How to cope in a toxic environment with toxic people

Through my work as a company culture and workplace energy architect I often find myself observing groups of employees who find themselves working in a toxic environment.

I witness the decline of self-esteem in each one of them as they often endure month after month of poor leadership and dysfunction in their workplace.  

Like the proverbial frog in the boiling water many of them don’t notice what is happening, and although they are often frustrated and sick and tired of being sick and tired, they don’t notice the toll it is beginning to have on their physical and emotional well being. 

I’ve seen it in politicians, government, healthcare and mining workers. I’ve seen it in finance, HR and IT.

Often I wish I could have taken a before photo of these employees prior to their being in a toxic environment, and then an after photo when they were months into their tenure so I could show them the actual physical impact of the negativity on their appearance.

For many the challenge of the golden handshake is tough – they have good paying jobs with fabulous benefits which they need to upkeep and maintain their lifestyle, but the toxicity they are dealing with on a daily basis threatens to take all the joy out of their life, not to mention depleting their own self-worth.

Have you ever had anyone in your life that totally drained the energy from you? Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace environment where every morning when you got out of bed to go to work, you felt sick, depleted and miserable?

If you find yourself in this situation, and I speak from experience as I have been there too, all is not lost. Here’s a few important things to remember:

1. The #1 thing to do is to recognize when working in a toxic environment is that it is not all about you.
Often times in a toxic workplace where it is rife with passive aggressive leadership, destructive gossip, backstabbing politics, and abundant negativity it’s easy to feel helpless and at effect.

Daily exposure to negativity can really affect your own self-worth and so it is important to have perspective and separate the negativity you are swimming in daily from the reality of who you truly are.

Place some positive and uplifting quotes or affirmations on the wall of your office or cubicle to remind you of the good, take 10 minutes out a day to take a short walk outside and detach and allow for some clear head space.

2. Remember you can’t control others, you can only control your own actions and reactions.
The sooner you accept that the better for your own mental well-being. Instead focus on improving yourself in a negative environment, because when you finally get the opportunity to escape the situation you are in, you will get to take all the personal growth you have made along with you.

3. Think about how you can turn your bad situation into a good learning experience.
I know my own strongest personal growth has come from living through the most challenging situations both at work and at home.

Reflect on what are the lessons you can take away from the experience, what is it teaching you. Sometimes working for a bad manager helps us identify what kind of good leader we want to become.

As difficult as a toxic work environment may be, never allow yourself to become less than who you are meant to be out of anger or spite for your manager or employer.

It is easy to fall into the trap of giving up on the job, blaming others for the situation or making excuses, but the bottom line is that as long as you are taking a salary you have an obligation to give an honest day’s work.

Your personal brand and reputation will continue far beyond the company you are with today, and nothing is worth trading your integrity over. 

Watch this video to find out the 4 types of toxic people successful people avoid and see if they relate at all to your own experience. Share your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to know.

With love,

Heidi Xx

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