Not too long ago, I started a new job, after being in another placement for over fifteen years. I worked there with amazing people that each day worked together on making positive changes and there was a constant flow of successful thinking out of the box. However, I needed to finish my education, so long story short, I left, to take a teaching position that offered different challenges that I faced in my previous placement, and I could now, accommodate my school schedule. I have always worked with tremendously hard working professionals. I can honestly say that in the twenty years I have been working in human services, I love going to work! So how could it be, that one person could now, after all this time, make the hair on my neck freeze up, my nerves be so stressed that I actually get a stomach ache, and my first step into the building is one of exhaustion and frustration. And that”s all before 9:00 am! And the kids haven’t even come in yet.
How do we manage to work around people that are negative, rude, condescending, and in general, only there to get paid and go home? They have no interest in working outside their job description and most definitely don’t participate in the growth of a company. They make negative comments, they snicker under their breath when you are suggesting change, and make no effort to make anyone feel comfortable. They don’t hold doors for people, they never say good morning and in general, are just plain toxic.
As you can see, I am getting revved up just writing about it.
So finally, it all comes to a head. You get so disgusted that you feel the need to tell this individual how you feel about them. In the hopes it might make a difference. You honestly believe this might work. They will see the err of their ways.
The final result? They report you, and you get talked to about using an inappropriate tone with a coworker. Wait? What?
OK… How did this happen? How am I in trouble? Why am I getting spoken to? Isn’t someone going to speak to them about what THEY need to do? I was furious. I didn’t understand. So I went home in tears and really thought about it. I wrote down ideas and then I looked at the Serenity Prayer ( several times) . I spoke to my past coworkers and asked advice from others I look up to and respect. Here are the solutions I came up with, that not only have changed my life in the most positive way, but now will help me with the next toxic person I meet and have to work with.
And oh, and there will be more.
1. Never start a sentence with ” You need to” or ” You should”. Start it with ” I will” or I should”. Take ownership of your behavior and never go on the attack.
2. Look at toxic individuals like you have Vaseline covering your eyes. You can’t react to someone who is so faded in the distance. It’s almost as if they are not really there.
3. Always keep in mind that you are not the moral police. It is not your job to tell others how they should act. If you’re not their direct supervisor, stay out of it! And if you really need to talk about how you’re feeling, go to your supervisor. Don’t gossip about the person. It only makes you look petty.
4. Breathe. This is essential in stressful situations. As soon as I start to feel my chest get tight, take about 5 deep breaths. It works fast. It’s like taking a tums when you have heartburn.
5. Come up with a mantra. Mine is: I cannot change others. I will only work on myself.
I do these five things everyday. Does it work? YES! Am I happier at work? YES! Have I gotten any more stomach aches? NO! Why did it take me 40 years to learn this? Who cares! I know it now, and now is all that matters.