Those terrible workplaces are out there. Poor management, a lack of job satisfaction amongst employees, and hostile influences can all band together to make an awful company culture. Sometimes, you won’t know about it until you start work. If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, it can have real effects on you as a person. It will stress you out, hold you back, and perhaps even teach you some bad habits. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come out on the other side of it intact and perhaps even better than you went in. You just have to learn how to survive it.
“What constitutes a hostile work environment? Some employees believe that a bad boss, an unpleasant work environment, a rude coworker, failure to qualify for a promotion, or the lack of perks, privileges, benefits, and recognition can create a hostile work environment.” – thebalance.com
Pick your battles
When you work in a bad work environment, it’s easy to get wound up by just about every borderline offensive, nasty, or unfair thing that happens. However, voicing your disagreement or disapproval at every turn will only paint a bigger and bigger target on your back. Pick your battles and speak out only when it makes the most sense. Is it important to you or your colleagues’ ability to work? Is it about a personal dislike? Can you offer a solution? Of course, if there are signs of bullying or harassment directed at you, don’t be afraid to stand up and put an early stop to their aggressive behavior aggressive behavior.
Tune it out
Gossip, sniping, or disagreements that don’t affect you shouldn’t even be given the headspace. Not only will it get you down, but it’s easy to pick up the habits by osmosis until your own interpersonal values are starting to get influenced, even slightly. At TheMuse.com, there’s some great advice on practical ways to avoid office gossip, including finding ways to change the topic to shut down gossip-sharing sessions before they start. Don’t give in, even if it’s about someone in the office you just can’t stand. The better you’re able to tune out the petty politics of the office, the less it will all affect you. The worst thing a toxic company culture can do is infect you, so don’t give it the chance.
Find the positive
Sometimes, the work environment can genuinely get in the way of your ability to excel at work. You might have to deal with uncooperative colleagues who make collaboration difficult. Or perhaps you have a boss that you’re pretty sure won’t ever give you the chance to advance. If you have to grin and bear it, give yourself real reasons to grin. PickTheBrain.com shows some advice on how to keep working on yourself and developing yourself even when you’re not given the room to do so by the workplace. Find opportunities to network in your industry outside of your own office. Work on your time management and give yourself means to track and improve your own productivity. Take some time to educate yourself further in a certain aspect of the job or a tool that you use to work.
Gather like-minded colleagues
There are few things as important as friends are when making it through a tough time in any environment, at work or otherwise. If the workplace is truly that bad and it’s not a personal problem, you are likely to find others who want to steer clear of it and just do their job. They can be your haven from the toxicity of gossip and can give a real positive note to the workplace. But they can also prove very important allies down the line if you ever need backup in defending yourself from unfair allegations.
A bad workplace doesn’t always just stick to being nasty or getting in the way of productivity. It can become truly risky. Lies can endanger your job, bullying can have severe effects on your ability to work, and a boss that has it out for you can be the riskiest thing of all. Follow the same advice that responsible employers will get when it comes to HR. Document absolutely everything you can about hostile work behavior. Every instance of bullying or harassment you witness or are targeted by. Every unfair disciplinary action. If you have notes from the employer on company policy, use them and employment laws to see what constitutes behavior that is against policy or illegal. These are the things you should focus on recording. You don’t know when things might escalate and your records could prove to be the thing that saves you.
If it all becomes too much, then you should be prepared to address it directly. In doing so, the notes mentioned above can be a great help, again. If it’s an internal problem such as a manager who has it out for you or workplace harassment, it’s a good idea to take your complaints internal first. If they don’t work, then it might be time for legal advice. In cases of reporting fraud or the workplace failing to deal with harassment or discrimination, you have protections against repercussions. As LawsuitLgal.com states, these whistleblower protections are there to ensure that employers don’t have the ability to retaliate against you during or after your complaints. You don’t get these protections if you don’t use the right channels, so be careful. As always, pick your battles. Not only what you fight, but where you fight them.
Don’t ignore your stress
Even if you’re tuning it out, focusing on your work and the friends you have there, it can get to you. Stress builds up and if you’re not taking care of it, it can get the better of you. Give yourself the opportunity to vent your frustrations meaningfully. Engage in a sport, a hobby, or meditation to work out your stress. Avoid bringing workplace issues home with you and fixating on them. Most importantly, know your limits and when you need to change your job or career.
Sometimes, even the work you love in the field you’ve been dreaming about comes in the package of a terrible work environment. Sometimes, you need to tough it out for a while before moving on. The points above can help you do just that.