There’s a big difference between a tough work environment and a toxic one.
Things like difficult coworkers and demanding bosses are challenging, but they’re also common and often manageable. Toxic work environments, on the other hand, are marked by things like insurmountable and relentless drama, inconsistency and unpredictability and maybe even narcissistic leadership.
If you find yourself in a workplace like this, it might be best to start planning your exit. But, unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. And, even if you are planning to leave, these things take time.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to relieve some of the tension for as long as this arrangement lasts. Here are some tips for surviving a toxic working environment:
1. Firm up your boundaries
One of the keys to getting through this experience is to have firm boundaries. There are a few ways to go about drawing the line.
First of all, whenever possible, don’t bring work home with you. Don’t work on stressful projects during off-hours, for example. And, avoid checking your email on evenings and weekend as much as you can.
Try to take the space and time away from the office to recover and recuperate. It can be difficult, but also try to give yourself a mental break from work. Focus on other people and other aspects of your life during your downtime. Having this time away will help you to be at your best when you do return to work. And, it will help to minimize the toll your toxic work situation takes on your life in general.
2. Manage your stress
Toxic work environments come in lots of different shapes and sizes. But, they all have one thing in common: They causes real and significant tension and stress.
“A toxic environment keeps people in a fight or flight mindset – the constant push of cortisol, testosterone and norepinephrine generates physical, emotional, and mental stress,” says Cheri Torres, a leadership coach and author, to Monster.com.
The good news is that the skills you learn through this experience can serve you well in the future, too. You’ll never have a stress-free job but there are ways to feel better anyway. If you work in toxic space, establishing some firm stress-management habits and routines will go a long way — not just now, but for the rest of your career.
3. Find support
It’s always a good thing to have a few people who you can really count on to support you in your personal life. But, it’s even more essential when you’re working in a toxic work environment. It’s great to have friends at work, but it’s not always helpful or productive to ruminate together about how terrible things are there.
You do need to air your frustrations, though. So, establish a supportive group of friends and family members and save your angry rants for after hours. This way, you can blow off some steam without taking the risk of saying too much to a coworker.
4. Be yourself
It’s essential to stay true to yourself in order to maintain your sanity in a toxic work environment. Don’t compromise your own values or morals in order to get ahead. Staying authentic and genuine will keep you grounded and stop you from losing yourself as a result of working around so much toxicity.
The only reason you should change something about yourself or your beliefs is because you sincerely want to and because you have decided that it’s for the best. So, be yourself, no matter what’s happening around you at work. It might even help to bring out the best in the people around you.
5. Get out
You might be able to find ways to get through your days in a toxic work environment. You may even be able to find some success during your time there. However, by definition, it’s going to be next to impossible to truly thrive in such a place.
Ultimately, you should probably work toward finding a new job. You’ll benefit from doing all you can to rise above the toxicity for as long as this lasts though. And, not letting it drag you down will help you to secure new employment.
Don’t forget to stop to appreciate how much you’ve learned as a result of this experience. You know so much more about what to look for — and what to avoid — in the future.
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