Is your workplace toxic?

Dr. Laura Cooper Articles

“My boss is driving me crazy!”

“If I don’t get out of here, I will lose my mind!”

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a life!”

These are some things that you might hear (or say) if you are unsatisfied with your work environment. But let’s evaluate what really makes the workplace toxic. First, what do I mean by toxic? When you are in a toxic relationship, your physical health, mental health and relationships with other individuals all suffer. You will see the same effects when you are in a toxic workplace. Here are some signs that your workplace is toxic:

  • Instead of being praised for your accomplishments, you are punished for them.
    Sometimes this goes along with a job well done. The supervisor knows you outperform your coworkers, so naturally, you receive more responsibility. This is typical, but if your hard work continues to go unnoticed, it’s important to assertively and politely remind your supervisor of your success and to find an opportunity to discuss other career goals you might have that could potentially involve a raise or promotion.
  • You feel like you can’t do anything right.
    You see others come to work 10 minutes late, but God forbid you clock in at 2 minutes after! Handle this situation by pointing out to your supervisor the things you are doing well. Specifically ask for feedback on areas you can improve. Arriving to work early and dressing professionally, seems almost ancient, like something our parents, did, but this is SO important. Dressing professionally is the EASY thing you can get right every single day. When others see you, they naturally perceive that you are competent at your job and know what you’re doing. Arriving to work early helps you settle in and get ready for ANYTHING to happen. Plus, it makes you more confident and makes you feel READY for the day ahead, instead of feeling like you’re just putting out small fires.
  • I feel like I’m in a prison
    No matter how hard you work, there is always more to do. So you end up staying late, taking work home, or being mentally tethered to it for the rest of the day. Take a break. The best part about work, is you get to leave it at work! Even while you’re working, it’s important to take several breaks during the day. Get up from your desk and take a walk around your building. Get a foam basketball and goal for the back of your office door. Hula hoop in your office.
  • You feel like your work is always being undermined by your supervisor or other coworkers.
    You finished that report. And your coworker down the hall questions every detail of it. As a result, your supervisor asks you to revise it. This is an opportunity to sit down and discuss with your supervisor what the expectations are. This includes expectations for the task, and expectations for following directions from others. Get clear guidelines on the chain of command without undermining the spirit of cooperation.
  • Everyone around you is negative.
    Sometimes negativity can become a habit for people. Refuse to take part in it. If someone is being negative, walk away, don’t listen. Dismiss their comments, judgement and criticism. I talked with a health care professional once who told me she literally “rubs off” the negative energy that her clients bring in with them once they leave her office. Find a way to separate yourself from it, and create a positive space for yourself.
  • Nurture your work relationships.
    Have you ever heard the phrase “You get what you give?” If you are not adding value to your coworkers, then don’t expect to get any back! How can you nurture your work relationships and add value? Do something nice without expecting anything in return. Compliment them. Ask them about their families and encourage them to tell you stories about the positive things in their life! Don’t ask about their brother who just got out of jail. Talk about their grandchild who is graduating! This will leave them feeling happy and grateful to you for being so thoughtful and interested!

While this is a brief list of things you can do AT work, there are other ways to handle this situation away from work. First, make sure you are managing your stress, through play, exercise, vacation or SOMETHING that allows you to relax. Second, leave work at work! And finally, find something you’re passionate about! Whether it is your career or your hobby, it doesn’t matter. The important piece is that you are doing something that leaves you feeling fulfilled and satisfied.

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