If you’re dreading going to work every day and, when you get there, you’re thinking more about self-protection than the company's success, you could be working in a toxic environment. Self-serving, cynical employees and managers are the product of a dysfunctional, drama led company culture which can result in poor communication, unethical behaviours, high levels of absence through stress, anxiety and burnout and inevitably high labour churn.
Whether you have a narcissistic boss, vindictive colleagues or a lack of discipline a toxic work environment can be damaging to your health and your morale.
So how can you survive a toxic work culture?
Know the warning signs
There are lots of warning signs that you could be working in a toxic work culture. If you have feelings of dread when you think about your job, or you can’t motivate yourself to get up in the mornings and leave the house and you think of any excuse not to go to work. Everyone should have a job role that makes you feel happy and fulfilled but if your job is making you feel physically or mentally drained you need to ask yourself why. It might be time to not only think about what you want from your job / career but also perhaps a change of direction.
Look for the positives
It might seem obvious but try to stay out of the drama and the toxicity. Set your own boundaries to try and avoid being drawn into the fray and focus on the positives in your workplace which could include planning your exit strategy.
Should you leave?
It’s really down to you and the reasons for the toxicity. If it can’t be toned down through some form of workplace mediation, you could ask for a transfer into a new team, department or location. Most employers don’t want to lose their valuable employees and are generally willing to help the situation if at all possible. They might also be well aware of the toxicity of the work culture and be invested in changing it. Try to look at all the options internally first but if change isn’t possible then you might need to think about leaving.
You’ve decided to leave … so prepare
Start to think of your next job / career move and focus on the positive steps you will need to make such as updating your CV, clearing out your personal belongings and thinking about the reasons why you’re leaving so when you’re asked the question at interview you’ll be prepared. What might be toxic for you may not be seen as toxic by others so be prepared to discuss the reasons you’re leaving.
How can we expect to feel afterwards?
Its normal to feel angry and upset, especially if you feel there was no other alternative but to leave your job. At least one-third of us can experience some form of depression in this situation so give yourself time to mourn what’s happened. Perhaps take some legal advice. Ultimately its better for your own wellbeing to leave a toxic work environment
Staying mentally strong and at peace with your decision to leave
Once you have made your decision to leave its important to stay positive.
Take time to think about what you really want next and what’s going to make you happy. Maybe a different type of job or career, start a business, take time out for travel or learn new skills etc
If you leave without a new role focus your finances on the essentials like bills, mortgage or rent
Keep fit and try meditation to keep physically and mentally strong
Just make sure your reasons for leaving are thought through. We can all have blips in our careers but if you really feel unhappy or dissatisfied in your job then you aren’t doing yourself any favours, nor anyone else, by staying.
There will always be good reasons for leaving your job and be prepared to explain these at interview but also take accountability, for example, what you learned from the experience and how you have grown as a person and gained new confidence and resilience and now ready to move on. This way a new employer will see how you objectively assessed and managed the situation and proves you aren’t a complainer.