Venting to your co-workers

3 Ways to Cope With a Toxic Workplace

Working is an inevitability in our lives. The average person will spend at least 30% of their life at work. We may change jobs, companies, professions—but our occupation will still take up the majority of our daily lives.

That is why it can be so devastating to be stuck in a job with a toxic workplace environment.

As wonderful as it might be to think about quitting and starting a new job somewhere more positive for us, that’s not always an option.

Whether the pay is too great, you need the experience, or you just need to hang in there until you find something better suited for you, there are many reasons why we would need to endure a toxic workplace for the long haul.

The workplace might become toxic for several reasons. The people that particular job or company attracts could be manipulative, emotional vampires, lazy, or just toxic. Or, you might find the people are all wonderful but the work itself is toxic.

Professions that typically handle customer service or service recovery have to deal with many angry, toxic people and that can take a toll on the employees.

Even still, sometimes the people are great, the work is great, and it’s the administration.

If you don’t have a supportive management team, or one that knows what it is doing, that can really affect your environment and can turn toxic.

Whatever the reason you feel your workplace is toxic and are struggling to get your work done and keep up your obligations, there are some ways to help yourself hang in there.

Here are 3 ways to cope with a toxic workplace:

Leave work at work.

Try to separate your work life from your home and personal life as much as possible. If you have extra work to do, stay later to get it done or go to a coffee shop to complete it.

The importance of not bringing it home with you is that you should feel like your home is your sanctuary.

Leaving work at work and creating the mindset that home is a place where you can unwind and decompress from the day is essential to your mental and physical well being.

When you bring work home with you, you are also bringing the toxic environment home. This transforms your sanctuary to just another extension of work and now you have no escape.

Take breaks.

Breaks are easy to forget to take, but they are essential for our emotional and mental wellness. Even if it is for five minutes just to walk to the sink and refill your water bottle, get up and away from your desk or post. 

The change in scenery and task will give you a quick break and ability to detach for a few minutes.

Some employers are toxic because they don’t allow breaks, so check with your employee handbook and union representative because every company is legally required to provide at least one thirty-minute lunch break (and a working lunch doesn’t count.)

Surround yourself with positivity.

This can look different depending on what is the factor that is causing your workplace to feel toxic.
If your co-workers are toxic: surround yourself with positive people, and don’t engage in the office gossip. You can also bury yourself in your work so that you don’t have to interact with your toxic co-workers as much. Focus on being more productive, and less on the office relationships.

If your work is toxic: if it is the work itself that is toxic, try hanging motivational notes or messages around your workspace.

Don’t take the work personally, and understand where the line of emotional detachment needs to be in order to protect yourself from what is about the work and what is about you as a person.

When angry customers are yelling at you, it’s not because of you as a person. It is because they are having a bad day and you happen to be the one they are letting it out on.

It doesn’t make their behavior okay, but it does help to detach emotionally from the work and know it is about the work, and not you.
If your employer or management is toxic: this is the most difficult to navigate. Surround yourself with positive co-workers.

Don’t contribute to the toxic environment by complaining about the ineffective management all the time.

If you like your work, focus on the work and why you like it. You can also be proactive and try to problem solve with your co-workers and management about solutions to fix whatever is causing the problems.

A toxic workplace is one of the worst experiences to have to endure.

For many reasons, there may not be the option to walk away or move yourself to a better environment which only enhances the toxic and oppressive feeling of the workplace.

Try these coping methods to help get yourself through this trying time, and with perseverance you will (hopefully) eventually find yourself somewhere better.