I am part of a Toxic Work Environment…What Now?
On average a full-time employee spends 1800 hours per year at work or approximately 37 hours a week at work. This is a large chunk of time that is taken away from the time you could spend with family and friends. This time does not include the commute time that you many of us spend to get to/from work. Thus, being a part of a toxic work environment is detrimental to not only your mental well-being but can also impact your physical state as well. It is vitally important you learn how to recognize a toxic work environment and then how to successfully maneuver out of it.
A toxic work environment is usually mutli-faceted but is centered around the core principles of poor communication and negative attitudes. These attributes most likely come from leadership or are not addressed by leadership thus creating this environment of toxicity. What people usually see from the central ideas of poor communication and negative attitudes are increased gossiping, poor teamwork, low productivity, high turnover rates, and poor morale.
Once you recognize that the environment that you work in is toxic, the next step is to remove yourself from this place. Many people cannot afford to just up and quit their jobs so to leave the department or organization that is no longer providing a stable environment for you to grow and thrive must be done so in a tactful manner.
1. You must remove yourself from any office gossip and attempt to improve your communication skills. This can be done in various ways such as communicating clearly with your peers and leadership through fact-based information that is only about your job. It is also important to create a paper trail through emails to assist with providing proof that you have attempted on multiple occasions to communicate with your team.
2. Leave your feelings at home. Although you spend an abundant amount of time at work, you should not allow persons at work to impact your true emotions or cause you to react/act out of character. Be calm at all times and be sure to perform your job responsibilities. If you find yourself unable to control your emotions or become easily upset, you need to get to the root of what is causing you so much angst and frustration.
3. Improve your skills for the next position. Whether the job you are applying for is within the same organization or a different organization you need to begin to prep yourself to cultivate new skills that make you competitive in the workforce. There are various free courses online that can provide you skills in project management, IT, programming, etc. While working on tangible (hard skills), be sure to also work on maintaining or improving your soft skills such as time management, communication, reliability, etc.
4. Be patient. Recognize that although you have decided to remove yourself from the toxic work environment this does not mean that others will change. Remember you can only control yourself and not allow the negativity of others impact you. Change takes 2–3 years to truly occur. If you are able to stick it out that long, I encourage you to do so. But if you recognize that your mental health is deteriorating because you are in this environment, move strategically to your next career adventure.
Toxic work environments are extremely difficult to navigate especially when you decide to not be a part of this type of culture. I applaud you for wanting more for yourself, your career, and your overall well-being. Start today and take the steps to move yourself into a new work environment that is fruitful and fulfilling.