Ten ways to survive toxic work environment

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By Oyinlola Pelumi Adewale

A work environment includes all of the factors that can influence your daily productivity, such as when, where and how you work. While all workplaces have difficulties, a toxic workplace feels like a never-ending Monday morning.

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Solape Taiwo (not real name) hates the idea of having to work under anyone, she said, as she recounts a traumatizing experience she had in one of her previous work places. Solape, who used to be the youngest in the office, described how much of a terror it was working in a company owned by one of the prominent politicians in Nigeria She broke down in tears as she narrated how she was maltreated and sexually harassed by her senior colleagues as well as her boss. She said: “I used to work in the HR department. My boss sexually harassed me countless times and my senior colleagues made me a slave. I ran errands more than I worked and I was queried for working less. We had interns and Youth Corps members in the office but my boss made everyone pick on me because he had a special interest in me.”

She stated that she was forced to resume earlier than everyone else and was made to leave later than they did and despite having cleaners in the office, she was asked to take up their responsibilities. All these were done so she would have no choice than to complain to her boss who was desperately using all means to get her in his bed, she said. 

Her most horrifying period, she said, was the day her boss ordered everyone to leave early and asked her to stay behind and leave an hour later. “I stayed behind angrily and after one hour, I went on to close the windows and do a few clearing up when I heard the sound of the office door close, I went on to check and it was my boss. He furiously approached me and slapped me in the face twice, held me by the neck and threatened to kill me. He said I was playing hard to get and he was going to deal with me.” The young lady who thought her life would have ended that evening said she managed to escape by kicking the man in his private and while he was really struggling, she ran as fast as her legs could carry her.

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But it didn’t stop there. She said she still kept on getting threatening messages from her boss and she was forced to involve the police and her grandmother that she was staying with. But unfortunately for her, her boss was a well-connected man and he had ways to get out of ugly situations unhurt. Immediately, she resigned and a few months later she travelled out of the country.

Many other people seem to have one or two stories to tell about toxic work spaces but are laid back because they depend on their salaries to fend for their families so they have no choice than to endure the ill treatment they get from their work place.

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Mr Leigh James, a business consultant and expert explained toxic work environments as mentally and emotionally draining.

“It prevents you from being satisfied with your work. Unnecessary disagreements, lack of respect and empathy, and punishment for exercising your rights are all common traits of a toxic work environment. Toxic work environments still exist, despite increased awareness and education. And while each workplace culture is unique, there are some common traits of toxic workplaces. It’s understandable that resigning isn’t always a viable option. The greatest method to ensure that you stay sane till your working tenure is to learn how to survive a toxic job.

“Many intelligent and skilled people can end up working for a toxic company. When they first started working there, the company was not always toxic. If you’re stuck in a toxic workplace, it’s critical to have a positive outlook as you figure out what you want to do next. It’s tough to think about or even imagine a brighter future while we’re locked in a pattern of anxiety and tension.

Here are some tips to help you deal with a toxic work environment:

One: Establish boundaries

Most people will find this one difficult. It takes a lot of practice to learn to say no, but I promise, it’s worth it. Boundaries are beneficial not only to you, but also to the individuals with whom you work. You can set an example for others by demonstrating that it is acceptable to prioritize yourself over your career. While setting boundaries and saying no can be difficult, it is important in a toxic workplace. Don’t resume too early or stay too late, don’t work on weekends if you are not mandated to, and don’t answer to your boss at all hours of the day especially days you are not to work. Keep your boundaries in mind and adhere to them. Imagine a boundary between you and any toxic persons or situations you come across at work; this way, your energy will be safeguarded. Leave all negative energy at the office and learn to say no when your boss asks you to “stay a little longer.” Never check your emails after work, and ignore calls from bosses who won’t give you personal space.


Two: Stop gossiping

Don’t engage in frequent gossips about a bad employee or employer. If you need to report something to a co-worker or supervisor, concentrate on the behaviour you saw rather than the stories you heard. Keep your feet on the ground. you can choose not to participate in gossips or rather don’t get caught up in the drama.

Three: Be positive

The first step is to realise that you have the option of being positive or negative about your job or workplace environment. Turn off all of the negative energy in your workplace. There are methods that have been made to help you maintain a positive attitude while working. You can even use headphones to listen to your favorite music (that is if your office allows it). Things that keep you calm no matter what is going on around you. Find any positive aspects of your employment and concentrate solely on them. While you may not have much power or influence over your work environment, you usually have some choice over how your workspace is organised.

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Four: Never take work home

If you have a habit of bringing work home with you, it’s time to say no to work files in your home. When you can relax and spend time alone with your family or friends, there’s no reason to bring the toxicity home. When the day is done, learn to say no to extra assignments and leave any files or unanswered emails at the office. Allow that negative energy to remain where it belongs: at work. Make a rule for yourself that you will not discuss work at home. After you arrive home for the evening, make sure you don’t check your email. If your mind wanders to work when you’re at home, do something different to divert your attention. Keep your happy place safe!

Five: Do not take sides

Please remember that some people thrive in certain toxic environments. Make an effort to identify them and limit your casual interactions with them. Take no sides in any debates or confrontations, real or imagined. It’s a lot better to be seen as a peacemaker. Above all, learn to keep your mouth shut and stay on your lane. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated or used as a joke in anyone’s drama, and you do not have to participate in every argument you are invited to.

Six: Be alert at all times

Never ever let your guard down to avoid being considered a rebel or even being harassed, although, you may need to be friendly at times. You don’t want to come across as annoying if you’re not very trusting of others. It’s a tight rope you have to be ready to walk at all times. When you’re working in a toxic workplace, one of the most important things you can do is keep track of everything. Maintain a log of tasks, accomplishments, and, if possible, any forms of abuse. They’d serve as proof in court if you had to defend yourself in any way.

Ensure that all tasks and projects you get are conveyed to you in a clear and concise manner via formal channels rather than verbally. If there is any information exchanged verbally, write an email to the person who provided it to guarantee that it is recorded. The goal is to have everything documented in a professional way.

Seven: Clear up any misunderstandings right away

Allowing conflicts to develop is a bad idea. If something needs to be mentioned, do it as soon as possible and in a respectful manner. Allowing problems to fester could make them into something they didn’t need to be. In any relationship, communication is vital. It’s all too easy to start blaming yourself if you’re regularly the victim of workplace bullying and intimidation. You’ll start to lose confidence in yourself and struggle to recognize any positive traits in yourself. Bullying occurs in the workplace. Make sure you’re communicating clearly and taking notes on what you’re saying. Keep a copy of everything you’ve written. Don’t let problems linger; instead, deal with them quickly and professionally.

Eight: Keep your distance.

One of the best things you can do is stay away from office games, talks, parole, outings etc, because even as an adversary, involvement encourages unhealthy behavior. You’re not a part of the problem if you keep your distance. I know it’s easier said than done, but the more negativity and chaos you can block out, the saner you can stay.

Rise above the fray and stay focused on your work and results. Act as if you were the one in charge. Don’t be bothered about what others do. Instead, focus on doing your own job effectively.

Nine: Realise you have a choice

You have a choice, just like everything else in life. You have the option of being influenced by what is going on around you or not. You have the option of refusing to take in the toxic trash being thrown at you or absorbing it and making yourself worse as a result. It may be as simple as that.

Ten: Remember, it’s just a job!

The job does not define who you are. And while our jobs and professions are vital, they do not have to define how we feel about ourselves. If you are unable to quit your toxic workplace, the tips above will assist you in maintaining a positive mental attitude. Maintaining a good attitude in the face of hardship conserves mental energy, allowing you to concentrate on the next steps and putting your best foot forward in interviews with potential companies.