6 Strategies for Dealing with a Toxic Work Environment

Constantly chewing on Tums to get through a bad day at the office? Sounds like you may be dealing with a toxic work environment.

All joking aside, negativity at work can have serious consequences for your health and personal life. If you think that you're dealing with a toxic environment, you need to come up with permanent solutions to make your office a better place to work. Ignoring the problem or telling yourself it will sort itself out eventually isn't good enough when your health is involved.

Here are some tips to help you toss the Tums in the trash and turn your situation around:

1. Anticipate problems and solutions If you are regularly stressed at work, learn to predict what creates the problem. Is it that daily 1:00 PM meeting that always causes arguments? Is it working with a specific person? If you can anticipate stressful situations, then you can walk into them prepared to engage extra willpower in order to remain calm and collected.

2. Talk it out If there is an identifiable problem, create a constructive environment with someone who can help remedy the situation. Micromanaging boss? Underperforming teammate? Set up a meeting to exchange feedback. To make sure it doesn't feel like a one-sided attack, share what you think is working well, what you think could be improved, and allow them to do the same for your performance. Since you expect them to take your feedback seriously, take theirs seriously too.

And pick your battles carefully — not everyone will be open to your mature conversation.

3. Don't complain in the office Fruitlessly venting can put you in one of a few situations: (1) your boss overhears you complaining, (2) your team thinks you're whining or dislike your negative attitude, which makes it harder to work together, or (3) your coworkers also start engaging in the negativity, which just feeds the toxicity of your environment. When you're in the office, the best thing you can do is to remain positive in the face of hardship.

If your coworkers are the ones who start complaining, try not to engage. Put on headphones or take a well-timed bathroom break.

4. Find an outside support system Finding that "talking it out" is too difficult, either due to the person you're having a problem with or your own shyness? That's fine. Always closing your eyes to prevent yourself from rolling them while you're in the office? We can't always help it.

If you're boiling in the negativity, release your emotions outside of the office. Confide in your patient spouse, a friend and a glass of wine, your dog, a counselor, or your diary. Finding a supportive outlet for your frustration — not someone you work with — will help you tame the itch to lash out at your toxic colleague(s).

5. Learn to let it go You can't control other people, their actions, or the outcome of a dinner with multiple cooks in the kitchen. When things go awry, learn to take a deep breath, tell yourself that things could be worse, and help yourself move on. Holding onto negative thoughts builds up in your brain and can make a bad situation feel much, much worse. Remember to let go of the negativity, and you might realize your environment is not as toxic as you thought.

6. Make sure you're not the problem This is a hard one to confront. Before you throw up your hands and quit your job, make sure that you aren't the main source of toxins at work — or the negativity could follow you forever. A good way to do this is to ask your boss or a trusted colleague for specific feedback on ways to improve your performance. If they seem to think that you have significant room to improve, it might be time to reflect on how you can improve your work demeanor.

Is it time to move on?

Not every job is a perfect fit, so if you have already tried our tips above and nothing is working, it's time to move on. Learn what you can from your current company and go find a job that makes you feel healthy again. Make sure to let your contacts (outside of your current company, of course) know that you are on the market, update your LinkedIn profile, and start searching for an escape.

Ever worked in a toxic work environment? What did you do to improve the situation? Share your wisdom in the comments and help out everyone who is struggling right now.

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Top image credit: Nicolas Raymond on Freepik. Changes made. Some rights reserved.

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