I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself. – Michel de Montaigne
Toxic workplace environments are more and more prevalent in today’s companies. People are becoming less and less capable at adapting their attitude within the range of what is considered a healthy work ethic, common empathy for the fellow colleague or just plain competent in the position they currently uphold. How one behaves in the workplace, be it professionally or otherwise, will have a significant impact on the majority of the surrounding people. We might not see it but they internalize it and lead the mind battle which inevitably leads to a number of problems associated with the negative workplace image. Suzy works in a marketing company and is assigned to a product development team in which she has to provide creative solutions for the imaging and the description of the product. Mary is her colleague on the team and she has a history with Suzy in terms of rivalry. She feels a bit threatened by Suzy’s ideas and makes fun of them on every meeting as well as in cafeteria or anywhere when not at their desk. Suzy doesn’t quite know how to deal with it so she brings the work problems to her private life, she can’t sleep, her self-confidence plummets and her relationship with others slowly fades as the slight depression shows itself in her disengaged behavior. We can hypothesize a less extreme situation in which Mary only shows disrespect towards Suzy in the communication when in meetings. She immediately cuts off every Suzy’s argument without any remorse and isn’t afraid to do so. Suzy is not a person of conflict and naturally takes this personally, developing stress over time. There’s a dozen of other examples but this will suffice for the moment.
Do the above scenarios sound familiar? To some extent, probably every company has a similar situation. The only question is how severe it is and how badly does it impact the person in particular. What can a pressured person do to fight such encounters?
Toxic workplace fix: change yourself
In couple of other articles I mentioned how well-being is important in today’s workplace. The modern HR is very people oriented and very focused on what people need in order to give their best performance as well as feel good at work. The above scenario doesn’t seem that dangerous at first but in reality, it can leave a person emotionally drained and the stress can take a toll on the body itself. Usually, employees try to tackle the problem in the way to try and change people who are causing them distress but it often doesn’t work, especially if the person causing that distress is a manager. If the manager or the company itself is toxic enough, there’s a huge chance that your direct complaint could backfire and cause you more problems. The best way is to change the way you think and accept what’s happening in the workplace. We’re going to skip the possibility of changing a job because that rarely is the case.
The first step in the approach of combating such a situation is to leave your mind off work when that five o’clock hits. This is really important because you want to relax and give yourself some rest from all the psychological torture you might feel in the workplace. Thinking about work in your private time won’t get you anywhere and there’s a good chance you’re too emotionally invested which might impede your judgment for any immediate action. No, leave it at your desk, cool your head and you live another day to deal with it. Instead, exercise, eat well, meditate, read a book, take your mind off the things that happen in the workplace. It’s the only way to recharge yourself.
Facing difficult situations in the workplace is a bit harder but it’s all about perspective. You can change how you react to situations which are negative and those negative situations arise from people. What you can do is focus on your work and be mindful of it. Focus on polishing your skills and competencies which will potentially make up for any insecurity you might have in these types of situations. Anything negative going your way should be taken as a fickle thing which will pass fast. This will have an even greater effect if you bring your positive attitude to counter anything negative.
Change toxic workplace: social dynamics
This article also heavily depends on what kind of person is facing distress in the workplace. More resilient people with more social intelligence can probably resolve such a situation with ease compared to an introvert who has a questionable self-esteem. In the latter case, I would definitely recommend reading some books on social interaction just to get information on how to behave or react in certain challenging situations. What we have to realize is the fact that Darwinism is ever so present, even in the workplace. The power and strength comes not from the physical aspect but how you handle yourself when communicating with others. People always test you to see the limits on which you will act. How others perceive you will inevitably create a pattern in their mind on how to behave around you. This is why a toxic workplace won’t work on a person who has a healthy self-esteem and holds themselves with high regard. Working and changing yourself is the best advice for these issues because you can only change others if you change yourself.
Surviving toxic place can take a significant impact on an employee’s life in general. Sometimes companies aren’t even the culprit and in those cases, a person should work on themselves if challenged. However bad a toxic behavior is, it provides a light in the tunnel as well – and that’s the simple opportunity to work on yourself to overcome obstacles which are undermining your work performance or life in general. Let me know in the comments your point of view on this!