Ever have one of those weeks when Tuesday pulls a Monday, and then Wednesday is no better? We all struggle with bad days at work, but when one bad day turns into several, it may be time to pause and take notice. The subtext of your workweek shouldn’t be the feeling of “Come on Friday.” TGIF should just be a hashtag, not a permanent way you feel about your workplace.
Toxic workplaces are dysfunctional. The environment represents significant challenges to employees’ mental health due to drama, stress, and unreal expectations. The gossipy atmosphere is palpable. Simply arriving among the chaos seems to suck the energy right out of you. Now imagine feeling that way five days a week. Toxic work environments are needlessly competitive, abusive, and stressful — all the time. But we have to pay our dues, right? Wrong.
Toxic work environments affect your mental and physical health. On no level is this healthy. One great way to assess whether a potential workplace might be toxic is to look up its turnover rate. Organizations with high turnover rates are likely to be stressful, non-supportive, and non-fulfilling, thus the toxic environment. What’s worse, if you remain in a toxic work environment, you’re likely to take those workplace stressors home. Workplace toxicity can affect your relationships with partners, children, and friends. Even remote workers can suffer the effects of the toxic work environment. According to Monster. Com, 68% of remote workers report experiencing symptoms of burnout. But we can’t just leave our jobs, Reese. I hear you. So, here are four characteristics of toxic work environments coupled with a way to avoid the toxicity.
My Boss Micromanages Everything: Bad Boss Syndrome
The fact is, micro-management says more about the manager than the person or persons managed by that person. Toxic bosses like to micro-manage as a veiled attempt to hide their poor leadership skills. Competent leaders empower people; it’s that simple and that complicated. You got the job because of your talent. No micro-management is needed. The micro manager’s problem is that their lousy leadership seeps into other parts of the organization, making the entire team appear incompetent. And the micro-manager is never accountable for their failures; they scapegoat. This scapegoating could impact your career. You may have a hard time believing these “career-killer Karens” still exist, but I assure you they do. One of my Twitter followers offers this perfect example: “How about the ED director who sits in her office at home, at all hours watching tracking board & rooming patients & creating absolute chaos, while simultaneously undermining the charge RN? Same has now run off four clinical leads because she simply can not turn over anything & treats them like poo.” (Mod Fern). There you have it, a perfect example.
You can thrive despite your toxic boss. You may have to sneak into HR and put a few things on the record. Still, the alternative is to exist in a world where your every decision is questioned; your work is critiqued like a third grader learning to code, and emails at times when you should be sneaking in a bit of cuddle time with your favorite pet. Have a conversation if possible. Ask your toxic boss to have confidence in your ability. It’s also a good idea to let them think the hands-off approach is their idea.
I’m Stagnant: Nothing Moves Here
If your workplace is stagnant, typically, nobody is thriving. It’s not just you. I usually assess these zero-movement organizations as a failure to evolve. Static organizations are change-averse. That is to say, the industry revolves rapidly, but the organization is not able or is unwilling to keep up with changing innovations and trends. That’s right; you’re working for the corporate headquarters of Radioshack. The stagnant organization may be hard to spot unless you ask the right questions during the initial interview. If you happen to find yourself working for a static organization, make plans to leave soon. You won’t be the change agent; you can’t be ‘Captain Save-em.” Trust me; I’ve done the legwork on this one. Organizations that fail to evolve will become obsolete. Spend your energy elsewhere.
I Have No Work-life Balance
You’ve taken every self-help class, downloaded multiple books, and you still can’t have it all. It may not be you; it may be your job. The toxic work environment creates an unrealistic competitive atmosphere. Organizational leaders can make you feel guilty about taking time off or calling in sick, even when you’re sick. The only extra-curricular activities you have, involve your co-workers. All work and no play do not equal balance, and it’s very unhealthy. You need to unplug from the work environment. Your mind and body need to hit the reset button. When this crucial behavior is missing, your work and personal life suffer. Your productivity could suffer. Burnout is a real possibility.
Work-life balance, I often say, is not some magical destination at which we arrive; it’s the multiple decisions we make daily that allow us to live more harmoniously. You need to set boundaries. If your workplace has human resource policies related to time-on and off-the-clock, lean into them. Prioritize your time away from work. Take earned vacation time and celebrate the coming of it. Sharing is caring. Set the example. Now, if you prefer to lean into the fray, congratulations, you’re toxic.
Should I Be This Burnt Out? A case of the Mondays.
Burnout is real. According to Spring Health, 76% of American workers report symptoms of burnout. Younger female workers are more likely to suffer from burnout as compared to their older or male co-workers. Loss of job security and balancing workloads are sure to be partially responsible for this, but a toxic environment can also contribute significantly to feelings of disengagement and burnout. If you find that you’re feeling exhausted, cynical, pessimistic, and disengaged, you should consider that burnt out more often than not. You can address burnout from a mental health angle. If you need help, seek help. But you can also help your employer mitigate burnout by suggesting more flexible work schedules, wellness programs, and re-balancing of workloads. Your employer, you may find, may be willing to listen. Burnout currently costs U.S. companies 300 billion dollars per year in lost productivity. That’s a hefty price to pay for toxicity.
The toxic environment will trigger a gut-response. Trust your gut. When you arrive, you know you’re there. When the gossip never stops, when nobody’s happy, and when the company seems behind other places you’ve worked, go ahead and call it, “This place is toxic.” Once you’ve come to terms with your environment, make a plan. Make a plan to change the organization or plan to change your setting. The toxic work environment never works long-term. If you’re feeling burnt out, chances are, so are your co-workers. Most healthy work environments encourage communication when there’s an issue. If you think you can’t communicate internally, talk to someone outside the organization. But know this, talking cannot replace action. Toxic workplaces are no place for a badass like you.