The topic of a hazardous workplace environment is not new. Every so often, a new tale concerning workplace inequality, injustice, or harassment makes the headlines. According to HQHire, 79.3 million American employees were exposed to a toxic work environment in 2021 alone. And if you think a toxic workplace only exists in small organizations with ignorant leaders or unprofessional teams, then you are wrong. As per a recent news piece published by FastCompany, even the most prestigious companies have toxic work environments.
While sexual assault, racism, and favoritism appear to be the primary causes behind a toxic workplace, VantageCircle reveals that incompetent management, a lack of appropriate communication, gossiping & cliques, and a lack of appreciation also play significant roles. If you are a victim of any of the above, we will discuss the steps you should take to safeguard your health (both physical and emotional), your family, and yourself.
Impacts of a toxic work environment
However, before we tell you how to protect yourself, it is worth noting why protection is vital in the first place and what it can cause. While many people underestimate the issue, research shows that it can lead to detrimental consequences. Here are a few:
- Forbes declares that a toxic workplace can lead to severe health problems, depression, and even drug abuse.
- An individual’s work-related stress distorts their personal lives and leads to family issues.
- A toxic environment is also hazardous to the company itself as it leads to lower productivity and high turnover.
- Inc claims that in the US, a toxic workplace is the fifth major reason for deaths.
How to Handle a Toxic Workplace
Here are the five steps you can take to save yourself from the troubles mentioned above.
1Save all conversations
When the workspace air is volatile, things circulate quickly through the grapevine, and blame-shifting is the best escape route for every notorious co-worker, it is highly likely that your words will be molded and altered before they reach the next ear. Hence, it is wise to retain the proof of every conversation, especially the official ones. So that in case a dispute or an intricacy arises, you have a way to defend yourself. If a co-worker or a team leader conveys any official information verbally, politely ask them to send you an email at your official email address.
In fact, we suggest a similar approach to any informal communication as well. If a colleague regularly makes jokes that cross the safety line while chatting/texting, do not delete them. In case a problem arises as a result of the colleague’s jokes, use the saved texts to save your back from any sort of blame-shifting.
If the situation becomes too critical and, let us say, your manager is being unusually sweet and caring, record the conversations on your phone because this might be the start of sexual assault, and you will need proof to present your case.
2Surround yourself with like-minded colleagues
What kills negativity? Positivity.
If you encounter cliques, negative whispers, and grouping, then why not create your own group? The one that spreads positivity and uplifts everyone, for that matter. Indeed suggest surrounding yourself with positive people to mitigate the effects of the toxic atmosphere.
To get started, identify the ideal people and see if you have any similar hobbies or interests with them. Surf through their Facebook or Instagram to get an idea. If they don’t seem to be into social media, then use Nuwber. Simply enter their full name in the search bar and hit enter. The results will display some information about them along with their contact details. Once that is done, approach them and let them know you want to establish a friendship. Together, your group can turn every toxic wave into humor. This will eventually keep you from being demotivated or discouraged.
3Leave work problems at your workplace
Every second after 5:00 PM (or whatever time you clock out) is your personal time. Make the most out of it and enjoy a few moments with your loved ones and peers. Thinking of the problem 24/7 will not solve it, will it? So what is the point of sacrificing your leisure time for it? Instead, use the time to relieve the stress. You could meditate, hang out with friends, take your family for a movie, or simply cook a nice dinner for yourself. Just leave the headache where it belongs.
4Take the matter up with a relevant authority
Nevertheless, if things don’t seem to be taking a positive turn despite your efforts and the negative impacts are inevitable, it is time to take a solid stance. Do not let any manager or coworker insult or upset you in any way. And if it is happening regularly, you should not be absorbing it. Every HR department has a relevant person to whom all such issues may be reported, so you should take up the matter with them as soon as possible. Hopefully, you will receive the support you require.
If toxicity has strong and unshakable roots that have penetrated every part of the organization and nothing seems to be helping, then look for a better working opportunity. There is nothing wrong with finding a better work environment if the current one is damaged beyond repair.
According to SHRM, 49% of US workers have considered resigning from their current jobs, so you will not be an exception. Just carefully plan out the exit. Firstly, start applying to various jobs daily. Once called for an interview, assess their working environment through the atmosphere and the interviewer’s communication style. Upon finding a conducive workspace, say goodbye to the current one.
A toxic work environment should not be ignored because it will cause you the damage you never even imagined one day. Hence, you should first try to alleviate it personally if it is simply about a few whispers or smirks behind your back. However, if matters get out of hand, report the issue to the right person. And if there is no hope at all, leave the company as soon as you can.