We all have those days when we absolutely dread going into work; no matter how much you love your job, sometimes it’s bound to wear you down in one way or another. However, when this dread becomes a regular occurrence, it may be a warning sign that something’s not right. If you find yourself feeling almost physically sick at the thought of having to return to work, you may be the victim of a toxic work environment, without even realising it.
So, how exactly can you tell if your job is fostering a toxic environment? The latter is characterised by any aspect of the workplace, be it your co-workers, your managers, the physical atmosphere or even the work itself, is causing you serious mental or physical distress that bubbles over to other areas of your life outside of work, too. A job is supposed to bring us at least a certain level of satisfaction and joy, but sometimes these can be sapped away due to a toxic environment.
Luckily, there are a few ways to deal with this situation. Recognising the problem and taking steps to overcome it is just the first step towards coming out of a toxic environment and taking back the reins on your happiness. If you find yourself thinking that the only positive thing about your workday is when it’s over, take a look at the experts’ advice on how to deal with it.
Unfortunately, most people become so accustomed to a negative work environment that they learn to put it with, even though they don’t have to. It takes mindfulness to be able to take a beat to observe your circumstances; if you find your workdays plagued by unhappiness and high stress levels, take the decision to put a stop to it even if this means quitting. No job is worth putting your health at risk. If you can, make preparations to protect yourself, like finding some temporary work till you can find something more permanent and stable. Naturally, don’t just opt for the first thing that comes along but aim for something better or you may find yourself stuck in the same rut.
Unfortunately, resigning isn’t always an option. In this case, there are some steps you can take to safeguard yourself against further distress but identifying the root cause of it is a good place to start. If this is caused by a person, an unpleasant boss or co-worker, for example, you could choose to speak to higher management about how their behaviour or actions are affecting your work.
If you believe the situation will improve soon, due to a transfer or change of staff, for example, then it makes sense to hang tight until it happens. At the same time, don’t hold out for a change that will never come while the toxicity of your job drains away the rest of your willpower.
You may find that some of your colleagues may be experiencing the same thing or at least, be loyal enough to back you up, if they’re not. Stay close to your allies who you believe will be more likely to share relevant company information with you while you consider your options, like a change in policy or management for example.
Keep a Record of Everything
This is a good advice to take even if your job doesn’t really count as ‘toxic’ just yet. By documenting all emails and correspondence, and keeping a record of the paper trail, you’ll have enough arsenal in your defense if a situation ever turns ugly and it’s your word against someone else’s. Keeping a work diary to track your daily projects and tasks can also come in handy in this respect, especially if you don’t have co-workers you can count on to watch your back. It may be tiring but you’ll be glad you did it.
Keep your Nose Clean
As much as possible, try to stay away from negativity and office gossip-mongers as these can often draw you in to their toxic circles. Keep your head down and focus on your work without actively looking for confrontation. If it finds you, however, don’t back down and let others trample over you; stand up for yourself and don’t let yourself be intimidated by anyone. If you find that your work is not respected or appreciated, it’s no longer worth your time.
On a final note of advice, if your work situation is beyond saving, think of it as a learning experience that can equip you with important coping strategies for any future endeavours you may take on. Realising that some things will inevitably be out of your control should leave you feeling empowered and striving for growth as you move forward with a new chapter in your life.