Career, Wellness

How to Turn the Tables on a Toxic Work Environment

Like all things in life, work comes with the good, the bad and the ugly. And when it comes to being in a toxic work environment, that is about as ugly as it can get.

While it is normal to feel occasional bouts of stress on the job, a toxic work environment can amplify stress to a whole new level by negatively impacting your mental and physical health. According to certified professional coach, Lori Sherwin, the definition of a toxic work environment is a place that “makes you feel uncomfortable, unappreciated, or undervalued.” When work is probably the second place you spend the majority of your time, it should  be a safe and happy space much like your own home.

If leaving your current job is not in your immediate future, here are my five ways to turn the tables on a toxic work environment.

Alone Came Katrina - How To Turn the Tables on a Toxic Work Environment

Lead the pack.

Fed-up and burnt out employees areless likely to reach out to their managers when they feel there is no hope for things to change or improve. You can help reduce those toxic beliefs by encouraging active communication:

Happen to be in a meeting and all you hear are crickets when it’s time to share feedback or concerns? Speak up on behalf of your colleagues and see if anyone else follows suit. All it takes is one person to break the silence.

Notice an on-going issue that people constantly bring up? Escalate the problem through the appropriate channels for a chance to see change happen. You could be the voice of many by shedding light on a issue maybe management was not aware of.

Avoid office gossip.

While we all might love a good juicy story, there is nothing more toxic than being sucked into office drama and gossip. A recent study shows the negative impacts of office gossip includes erosion of trust and morale, increased anxiety among employees and high turn over of good employees.

While we all have our own personal opinions about the workplace, deter gossipers by keeping opinions to yourself. No good comes out of perpetuating rumors and spreading negative energy in a place where you are probably stressed out enough as is.

Rally your troops.

Having a good support system at work can make any shitty job a little less miserable. A recent study shows that those who have a best friend at work are not only happier but are seven times as likely to be engaged at their job. There’s also something so satisfying about being able to connect, confide and vent with someone else you can trust. However, sometimes it is hard to build meaningful connections with others at work when either the office culture seems to discourage it or people are just to engrossed in their work to bother trying.

Help shape community in a dead or hostile office by suggesting to management a luncheon or sponsored happy hour. And if management is not down for those ideas, organize a function yourself. Doing something outside of the office with other colleagues can help encourage others to make those connections.

Spread the joy.

Overworked employees can often feel their good hard work goes unnoticed – even when the pay is stellar. Improve office morale and make someone’s day by celebrating your colleagues’ accomplishments. Giving a simple compliment, such as letting Jane know she did an amazing job with her recent presentation, can really boost an employee’s motivation to work harder.

Draw the line.

We have all experienced the struggle with work-life balance at some point in our careers. However, if you find yourself  bringing home more work-related stress than usual, I ask you to take a step back and tell yourself “pleasure, not pressure.” At the end of the day, work will always be there so why invite negative energy home with you?

Set boundaries such as leaving work at a certain hour no matter what. Be selfish and indulge in your “me time.”  Having an outlet that helps you “let go”  will make working in a less than ideal environment more tolerable.

Are you currently working in a toxic environment? How do you deal? Share with me below!

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20 Comment

  1. Reply
    Kate Werthmann
    February 19, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    I worked in a place that was every kind of toxic you listed. My boss was horribly racist and sexist and I had to hear about it every single day, and his Filipino wife was cold and cruel. She loved to exclude me from everything like even bringing in candy for everybody in the office from her family in Thailand and never offered me any. Silly things like that really added up to be the worst six weeks of job that I had and then they fired me for not being a team player? I had been taking notes on every racist, sexist and insensitive action that I was witness to and in that short time I had 11 pages of notes. I was actively looking for new jobs and was trying to be responsible by not quitting my job until I had another one but at least one day a week I spent the entire car ride home in tears and nobody should have to live like that. I wish I had seen this 3 years ago.

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 27, 2018 at 3:50 pm

      I am so sorry to hear that you went through that experience Kate! No one should ever have to tolerate a racist or sexist boss or coworker. Definitely not worth the time or energy and I a, happy you are no longer in that kind of environment. It is one thing to stick it out in a toxic workplace – what you described is beyond toxic. To me it seems unbearable. Wishing you the best in your new endeavors and should you ever come across that, report their asses and leave!

  2. Reply
    GiGi Eats
    February 20, 2018 at 5:51 am

    I am definitely a PACK LEADER and never follow anyone else’s lead. I feel that being my own entity makes me truly feel as though I have a purpose in life, thus makes me feel confident with my decisions. It’s sort of a positive catch 22. If you are the leader, you will feel confident and make good decisions. 🙂

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      Damn right Gigi! Isn’t it the greatest feeling when you know you’re confident in yourself? Need more leaders like you 😉

  3. Reply
    Marjie Mare
    February 20, 2018 at 10:15 am

    I also believe that having a positive attitude is the best way not to let any toxic environment to affect us. Sometimes, it’s not enough, we just have to remove ourselves from the situation completely.

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Exactly! There comes a point where enough is enough and the best thing to do is remove yourself and move on to better places

  4. Reply
    Joline
    February 20, 2018 at 11:50 am

    You may as well have been describing my work place! I’ve since learned to say no and draw the line. I still get glared at and I still feel it’s frowned upon to leave at the PROPER TIME but my personal life has benefited from it so it’s worth it.

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:53 pm

      There’s never a proper time. The time is when you’re ready and you know it’s not worth staying! I’m so happy you learned to say no and draw the line. You do you girlie and glad to hear your life has benefited by making the choice to leave

  5. Reply
    Stephanie
    February 20, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Where were these tips when I was working full-time a few years ago? Sometimes I feel like it’s almost harder working for a company from home because I am not there to be able to rally the troops and find that support. Either way, these are great ideas because we have all had (or have) those toxic workplace environments.

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      Hi Stephanie! Yes I understand what you mean. I worked remotely for months and it was definitely a different level of support I felt was lacking because I was so isolated. If you are ever in that situation your troops can be your closest friends or anyone else who can lift you up when your company brings you down.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Reply
    Ifeoluwa
    February 20, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    I had been in a toxic work environment and had to do other things to balance my unhappiness about it. Your tips were very helpful

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      It’s always a line to balance work and life especially if we get so busy at work. I’m glad you were able to find other things that bring you happiness 🙂

  7. Reply
    Arielle Joy
    February 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    i love your note about sharing the joy. I’m all about being a positive influence.

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks Arielle! A little joy can always brighten the darkness and I’m glad to meet another positive influence in the blogosphere 🙂

  8. Reply
    Christina
    February 20, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    These are such great tips and can be used in many different toxic environments. So much of it has to do with setting (and resetting) your own mindset.

    1. Reply
      Katrina H.
      February 28, 2018 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks! Yes it definitely took a lot of patience for me to reset my mindset and look at certain situations in different ways. It has definitely helped me get through even what I considered the tough times at work

  9. Reply
    Whitney Roberts Kutch
    February 20, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    These are great tips!! I remember working in the corporate world and struggling with some of these issues and wished I had your pointers then! Keeping everyone motivated and team players can sometimes be a job in itself so your point about making drawing the line is probably the most important!

  10. Reply
    Jillian
    February 21, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Great tips, especially the gossip one. That’s always a recipe for a toxic environment. Thanks for the post and I LOVE your blog header.

  11. Reply
    Holly Lasha
    February 21, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Ugh…I’ve totally been there. It’s rough when its a job you really enjoy, but the work environment is so hard to deal with. Great tips!!

  12. Reply
    David Elliott
    February 23, 2018 at 2:46 am

    I think being able to draw that work home life line is so important when you are experiencing stress. It is so difficult to be able to do that though sometimes. We have a hard time focusing on what’s important at home when we are stressed at work. But it is essential if you want things to get better.

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