How To Deal With A Toxic Work Environment, According To Experts

Starting a new job is nerve-wracking, especially if you’re straight out of college or high school. But what if, once you’ve settled in, you realize that this isn’t the best situation for you? Or worse – what if it actually is poisonous Workplace?

It can be difficult to pinpoint what counts as “toxic,” and even more difficult to know what to do about it. According to Rebecca Ahmed, Certified Professional Coach and Founder and CEO of Energetic Impact, there are many ways a workplace can be toxic: “When there’s no inclusive environment, when it’s draining energy, when your voice isn’t being heard…these are all of them toxic work environments,” she tells Elite Daily. But if you’re stuck in a toxic situation and can’t leave, you still have options. Elite Daily spoke to two career experts who shared their best advice on improving your life without giving up.

Signs of a toxic work environment:

Ahmed says you should trust your gut when something isn’t right, especially “when you can’t quite feel yourself.” There may also be physical signs. “If you run out of energy, something is wrong,” she adds.

Also, look at how your contributions are received in the workplace: “When employees feel they are being kept out of conversations, their opinion or contribution is minimized or belittled – it creates a toxic experience,” Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, partner and principal research associate at Contemporary Leadership Advisors, tells Elite Daily. According to Baumgartner, you should resonate with each of these five pillars in the workplace: feel welcome, known, included, supported, and connected.

Nontoxic work environments, she says, promote “psychological safety,” which the Harvard Business Review defines as “the belief that one can speak out without fear of punishment or humiliation.” It also includes opportunities for growth and development and acceptance of who you are.

Julia Volk/Stocksy

If you’re stuck in a toxic work environment:

“The first step is to acknowledge what isn’t working,” says Ahmed. She says this helps you focus on what your goal is in relation to what can be fixed.

Baumgartner suggests that you contact your company’s human resources department if you find yourself in a toxic situation. “I always encourage people to go to HR,” she says. “I think it’s appropriate because [in] corresponding business practices, it is then at least noted and recorded.”

However, if your human resources department is Your problem, you might want to change your approach. Baumgartner suggests using anonymous feedback tools like surveys.

“Usually executives also read these comments,” she explains. Ahmed says your next step depends on how an organization is structured. “If you have an environment with open doors [upper management], I recommend contacting HR,” she says. But, she warns, “if HR and leadership are [both] toxic, it’s probably best to find an organization that better aligns with your values ​​and energy.”

But not everyone can (or at least not immediately). If you’re stuck navigating your workspace until you can escape, here’s some specific advice on how to deal with it.

If your co-worker or boss is toxic:

According to workplace consulting firm Emtrain, 29% of 40,000 employees polled in their 2021 Workplace Culture Report survey said they left their jobs because of “job conflicts.” And while communication isn’t a one-way street, there are things you can do to make your chats run smoother.

For example, start a conversation – virtually or in person – with your colleague or boss to discuss your relationship and communication. At the meeting, Ahmed suggests that you “go ahead with questions to better understand why you don’t get along with this person.” Rather than being accusatory, a curious and empathetic approach “[allow] you should be careful.”

“See their world from their perspective,” advises Ahmed.

Of course, it’s not guaranteed to work. If they’re not receptive, Baumgartner advises keeping your distance. “It’s better to maintain as much separation as possible while maintaining a very minimal level of polite, distanced interaction.”

When your colleague recognizes your work:

You may be reluctant to mention if a colleague appreciates your ideas, but there are ways to prevent escalation. Ahmed recommends the “amplification effect,” sometimes referred to as the “shine theory,” a workplace tactic that went viral during the 2016 Obama administration. The team-based approach relies on allied employees repeating your key points or concepts and giving you credit when they are close to your superiors. If a colleague tries to credit an idea for their own project, the colleagues can repeat this your idea first.

If you don’t have a preemptive strategy in place, Baumgartner advises dealing directly with the offending colleague. “I went up to them and said, ‘I saw that, but I was surprised to see that because that was a project I delivered.'” But if the person gets repeated recognition for your work, get yours superiors, she adds.

If you are underpaid:

Baumgartner stresses the importance of preparation before asking your manager for a raise. “The best approach is data-informed. Write it down or type it out,” she says. If it makes more sense to contact HR, do so, adds Baumgartner.

“Understand what your market data is,” says Ahmed. “Have a chat with your manager and say, ‘I’ve done some research. I see I’m undercompensated. Here’s my worth.’”

And being prepared has its perks. “If you act thoughtfully and orient yourself towards information and specific requests, this will lead to a great result,” says Baumgartner.


When your colleagues gossip about others:

According to Baumgertner, there are two ways: talk to the person who is clapping, or distance yourself. “If it’s unhealthy or hurtful to others, take responsibility [to speak up] is the ideal course of action.” If that’s not an option, try to walk the path of “excusing” yourself from the conversation and refusing to participate.

If your remote work is toxic:

Toxicity can manifest differently in a remote work environment: Signs include burnout, avoidance of bigger problems, and a poor connection with your colleagues, Ahmed says.

“It’s much harder to differentiate between work and home,” she explains. “Many feel the need to be connected to their computer 24/7, which can quickly lead to burnout.”

To prevent your work from exhausting you, set clear boundaries. “Start at a certain time and switch off at a certain time,” Ahmed suggests. And always remember to take breaks.

Addressing interpersonal issues is even more difficult in a remote setting when you can’t go to someone’s office to talk in person. If a colleague or executive is avoiding you, Ahmed suggests that you “send a heartfelt email or message[ing] Your desire to connect and address issues.” She adds that using bullet points to convey your issues ensures they are clearly outlined. Ahmed says if after three attempts you get radio silence, you should escalate the issue to a manager and follow their advice.

To counter feelings of disconnection, get more involved where you can, says Ahmed. “Communicate via chat, verbal, or any other channel your organization uses,” she recommends.

Stay productive in a toxic work environment:

Prioritize what makes you happy. If the projects you’re most passionate about give you the strength to get through the workday, Baumgartner says you should ask for more responsibility in those areas.

Ahmed recommends doing a values ​​analysis to determine what matters most to you. When you can avoid extra projects, unnecessary meetings, and harmful conversations with co-workers, you’ll feel a lot lighter. “Start removing things that don’t support your goals and that will start to minimize that toxic environment,” she says. While you can’t completely take a boss or co-worker out of your equation, you can eliminate other workplace noise annoyances, such as: Ahmed says: “Remove this from your calendar if [they’re] not needed.” Cutting out the unnecessary toxic moments in your day will help you “be more motivated [and] committed,” she adds.

But most importantly, when you’re dealing with a toxic workplace, it’s important to have compassion for yourself. “Exhaustion and being overwhelmed are normal and you are not alone,” advises Baumgartner. “Remember, you deserve to feel empowered to act.”


Rebecca Ahmed, professional certified coach and founder and CEO of Energetic Impact

dr Natalie Baumgartner, PhD clinical psychology, chief workforce scientist at Achievers and partner at Contemporary Leadership Advisors

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