Survive a toxic workplace

How to Survive a toxic workplace

By Miemie van Loggerenberg

Recently I have encountered many women suffering in toxic workplaces. Therefore, this article points out how to survive a toxic workplace. Unfortunately, toxic workplaces are prevalent in the job market. According to studies, up to 80% of workers globally have experienced some form of harmful workplace behaviour.

Toxic workplaces can take many forms. Some include micromanagement, lack of communication, and low morale. These behaviours have a significant impact on employees’ mental and physical health. It increases stress, anxiety, depression, and even physical illness. Additionally, it impacts on job satisfaction, motivation, and productivity. Therefore, it becomes difficult for employees to perform their best and advance in their careers.

Recognising a toxic workplace is crucial because it allows you to identify behaviours and situations that negatively impact your well-being at work. Once you acknowledge that your workplace is unhealthy, you can begin to take steps to protect yourself and survive in such an environment. Failure to recognise and address a toxic workplace can lead to long-term negative consequences. By taking steps to survive in a toxic workplace, you can protect your mental and physical health and ultimately improve your chances for career success.

In this article, we will discuss the following points:

survive a toxic workplace

1 Recognising a toxic workplace

In the article “What Lies at the Heart of Workplace Well-being“, I wrote about the importance of a positive inner work life. Toxic workplaces result in negative inner work lives. So, evaluating your workplace is a clever idea if you regularly experience negative emotions and demotivation. You should be aware of several common signs of a toxic workplace. Let us look at the most important clues.

High turnover rates in a workplace usually indicate that employees are unhappy and feel unsupported.

Micromanagement by leaders creates a sense of distrust and a lack of autonomy. This is demotivating and contributes to stress and burnout.

Lack of transparency makes it difficult for employees to trust their leaders and to feel valued. The result is low morale and job dissatisfaction.

Bullying behaviour creates a toxic and hostile work environment. Bullying can be subtle and take many forms, including verbal abuse, harassment, and intimidation.

Negative workplace culture is a pervasive problem that significantly impacts employees’ well-being and job satisfaction. It manifests in ways like:

  • Lack of teamwork among colleagues.
  • Lack of open communication between colleagues and managers. It creates misunderstandings, and it becomes challenging to understand roles and expectations.
  • Employees feeling unsupported and undervalued can lead to low morale and decreased motivation.
  • There may be hostility and conflict between colleagues, making it difficult for employees to work effectively and feel safe.


You can use the following questions as a starting point to evaluate the toxicity of your workplace.

Leaders and managers will find it hard to recognise and accept that they oversee a toxic workplace. However, since workplaces can be incredibly damaging to employees’ well-being and negatively impact their job performance, they should not be ignored. Creating a positive work culture prioritising open communication, collaboration, and support is essential. It will ensure employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated to succeed.

2 How to determine the effects of the toxic environment

Recognising when a toxic work environment is personally affecting you can be challenging, as the signs may be subtle or easy to dismiss. But it is essential to identify the signals. Fortunately, common symptoms indicate you may be affected by an unhealthy workplace. We are going to discuss some.

  • Physical symptoms: Physical symptoms like headaches, indigestion, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping, can be due to stress or anxiety related to the toxic work environment.
  • Emotional symptoms: Feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, or emotionally exhausted may be due to the harmful behaviours or attitudes of colleagues or management.
  • Changes in behaviour include increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, or avoidance of specific tasks or colleagues.
  • Cognitive symptoms like difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details can be due to the mental strain caused by the toxic work environment.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, addressing them is essential. You can seek colleague support, speak to management, or seek external help, such as counselling or coaching. It will enable you to protect your well-being and improve your chances for success in your career.

3 Surviving a toxic workplace

Surviving a toxic workplace can be challenging, but there are several coping mechanisms that you can use to protect your well-being and succeed in your career. We will now look at some effective coping mechanisms.

Find a support network. Having a trusted person to talk to can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of community. Additionally, colleagues or friends can offer emotional support and validation.

Setting boundaries with colleagues and management is crucial to protect your time and energy. This includes saying no to tasks outside your job responsibilities and limiting your interactions with toxic colleagues.

Focus on the positive aspects of the job. Even in a toxic workplace, there may be positive aspects of the job that you enjoy. Focus on these positives to help mitigate the harmful effects of the unhealthy environment.

Seek out external support like therapy, counselling, or coaching. These resources provide tools and strategies to manage stress and promote resilience in your challenging work environment.

survive a toxic workplace with a support system

4 The importance of self-care practices

Self-care practices are essential for managing stress, especially in a toxic work environment. It can be easy to neglect yourself when you face the adverse effects of an unhealthy work environment. But taking care of yourself will enhance your resilience and inner strength.

Firstly, engage in regular exercise to alleviate stress and improve your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. You will feel more energised and be better able to manage the demands of your job.

In the second place, meditation and mindfulness practices help manage stress and promote well-being. These practices involve focusing on the present moment and cultivating awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of your thoughts and emotions. It reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, and increases resilience in facing challenges.

survive a toxic workplace

Finally, counselling and coaching can be valuable resources for managing stress associated with toxic environments. It provides a safe and supportive environment to explore the impact of the workplace on your mental health. Additionally, you develop coping strategies to manage stress and promote resilience.

While it may not always be possible to change the toxic work environment, you can take steps to protect yourself and cultivate resilience in the face of adversity.

5 How to address the situation with management

Just thinking about addressing the situation with managers and leaders may be daunting. But remember your value as a person and your right to be fairly treated in the workplace. The following tips help you to be professional and well-prepared.

Document incidents

Keep a record of any incidents that occur in the workplace. Include dates, times, and descriptions of what happened. This will provide evidence of the toxic behaviour and help you make a clear case to management.

Seek out allies

Identify colleagues experiencing the toxic environment and build alliances with them. It gives you strength in numbers and provides support when addressing the issue with management.

Be assertive but professional

It is essential to maintain a professional tone. Stick to the facts. Avoid getting emotional, as this may undermine your credibility. Explain how the toxic environment affects your ability to work and provide specific examples.

Request a meeting

Request a private meeting with your manager or HR representative to discuss the situation. This allows you to have an open and honest conversation without the distractions of other colleagues.

Propose solutions

Come prepared with potential solutions to the problem. This shows that you are invested in finding a positive outcome and demonstrates your commitment to improving the workplace.

Stay calm

It may be challenging, but it is essential. Getting defensive or confrontational will make the situation worse.

Follow up

Follow up after the meeting to ensure that the manager is taking action to address the issue. If they do not act, consider escalating the matter to higher executives or seeking legal advice.

Consult an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Many organisations have EAPs that provide confidential support services to employees. If you are struggling with the impact of a toxic workplace, an EAP can be a valuable resource.

Seek guidance from a professional

Consider seeking advice from a professional such as a counsellor, coach, or mentor. They can help you develop coping strategies and guidelines for approaching the situation.

Research workplace laws and regulations

Knowing your rights as an employee and understanding the rules and regulations that may apply to your situation is essential. This can help you make a stronger case when addressing the issue.

Addressing toxicity in the workplace takes courage. But it may be well worth the trouble.

6 Finding a new job or career path if leaving becomes necessary

survive a toxic workplace

If leaving a toxic workplace becomes essential, several tips can help in finding a new job or career path:

Assess your skills and interests

Reflect on your skills, interests, and values to identify potential positions or career paths that align with your strengths and passions.

Update your resume and online presence

Ensure that your resume and online profiles accurately reflect your skills and experience. Customise your resume and cover letter for each job application to highlight your relevant experience.

Network with colleagues and industry professionals

Reach out to colleagues and industry professionals to learn about potential job opportunities and gather insights on the job market.

Use job search resources

There are many job search resources available. Visit job boards, staffing agencies, and career fairs. Take advantage of these resources to broaden your job search and increase your chances of finding a suitable job.

Consider retraining or upskilling

If you’re interested in a new career path, consider retraining or upskilling to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. This could involve taking courses or obtaining certifications to enhance your credentials.

Practice self-care

Job searching can be stressful and challenging. Therefore it is important to prioritise self-care practices. Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as hobbies or spending time with loved ones. Also, practice stress-reducing activities, such as exercise or meditation.

Seek support

Job searching can be lonely and discouraging, so seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist is essential. An encouraging network can help you stay motivated and optimistic throughout your job search.

Following these tips can increase your chances of finding a new job or career path that aligns with your skills, interests, and values. Remember to prioritise your well-being and seek support as needed throughout the process.

7 Concluding thoughts

If you are currently dealing with a toxic workplace, know you are not alone. It’s essential to seek resources and support to help you cope with the situation and improve your workplace well-being.

Remember that you have the power to act. By prioritising self-care and seeking support, you can build resilience and maintain your inner strength in a challenging work environment.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. There are many resources available to help you cope with a toxic workplace. Please take advantage of them and prioritise your health and happiness.

Do you suspect that your workplace is toxic? Please share your experiences with us. Additionally, you can e-mail me at miemie@klaenmagazine.com. Let the Klaen community take hands and support each other


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