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Thank you, Next: Toxic Workplaces

By Olivia Alvizo, LMSW

Do you ever wake up imagining different scenarios you would rather be in than going to work? For example, swimming with sharks in open water sounds way more appealing than having to co-exist with a boss or co-worker who is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Sadly, the majority of folks have had their fair share of unhealthy toxic work environments. Question is, how do you know you are in a toxic workplace? Maybe your boss constantly belittles you, lack of communication which impacts your ability to be productive, feeling pressured to say yes, no clear direction to effectively do your job, or emotional and verbal abuse by boss or co-worker(s.) The list can go on and on. The truth of the matter is that most of us do not have the luxury to quit on the spot. Here are some helpful tips that may help relieve some stress and anxiety until you are able to leave the unhealthy environment. 

Setting Boundaries:

It’s OKAY to say no to co-workers who tend to dump their tasks on you. You can say things like, “hey I would love to help but I need to finish my tasks first. If I’m done and have some time I can jump in.” This establishes your boundary with this co-worker without having to be rude or unprofessional. If you find yourself in spaces where co-workers are constantly gossiping or putting others down, walk away or speak up. Set boundaries with your work schedule, if allowed. For example, ensuring you leave the office at a reasonable time in order for you to have enough time to go home, eat, and relax before having to get up and do it all over again. Prioritize what needs to get accomplished versus tasks that can be completed in a few days. 

Setting boundaries with a boss who often does not provide clear and concise details about a delegated task. Highly recommend asking your boss for a deadline, what are their expectations, asking questions if confused, or asking for additional help to ensure the project or task is completed. Bosses can be intimidating but they want the company to succeed and in order for that to happen, their staff needs to succeed. Therefore, advocating for your needs in the workplace not only protects you but the responsibility is now shared between you and your boss. 

Self-care during work:

What makes a workplace toxic is the feeling of imprisonment and lack of freedom. Take your lunch break, go to the bathroom, stay hydrated, take a 5–minute break to get some fresh air, or engage in a calming breathing technique. Remember: you are a human and not a robot. Humans need time to re-energize and nourish the mind and body in order to strive and thrive as best we can.  

Self-care after work:

Being able to unwind after a day at work is crucial because if you’re not being treated well at work, someone needs to treat you well outside of work. That someone is YOU! Taking a nice bath with a favorite book or music, going to the movies, eating your favorite food or dessert, reaching out to your ride or die support system, going to therapy, workout class, taking a walk, or simply watching an episode or two of your favorite show. 

Work stress is often inevitable but toxic work stress is not okay. We all deserve a workspace that is welcoming and forgiving.
Hopefully these tips on how to navigate a toxic workplace are helpful and remember—be kind to yourself!