Crippling anxiety, self-loathing mornings, over-burdened with an indispensable attitude of fake-positivity, consumed by off-guard remarks, late-night hours that bring no sense of credibility, kept in the dark with no sign of recognition, drained of inspiration, robbed from ambition… These are the many different taunting side effects of working in a toxic environment.

We hope it doesn’t sound familiar to you, yet we all have the capacity to fall prey to this workplace situation in any kind of industry. Sometimes we are placed in a position where we have little to no control, and this could overwhelm and digress our energy and motivation, often leading to psychological as well as physical health issues such as chronic fatigue and body aches, emotional drainage, and a damaged self-esteem.

In its essence, a toxic environment is a recurring one. It is not an occasional mishap, it’s a prolonged slippery slope that interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their initial job, and robs them from their general wellbeing. The more it is pushed under the rug, the more hostile and complex it becomes to deal with.

Challenges come around all the time and sometimes even non-stop. Jobs require hard work, otherwise you are out the door – but how much is your job supposed to cost you and your health? What are some indicators that you need to protect yourself or even get up and leave?

Here are some red-flags you should attend to:

–       You don’t feel appreciated. You never receive feedback, and if you do, it’s negative and you are not advised on what steps you should take in order to improve, so you’re lead to be looked down on rather than guided or driven.

–       Your colleagues have a sense of superiority over you and others, always wanting to have the upper hand on making decisions to get the credit, so you develop an inferiority complex and gradually lose your voice. They don’t care about what needs to be done, they only care about their status.

–       You are frequently interrupted by your manager(s), he or she does not actually listen to you, so you believe your ideas don’t matter and surrender to their office politics by no longer trying. They are not competent leaders and their attempts at jokes can be rather offensive.

–       The majority of people around you are miserable, and there is more gossip than there is any credibility. You lose all sorts of enthusiasm to contribute your value and simply “do what you have to do” to get by, even if that means doing someone else’s job just because you were told to.

–       You can’t enjoy a decent breather, within work or outside of work, and it’s making you ill.There are enough working hours during the day, the baggage must be left behind when you walk out, physically, mentally, and emotionally; otherwise you no longer have time for your personal life and interests, and you never look forward to going to work the next day.

While many of us might not have the option of choosing the job we want, a toxic job and a job that you simply dislike don’t fall under the same umbrella. One has severe consequences inflicted on you, the other can be controlled or even changed by the decisions you choose to make.

However, at this point, where does this toxicity generate from and how can it be dealt with?

HR grounds.

When a company has a strong foundation and core beliefs and values whereby people are hired accordingly, a toxic environment would be easier to manage. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

When HR and Learning & Development managers overlook their employee’s leadership styles and other competencies that may affect the culture of the workplace, this is where toxicity starts to creep in and needs to be ridden of, fast. Morals and attitudes needs to be faced head on.

Strict policies and violations must be clearly set and communicated to every employee along with their reasonable consequences. Unethical behavior, discrimination, gossip, gas lighting, bullying, and all sorts of harassment from whoever responsible need to be addressed. Ground rules and regulations provide security and rights and they need to be taken very seriously.

Needless to say, it’s crucial that the HR manager is entrusted and approachable for whatever reason you may be struggling with.

Inefficient learning opportunities.

Whether it’s a CEO, manager, or caretaker, – at the end of the day everyone is a person trying to do their job in order to make a satisfying living, and each one of them is functioning under one organization. We are often advised to keep work impersonal and wear our “working mask”, but finding a balance between protecting yourself and your job is key.

Certain attitudes are required of you to face things assertively when red flags start arising, even if it’s not within your character. Standing up for what you know is wrong and taking it up with those in power will keep your values and position in check, because in toxic environments it’s very easy to get run over at any given chance. If you feel there is something you need to improve in your learning and performance, bring it up with your manager because it shows your willingness to deliver regardless of external obstacles.

A healthy company should want the best for every individual working within it so they can perform effectively to sustain a productive environment and a profitable business. If the employees aren’t happy, then it’s most likely that the company is not in good hands, which may leave the whole business at risk, which includes you and your job.

In a sane and nurturing environment, everyone would be treated equally and communication must be transparent. Feedback is consistent; good work is praised and less impressive work is evaluated on how it could be improved. Emotional intelligence needs to be taught and practiced. Workloads should be assigned and delegated fairly under a realistic timeline so that every person is entitled to a work/life balance.

That being said, toxicity almost always develops and revolves around people, not the work itself. If you are facing such concerns in your workplace, reach out to someone responsible and explain how your environment is affecting you and others around you.

Fixing a toxic workplace requires bold leadership, and a range of competencies that no one is simply born with. Is everyone in the company up to the level they’re working for? Are they properly trained or constantly being drained? Are those who are in authoritative positions inspiring or demotivating?

When all else fails, move on.

If you’ve tried then and again to voice your struggles and no measures are being taken to improve the situation, plan your exit strategy. A job is a committed relationship and a second home. You need to give as much as you take, so if you’re giving it your all and getting misery in return – know that you’re not in the right relationship nor in the right place.

Start looking for other opportunities where you can grow further and apply everything you’ve learned. Never dread a job that you once had because there is always something to take out of it, whether it’s a technical skill or in dealing with people. Explore new grounds, meet new faces, learn new skills, find new passions and interests. Upon finding your next job, keep an eye out for signs that indicate toxicity and trust how you feel about the environment you walk into. Be prepared to protect yourself and stand your ground.

We are very prone to limiting ourselves due to past failures, but no bad experience should get in the way of our development. The only real failure is when you refuse to try. Believe in what you can achieve, and everything will follow through.


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