Top tips to survive and even change a toxic workplace

The majority of us spend more of our waking hours at work with our colleagues, than we do with our friends and family – so it makes sense that we place so much importance on our jobs and workplace satisfaction.  Numerous factors come into play in the workplace that have the potential to make it either a positive or negative experience.

The fact that you’re often surrounded by people that you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to be around, standard office politics, personality clashes, not to mention the issues around the work itself, deliverables, stresses and the influence of personal factors and stresses, makes the workplace a veritable melting pot of potential disaster.  The workplace essentially concentrates a whole bunch of professional and interpersonal challenges, making them unavoidable and inescapable on a daily basis.

Unfortunately unpleasant situations and people are not unique to a specific workplace.  It can sometimes be more appropriate to learn how to deal with the situation and find a positive way of coping with the irritations, rather than thinking that leaving the job is the only solution to the problem. Remember, we can’t always control what’s happening around us, but we can control the way we respond to it.


Top tips to survive and even change a toxic workplace:

1- Assess your own mindset – are you part of the problem?

Positive thoughts breed a positive mindset and positive actions.  If you’re feeling “over it” the likelihood is that your mindset, your vibe and your attitude are adding to the negative and toxic vibe, no matter how hard that you try to disguise it.  Be self critical for a moment – could you be unintentionally and passively adding to the problem?

2- Are you thinking of it as someone else’s problem to fix?

Long hours, over-worked, under-staffed and even undervalued.  The potential issues are endless and all of them understandable reasons to feel discouraged and frustrated.  Are you waiting for management to fix these issues? Senior management?

It’s often much easier to be able to attach the duty of care or responsibility to someone else as it removes our own feelings of responsibility and accountability.  Taking steps to resolve an apparent issue in the workplace may not necessarily be part of our formal job description, however we owe it to ourselves to do what we can within our power to improve our own workplace environment.  Does management know of the problem?  Has it been communicated to them in a positive and helpful manner? Can you suggest an alternative process or option to alleviate the stress and discontent?  Give it a try.  If it’s well received and actioned, then you’ve been proactive about making a difference – an admirable quality.  If nothing comes of it, then you can rest assured that you have done what you can, within your power.

3- Perspective… it may not be personal…

Those harsh comments, brusque tone and inappropriate behaviour may not have anything to do with you.  It’s easy to assume that someone’s treatment of you is related to their opinion of you however this often isn’t the case.  People have many ways of expressing their frustration, stress and upset and often those around them will feel the brunt of these projected emotions the most.

It sometimes helps to take a step back from the situation and try to understand the reasons why someone may be behaving a certain way.  Could there be other factors at play? Perspective will allow you to make sense of the behaviour and process in a logical and practical way, rather than an emotional one.  It doesn’t make their behaviour acceptable but it will make it less personal and easier for you to address through the appropriate channels, in the appropriate way, with the appropriate person.

4- Be part of the solution

Positive energy is just as powerful as negative energy.  A workplace of disgruntled employees can easily get stuck in the negative mindset or powerless victim mentality.  It takes someone to get the ball rolling before others can see the beneficial changes from the positivity and sense of empowerment.

Where you see or witness problems, see if you can find practical or workable solutions as much as your capacity allows.  It’s a step in a positive and proactive direction – hopefully inspiring others to follow suit.  We often have more power than we realise.

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