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How to Survive a Toxic Work Environment

How to Survive a Toxic Work Environment

If you're like most people, you spend the majority of your waking hours at work. So it's important to make sure you're in a positive and healthy workplace. But what do you do if you're stuck in a toxic environment? Here are some tips on how to survive and thrive in spite of the negativity.

What Is a Toxic Work Environment?

Toxic workplaces are marked by high levels of stress, conflict, and negative emotions. This can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and a decline in morale. In severe cases, it can even lead to health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Toxic work environments often develop due to poor management, unrealistic expectations, and a lack of communication.

How to Thrive in a Toxic Work Environment

Between April and September 2021, around 24 million American workers resigned from their jobs, which was an all-time record. [1] So what drove the Great Resignation?

According to a recent report, employees quit their jobs more often because of toxic workplace culture than because of low pay. It was found that a toxic work environment is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to an employee quitting. [2]

Another study discovered that 70% of people have at least once worked in a toxic workplace. More than 50% said they would leave their job if their workplace felt toxic. The industries reported being the most toxic were marketing, PR, and advertising - 88% of workers in this sector said they had experiences with toxic workplaces. [3]

Working in a toxic culture can be difficult and draining. If you find yourself in this situation, there are some things you can do to protect your mental health. Here we list some tips for thriving in a toxic work environment.

Keep your personal life separate from work

When you leave work, try to forget about all the office drama and focus on enjoying your time outside of the workplace. Whether it's taking a walk, reading a book, or spending time with family and friends, it's important to have activities that help you relax, recharge and take distance from the toxic work culture.

Build a support network of friends or family members

Find a few people who you can trust and confide in when things are getting tough. These people can provide an invaluable sounding board and may even have some helpful advice on how to navigate the sometimes murky waters of office politics.

Don't take things personally

We've all been there - you're minding your own business and doing your best when suddenly someone says or does something that hurts your feelings.

It can be tough to not take things personally, but if you want to thrive in such an environment, it's important to learn how to separate yourself from the negativity. One way to do this is to remember that the person who is trying to bring you down is likely motivated by their own insecurity.

Find an outlet for stress

Toxic work environments can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Exercise is a great way to release pent-up frustration and tension. You can also try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation during your lunch break. If you have trouble unwinding after work, try disconnecting from work-related electronic devices and social media.

Establish boundaries with toxic coworkers

If you find yourself in a toxic workplace, it's important to set healthy boundaries. That means that you don't have to put up with bad behavior - if someone is crossing the line, make it clear that their behavior is not acceptable.

In addition, trust your gut instinct. If something feels off or you are feeling uncomfortable, listen to your intuition and remove yourself from the situation.

Keep a positive attitude

This doesn't mean that you have to pretend that everything is perfect - acknowledging that the situation is difficult can actually help you to maintain a positive outlook. Focus on the things that are going well, and look for ways to build on these successes.

When you approach each day with positivity, you'll be better equipped to deal with whatever challenges come your way. And who knows, you might just find that your positive attitude helps to create a more positive workplace for everyone.

Rise above gossip and drama

When you see people engaging in drama, it can be tempting to join in. However, for one thing, gossip tends to breed more of the same. If you get caught up in the latest rumor, you're likely to spread it to others, and before long, the entire office is abuzz with negative energy.

What's more, drama can be destructive to relationships. If you're constantly talking behind someone's back, it will eventually damage your relationship with that person.

Seek professional help if needed

If you're struggling to cope with a toxic work environment or experience mental health problems, consider meeting with a therapist or counselor. They can help you to identify the source of the toxicity and provide coping mechanisms to deal with the stress. They can also help you to develop a plan to either improve the situation or leave the job if necessary.

Know your worth

No one deserves to be treated like they're nothing. You deserve to be respected, so remember your worth. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, skills, and qualities. This will help you to have the confidence to stand up for yourself and demand the respect you deserve. Also, remember, that it is just a job - and what you do here isn't the only thing that defines you.

Advocate for change

Remember that you have the power to effect change in your work environment. If you don't like the way things are, don't be afraid to speak up. You may not be able to change everything overnight, but every little bit helps. By being an advocate for positive change, you'll not only make your workplace better but also set an example for others.

Be persistent

Finally, there are some things that can be done to increase the chances of success when advocating for change. Build a rapport with coworkers and managers. This will make it more likely that they will be receptive to your suggestions. It is also important to be aware of the company's policies and procedures.

This will give you a framework within which to operate, and will also help you to avoid potentially negative consequences. Do not forget that it is important to be persistent. Change is often the result of many small steps.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Protect Yourself from a Toxic Work Environment?

Toxic work environments can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. It can also lead to job dissatisfaction and turnover. To protect yourself from a toxic environment, it is important to know how to deal with various toxic situations:

  • Imbalance of power. A report found that only 20 percent of employees think that managers understand how their power influences workplace relationships. [4] If you feel like you have too little power at work, start by speaking up more during meetings and sharing your ideas with confidence. If there are tasks or projects that you feel passionate about, volunteer to take them on - even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone. In addition, make an effort to get to know your co-workers better, and build relationships of trust with them.
  • Bullying and harassment. If you are intimidated, belittled, or harassed based on your gender, race, or sexual orientation, first, try to resolve the issue directly with the person who is behaving inappropriately. If that does not work, or if you feel too uncomfortable to speak up, you can report the problem to your supervisor or the human resources department.
  • Excessive criticism. If you are being excessively critiqued, it is important to consider whether the critiques are constructive and based on specific areas that need improvement. If so, then they can be used as an opportunity to improve your performance and build a stronger relationship with your boss. However, if the critiques are personal or seem unfair, then you may need to have a conversation with your boss to discuss the issue.
  • Lack of support from management. First, try to identify the specific areas where you feel like you're not getting enough support. Once you've done that, schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss the perceived poor leadership. Be prepared to offer specific examples of times when you could have used more support. During the meeting, avoid attacking or blaming your manager - instead, focus on finding ways to improve the situation going forward.
  • High level of stress. What is it about the job that is causing you stress? When you determine whether it is poor communication, lack of work-life balance, or unrealistic expectations, you can start to look for ways to reduce or eliminate it. Also, try to practice stress-reducing methods such as relaxation exercises or meditation. There are many different ways to reduce stress, so find one that works best for you and stick with it.
  • Feeling of being trapped. If you feel like you're not being challenged or that your skills are no longer being utilized, the first thing you should do is take a step back and assess your situation. Once you've identified the source of your frustration, you can start to develop a plan to address it. Perhaps you need to have a conversation with your boss about your role in the company or look for ways to expand your skill set.

How to Survive an Emotionally Toxic Workplace?

Hostile work environments are defined by employees that feel intimidated, threatened, or uncomfortable. Most of these situations can be resolved by following these tips:

  • Keep a record of any incidents. This can help you build a case if you decide to take action against your employer. If you're keeping a record of incidents, be sure to include as much detail as possible. Note the date, time, and location of each incident. If there were witnesses, make sure to get their names and contact information. And be sure to describe the incident itself, including what happened and how it made you feel.
  • Talk to a trusted co-worker or supervisor. Talking to someone can help you to process what's going on and figure out a plan to address the situation. It can also provide some much-needed emotional support during a difficult time. Additionally, talking to someone can help you to identify possible solutions or options that you may not have considered before.
  • Talk to the human resources department. HR can help to identify the root causes of the toxicity. They can talk to managers and employees to get a better sense of what is happening. Second, HR can help to create a plan to address the toxicity. This may involve things like changing policies or providing training for employees. Finally, HR can offer resources and help connect employees with counseling services if necessary.
  • Consult with an attorney. An attorney can help you determine if your rights have been violated. Additionally, they can help you negotiate with your employer to try to improve the situation. Finally, if necessary, an attorney can represent you in a lawsuit against your employer.
  • Look for a new job. A previously-mentioned study found that almost one in three employees leave their jobs due to workplace conflict. Another report discovered that toxic workplaces were the No. 1 reason for leaving. [5] If you are surrounded by toxic people and a toxic boss, and your job is making you miserable, it's not worth it. There are other opportunities out there, and you deserve to be happy in your work life. So if all else fails, don't forget that you always have the choice to move on.


1 Sull et al., 2022.

2 Robinson, 2022.

3 Mustafa, 2021.

4 Albert-Deitch, 2019.

5 Dore, 2022.

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