6 Tips To Overcome A Toxic Work Environment
Unfortunately toxic work environments exist in this world. If you find yourself in one, here are some suggestions for survival.
I got this question from a Pakistani person living in Islamabad the other day. He said, “Randall, how do I overcome a toxic work environment? I am new to my company, and I have this large software project that I need to learn very quickly so I can be a productive team member. The other developers on the project are not helpful to me and are quick to ridicule me for not knowing something. I think they feel threatened by me and don’t want me to succeed. My managers turn a blind eye to the situation and act like they don’t care. What do I do, I want to be productive, I’m a four-year experienced developer, and I know I can perform well if given the right tools to learn.”
I hate hearing stories like this from people that have a passion for performing well, but their work environment strips them of all desire to want to try hard for the company. These types of work environments are present due to weak leadership not setting forth a strong enough vision for the company and not creating a healthy company culture in which to teach and guide managers on how people will behave in the company. You see the entire company work environment trickles down from the owner/founder. If the owner/founder has not put in the efforts to shape and define the company culture, then the company will make its own culture. Usually when left to their own devices on how to behave, companies will become toxic.
If the owner/founder has not put in the efforts to shape and define the company culture, then the company will make its own culture.
I told him that he needs to decide if this is the type of company where he wants to spend his time. Is this the type of company he wants to give his best efforts in so the company can profit off of his hard work? He then said, “Well, I just switched to this job, and I don’t want to leave it so soon, it will look bad on my resume.” I said, “Very well, here is what you need to do. You need to put your head down and give this your best shot. You need not let the negative attitudes of others get to you. Don’t stoop down to their level. You need to remain positive and don’t let them put out your fire. Keep learning this project as fast as you can, go home and study and learn more and more.” I told him I would answer his question in more detail through a blog post on GoPakistan.com, so here it is.
Here are eight ways to overcome a toxic work environment.
1.) Decide If You Should Stay Or Go.
If going to work every day makes you physically and emotionally drained before you even step foot through the door, you need to make a serious decision and fast. Life is too short to feel this way about a place where you have to spend a third of your life. If the situation is beyond saving, then make that decision to leave and find another job where you can be happy. Do yourself a favor on the next company you apply to, ask them to see a written copy of their company culture guidelines. If they don’t have one, then watch out, you might be headed to the same situation but in a new company.
2.) You Need To Document Everything That Happens, Good or Bad.
Having written documentation about every situation can be a GREAT way to prevent a manager from “throwing you under the bus” or a fellow employee backstabbing you if a project goes south. It allows you to quickly recall proof to counter what someone else might be falsely accusing you of doing. Keep every email thread organized in your Outlook in folders that pertain to every project in which you work. If you are on a conference call, take detailed notes and save them in a secure place. Yes, it is time-consuming to make notes, but if you are in a toxic work environment and you can’t quickly leave, this is a MUST. I promise you, the first time someone tries to blame something on you, and you have written proof they are lying, you won’t be seen as an easy target anymore, and people will tend to leave you alone.
3.) Remember The Environment Is Toxic, Not You
Sometimes managers may have it out for you and make you their scapegoat to avoid their incompetence from being exposed. If they see you as weak prey, they will make you their target over and over. Other times, colleagues might see you as a threat to their career growth and find ways to “throw you under the bus” whenever they see an opportunity to do so.
You overcome this by not being a weak target. You need to stand up for yourself and make yourself appear strong. Don’t get involved in office gossip and politics. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into that negative vicious cycle where people easily turn on each other. Keep your head down, come to the office and get the job done and go home. If people find you to be a “hard target”, they will leave you alone, because they fear their toxic behaviors will be exposed if they try to mess with you. Hence, take notes and save emails!
4.) Find Like-Minded People And Form A Support Group.
Surely there are others that don’t want to get involved in office politics or gossip circles. Find those people and form a wolf pack. Watch each other’s backs, but be careful that you are not getting involved in another gossip circle that forms another form of toxic identity. Keep your support group close, don’t talk bad about other people. You can never control what happens to the words you say after they leave your mouth. Don’t fully trust anyone in a toxic work environment.
5.) Remember That You Can’t Control Others.
Focus on improving yourself. That is why I told my friend to learn his project as fast as he can, so he can shine through all the negativity from his coworkers when the time comes. The sooner you realize you can’t control anyone else, the sooner you can let go of the negative emotions that come with wishing people were different or treated you differently.
6.) Always Take The High Road And Don’t Let Your Spirit Die.
Don’t ever allow yourself to get caught up in a toxic workplace, and don’t let this work environment burn you out on doing something you love doing. If you like being an architect and your office is sucking the life out of you, don’t associate architecture with terrible people, terrible behaviors, and terrible experiences. It’s not architecture that stung you; it was lousy leadership at one company that did it. Before getting completely burned out on doing something you love, find another environment as fast as possible.
See Related Article: 10 Very Simple Ways To Improve Your Company Culture