10 Tips for People Stuck in Toxic Workplaces

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This Week’s Question: “A toxic workplace is a work environment that is poisonous and harmful and potentially damaging to the people that work there and even to the organization,” explains Dr. Paul White, psychologist and author. What advice would you give to employees who find themselves in toxic workplaces? How can they make their lives — and their jobs — better?

Ben1. Find a Support Group

Find allies who understand your issues and who can be used as a sounding board to help you deal with the environment. This will help you to remain sane during this difficult time.

Ben Brearley, uCareerStrategy

Tina2. Be the Different Voice

When your coworkers are negative and difficult, find something positive to say about whatever they’re complaining about, or else just ignore the negative conversation. You are not required to join in when the discussion is going downhill.

Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (AKA Dr. Romance)

Leo3. Learn From Your Experience

Acknowledge what is wrong in your work environment and work with it to make it better. Look at the good things in your work environment. As you start to see the good things, your mind will start to notice more of the good things.

The next step is to learn from the less desirable things. Are these things helping you to improve as a professional and a person in any other area of your life?

Leo Willcocks, DeStress to Success

Christine4. Concentrate on Your Well-Being

If you’re not in a position to leave, then find a way to concentrate on yourself. Put your head down, do your work, and excel. It’ll keep you out of the cycle of ‘blah’ and will help you stand out for your positivity — and even position you for a new role down the road. It sounds simple, but focus on your own life and what’s going well. Work is work — its not your life. Focusing on the positives in your life will help you move through the negatives.

Christine Santacroce, Recruiter.com

Jim5. Avoid the ‘Energy Vampires’

Avoid like the plague the people who are contributing to the toxicity. There are people in every organization who are what I refer to as ‘energy vampires.’ They’re the ones who literally suck the energy out of you. Avoid getting sucked into their drama.

Jim Donovan, Author and Speaker

Carlota6. Create Joy

Ideally, the best path is to leave immediately. But, if you must stay, you are going to have to work overtime to create joy in your life in other ways: join a gym, volunteer, garden, read good books, woodwork. Figure out what makes you happy and create a daily schedule that allows you to do those things. If swimming perks you up, set that morning alarm and swim for 45 minutes in the morning and on the weekends. Carve our time for your joy. There is no other way. (Well, there is, but that way leads to madness, despair, death…)

Carlota Zimmerman, The Creativity Yenta

Susan7. Build a Business Case Against the Perpetrators

The allies [need] to build what the Workplace Bullying Institute calls a ‘business case’ against the perpetrators. This is not an easy task, as these people are often extremely good at their jobs, and often considered golden by the organization. However, as Stanford professor Bob Sutton details in his book The No Asshole Rule, toxic individuals are also high-maintenance and costly to the organization. The single individual highlighted in the case study cost his organization an estimated $160,000.

Susan Singer, Susan Singer, SCPM, LinkedIn

Chavaz8. Be Aware of Your Options

Toxic work environments are most often created or established by employers who care little about employees. You may need to look into speaking with legal counsel, reporting to the EEOC, or another legal remedy. You may also be out of a job if your employer attempts to retaliate against you. Be aware of the consequences — good and bad — of speaking up or remaining silent.

Chavaz Kingman, AYF Consulting Corp.

Neca9. Respond, but Don’t React

When we react, we are trying to fight fire with fire with automatic, immediate, and impulsive replies. When this happens, we add unnecessary fuel to an already toxic situation. Instead of reacting, practice responding. Specifically, try replying with a well-thought-out, assertive response based on a desired outcome. It’s easy to fight fire with fire, but remember that even if you aren’t the offender, your reply can have dire consequences.

Neca C. Smith, AidevO People Consulting, LLC

Jean10. If All Else Fails, Exit Gracefully

Don’t burn bridges on the way out. In this era of social media, the world is very, very small and connected. Preserving your reputation should be of utmost importance. No one wishes to hire a troublemaker, and your former coworkers can malign your character.

Jean Marie Dillon, LinkedIn

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