not illegal. However, if this is coupled with a large workforce turnover, then it’s highly likely that they view you as simply a cog in the wheel.
  • Low salary: this can be a difficult one to gauge, especially when you’re fresh out of university, or have minimal experience. That said, if you feel used and underappreciated, this is a clear sign.
  • Unkept promises: you feel as though you are promised the world in your meetings, but these promises are not kept.
  • The feeling of being watched: you feel as though you’re constantly being observed by the management, who are not setting an example themselves.
  • You feel guilty for taking days off for your health: if your superiors are making you feel guilty for taking an hour off to go to the GP, there is something seriously wrong with this environment.
  • You’re not allowed to snack at your desk: if you’re threatened with being fired for snacking at your desk more than once, then this a clear indicator.
  • You feel like you can’t get up to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet: if your basic human rights are met with scorn and guilt, then this is a clearcut sign.
  • Lack of processes and communication: you are left to your own devices on your first day, and no processes are set up for training or for tasks that have been going on for years.
  • People are rude, and shout when work isn’t done: you’ve had someone shout and swear at you for not doing something that wasn’t your fault in the first place.
  • Your colleagues put you down: if you feel like you, or your job role, is mocked and looked down upon, then this is clearly toxic.
  • There is no clear HR department: major red flag alert!

People Working Together

How to Cope With a Toxic Work Environment

So, now that I’ve shown you some of the key signs that you’re working in a toxic work environment, what next? Well, in some cases, if these actions are not utterly ingrained within the management and workforce, there are some ways you can cope…

1. Try and Fix the Toxic Work Environment

How to fix a toxic work environment” will probably be the first question you ask yourself if you notice a problem. If you’re an employee, and you feel you’re stuck in a toxic work environment, then the first thing to do is notify a superior, or speak to your HR team. This can be scary, but it really is your only choice at this point.

On the other hand, if you’re a manager, and fear that you’ve allowed a toxic workplace to develop, then some tips that may help you out include:

  • Ensure you have a support network set up, like a HR department or wellbeing team.
  • Meet with people individually to let them communicate their feelings, and create trust between you and them.
  • Acknowledge peoples’ good work, not just when it suits you.
  • Set up meetings to check how things are going every week or month.
  • Do not give preferential treatment, and ensure to foster set rules for everyone.
  • Ensure workloads are realistic, and don’t require people to stay late to complete them.
  • Make sure you have systems set up for processes and training.
  • Don’t lie to your employees, and ensure communication is transparent and open.
  • If you discover someone has been rude to another member of staff, ensure disciplinary actions are met.
  • Do not expect your employees to work extra hours; if they get their job done, that’s all that matters.

2. Don’t Engage in Work Gossip

If you work in a toxic workplace, it’s highly likely that your colleagues will be gossiping about one another. Try to steer clear from situations like this, and you’ll be sure to avoid unwanted attention being brought upon yourself. It also means that you’re less likely to bring the office home with you, which is a great way to disengage from the work environment.

People Gossiping at Tables

3. Focus on Your Own Goals

Sometimes, if tuning out from the situation is the one way to cope, then a good way to do so is by focusing on you. If you’re putting up with working in an environment like this, the likelihood is you have career goals that require you to stay there, right?

If this is the case, use this role as a stepping stone to get where you need to be. If they’re going to use you then, by all means, use them too.

Strive to be the best you can be here, and use this opportunity to get as much experience as possible. This way, when the time comes to leave, you’ll have an extraordinary amount of experience under your belt which will lead you to much greater things.

4. Learn to Laugh

One of the best things to do in an environment like this is to just have a laugh. Find the people you vibe with, and enjoy spending time together. After all, you have to see these faces for most of your waking hours.

The trick here is to make fun out of the small things. Prank one another with little jokes and tricks, tell each other funny stories about your life, share your time together with enjoyment. This way, you can make an attempt to mask the hard times with joy.

5. Quit

This all being said, there is only so much one can take. So, the ultimate message? If you’re not happy somewhere, then quit.

You spend the majority of your waking hours in your place of work, and it’s highly probable that the grass will be greener on the other side. If you feel as though there’s no hope, and the management is not open to change, then escaping a toxic work environment is your best option.

Just be careful with how you go about it as, if your company is toxic, they will get one whiff of you job-hunting and send you packing. Only tell people you trust, or through necessity, and try to make sure you have something lined up before your exit.

Woman Smiling at Work

Choose You

So, those are my top tips for recognising a toxic work environment and dealing with it. Working within a toxic environment can have its ups; most people there will be experiencing something similar. If this is the case, you now have the opportunity to form some real friendships. Indeed, through this one shared experience, you might just forge true bonds.

That said, friendships shouldn’t be a reason to stay. At the end of the day, nobody should have to fear the place they spend the majority of their life. So, if you’re not happy, make a change!

Have you had experience working in a toxic work environment? Do you have anything to add to what I’ve mentioned in this post? Please feel free to leave your own experiences and questions in the comments below.

Thank you for reading!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. cheriewhite says:

    I saw this in Reader and thought it was resonate with me. Sure enough, it does! About ten years ago, I worked in a nursing home and the environment was very toxic. And being selected for workplace bullying didn’t help matters any. I was lucky in that I kept a CYA (Cover Your Ass) file and was able to walk away from the job confidently. But I saw so many others who weren’t so fortunate.

    Working for a toxic company is very exhausting even when you manage to outsmart the bullies because they only get angry and try even harder to trip you up. My message to those who are bullied is this: It’s not your fault. You’re not alone. You’re much stronger, braver, smarter, and more beautiful than you know! And life will eventually get better! I promise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanna Journals says:

      Thanks so much for reading! I hear you, and I am with you – this blog post all came from my own experience working in a really toxic environment. Every single bullet point I’ve listed happened to me at some point; it was awful. Thank gosh we saw the light, and chose our mental health first. Good for you, and your message is exactly what I’d say. Thank you for your strong words 👏🏻👏🏻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. cheriewhite says:

        You’re very welcome, Joanna! If I may, I’d like to schedule this post for reblog on June 12.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Joanna Journals says:

        Absolutely, yes! Thanks so much 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Debby Winter says:

    Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur. Develop a strong corporate culture first and foremost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanna Journals says:

      I completely agree with you, Debby. It’s the one way to sustain a loyal and long term workforce, in my opinion. When the workforce turnover is rapid, that’s a sure warning sign of a terrible workplace culture! Thanks for reading 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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