How to survive a toxic workplace

Signs you might be in a toxic workplace and what do about it

They say that if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life, but how does that expression go if you love your job, but work in a toxic environment? Working in a toxic environment makes it almost impossible for anyone to love their job, especially considering the current pandemic. With the fear of being made redundant more real than ever, it’s easy to justify the roots of a toxic workplace. However, according to Citizens Information, everyone that works is entitled to dignity in the workplace, and there seems to have been no modification on that note with regards to Covid-19.

One of the key indicators that you might be in a toxic workplace is that there is poor leadership. This can vary from incompetency regarding completion and delegation of workloads, to aggressive behaviour including humiliating staff in front of others, to micromanaging. Although there are many examples of poor leadership, they tend to have similar impacts on the working environment and contribute greatly to the overall toxicity within the workplace, leaving a workforce unmotivated or having a high turnover rate.

Working with a “bad boss” is never an easy challenge, but that does not mean it isn’t possible. As mentioned before, poor leadership can vary, but understanding and managing your own reactions to these variations are the key to the survival of a toxic workplace. For example, if it is a case of micromanaging, ensure that you are on top of your workload so as to not give them sincere reason for their close observations, and for each instance of micromanagement, document it.

If it is the case that your boss humiliates you in front of your co-workers, do not fight back and do not raise your voice. Everyone will make a mistake at some point in their job, and for those who claim to have never made a mistake, they are more than likely lying. A poor leader will find no issue in humiliating an employee for these mistakes, by aggressively speaking down to them, shouting at them, or even discussing these mistakes behind their backs amongst other employees.

Toxic workplace

What is important to remember here, is that although the employee has made the mistake, it is the boss that is turning the mistake into an issue. Along with that, it is important for the employee to not take it personally. As the phrase goes, hurt people hurt people, and just because your boss is on a superior level within the workplace hierarchy, does not mean that they are excluded from this.

Internalising your boss’s aggression can lead to unnecessary negative thoughts and so reiterating that although the mistake was made, the reaction was created elsewhere can help reduce negative thoughts that might be experienced. Like the example of micromanaging, documenting instances of humiliation is paramount to survival in a toxic work environment.

A toxic workplace does not always stem from the top. Some toxic workplaces happen on the same level that you are on. Exclusivity and cliques within the office could be a sign that your workplace might be challenging and could potentially lead to stress and anxiety on some levels. Although gossiping is not always negative and in some ways part of our natural sociability, gossiping amongst co-workers regarding current or former employees is often a sign of a toxic workplace as it reiterates exclusivity within the office, often at the expense of someone else.

One way to avoid this toxicity, is by not limiting yourself to one clique within the office. It may be hard to accept in a toxic workplace, but you are not in primary school anymore, and you do not have to conform to one group. In fact, I would go as far to say that it will work out better for you.

Surviving a toxic workplace is hard, especially in the current climate. That doesn’t mean that anyone should have to dread going into work as they might be subject to exclusion, bullying or humiliation. Although there are many arguments against corporate mindfulness as a means for employees to further internalise issues that are beyond their control, separation and reflection are essential to surviving a toxic workplace.

Toxic workplace

Click here for tips on practising self-care.

However, if you are ever made to feel victimised, then surviving your toxic workplace becomes a matter of documenting your toxic workplace and eventually making a complaint. In no given situation should an employee feel victimised and as noted before, everyone in the workplace is entitled to dignity.


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Dara Thornton
Dara Thornton

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