How To Manage A Toxic Work Environment

14 February 2017

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Are some of your colleagues getting to you a bit more that they should? If so, it could be that your work environment is turning a little toxic. Let's start with looking at what are widely considered toxic behaviours in the workplace.

Examples include:
  • Insufferable use of negative language
  • Bullying
  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Impenetrable cliquing and exclusion of others
  • Favouritism
  • Casual sexual relations between colleagues or people achieving career progression through sexual activity
  • Forceful and demanding behaviour
  • Constant aggressive behaviour
  • Gossip and the spread of rumours
  • Moody behaviour that’s catching and a daily burden on others
  • Suffocating micromanagement
  • Grudges

If any of these resonate with where you work, you may be working in a toxic environment. Here are 6 things you can do to help manage a toxic atmosphere.

1. Suggest Group Productivity Sessions
When you confront someone, their natural instinct is to defend themselves. This is The Self-Protective System of the brain, and it’s there to ensure that humans physically and psychologically survive. It’s far less relevant to our survival nowadays, but this offers an explanation as to why trying to overcome the hurdle of defensiveness is so difficult. Point is; people are far more responsive and understanding of their own toxic behaviours when they are raised as problematic behaviors that occur within humans as a group i.e when the confrontation of behaviour is indirect…..

Suggest an idea that every week or month, each team member gives a presentation on the theme of productivity. It could be anything from healthy eating to identifying and overcoming toxic behaviours in oneself and others. Generate discussion and identify how you are going to embrace each training session as a group moving forward. Alternatively, you could suggest getting a professional to increase your team's success. At Projectus we use Ricky Virdee, Founder of raising Your Game. He’s a highly effective behavioural change specialist and certified Trainer of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming.) It works wonders to bind the team together, increase productivity and ultimately business growth.

2. Document EVERYTHING
If things have become toxic because you are experiencing a problem with an individual, document everything. Keep a work diary using matter-of-fact and professional language to build your case. Save nasty emails and record toxic conversations as they happen. This will build your case, maintain your credibility, and help you tackle this in an effective manner with senior staff when the time is right or indeed with HR who will ask for this as part of their formal procedure. It will cover you should any situation to confront the issue arise. As well, presenting a written case with evidence is far more credible and respected than a ‘he said, she said’ conversation.

3. Plan An Exit Strategy
Feeling trapped in a bad situation is not just damaging to your mental health, it’s damaging to your performance and productivity. If you’ve exhausted all other measures to make things better, create a proper exit strategy. Look into what your ideal move would be and evaluate what course of action you need to take to get there. Give yourself a timeline and stick to it, pick a date and state that you will be gone by then. Suggest work projects that will develop the experience you need to achieve your goal. Speak to recruitment companies about where you stand in the market. Having a plan and knowing what else is out there will channel your focus away from your environment and make it worth while being there.

4. Accept people for who they are and stop trying to fix every problem
Often, the hardest part of dealing with a toxic situation is the energy that goes in trying to fix it, wandering why it’s happening and when it will end. At some point you have to accept that you cannot control what other people say and do, you can only control your own reactions and actions. Once you let it go, you’ll find you’ll have a tonne of spare energy to use on yourself and to focus on being comfortable in what makes you different from those toxic people. Use their negative behaviours to improve on your own. Don’t like your manager? Use it to learn how to be a better manager yourself in future. Also, toxic people are magnets for individuals who don’t seem bothered by them. It’s like a sixth sense or an aura they pick up on. When you let people go…..you’ll probably find they will be nicer to you!

5. Stay away from gossip
Be honest with yourself, have you? You can’t complain about toxic behaviour if your own resentment has pushed you into a bit of toxic behaviour of your own. After all, toxic behaviour breeds toxic behavior. Gossip thrives in a toxic atmosphere and it’s very easy to slip into gossip about the co-workers you resent. The best way to avoid slipping into gossip is to actively remind yourself not to gossip. Keep the resistance at the front of your mind all the timel so you are never caught unprepared. This is especially important ahead of social gatherings, alcohol consumption and office parties. Gossip will get out and further marginalise you from toxic co-workers.

6. Get out the office as much as you can
If you don’t like your environment, minimise how often you are in it. If you work in a multi floor building use neighbouring communal areas where possible. Ensure all meetings are away from your desk and leave the building entirely at lunch (don’t make excuses for eating at your desk!) Cleanse your head from work entirely during your lunch hour and reset your batteries. If you have flexi hours, use them. People don’t use their flexi time enough. If you have been working at your company for a while, ask if you can negotiate flexi time in your next review. If you have flexi, opt to come in early and leave early. Usually, only a handful of people are in very early. You can use that time to crack on without the negative vibes.

What tricky situations have you been in with people at work and how did you overcome them?

Still exasperated at work? We are specialists in medical technology recruitment. Give us a call to explore what your options are today on 02038000501 or alternatively email cv@projectusconsulting.com and change your life today.Still exasperated at work? We are specialists in medical technology recruitment. Give us a call to explore what your options are today on 02038000501 or alternatively email cv@projectusconsulting.com and change your life today.