Sunday, November 20, 2016

Working in a Toxic Environment

I assume that many people love their jobs, but I have yet to meet one. Most that I talk to spend their allotted time with me sharing how much they dislike their job and the obnoxious people they have to deal with each day that lack simple social skills that a 2 year may possess. Toxic work environments can cause one to feel physically ill just walking into work. If your job just doesn't have redeeming qualities, your work environment may be toxic in more ways than one. Most staff feel that the benefits are so great that they can't leave their job or they have invested so much time into the job and are focusing on their potential retirement.

As a consultant and contractor, I have worked in a number of toxic environments in the past year. I am shocked each day as the fumes of the toxic waste dump of work hit me at the front door. Many of my clients have been honest enough to say, "Hey Mikael, we are dealing with a  bit of toxicity, so beware". In my latest gig I am working on coaching an organization through a process of change management and rebuilding staff morale. Not an easy task at all. There are many problems with leadership, management and staff with both blaming each other for their difficulties.

A toxic work environment is any job where the work, the atmosphere, the people, or any combination of those things can frustrate you so much that it may cause serious disruptions in the rest of your life. We all know that every job can suck badly from time to time, but if no joy can be found in the work besides waiting for retirement it may not be worth it. Many have shared with me that they enjoy some of their coworkers a lot, but other moody ones tend to drag them down. It's hard not to get pulled into someone else's negative feelings or actions. In many places policies are stifling and managers nitpick and micromanage or manage very poorly. Managers tell me that they hate being forced to perform as parole officers or police. Do any of these things sound familiar?

Here are a few tips to consider: 

  • Know When to Fold and Avoid Putting Energy Into the Untenable
  • Circle the Wagons and Rally Like-Minded Colleagues
  • Document everything, No Seriously, Document Everything
  • Keep a Work Diary that will document everything
  • It may feel personal but know that it's not YOU or your fault
  • Stick to your guns and keep your options open
One thing I would add to this list is not to trust HR in any company.  It was a very difficult lesson for me to learn that HR was created to protect Management and not staff. Not sure why we as staff members never received the memo that they would work hard for us too.  Don't believe it.  If a mediator or help is ever needed, find someone from the outside that will represent you fairly.