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How to Deal with a Toxic Work Environment: 8 Practical Tips

Updated: May 5, 2023

No one deserves to suffer in a toxic workplace.

Whether you're dealing with gossip, favoritism, or bullying from your colleagues, there're steps you can take to protect yourself.

Toxic work environment can be detrimental to your health.

To protect yourself and take steps to improve your work environment, you need to identify the source of toxicity and then establish boundaries.

Here are six signs to help you identify a toxic workplace.

6 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

Fatigue and illness

Are you often feeling unwell and exhausted at your current workplace? This may be a sign that you're in a toxic work environment.

So if you find that you are constantly getting headaches, stomach aches, flu, exhaustion, and insomnia, this could result from your job making you sick.

Little to no enthusiasm

When you enter your workplace, do you often lose the motivation to complete your assignments?

This could be due to negative comments from coworkers and managers or because tasks constantly come at you making you feel like you can’t ever complete them.

You may be in a toxic workplace if this is a daily sentiment.

Another sign is poor morale. An unhealthy work atmosphere can contribute to higher turnover rates.

Do you find you are constantly training new hires week after week? Put it’s not your job description.

Cliques, Exclusion, Gossip

One of the most common signs of a toxic workplace is when certain “cliques” start forming, and this group spreads negative gossip and excludes other colleagues from conversations.

Avoid workplace gossip.

This environment can take a toll on your mental and emotional health.

Stifled growth

Despite constantly getting glowing reviews, are you finding it difficult to progress and develop professionally?

It’s definitely not you; it could be something brewing in a not-so-healthy work environment.

No Respect for Your Boundaries

The last identifying mark is very subtle but important; no respect for your boundaries.

Are you finding that the lines between work and personal time are becoming increasingly blurred?

Leaving you with a more demanding schedule and little time to recharge? It may be time to consider your environment.

So now that you’ve identified signs that your workplace may be toxic, what can you do about it?

8 Practical Steps If Your Workplace is Toxic

#1 Talk to Someone

Speaking to the appropriate people is essential when dealing with a toxic individual.

If you feel comfortable, let your supervisor know the situation and ask them to intervene.

Although it may be a difficult and uncomfortable confrontation, having someone who’s often removed from the direct conflict between you and the toxic person can help more objectively assess the behavior and put an end to it.

Scheduling a session with a professional specialist to discuss the toxicity of your work environment can be a helpful way to manage it.

An outside support system can provide a safe place to vent your frustrations and gain clarity on moving forward.

#2 Know Your Workplace Rights

Awareness of the laws and regulations that protect you as an employee can help you effectively deal with a toxic work environment.

Understand your right to a safe workplace free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Make sure you know what is considered proper conduct in the workplace and identify if any of your rights have been violated.

Report any abuses to your human resources department and review company policies related to bullying, harassment, or bullying behavior.

#3 Avoid the Juicy Office Gossip

When handling a toxic work environment, it’s important not to get dragged into office gossip.

Keep conversations about your colleagues professional, formal, courteous, and positive. Positive vibes only.

Establish boundaries with your coworkers so they know not to expect any more than a neutral response should they try to start a negative conversation. Don’t dwell on drama.

#4 Take Your Breaks

Regular breaks from your toxic work environment can give you the perspective and space to recharge and regain control of the situation.

Take all the breaks you legally can.

Breaks that you get during the work day, take them. Never allow managers and coworkers to guilt you for taking a break.

If you have vacation time, schedule it.

# 5 Find Positive Ways to Unwind

Consider picking up books about positive workplace dynamics, communication tactics, and self-care.

Find titles that offer tips for navigating tense situations and advocating for yourself in conflict.

Take time to exercise. Whether taking a walk or doing yoga, physical activity can help relieve stress and clear your head.

Listen to or dance to your favorite music. Doing this helps to reduce stress and put your mind in a better place.

Take a hot bath or shower after work to relax, clear your mind and refocus your thoughts on positive things.

#6 Leave work issues at work

After leaving the office, do your best to leave your work stress behind you.

Venting with someone about what happened during the day can relieve some of that stress, but try not to dwell too much on it.

#7 Create a Self-Care Regimen

Take mini-breaks to listen to a podcast, stretch, or practice gratitude throughout the day.

Additionally, set aside at least an hour or two every weekend for activities that reduce stress and help you relax.

#8 Plan Your Exit

Sometimes you have to know when to call it quits.

If you’ve tried all you could and things aren’t improving, explore other opportunities outside your workplace that could provide greater personal and career development.

Upgrade your resume; it’ll help you keep track of your qualifications and accomplishments and remind you what you bring to the table.

When job searching, look for companies prioritizing their employees’ mental health.

Find a company with a positive work culture.

Check online reviews and ask current/former employees about their experience with the company.

When you find one that looks promising, apply for the job; what do you have to lose?

Major Take Away

With the current job market, you can expect to encounter a toxic work environment at some point in your career.

This doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. If you love the work you do and it’s the people making the job toxic, encourage positive reinforcement among team members, and address points of tension.

It may be time to start packing if it's the work itself.

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