Detox From Your Toxic Workplace

By Hayley Heaton, Content Manager at Vivint Solar and Freelance Writer

Working in a toxic environment can take its toll on you if you’re there for too long without a survival guide. Not only is it bad for you professionally, because you’ll learn bad habits, but it’s not great for your mental or physical health. Here are a few signs you’re working in a toxic environment with some helpful survival tips until you find a new job.

Fear Factor

It's Sunday evening and instead of feeling well-rested and excited to jump back into the projects you have at work, you have a huge ball of anxiety bouncing around your head, to your heart, through your stomach, and back up again at the thought of having to go back into the office to start a new week. Either you have an extreme medical condition and should rush to the ER to see what's up or you work in a toxic environment and need help navigating through it.

What can you do about it?

Prep yourself during the weekend to be emotionally ready for Monday morning. This could include spending time with yourself, friends or family to have positive experiences outside of work. Don’t just sit in your house and wait for the weekend to pass you by. Do things that enrich you and remind you that you’re not just your job. If you work in a toxic place it’s unlikely that they have a work-from-home policy, but if they do, try to take advantage of it.

If all else fails and you’re really struggling, take a sick day and Ferris Bueller yourself. Sometimes you just need one more day to relax. And I promise, I won’t tell.

No Thank You

Did you just kill it on a project? Put in overtime hours? Worked on a holiday? Sacrificed your personal life for your job? Cancelled your vacation, because something last minute came up at the office? Worked while you were sick? Did you get thanked? If you’re constantly sacrificing yourself and all you get in return is a paycheck, you’re probably working in a toxic workplace. As we all learned in kindergarten, a simple thank you is easy to give. Recognition for a job well done isn’t hard. But if you’re not getting it, you’re not being valued the way you should be at work, after all, saying thank you is free.

What can you do about it?

Have an honest conversation with yourself and then with your boss. Evaluate where you add value, see where you could be adding more value, and then schedule a meeting to have a check-up with your direct supervisor. Discussing the situation with him or her may clue them in that they need to be more proactive with appreciation and if it doesn’t…start looking for a new role or a new job.

If you’re not feeling satisfied, there’s something out there that will make you feel productive and valued. Taking matters into your own hands will force you to recognize your own talents and skills, and it will help you feel more in control.

Gossip Girls

One of the surest signs of working in a toxic place is the amount of gossip. So-and-so told who's-her-face that the CEO had no faith in what's-his-pants, because of this and that. Yada yada yada and on it goes. It can be really easy to get caught up in all the office gossip; it can be even easier to feel like you're being left out if you don't participate. I have news for you: unhealthy amounts of gossip are a huge red flag.

What can you do about it?

Be busy. Just focus on yourself and your work. Head down, headphones on.

If someone does come to you with some "hot gossip," simply shut it down. This can be pretty tricky if you're navigating interpersonal relationships at work, but next time it happens just act disinterested and try changing the subject to something more positive.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just be direct. If someone tries to get you to gossip, just be upfront and tell them you’re not interested.

Under the Bus

Do coworkers frequently get thrown under the bus so that someone else can look good or avoid blame? Well, you might work in a toxic workplace. While getting thrown under a bus sucks, you have to realize that it’s the symptom of a bigger problem. If those in leadership roles are continually looking to place blame, rather than fostering a place of collaboration and great ideas, there’s no room to feel successful or valued. At some point you’ll find yourself facing the CEO and apologizing for something you wanted to try a different way, or you’ll find yourself being forced to throw someone else under the bus in order to save your own skin. Either way, it’s not great. A blame culture fosters fear, not great work.

What can you do about it?

Honestly confront someone when they’ve thrown you under the bus when you’re not angry. Ask them why they did it and ask them how you can move forward.

Accept blame when it’s yours of course, but move on from it.

Consider finding a new place to work. Sometimes you can’t change a culture, but you can change your situation, so get out if you can.

One-Way Traffic

Like gossip, unproductive communication can inhibit you from doing your best work. You shouldn’t have to play a game of telephone with your supervisor to get clear direction on a project. If you find yourself on a one-way communication street where your boss is just telling you what to do and not providing any direction, context, or input from you, then your communication lines are broken and you won’t be successful.

What can you do about it?

This one can be tricky, but if you’re unclear about a project, make sure you have all the clarity you need before moving forward. Your supervisor might be annoyed with you for not being some gifted oracle and not reading his or her mind, but trust me, you’ll be better off with a little annoyance upfront rather than having something thrown at you across a room (true story!) for having gone ahead and did the project on your own.

Closing Remarks

Confession time, I’ve worked at several toxic workplaces in the past. My talents were diminished. My work was torn up in front of me and thrown in the trash. Things have been thrown at me. I don’t even know how many times I’ve been shamed (in front of my face and behind my back) about my body. I don’t know how many times I’ve been forced to harm a colleague I didn’t want to just to survive.

It’s understandable that sometimes you have to put up with toxicity at work, because you have no other options on the horizon. Overall, I’d simply advise this: if you are losing who you are, start looking for something else. It might take awhile, but don’t get discouraged and keep striving for something better. Also, remind yourself everyday that you are in a temporary situation and that you are not your job. Eventually, you’ll be able to move on; the job you have isn’t worth it, but you certainly are.

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