9 Tips to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

Last Updated on November 29, 2022 by Milton Campbell

Toxic work environments can really impact every aspect of your life. They can lead to extra stress, depression, excessive tiredness, and even physical illness.

Although most jobs cause some sort of stress, excessive stress is something you should not have to deal with continually. If you really dread going to work every day it may be time to take action.

Signs You’re in a Toxic Workplace

  • Excessive Stress – Like I stated earlier in the article, excessive workplace stress can be a sign that you’re in a bad work environment. Although some stress is common and can even be good, excessive stress can lead to a multitude of problems including health issues.
  • Lack of Trust in Bosses and Coworkers – You always want to be able to trust that your coworkers and bosses will have your back in the workplace.
  • High Turnover – If employees are constantly leaving, there’s probably something wrong with the workplace. This can be due to trust, supervision, or bad coworkers.
  • Constant Burnout Feeling – If you go home at the end of every workday feeling burnt out, you may be in a toxic workplace.
  • Dreading Going to Work – I’m not going to lie, most people would rather not have to go to work but does the thought of going to work make you physically ill. This is a pretty sure sign that you are in a toxic work environment.
  • Frequent Negativity – When a work center is filled with constant negativity or mainly people that are negative, it can be hard for anyone to be positive. These emotions and feelings are very contagious and can definitely lead to a toxic environment.
  • Lack of Motivation – If everyone is lacking motivation in a work center, chances are there is a much bigger problem than just bad employees. This can be a sign that something in leadership needs to change.

What Causes Toxic Work Environments

Image of a book with words toxic work culture for the toxic work environment causes section.

Leadership, peers, or even subordinates can cause a toxic work environment. Once you figure out what is causing the toxic work environment you can begin trying to fix it.

  1. Attitude – Attitude can really make or break the morale of the workplace. If everyone around you is constantly negative it can really be tough for you to not get sucked into the negativity. The attitude of a boss can really affect those within their supervision. If the boss is constantly angry or negative, the employees under them can suffer.
  2. Narcissism – This can be anybody from top to bottom. If somebody believes they can do no wrong, it really makes it hard for people around them to keep doing the right thing. This culture can lead to a multitude of problems. This can make it extremely hard for those that try to do the right things, especially if the narcissist receives praise for their actions.
  3. Poor communication Communication is key in the workplace. Leadership needs to be able to communicate their goals and provide feedback to their employees. Communication must be good between peers in order to stay on the same page and continue working towards the goals of leadership. Subordinates must be able to communicate with their bosses in order to discuss and eliminate barriers in order to do their job efficiently.
  4. Excessive work hours – Working too many hours can really put a burden on your professional and personal life. Some people can handle it better than others but everybody needs time to relax and get their mind off work. We all have lives outside of work that need to be taken care of.
  5. Lack of ethics – This can be anything from people claiming they were at work when they weren’t to something as extreme as harassment. A lack of ethics by just one person can impact a whole department, particularly when that person is getting away with their actions. When people exhibit a lack of ethics, trust and respect can be lost in the workplace causing a toxic environment.
  6. Lack of fairness – Good ole boys clubs are not good for the workplace. Both punishments and praise need to be fair. Favoritism can really damage the construct of a workplace. We are all human and sometimes we connect more with some people than others but those relationships must not affect the way reprimands and praise are handed out at the workplace. Employees should never expect special treatment at work because they are friends with the boss. If they are true friends they will understand the difference between work and personal relationships.
  7. Gossip – Gossip and rumors cause infighting and lack of trust. Trust is very important to a healthy work environment. When trust is lost between coworkers production and morale are diminished. Avoid gossip and spreading rumors about others. Sometimes you find out something personal about people and that should be kept between the two of you.

Tips to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment and Lead the Change

Image of toxic chemical representing a toxic workplace.
  1. Be a leader – It doesn’t matter if you are the boss or the lowest ranking employee you can step up and be a leader. Set the example and do the right thing no matter what people are doing around you. Don’t get sucked in and allow yourself to be a toxic employee. Be part of the change and not part of the problem.
  2. Get help – Find others that feel the same way you do and get them to help you change the mentality of the workplace. Getting people on your side can really pressure those causing the issues to change their ways. The more people you have using one collective voice, the harder it is for people to resist conforming. It can also be a boost for you and others just to realize you are not alone in this situation.
  3. Talk to the offenders – Many times people don’t know they are doing anything wrong. If you can have an honest but respectful conversation with people causing the issues, that might be all it takes to turn the ship around. The tone of the talk should be different depending on if you are dealing with a subordinate, peer, or supervisor but you can still get your message across. Check out this link for some great advice on how to communicate better with anyone.
  4. Keep a positive attitude – Just like negative attitudes, positive attitudes are contagious. Changing your attitude can lead to a change in the attitudes of those around you. If you have a bad attitude you can’t expect to change anybody else’s.
  5. Take some time off – Taking some time off can really help your mental and physical state, which will put you in a better position to do your part in eliminating the problem when you get back. This can really help you have a positive attitude.
  6. Blow off some steam – If you feel the stress getting to you, do something you enjoy to get your mind off of it. Go golfing, go to the gym, go shopping; whatever it takes to get you back in the right state of mind to be an ambassador of change.
  7. Don’t be a part of the problem – Be a part of the solution. Now that you know what is causing the issues, make sure you are not doing those things. If you are then you need to make a change in yourself before trying to change others.
  8. Report the offenders – There is nothing wrong with reporting people that are doing the wrong things in the workplace. Sometimes this might be your best option to make a difference and make the workplace happier.
  9. Find another job – If you have tried the above-mentioned tips or you see no hope you always have the option of looking for a new job. Try to seek a new job before you leave your current job. Start the search as early as possible so you have a backup plan before it gets too tough.

Although a dealing with this situation can be rough, it’s not the end of the world. The quicker you realize the environment you’re in, the easier it is to fix it. If you can recognize the reasons, you can begin working on eliminating it. Always leave yourself an out like another job so if things get too bad you have options.

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