Even one day in a toxic workplace can feel like throwing a stone in a calm lake. The effects ripple out through all other aspects of your life, even when you leave the office for the night. Although there are steps you can take to make sure you can leave a job as soon as it turns into a toxic workplace, sometimes it just isn’t possible. If you need the steady paycheck and you’re waiting for someone to bite on an application you’ve sent out, you need to make it through as unshaken as possible. That’s where this mental trick comes in.
First of all, if you aren’t applying to other jobs, you should be. Not just because you clearly need to get out of that office. Having feelers out for other opportunities is also a source of sanity and calm within the storm in and of itself. Just knowing you’re trying to remove yourself from a toxic workplace essential does remove some of the emotion investment you have there. Keep on applying, on the weekends if you have to, to remind yourself that there are other opportunities and you’re not stuck where you are.
We’re working on a guide to how to be prepared incase a workplace turns out to be toxic. After all, you rarely know walking in. Everyone manages to sound happy with the CEO and their work when they interview you. But two weeks into the job the disfunction starts showing through the cracks. But let’s say you’re not prepared. You haven’t built up savings that allow you to walk away from the paycheck, even at its emotional cost to you.
Use this mental trick when you’re stuck in a toxic workplace
It doesn’t matter if you’re middle management or lower on the chain of command. The easiest way to deal with a toxic workplace is to be the most mature person in the room. And I don’t mean rise above the drama and don’t let it affect you. Once you realize everyone’s drama is childish, it becomes easier to ignore or laugh at (internally, of course).
The worker lashing out at those around him or her is insecure. The boss that uses employees as an emotional punching bag is lost, and probably aware that people are questioning their knowledge and authority. Essentially everything boils down to people worrying, rightly or not, about looking like they don’t know what they’re doing. But you, mature person that you are, know that most people, to some degree, don’t know what they’re doing at work. If you find something you don’t know, you look it up, learn it, and come back with an answer. It’s that simple. The hysterics? Simply childish.
Take a glance around the office and really look through people’s behaviors. Understand their motivations, see how it ripples out into their behavior, and then be the calmest person in the room.
How to protect yourself in a toxic workplace
You can’t win an argument with an upset toddler if you yell back. In fact, you probably just can’t win an argument with an upset toddler at all. But once you understand what you’re dealing with, you can remove your emotional attachment to the outcome.
Maybe you can’t eliminate a toxic boss or coworker. But you can sever your emotional investment in their actions as long as you know they don’t affect your future paycheck. That’s why it’s essential to be the calmest person in the room. Match their increased anger or drama by upping your placidity. When their voice rises, yours lowers. You speak more calmly and more slowly to counter their negativity.
Even if the person making the office a toxic workplace doesn’t like your (lack of) reaction to their hysterics, HR won’t let them touch you if you’re calm and collected. If it helps you to reframe the situation as actually dealing with an upset child, go for it. It helped me survive a toxic environment for almost a year. See the absurdity of the situation, and laugh your way out of the office each night. You’ll get a hit on one of those applications soon enough.
PS: If dealing with your toxic workplace has you reaching for chocolate, just eat the damn chocolate already. And don’t beat yourself up for it, either.