How to Survive a Toxic Workplace

Frustrated employee sitting in front of laptop

Frustrated man | Source: iStock

When you first start working at a new job, things are great. However, after a few months or weeks, you may start to feel like you made a big mistake. Most of the time, you don’t have the luxury of just quitting without a backup plan. You have bills to pay and other responsibilities to take care of. In times like this, you’ll have to make the most of a bad situation and learn how to cope with a toxic work environment (at least until you find another job).

Author and psychotherapist Linnda Durre refers to toxic bosses and co-workers as “staff infections.” Some of the signs your job is infected is if you regularly deal with teammates who are verbally abusive and generally difficult to deal with, the people you work with are incompetent, and your human resources department is unresponsive when you ask for help. Here are a few ways to cope with the madness until you find your next gig.

Be assertive

Communication is essential. One of the keys to maintaining your sanity is learning how to assert yourself. Durre said there may come a time when it will be necessary to confront the person who is causing you grief. These confrontations will likely be uncomfortable, especially if the culprit is your boss. However, it’s necessary to express your displeasure so that you can work effectively. Suffering in silence is not the answer. “In some instances it might be necessary to confront your boss about his or her own difficult behavior. Obviously … you don’t want to get fired. However, a confrontation won’t necessarily translate into you losing your job … Be as tactful and diplomatic as possible while remaining clear, firm, and assertive,” said Durre.

Take your breaks

Man stretching at work desk

Man stretching | Source: iStock

Working while you’re burned out will make it more difficult to handle a toxic work environment. It’s important to make sure you’re not running on empty. Make sure to engage in self-care by taking enough breaks, eating right, and getting enough sleep. If you continue to push yourself and neglect your needs, you’re only setting yourself up for illness. Job hunting will be much harder if you’re sick.

Keep your distance

If your workplace is peppered with toxic co-workers, stay away from the bad apples. You’ll have more peace of mind and avoid whatever trouble they’re cooking. Stay out of office gossip and focus instead on being a team player who gets results. Don’t even be tempted to hang around and listen to the gossip; listening is still considered participation. If you’re dealing with a bully, it will take more than just keeping your distance. You’ll need to address the issue head on and get management involved.

Pack your bags

If your coping skills aren’t getting you anywhere and your job has truly become unbearable, it’s a good idea to leave sooner rather than later. This is especially true if you are starting to get sick. In addition, career expert Marie G. McIntyre warns against remaining in a toxic job for too long. You may start to think you were just overreacting and that the bad behavior you’ve been experiencing is actually not so bad. “Some organizations are poisonous, and they can infect everyone who works there. But if you have been in a toxic workplace too long, you may have come to accept sick behavior as normal. And you may even start to think that there’s something wrong with you,” said McIntyre.

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