Surviving in a toxic workplace

Do you dread getting up in the morning and going to work? Do you worry about the next day before going to bed? Do you feel anxious, depressed or hate your job?

It can be soul-destroying working in a toxic workplace. Feeling low and negative day in day out, worrying about what is going to happen next at work is unsustainable for anyone. No matter how strong or tough you think you are-something usually has to give, and that is often your mental health and well-being.

The mtiv8 team sat down together to discuss the article recently published on the RNZ page, Bullying at work lies at the heart of NZ’s mental health crisis. The article findings, while startling, are not unexpected. In fact,each member of our team could relate the story to someone in their friend/family/biz network, or to a client’s experience.

More than a few mtiv8 clients, seeking support, empowerment, and strategies for changing careers or career direction, as well as those seeking to take charge and make change in how they manage their current day to day workplace, shared common experiences and concerns. Here are a few of those concerns shared with with our career coaches:

  • My boss has unpredictable mood swings, and/or plays favourites

  • There is no accountability

  • There is little or no leadership

  • The leaders are not good leaders

  • There is little or no morale within my team or workplace

  • There is little feedback, and what there is is indirect, unclear and unhelpful.

  • Feedback is generic and there is no direction given as to how to improve or get ahead

  • People are afraid to speak out or question decisions

  • I feel unsupported and isolated by team members

  • There is a them and us mentality between leaders and staff

If this is something you are familiar with, or is something you are experiencing in your workplace, here are some of the things mtiv8 recommends when you find yourself in a toxic work environment, especially when leaving your job is not an option:

  • Ask yourself whether it’s really worth the worry. Ask yourself if this is going to matter to you in 5 days, or 5 months - if not, then it’s not worth 5 minutes of your time.

  • Protect yourself mentally and emotionally from the unpredictable/unpleasant behaviours. Develop some quick-to-recall strategies that enable you to take a few deep breaths - see the person in the middle distance - knowing this too shall pass.

  • Be positively pro-active, and take a role of not being part of the problem, but part of the solution. Raise the issue with leaders, see if there is an awareness around what’s been happening. Get support in encouraging your team.

  • If your feedback is always negative, or unhelpful - try not to get angry or down about it - stay neutral and be curious about what you are hearing. You know what you are good at - do that - staying neutral will allow you to remain positive in your strengths.

Importantly, if this has happened to you or someone you know, then know you’re not alone. A recent survey by Workplace shows that close to one in five people experience bullying behaviours at work. Take a look around you now, there’ll be at least five people you can see - odds are then one of you is experiencing bullying behaviour. Those targeted, are not alone and can suffer greatly from the effects of bullying. The incident can be a one-off event, but often it is an ongoing behavior, such as being singled out in meetings or in front of colleagues, by fault-finding, public humiliation, sexual harassment, intimidation and threatening behaviour, as well as verbal and other forms of abuse.

If it has happened to you, or someone you know, the most important thing you can do for them or for yourself, is to talk - to someone. Find support and gain strength from speaking your truth, so that you can do what you need to do to take care of yourself first (or of the person you know), then you can make a decision as to what you want to do next.

Every employee should work in a safe employment free from bullying and harassment. Your employer is required to create a culture where you and your colleagues feel that you have someone to go to and have the confidence to do that. As hard as it may be, and whether it feels like it or not, if you raise an issue then your employer is legally bound to do something about it.

There is help in many forms, including:

  • EAP Services offer professional and confidential counselling services to businesses, with an emphasis on employee well-being.

  • Your field or industry Union can also assist with support and action.

  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (0800 20 90 20) run free mediation services (grievances must be lodged within 90 days of the harassment).

  • The Human Rights Commission (0800 496 877) (complaints must be within 12 months of the harassment/breach).

  • Your employment contract must also cover the process that takes place in the event that you experience workplace bullying or harassment.

Remember, talk to someone - you matter, you count!

Stay awesome,