Every job comes with a certain amount of stress. That’s normal, but if even the thought of going to work, let alone actually showing up, makes you depressed, tired, or physically ill, this is more than typical stress. You could be working in a toxic environment.
In these situations, it’s natural to wonder how long to stay in a toxic work environment. That can be determined by learning whether or not your work environment truly is toxic and examining the causes.
What Qualifies as a Toxic Work Environment?
A toxic work environment can be described as any workplace where the atmosphere, job, and people cause a serious disruption in your life, even outside of work. These disruptions could come in the form of sleeplessness, a constant feeling of vigilance, a racing heart, or sweaty palms.
Toxic work environments can impact your health negatively and damage your self-esteem, friendships, and personal life. This is your body’s way of telling you that a “danger” needs to be addressed.
Ask yourself if you are getting enough sleep. Do you regularly get a full eight hours?
How are your eating habits? Are you over eating or avoiding eating?
Do your feel safe at work? If the answers you have for these questions raise concerns, think about your work environment. What exactly is causing your well-being to suffer?
Signs of a Toxic Environment
Look for the following signs to determine whether or not your work environment is toxic.
Employees in a toxic work environment are often fatigued and burn out easily. They are often ill due to the stress and its effect on their body. If you notice your co-workers frequently call in sick or come to work when they aren’t feeling well, this is a red flag.
A narcissistic manager or boss will consistently tell you they are right. They demand that you agree with them, and they act as though they are above the rules. They expect more out of others than what they do themselves.
Related Article: How to Defeat a Narcissist at Work: 6 Tactics to Destroy Their Ego
Lack of Enthusiasm
Take a close look at your co-workers. Are they smiling and happy? If they are more likely to look upset and miserable, you’re probably in a toxic work environment.
Do you get the information needed to do your job properly? Are you working hard, only to get little recognition or feedback?
You may even hear the phrase “Just be glad you have this job.” These are all telltale signs of a toxic work environment.
High Turnover Rate
If your place of employment has little more to offer workers than discouragement, your co-workers will start to leave. They know they can find something better. A high turnover rate is definitely a sign of a toxic work environment.
Does your workplace remind you of high school with cliques, rumors, and gossip constantly circulating? If everyone seems to be self-centered with no friendships in place, you’re in a toxic environment.
What Causes a Toxic Work Environment?
Favoritism, a lack of recognition, gossiping, unhealthy communication, and high turnover rates can all cause a work environment to become toxic. This type of work environment can also be due to poor management skills among the higher-ups, bad leadership, a lack of communication, and a poor code of conduct.
Toxic work environments deal with these issues on a daily basis. This leads to conflict, trouble, low morale, negative results, excessive tension, and abusive behavior among the workers.
More often than not, toxic work environments are the result of managers who lack leadership skills and credibility. Their behavior affects everyone around them. As they spread negativity, workers become unproductive, call in sick frequently, and are always stressed.
Managers with poor leadership skills are only focused on themselves. Instead of working towards company goals as a team, they want to retain all of the power, status, and money. They like to draw attention away from their failures and poor work performance.
A toxic work environment isn’t solely the fault of the management. There are situations where a single worker can create this hostile work atmosphere. It can be a manager, a co-worker, or low-level employees disrupting things.
When a low-level employee is at fault, they tend to spread rumors and pressure their peers. This makes those around them feel inadequate.
In addition to the people, a toxic work environment can be built over time from certain behaviors found among the entire staff. The following are a few of the most common causes of a toxic workplace.
• The company’s core values are not outlined and articulated.
• The values described on the website don’t reflect the organization.
• The core values of the employees don’t align with the company’s guidelines.
• Workers are doing things a certain way simply because that’s how it’s always been done.
• The managers aren’t providing feedback to the employees.
How to Cope with a Toxic Work Environment
Toxic workplaces are becoming widespread. It’s not unrealistic to expect to find yourself in this atmosphere at some point during your career. Knowing how to handle this type of setting can help you get through.
Create a Support Team
If you think you are in a toxic work environment, you’re probably not the only one. It’s critical to find co-workers you can lean on. You don’t want to create a gossip group, but you do want to be surrounded by people with a positive attitude.
A support group outside of the workplace can be helpful too. This can provide you with a safe outlet for your frustrations.
Find a Professional Coach
The symptoms of burnout often mimic those of a toxic work environment. If you are wondering if the real issue is you or the company, a professional coach can help.
A coach can be an unbiased third party. They are a sounding board that can assist you in sorting out your thoughts and feelings. They’ll help get you to the root of the problem.
They also help you set attainable work goals. Plus, they’ll help you develop a strategy for handling a toxic work environment if that is the real reason why you feel as you do.
Use Mindfulness Techniques
Implementing mindfulness techniques is the perfect way to deal with work-related stress and anxiety. Start using meditation or visualization exercises. This helps you stay focused and engaged with the working world.
You need to set aside a specific amount of time each day to unwind. Do activities that keep you from thinking about work. This could be working on a hobby, scheduling time out with friends, or writing in a journal. Creating an identity for yourself outside of work can help keep things in perspective.
Set Healthy Boundaries
You need to set healthy boundaries for yourself when you are in a toxic work environment. For example, make it a point to only look at work-related emails during regular business hours. You should also turn off your phone at a set time each day.
Let your manager and co-workers know about these boundaries. If anyone ignores these boundaries, address it immediately so it won’t happen again.
Many employees feel disrespected by their boss or company. If you are experiencing any form of disrespect, such as bullying or abuse, document it. That way you’ll have proof that the situation escalates and that you need legal proof.
Related Article: My Boss Is Bullying Me to Quit – Here’s How to Deal With It
How Long to Stay in a Toxic Work Environment
How long you should continue to work in a toxic environment depends on exactly how this atmosphere is affecting you. There are a few things to consider before making a decision on whether or not to leave.
Your Mental Health
You’ll know it’s time to start looking for a new job if you aren’t sleeping at night. You shouldn’t spend your time at home dreading the next workday.
The Significance of the Situation
Is the toxic work environment based on the company itself, or is it the result of a few individuals within the company? If this atmosphere is the result of one individual, it could be a passing issue. Talk to your manager or HR department about your concerns.
Is the leadership within the company to blame? If so, you may be better off looking for a position in a different company.
If sexual harassment is creating a toxic work environment, go to your HR department. Document everything that is happening. If you don’t receive the help you need, it’s definitely time to leave.
Have an Exit Strategy
If you have reached a point where changing jobs is more attractive than coping with the work environment you’re currently in, it may be time to start thinking about other jobs. Update your social media accounts and get in touch with your network.
Take the time to document all of your achievements and create a timeline of when you’d like to leave. Then make a plan of action with specific goals. These two things will help hold you accountable.
The Bottom Line
A toxic work environment doesn’t have to be the end of your career. You’ve put too much time and effort into your position to simply give up. Instead of letting the stress of this workplace atmosphere get to you, take action.
Try implementing steps to help you and your co-workers deal with the situation. If this doesn’t result in any improvement, you may need to consider moving on.
Deciding how long to stay in a toxic work environment is something each person needs to figure out for themselves. Regardless, create your exit strategy. Even if you don’t use it, feeling like you aren’t trapped in a job you’re unhappy with can help you mentally.