Toxic Workplaces and How To Deal With Them
by Deborah Anderson
Think back to work last week (- if you can - days are just rolling into one lately!) Was it happy? Productive? Rewarding? If so then, amazing – keep on doing what you’re doing! If not, you may want to read on. You might not have realised but last week was National Work Life Week and it seems like the perfect time to reflect on your current occupation. It’s normal to have aspects of your job that you don’t really like but when these are integrated into your company culture, it could be that you’re working in a toxic environment.
When you type ‘toxic’ into Google, the first result is (quite rightly) Britney Spears’ 2003 absolute banger. The second is the definition: causing unpleasant feelings; harmful or malicious. The definition may be vague and applying it to your job may seem tricky but, just like the definition says, it’s anything at work that is damaging or harmful to you. If you’re still not sure whether your workplace is toxic, we’ve put together a few key signs to look out for, as well as what to do if you spot them.
- You feel undervalued and not listened to – If your ideas are overlooked or you feel like you might as well not be there, that’s not right. Every voice has a right to be heard! This goes hand in hand with not getting deserved opportunities to progress within the company such as a promotion or salary raise.
- You’re regularly patronised or talked down to – Unfortunately, this can be a common occurrence for women in the workplace but that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying when it happens.
- Playground Politics – If you feel like you spend your 9 to 5 on the set of Mean Girls then it’s a toxic environment. A lot of us have had to deal with one round of cliques and bullying at school, we shouldn’t have to deal with it in adulthood, especially in our place of work, which should be a safe space.
- You’ve cried at work – This is a simple one. Have you ever had to sneak off to the toilets to have a cry whilst at work? If the cause of the tears was because of something a co-worker or boss had done or said, this is a major sign that something isn’t right. No job is worth damaging your mental health over!
- You feel like you have to walk on eggshells at work - We all have to slightly sensor our behaviour and language when we’re in professional mode - no one wants to see us shouting or swearing like we might do down the pub on a Saturday night. There’s a difference, though, between this and feeling like you have to constantly walk on eggshells around certain co-workers/your boss so as to avoid a telling off. The latter may be a sign that you’re in a toxic situation.
- You dread work – The Sunday night blues are a thing but does yours go deeper than that? Do you feel a sense of dread when thinking about going to work the next day? Trust your gut. If you feel there’s something wrong, there probably is.
It’s so important to remember that you can still be victim to a toxic work environment even when you’re working from home – and we don’t mean the dirty looks your cat keeps giving you! You can still feel all of these things on a Zoom call or through an email! Just because you don’t have to deal with it face-to-face or all day, it doesn’t mean that your feelings are any less valid.
Spotted any of these signs in your office? It may feel like there’s nothing you can do to change the environment, and unfortunately, a lot of the time that can be the case as issues are often deep-rooted in the company culture. We hope you’re not too bummed out! At One Wear Freedom, we’re all about female empowerment so we want to ensure you that there are things you can do to alleviate your stress. You are not powerless! Even if you don’t have the power to change the situation, you do have control over how you process and deal with it.
Here are some tips on how to cope:
- Talk to your HR department if you have one. They may be able to help in some way – after all it’s in the company’s interest to resolve issues like these. A toxic workplace often has unmotivated staff and low productivity which are both bad for business. Be better than your colleagues/boss and stay professional and respectful at all times.
- RANT! There’s nothing better than coming home from a hard day’s work and taking your bra off is there? So why not get even more off your chest? Ranting about work to a few close friends or family members (or co-workers that you trust!) not only allows you to vent out all your built-up frustrations, but if you’re lucky, when you tell your loved ones about how your boss keeps talking over you, you’ll get loads of “that’s so rubbish!” and “what a _______!” – (we’ll leave you to fill in that blank.) If you’ve ever thought, even for a fleeting moment, that you’d exaggerated a situation to be worse than it was or even just made it up in your head, talking it out with a friend can help to reassure you that it’s really happening - you are not the problem! Allocate a certain amount of time for your post-work rant though; it shouldn’t consume your personal life too!
- Get a work wife! Having even just one close friend at work can make such a difference to how you feel about your job. Small things like having someone to give knowing glances to when Dave from accounts is mansplaining AGAIN, eat lunch with or just knowing that someone has your back can all make your days not just tolerable but enjoyable!
- Have things to look forward to! This can be particularly difficult at the moment with our various tiers of lockdown but it is possible! Plan fun things to do in the evenings or weekend so that you have a motivation to get through each day. Whether that’s a long walk in the countryside, a socially distanced meet-up with your best friend or even if your plan is to do nothing but lie on the sofa and watch a new Netflix show –put on your comfiest pyjamas, grab your favourite snacks and make it an event!
- Keep an eye out for new jobs! There’s no harm in looking to see what other jobs are out there – it’s up to you whether you apply for them or not! You may well be a better fit within another company. Just make sure you carefully weigh up the pros and cons of leaving your job and don’t bitch about your current company in any applications or interviews! Even if you decide not to apply for any new jobs yet, get that CV/LinkedIn profile updated! Every tough experience you work through is an achievement! They will develop you and make you stronger so why not get them down in writing?
- Re-evaluate your passions! Sometimes the element of toxicity at work is not the people but the job itself. You may have fallen out of love with the role, the sector or even the industry that you’re in and that’s totally okay – we are forever evolving! Discovering what we want out of life isn’t always a lightning bolt moment, sometimes it’s just what makes us feel at peace. Take some time to figure out the things you enjoy and want, in all aspects of life including relationships. Channel your inner school-girl and create a mind-map, jotting down all the things you love, like, value and see if any ideas make you feel as excited as you were when you first got your current job! Then you can start setting goals and putting time towards it, whether it’s through volunteering or just in your own home – you never know where it could take you!
A toxic work environment can be soul-crushing but try not to let it get you down! Keep communicating with your friends and family - whether it’s for a rant or a cheer-up session, keep celebrating each of your wins, no matter how small and take every day as it comes. In the immortal words of Kris Jenner, “You’re doing amazing, sweetie!” Now that we’ve finished the serious stuff, Alexa, play Toxic by Britney Spears!