Do you find it easier to detect a toxic relationship outside of work than within? How do we know when our place of work is toxic? A toxic workplace can be anything from gossip amongst colleagues, passive or outright sexual harassment, bullying, to unethical and blatant behaviour in management, and the lack of fairness, and favouritism are evident. The biggest indication your workplace is toxic to you is dreading going into work.
Working for someone else automatically brings us into relationship with total strangers on a business level, and over a period of time as we become settled, and begin to find out more about the dynamics of the people and place of work. Unfortunately in spite of our best effort we can end up working for a toxic company. We like the benefits, developed some quality friendships, the pay is decent, and the location close enough to home, but we can’t dismiss the changes that’s begun to negatively impact our work life and slowly trickling into our personal life. We get caught up in staying because we have financial responsibilities, and the job market sucks, so we do what we can to deal with being victimize, and bullied. At the end of the day we crawl home beaten down mentally and emotionally, and dump all that on our family in the form of venting. Our bodies begin to show signs of the toxicity, and our social life is impacted as well.
Unfortunately, I can relate to working in such an environment, and eventually learned that using my voice and taking a stand gave me the courage to regain my health and self-confidence.
First, how do you differentiate between a non-toxic and toxic work environment. Usually there’s a shift in the vibe within the department, and mood between you and another person, more likely the person you work closely with or manager is noticeably different.
Our perception and affect – based on how another person’s behaviour (words and actions) are making us feel.
Our Interpretation – Compared to how that person interacts with others leads to the conclusion that we are being treated differently from others (unfairly and unethically).
In the event you find yourself in a toxic work environment, you should ask:
1. Is it possible to stay and avoid being infected?
2. What should I do if I am being infected?
3. What happens if I stay quiet?
4. What can happen if I speak up?
The same thinking applies when we noticed someone else being subjected to that type of treatment. The truth is, if we’re the primary or secondary recipient in a toxic environment we are being affected. Won’t it be lovely to have a manual on “what to do in a toxic workplace” that is part of your employment package? I think by talking about it (and every experience may be different or similar) we can find encouragement in that we are not alone, and courage to act; not in a mean vindictive fashion, but to use our voice to speak up for ourselves or someone else who is too fearful or lacks the strength to stand for themselves.
If you are in a toxic work environment, the following questions and suggestions may be helpful towards finding a favourable resolution.
When should I speak up?
Speak up when you have evidence (change in behaviour, signs, and signals, verbal and non-verbal) and the dynamics within the office or your performance has shifted. Usually it’s noticed by others and that’s when individuals begins to vent and quickly moves into gossip. It’s difficult during this period to stay silent and not participate in gossip. A word of caution, share your opinion, and carefully select your words to refrain from passing judgement. The intent is not to attack a person/s, but to stop the destructive behaviour. Ideally, taking notes of these changes with time and dates can be valuable later on.
How do I speak up?
Approach and purpose is very important here! Yes, when we’re wrongfully treated, our instinct is to push back. Taking a humble non-judgemental approach with your words and attitude sets you up for achieving success regardless of the outcome, because you’d have maintained your dignity. The purpose for speaking up is to expose it, solution to stop it, and regain a healthier working environment.
Why should I speak up?
You should speak up because if you don’t toxicity spreads, and more than your work performance will be affected, eventually it will creep into your physical, emotional, mental and social life, bitterness sets in and ultimately you suffer. Or if it’s someone else you’re doing the right thing by extending a helping hand and paying it forward.
The choice to act or not to is ultimately yours, I hope this article will help you find the courage to be pro-active and do what’s right for you or someone else to stop the poison of toxicity from spreading, and regain the most important thing – your health and respect of self.
*Though this topic is focused on work relationships, it applies to personal relationships as well.
By Diane Dutchin