How to Survive a Toxic Work Environment

The office can be a taxing place even for people who like what they do and who they do it with. Any job is going to come with challenges and deadlines that lead to stress. However, some workplaces are toxic environments that can negatively impact our physical and emotional health. They’re identifiable by characteristics such as overwhelming negativity, verbal abuse, low morale, constant complaining, poor communication, unprofessional behavior, and high turnover. This type of climate is more common than you might think. According to a report on workplace culture by SHRM, one in five Americans have left a job due to culture, while almost half have thought about it.

Unfortunately, it’s not always practical to just up and leave a job even if the environment is negatively affecting your well-being. Thankfully, there are ways to help you keep your health and sanity while you’re stuck in a toxic work environment.

One of the best ways to weather an unhealthy culture at work is to minimize its damage by setting boundaries. Don’t be in this setting any longer than you have to; utilize your lunch break to remove yourself from the environment. Even if it’s sitting in your car or under a tree listening to music, catching up on social media, or reading, get away from the office during this time. At the end of the day, separate yourself from your job by not bringing your work home with you. That means not checking emails, talking about work, or letting the day’s events monopolize your attention. Leave your job behind when you leave the office each day.

Another coping technique in a toxic work environment is having a good support system in the office. It’s unlikely you’re the only person that feels this way about the climate. Find allies in other employees you’re friendly with and can trust to rely on for support. A difficult situation can be much easier to deal with when you’ve got someone else who can relate to what you’re going through to commiserate with, vent to, or be sympathetic to your plight.

If you spend enough time in a toxic work environment, odds are you might have to file a complaint at some point. Prepare yourself for this eventuality by documenting everything that happens in the office. Take detailed notes, recording specific incidents and practices, including dates, names, places, what exactly was said, etc. A record with this information will help you down the road in the event you have to file a formal complaint.

​​​​​​​Finally, existing in a toxic work environment isn’t sustainable in the long run. Should you find yourself working in one, you need to begin planning to extricate yourself from this setting for the sake of your overall well-being. Update your resume and cover letter and start searching for another job, one that won’t take such a toll on you personally. Knowing your situation isn’t permanent and that you’ve begun the process of exiting will serve as a light at the end of the tunnel and help you get through difficult moments.