Ponderings

Surviving a Toxic Workplace: Five Thoughtful Tips (Get Out)

I’ve worked in a variety of settings over my career. Some of them have been toxic from day one; some slowly spoiled over time like a carton of milk, forgotten at the back of the fridge. No job is perfect , but when your work starts affecting your physical health, gives you severe anxiety, and makes you think of taking a sick day every morning when the alarm goes off–it may be time to move on.

Here are just a few of the strategies I’ve used that have helped me in previous jobs. Best of luck to you in your journey.

  1. Create your escape plan. I borrowed this from a YouTube video (or several) I watched years ago when I was stuck in an unhealthy work environment. Their advice was similar–make a plan to get out. Whether it’s through building up your savings, applying to jobs after work, taking night classes, putting in a request for a transfer…Sit down and put it together. A boat without wind or direction is just sitting in place. Accept that it may take time, but the earlier you start, the earlier you’ll get out.
  2. Create a good night routine. Anxiety can bubble up at night big time when you dread going into work the next day. You can replay stories in your mind, dwell on mistakes you made, or just build up work tasks into bigger monsters than they are.
    Consider bringing items into your bedroom that help you relax and bring you comfort, like soft blankets, soft lighting, or a good book to read. These will be ways to relax your mind and get a good night’s sleep. There are also many YouTube videos online for free with relaxing, sleep time or soothing music. Warm baths, exercise, and hot cups of tea are also other, low cost ways to relax. Journaling, prayer, and stretching are others.
  3. Eat the Frog. This is a funny saying, not to be taken literally. When you do get to work, try this approach. Eat the frog is a way of saying do the hardest thing first on your task list. Getting it out of the way can relieve some of the pressure you’ve built up and give you more brain space to focus on smaller tasks.
  4. Do What You Can; Don’t Stress Over What You Can’t Control. You’re leaving. You’re not going to be here forever. The building did not catch on fire and crumble to ash before you started working there; it won’t fall apart as you leave, most likely. And besides, the last time you checked, miracle worker was not on your resume. Do what you can to the best of your ability, be transparent about your work to whom you report to, and then clock out. You’re not here to burn bridges, you’re just looking to cross them and take care of yourself. If the rest of your coworkers can’t see the Emperor’s New Clothes for what they are and want to swim in toxicity, it’s their problem, not yours.
  5. Focus & Refocus: While at work, focus on your work. Get your tasks done; leave it at your desk and go home. Recharge, rejuvenate, re-be-you. Your job does not define your worth as a human being; it never has, and it never will. Refocus on what is important to you. Think of ways, or future jobs, that can better meet your values while still paying your bills and supporting your future goals. This will help you find your next job, or step, in life.

Cheers and take care.

2 thoughts on “Surviving a Toxic Workplace: Five Thoughtful Tips (Get Out)”

  1. Good advice. I heard a similar bit of advice to number 4 when I was working. I remember it gave me pause. It went like this, “A hand can splash around in a bucket of water, but when you take it out, it is as if it was never there.”

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