Should I stay in a Toxic Workplace?

A question that many people face in today’s toxic workplaces is — “Should I stay? Even though I know that my workplace is toxic.”

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Photo by Jules D. on Unsplash
Photo by Jules D. on Unsplash

Be it the money, the benefits, the short commutes — you can have a variety of reasons to stay but equally compelling ones to go.

But, have no doubt about it, a Toxic Workplace will be impacting your mental, physical and emotional health.It’s like living in the middle of a swamp and assuming that you are doing great.

When you come out of work with lots of stress and you manage difficult people around you, sometimes it can feel good. You can feel like a hero, putting up with toxic circumstances. Surely, this means that you developed some key life skills. Or you might have learned to shut off your emotions towards this toxic workplace. Neither feeling is truly healthy.

I ask you, at what point, do you think these life skills of dealing with toxic environments would benefit you? Sure, you would have the experience of surviving a toxic environment, but no two toxic environments will ever be the same. Different factors will influence them and you will need different skill sets to cope with them. The only thing you would hopefully take away with you, is identifying toxic workplaces in the first place and questioning what your role is within.

As for shutting off emotions to handle a toxic workplace, there is no such thing as “shutting-off” emotions. Emotions are part of you and suppressing emotions constantly can explode out of you at inconvenient times. So, you should be very careful of pursuing this strategy.

Besides, Life is not really about finding the worst places in this world and suffering successfully within them. Your life should be your greatest work of art — something you manage effectively to bring about the best in you. Yes, we cannot change all external environments but we do have some influence on deciding where we want to be and where we need to get out of. When you are peaceful and stress free, you mind is able to relax and focus on creativity. Whereas if you are constantly in a stressful Fight or Flight mode, then the mind cannot see beyond immediate danger.

By placing importance in fitting with workplace society, we sometimes change our identities, our values and our emotions to adapt. Adaption is good, adaption to change is the very basis of living life but we have to distinguish between positive and negative adaption. Learning something new that you love as opposed to working on a horrible project with a bully are two different kinds of adaptions. What would you rather adapt to? We humans, the most intelligent species on the planet are capable of consciously adapting. We can direct ourselves to which circumstances we want to adapt to and which ones we would rather not.

Ultimately, when making a decision to stay or go from a toxic workplace, you should decide in total awareness. Look at the reasons for staying or going. Are the reasons rooted in fear, insecurity or are they rooted in rationality, intelligence and positivity.

As yourself some of these questions:

  1. What are you trying to achieve by being in a toxic workplace? If it’s to better your career for a short while, then great, atleast you are aware of this fact.
  2. Are you in it for the money or the commutes? For now it’s ok, but sometimes even organisations change, sometimes they are sold, sometimes they move. So expecting stability at your workplace, when the only stable thing in life is Change, is not wise.
  3. Is it to change a Bully? Your role is not to change other people’s minds/behaviours/attitudes. Your role is to lead yourself towards a fulfilling career.

We must consciously strive to better our environment or be in a better environment. We should not give up on ourselves and assume this toxic workplace is the best we can do. We are partly the product of our environment and we have a duty to ourselves to make sure that we are in the right environment.

In your career, only one thing matters, nothing is worth selling your soul. You should be your true self from the beginning to end. If a job is not helping you explore the best version of yourself, then it’s time to start examining why you are there at a particular place.

This article is based on selected excerpts from the book, How to Handle Bullying at Work.

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