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How to Recognize and Handle a Toxic Workplace?

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When you’re busy at the office, running around tackling your daily tasks and trying to complete projects, you may not be always be aware that something’s off at your workplace. You might feel like you’re not part of the team, that you do most of your tasks in an attitude of fear, and you might even catch yourself making up excuses, telling yourself that everyone has bad days at work.

If you recognize some of these symptoms, then you’re probably part of a toxic workplace, which is something that definitely should be dealt with. There are a few sure-fire indicators which make things clear, so read on and check how many of them you can relate to and what can be done about it:

Warning Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Common theme: hate and gossip

If the office talk among co-workers is mainly dominated by hateful comments, ugly gossip and overall bad vibes, you know there’s a problem. And if this hate is the only real thing that tends to get co-workers together—maybe actual team work is rather non-existent—that just confirms that you’re part of a highly toxic work environment.

Everyone secretly job hunts

When the talk by the coffee machine is not governed by hate and gossip, you will likely find out about your co-workers’ future plans which do not involve the company you’re currently working at. Job hunting will likely be a hot topic in the office, confirming the fact that it’s a good thing you also keep your options open regarding the future advancement of your career.

Lack of communication

In a toxic work environment communication and team work may not be encouraged at all. You might notice that morning meetings are always led by the same manager or group of managers, and that they are not really interested in what employees have to say, don’t encourage brainstorming together, and only pursue their own ideas.

Goal- and target-oriented atmosphere

These meetings tend to emphasize one thing only: everyone should reach their targets for that month. The management here is likely not to be interested in the small details needed for the completion of the project—they’re only interested in the job being done by the deadline.

Fear-based leadership

If, by any chance, something comes up which disrupts progress or threatens a deadline, your leaders will likely use a tool that is often highly ineffective from a productivity standpoint: fear. Whether that’s in the form of threats, intimidation or yelling, this is quite a common theme in toxic work environments.

Steps to Take to Handle Toxic Workplace

Assemble your colleagues

Now that you’ve recognized some of the symptoms of the harmful workplace, it’s time to do something about it to make the office vibes a bit better. If you’re not in a position to quit, then bringing together any colleagues who feel the same way you do about the atmosphere in the office, with a view to making some changes, might be a good way to go.

Speak up

If you have a strong group of people who all feel the same way, you can head to HR or an appropriate manager and organize a meeting in which you present a few alternative methods that you think can make your workplace a more positive environment. Let your voice be heard and, together with your colleagues, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Change doesn’t come by waiting for someone else to solve your problems.

Plan a defense tactic – with proof

Don’t hesitate to document the toxic habits and attitudes that you observe in your workplace, so you have some proof of what’s been going on. Save emails which highlight these problems and keep a work diary to pencil in negative events such as sudden changes in your deadline, unannounced additional jobs which weren’t previously agreed upon, and other similar instances.

Don’t take it personally

Whatever bad vibes you have at your workplace, don’t be too quick to blame yourself. A toxic environment tends to not be the result of one person, but is more often a work culture ethic which has been around for a while. You might even congratulate yourself for seeing your bad office environment for what it is and, if nothing changes, jump on the job-hunting bandwagon yourself.

Move on

Even if you try to change things, to speak up, or just to make the current situation a bit more pleasant for everybody, there is always the chance that you won’t succeed. In this case, for your own sanity and well-being, you need to move on and search for a better work environment, notwithstanding the salary, benefits and stability that your present job might offer. Your mental health will thank you for it in the long run!

All in all, you should never have to tolerate a toxic workplace and go about your day struggling not to think about it. You can either try to initiate change, perhaps together with any colleagues who are also aware of the problems, or you can simply leave your job behind and hunt for a new one. Naturally, there are bad and challenging days at every workplace, but a job that persistently damages your well-being is not at all normal and should definitely not be accepted by anyone.

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