Since being unemployed isn’t really an option for most people, being able to perform under pressure is crucial. However, some work environments are downright toxic, meaning you either quit or cope.
What does a toxic work environment look like?
A toxic workplace is a job that feels like torture. It’s an unrelenting source of anxiety and stress, usually with these common characteristics:
• Low Employee Morale – Workers don’t feel like being there and it shows.
• Negativity – Nobody is ever in a good mood, and it’s frequently your fault.
• Gossiping – You can’t trust anyone in the workplace and witness a lot of drama.
• Bullying – There’s always still competition at work, but this goes too far.
• High Turnover – Few employees decide to stay for the long-haul.
• Poor Communication – Most days are filled with frustration and confusion with little help.
This is by now means an exhaustive list of toxic characteristics, but it does illustrate how detrimental a bad job can be to someone’s mental health. Thus, it’s important to learn ways to cope if you can’t quit.
12 ways to cope in a toxic workplace
If you’re stuck at work and the situation becomes toxic, here’s what you can do:
#1. Maintain a Positive Perspective
Try to focus on the good aspects of your position. Think back on positive experiences while also practicing mindfulness and calming exercises. It may seem petty, but this actually removes you from the situation mentally and emotionally for at least long enough to catch your breath.
#2. Discover a Way to Tune It Out
You don’t have to be fully present for everything that happens at the office. There are times when you can just zone out with some relaxing or uplifting music, games, meditation, or casual conversations with friends. If all else fails, schedule your break at a different time than everyone else.
#3. Stay Out of the Office Drama
Being somewhat socially aloof on the job is an important survival tactic, especially if it’s a toxic environment. You can be cordial, kind, and even compassionate without participating in office gossip. So, stay away from the drama by removing yourself from those conversations.
#4. Find the Humor in it All
Not everything needs to be taken so seriously that it bothers you on the job. The situation may be quite dire, but when you put it into perspective it’s usually not so bad. Either way, try to find the humor in being human instead of constantly worrying about what happens at work.
#5. Get Inspired Elsewhere
Work can be a great source of motivation and inspiration. But if it’s harmful to your mental health, it’s probably not the best place to recharge your batteries. So, schedule time outside of the office for leisure activities that help you relax and unwind. Then, bring that relaxed energy with you to work.
#6. Take Plenty of Breaks
You may not be able to step away from your desk or workstation, but you can definitely pause for a reboot every now and then. Even if you’re not allowed to take breaks in the middle of your shift, use other opportunities to slow down and smell the roses.
TIP: Use your small windows of time to get organized because that will ultimately make the windows bigger.
#7. Look for Feasible Remedies
If you don’t want to be a part of the problem, then be a part of the solution. Work with like-minded employees to create new workplace structures or lobby for updated policies. Send your concerns up the appropriate chains of command to foster real change in the workplace.
#8. Decorate Your Workspace
Keep your mind focused on positive and encouraging things by putting up little reminders around your work zone. This can be anything from pictures of loved ones and motivating mantras to clips of your ideal lifestyle and lists of specific coping mechanisms.
#9. Keep It Professional
Try not to take things personally at work. The people there are supposed be your colleagues, not necessarily your friends. There’s important business to do, so always respect the workplace hierarchy while understanding that your coworkers don’t have all the information about your personal life.
#10. Avoid Troublesome Coworkers and Cliques
Whatever you do, don’t take the “can’t beat them, join them” attitude about workplace drama. Rise above the chaos and lead by example. Try not to associate yourself with the gossipers and negative influencers around the office unless it’s strictly business-related.
#11. Think About Your Contribution
The issues you’re having at work could be caused by something you did or didn’t do correctly. Have you made coworkers jealous of your performance, or are they frustrated by your lack of concern for the team? Be honest with yourself to determine whether you need to change or improve.
#12. Get Professional Help
If you can’t cope with a toxic workplace no matter how hard you try, seek help from a licensed mental health therapist.
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