How to Navigate Toxic Work Situations

by | Feb 9, 2022 | Career & Money

How was your working day? Was it fine, or was it so gut-wrenchingly awful that you aren’t sure how you’ll get through another, let alone see out your notice? Being stuck in a toxic job can kill your confidence and make you feel trapped. “Work is a breeding ground for bad behaviour because any situation with more than one person involved has potential for conflict,” says careers coach Karen Kwong. “Add egos to the mix, and that dynamic is amped up.” So, how to handle those anxiety-inducing situations? We asked the experts.

1. My Boss Is So Mean

The situation 
You’re not going to get praise from your manager all the time – they’re meant to guide you with constructive criticism, after all. But if you feel like they have a personal axe to grind and you can’t to do anything right, it can be crushing.
What to do about it  
How you handle it depends on the situation. “There’s no hard and fast rule,” says Rachel Suff, a senior HR advisor. “If an incident is minor, some may want to raise it directly. If you feel you’re being bullied, you may want to make it more formal.” Dealing with it by yourself? Try to be as non-confrontational as possible. Say something like, “I want to have a good working relationship with you but I have the sense that you might not be happy with my work. Can you let me know where I’m going wrong?” Then, together, put a plan in place for how you can improve. If you think it borders on bullying, you could ask HR or another manager to have a quiet word. While you may never be best friends, it’s your boss’s duty to stay professional.
READ MORE: 9 Things Your Employer Can Do To Help You With Your Mental Health Issues At Work

2. There’s No Opportunity For Career Progression

The situation
It’s frustrating being stuck in a dead end at work – whether you’ve been told that you’re not ready for a more senior role or a colleague has been promoted ahead of you. Or it could be that – no matter how good you are – there’s simply nowhere for you to go.
What to do about it
Has a colleague beat you to the promotion you had been eyeing? Or have you been told you’re not quite ready? Time to bring in the F word: feedback. “Ask for examples where you’ve shown ineptitude and when,” says careers coach Karin Peeters. “It might be hard to hear, but will give you the opportunity to improve. Then, work together on a plan of action to help you get to where you need to be. Be proactive, be mature and grow from this experience – then prove them wrong.” If there simply isn’t the opportunity to progress – for example, if you’ve reached a ceiling – then it might be time to take the nudge to move on and start looking for roles elsewhere. Love your company? See what’s happening in other departments – there might be a sideways move you can make internally that will allow you to feel more challenged and flourish.

3. My Workload Has Doubled

The situation 
Half your colleagues have been retrenched since the start of lockdown, so you’ve been picking up the slack. It’s enough to transform even the most cherished of jobs into a breeding ground for burnout.
What to do about it 
This ‘new normal’ is so unsettling because it’s new to everyone – your boss included – and they’re likely unaware of how overloaded you are. “Some of my clients have ended up with two or three times their previous workloads,” says executive coach Susy Roberts. “This clearly isn’t sustainable, so it’s important to be assertive and speak up if you’re struggling.” To help your manager help you, Roberts advises sharing a log of your weekly hours (remember, no matter how much your boss cares about your feelings, they’ll need this data to argue to their boss that your load needs lightening) and asking for their help with prioritisation. “Thinking about what is urgent and what can be put on the back burner for now will help to make things feel more manageable,” she says. And don’t let the ‘lucky to be employed’ guilt hold you back from speaking up. Doing so could be the catalyst for broader changes taking place that ultimately make your colleagues’ working lives happier, too.
READ MORE: 15 Best Journalling Apps To Start The New Year With More Mindfulness

4. My Cliquey Colleagues Don’t Include Me

The situation
Finding out via Instagram that half your team were at lunch without you was one thing. But to not invite you to Friday drinks? Really?
What to do about it
First, think about what you really want from work pals before calling them out. “What’s hurting you most? Deep down, you might not even want to be part of their ‘tribe’, but would just like to feel like you have friends at work,” says Peeters. “Look around your workplace – is there anyone else who also isn’t part of the clique?  Having one friend in the workplace will make a huge difference.” Once you start going for lunchtime walks and find out that you hit it off, you’ll begin to care less about the others. Working remotely? While it’s harder to forge new social connections, it’s not impossible. A company-wide Zoom quiz or training session can become an opportunity to socialise with different people in your business. But if you feel the exclusion is bordering on bullying behaviour, speak to HR or your manager.

5. A Colleague Is Sexually Harassing Me

The situation
If you feel at all uncomfortable, then trust that feeling – even if the other person seems to have no idea that what they’re doing is wrong. “Sexual harassment at work covers a very wide spectrum of behaviour, from verbal comments to offensive jokes and unwanted attention or touching – including what some people may write off as ‘banter’,” says Suff.
What to do about it
There are many support options out there, and the key thing is speaking up. Keep a detailed diary of inappropriate remarks and incidents as evidence that you can refer back to when making a formal or informal complaint. “If speaking to the person face to face feels too uncomfortable, go to a trusted manager or someone from HR,” says Suff. “Trust your instincts and decide who to approach to discuss the issue.” She recommends confiding in a senior colleague who can help and advise you. If you want to remain anonymous, HR can issue a communication to all staff, reminding them of appropriate behaviour, which may be a wake-up call to the person concerned. If you’re worried that HR isn’t taking the matter seriously enough, make it clear that you’re prepared to submit a formal grievance. It might feel like you’re drawing unwanted attention to yourself, but you’ll be helping to stop the same thing from happening to others in the future. You can also contact organisations such as the TEAR Foundation for more help with sexual harassment — and other sexual offences.
READ MORE: Yoga Moves That Bonnie Mbuli Swears By

Open All Hours: How to clock off if your work’s ‘always on’ culture is harming your mental health

Practise separation:Shutting down on time, then checking emails at night? Psychologist Gail Kinman advises separating work from home with activities like going for a walk.
Don’t multitask:Splitting your attention can lose up to 40 per cent of your productivity. Try tackling your to-do list one task at a time instead.
Do some digital housekeeping: Ah, emails, the workaholic’s crack. “Turn off alerts and only check emails at certain points of the day, advises Kinman. Amen to that.
Reward yourself:Treat yourself for logging off on time. “A good example might be trying a new recipe,” says Kinman.
The post Is Your Job Toxic? Here’s How to Navigate the Trickiest Occupational Hazards appeared first on Women’s Health Australia.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This