5 Things I Learned From Working In a Toxic Environment

Can you imagine being worked to death? You worked so hard that your mind could not take it or your body could not take it and it gave out. The recent first-hand accounts of Uber’s work culture that recently resulted in an evaluation of the working environments at many startups stirred up past memories of some of the toxic behavior I came across during my short time in Corporate America. One environment I let get the best of me, which resulted in daily stomach pains, weight gain, hair loss, and fatigue.

One of the sources that can wreck havoc on our mental health will come from our work environments. We spend 40 or more hours a week working and if those environments are toxic and unhealthy we subject ourselves to more hours of the day being unhappy, unsatisfied and unhealthy for longer than we need to.
 Uber has had an interesting couple of months of being the subject of much scrutiny when it comes to what a workplace should be. What’s been most revealing about this San Francisco-based leader in the shared-riding industry is the archaic ways women are treated and the immense amount of pressures employees are placed under which was exposed by former employee Susan Fowler and in the recent death of Joseph Thomas.
 May is Mental Health Month and as we do a spring cleaning to our homes and our relationships, we also need to reevaluate our work environments and our work habits to make sure we are taking care of our mental health. I learned so much about myself when I worked in unhealthy environments, so when I was removed from it and entered other spaces I knew how to navigate work cultures better and to not let it get the best of me. Here’s what I learned from working in toxic environments:
 Stop Stressing Over the Little Things
 Some toxic environments will hold your paycheck over your head. You’ll feel like if you make just one mistake then you’ll be terminated immediately, and that’s not completely true. Toxic environments are already stressful, so trying to be a perfectionist will be overbearing. The pressure you place on yourself will be the thing that will have you make mistakes. Create a checklist for quality assurance of your work, but after your work is completed let it go. Your best is all you can give and feel confident that in the face of adversity you did your best.

Don’t Work with a Resentful Attitude
 Small co-worker disputes can turn into grudges and critique over your work can feel like negative feedback. When you are already displeased in your environment, anything someone says to you may be overanalyzed and feel more dramatic than it really is and working with a resentful attitude is no good for your happiness. Try settling disagreements with your colleagues before it festers by setting a time to talk things through and let critique roll off your back. Getting your thoughts out in a professional manner and solving a problem will help you move on and free your mind of the negativity. At the end of the day you go to work to perform your job and anything in the way of that will limit the quality of your work. Don’t let someone fill your head, occupy your precious time and prevent you from being great.

Find Your Safe Space
 With all of the unhappy people around you at work, you have to find a safe space to feel joy during the work hours. Find a room, office floor or outdoor space to have solitude when work is drowning you. Go in the spaces and scream, cry, phone your mom or sit and silence and drink your favorite latte. Safe spaces can also come in the form of colleagues. If there is a colleague at work who you can safely vent to and share your thoughts with taking them to your safe space and let out your frustrations. It’s important to escape each day before you succumb to the negativity in ways that will impact you.
 Turn Negative Energy into Positivity
 Verbal abuse is something that should not be tolerated in a workplace, but I’m sure many of you have experienced it. I use to let the negative words fester and seep into my skin. My reaction came out in breakouts or verbal attacks on the people I love. I had to learn how to not let those words or behavior get to me. One thing that I started to do was find a safe place in the office or outside of the office where I could go and escape for a break. Another way would be to find a class to attend after work to put that energy into productive use. Find ways to volunteer or give back.

Use Your Sick Leave & PTO
 Take a mental health day whenever possible. When you feel like you are crumbling, unpleased and annoyed with everything at work, then it’s time to take some days away from the office. When your headspace isn’t good then you aren’t good to your employer.

At the end of the day, no one should work in a toxic environment, but leaving one can be easier said than done. Sometimes your money is not right in order to up and quits your job and sometimes you don’t want to burn a bridge. Whatever is keeping you in those unhealthy environments, I hope these tips help you make it through each day until that moment when you send your two-week notice into your supervisor.

Photo from Jopwell

Originally published at Brittney Oliver.