How to survive a toxic work environment

It’s a term we still see in the headlines: the Great Renunciation. It turns out that the Great Renunciation is far from over. While the rate of people quitting their jobs has decreased somewhat, it is still high. In July alone, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs and US job openings rose to 11.2 million, which is close to a record. So the question is, why do so many people keep quitting their jobs?

According to research published by the MIT Sloan School of Management, toxic work environments were the driving force. The study found that toxic work cultures were the leading cause of leaving, even more so than job insecurity or poor pay. According to the analysis, the main elements that contribute to toxic cultures include a lack of promotion of diversity, fairness and inclusion, employees who feel disrespected and unethical behavior.

While you may find yourself in a toxic work environment, you may not have the luxury of quitting, at least not right away. In that case, it is essential to develop healthy coping strategies. Here are some ways to stay positive and productive until you find a supportive culture that aligns with your values.

Let go of what you can’t control

When trying to survive in a toxic work environment, it is essential to remember that there are things outside of your sphere of influence. While you can’t normally control the culture, you can control how you respond to the situation. Start by letting go of any negative thoughts and feelings. By doing so, you free yourself from them and all the stress and anxiety they cause.

Set limits

Toxic work cultures can be exhausting. That’s why it’s so important to develop and enforce healthy boundaries. Part of this strategy is avoiding office gossip. For example, when your colleague starts bad-mouthing your boss or co-workers, try changing the subject. That way, you can avoid being sucked into negativity.

Find a support system

Lean on people you trust to help you get through this difficult time. While there can be a lot of negativity at work, try to find positive colleagues who can lift your mood and help you feel less isolated. It can also be helpful to work with a mentor or coach if you think it’s time to pursue other opportunities.

Create an action plan

One of the best ways to start taking control of the situation is to take action. Start with the smallest step imaginable. When you’re “in action,” it’s much harder to feel worried or powerless. For example, if you decide it’s time to start looking for a new job, you’ll want to start your job search quietly. In some toxic work environments, managers may not be happy if they find out you’re looking for work, so it pays to be discreet. It’s also a good idea to save money so you can afford to quit if things get unmanageable.

Remember that you are not your job

Linking our identities too closely to work can be dangerous. It is important to remember that your career does not define you. One reason is that if you tie your identity to your work, the successes and failures you experience will directly affect your self-esteem. When you get so involved with your work that it begins to define you, you can also begin to let it determine your own worth. Instead, identify the things that really matter to you and keep them at the forefront of your work life.

Toxicity in the workplace is not only on the rise, it is also hugely detrimental to the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of employees. Don’t wait for the situation to escalate to the point of experiencing stress, depression, and ultimately burnout. Instead, use these coping mechanisms until you can set a timeline for your job search. Then focus your energy on finding a new role in an environment where you feel valued and supported.


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