Written By Tami Williams
What constitutes a “toxic” work culture?
At some point, we have all worked a job that has been unpleasant. Where you spend most of your time each day (9am to 5pm, 5 days a week) plays a significant role in your well-being. Now that we are in a global, mental health crisis, having a pleasant work environment is important now more than ever! Ultimately, you become the decider on whether your job is “toxic.” Here a few signs to know if your workplace is toxic:
- Ongoing gossip: Most of the people you work with, including those in higher level positions, frequently engage in gossip especially about other employees.
- Your input is not valued: When you speak up or offer suggestions, they often get dismissed specifically by management.
- Low morale: This is usually the result of all signs combined. Due to the employee-management disconnect, feeling undervalued, low work-life balance, lack of empathy and compassion, etc., the moral compass of the organization becomes blurred.
- You feel burnt out: You are always tired physically or mentally after work due to the workplace culture and you feel overworked.
Is there a solution to the toxic workplace crisis?
While working in a toxic work culture, you sometimes feel drained and helpless. If you enjoy the work that you do and would like to see change, there may be hope. The best way to initiate change is to communicate! Having conversations can go a long way. Usually, it starts with communicating with your direct supervisor or manager who can get the conversation going with the rest of the team. Oftentimes, your co-workers know that the environment is toxic as well and they too would like to see change but are afraid to speak up. Speaking up can be difficult, but it also helps you identify your own strengths and weaknesses and even develop your own leadership skills no matter what the outcome is. Here are a few ways to initiate conversations:
- Speak words of affirmations to yourself. Feed your brain positive messages such as saying in the mirror: “You got this!” OR “You are brave for taking initiative.”
- Write notes! Make notes of all the changes you would like to see take place along with a list of projected solutions.
- Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to go over your ideas. Be assertive and show that you are serious through your presentation and confidence!
If you have made efforts to initiate change and feel that the environment interferes with your livelihood, and is no longer conducive to your growth, it may be time to work on an exit strategy. Give yourself a reasonable timeframe to find new employment and submit your exit notice once you are ready. Sometimes it takes for a company to lose strong employees for them to realize the organizational and leadership issues.
What are some ways to prevent working in a toxic environment?
As much as we interview for jobs, there is no way to be 100 percent sure if the environment is for you. However, there are ways to get an idea. We now live in a world where job hopping is not as frowned upon. Asking those tough questions, such as “What is the work culture like?” during an interview, is becoming more normalized. Is it right that prospective employees are interviewed and assessed on whether they are the right candidate for the position, yet employees cannot ask questions to ensure that the workplace is right for them? You be the judge. Ask the interviewing panel questions such as what their favorite part of working for the company is or what are some of the challenges that they face. Depending on the company, perhaps before applying, you can ask for a job shadow or a short-term internship. Although this is typically ideal for students.
I hope this serves as a resource or reference for you on your journey. Toxic workplaces can be very challenging! Although it may not seem like it in the moment, we learn a lot from them, and we become stronger leaders.