How to Deal With A Toxic Work Environment

How to Deal With A Toxic Work Environment

Do you dread the thought of going to work? Is it because your workplace is full of negativity, discouragement, or disrespect? Whether you deal with a hothead boss, unreasonable workload, or malicious coworkers, a toxic work environment can take a serious toll on your mental health. Workplace toxicity can lead to high levels of anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression. That’s why you have to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment and identify when you need to leave. 

According to a Talent Works survey, a toxic environment is the most common factor that deters women from pursuing tech roles, with 21% citing frequent experiences. Roughly 1.3% of American employees at large companies describe their workplace as toxic, though. Not only is toxicity in the workplace widespread, but it is also detrimental to the overall wellbeing and mental health of employees. 

Signs Of A Toxic Work Environment

A toxic work environment can make you feel psychologically unsafe, and there’s no need to feel constant negativity, aggression, or unhealthy competition. A recent study defined a toxic workplace by having the following:

  • Offensive or aggressive leadership
  • Bullying
  • Narcissistic behavior
  • Ostracism
  • Harassment
  • Threatening behavior from coworkers or managers

The following signs can create or contribute to more toxicity in the workplace:

  • Micromanagement
  • Cliquish behavior
  • Discrimination or harassment 
  • A boss that sets you up for failure
  • Excessive gossip
  • Microaggressions 
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Lack of respect
  • Unrealistic workloads
  • Coworkers getting away with inappropriate behavior

The American Psychological Association suggests the following tips if you find yourself in an unhealthy or toxic work situation. 

Don’t Stoop To A Toxic Colleague’s Level

It is very important that you do not reward bad behavior. When your coworker rags on your manager’s propensity for leaving work 45 minutes early, step back to avoid the gossip, despite how tempting it may be. Instead, offer a neutral response and pivot to a new subject. Once they realize that you don’t want to take part in their gossip or bad-mouthing, they will probably look elsewhere to do so. Ideally, your dismissal should help them realize that their behavior isn’t normal or appreciated. 

Establish Healthy Boundaries

If you know that your work environment is toxic, set healthy boundaries so as to keep your work life and home life separate. For example, consider turning off your work phone after a certain time each day, and only respond to work emails during business hours. Practice communicating your boundaries clearly to your manager and coworkers. If they happen to cross a boundary, address it immediately so that it doesn’t happen again. One survey found that one in every 11 employees felt disrespected by their manager; 11.6% felt disrespected by the company as a whole. 

Leave Your Work Stress At The Door

To piggyback on the previous suggestion, creating boundaries can help establish a healthy work-life balance. Occasionally venting about your work to a roommate, parent, or partner is completely different than making it the center of every conversation. Be conscious of how often you talk about your job around the people you care about. Make sure that the majority of the conversations you have are about things other than your annoying coworker or micromanaging boss. People around you will easily tire of listening to your workplace woes, so sing a different tune and don’t dwell on things you can’t control. Life is all about balance!

Build Trust

A micromanager boss can easily pit two basic human neuropsychological needs against each other: your need for autonomy and their need for control. How do you navigate these waters? You will not get autonomy until they get certainty, so you have to gain their trust. In order to do this, provide them with the things they crave: information, inclusion, and control. If you resist that, you will likely aggravate the situation and cause more tension. Try to anticipate their needs because the more you learn about their expectations, the more proactively you can address them. Communicate with them in a clear manner and keep them overly informed. If that means providing regular updates and progress reports, do just that!

If these tactics do not work and you feel that you cannot escape your toxic workplace, it may be time to seek employment elsewhere. That can be very scary, especially in an uncertain job market or if you need to pay bills. If you need the income, start your job search and don’t leave until you find a position that you are happy with. If the toxicity stems from someone who works in the same department as you but you like the company, ask to be transferred to a separate department.

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