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Trapped in a Toxic Jungle: A Guide to Surviving a Negative Workplace Is there anything worse than walking into work with a pit in your stomach, dreading the interaction, gossip, or negativity that awaits you? No one should feel constantly on edge,...

By Howie Jones

This story originally appeared on Calendar

Is there anything worse than walking into work with a pit in your stomach, dreading the interaction, gossip, or negativity that awaits you? No one should feel constantly on edge, drained, or disrespected at work. Unfortunately, many people find themselves trapped in toxic workplaces.

According to an APA survey from 2023, 19% of workers say their workplace is toxic, and 22% report harm to their mental health. Moreover, 22% of employees reported harassment in the last year, up from 14% in 2022.

The problem with toxic work environments goes beyond just being a nuisance. A hostile, unprofessional, and negative work environment can adversely affect your mental and physical health.

Fortunately, this blog can help you navigate toxic workplaces. The goal is to identify toxic environments, develop coping mechanisms, and devise strategies for survival and escape.

Identifying the Poison: Signs of a Toxic Workplace

It’s important to remember that not all stressful workplaces are toxic. Most professionals are occasionally faced with deadlines, demanding clients, and heavy workloads. Toxic environments, however, are characterized by a persistent pattern of negativity and unprofessional conduct.

The following are some key red flags:

  • Abusive behavior. Yelling, threatening, or emotional manipulation by colleagues or superiors are all examples.
  • Gossipy cliques. Backstabbing, rumors, and exclusionary groups can make the workplace stressful and distrustful.
  • Micromanagement. Lack of autonomy and constant oversight can demoralize employees and stifle their creativity.
  • Poor communication. A lack of information, unclear instructions, and mixed messages plague communication
  • Unrealistic workloads and deadlines. You’re constantly overloaded, which causes burnout and a feeling that you’re never “good enough.”
  • Lack of recognition or appreciation. When you feel undervalued for what you do, you become demotivated.
  • There are no boundaries. Work-life imbalance is evident in continuous work calls, emails after hours, and the inability to switch off.
  • Favoritism and discrimination. Promoting or recognizing employees based on personal connections is a common sign of toxic company culture.
  • Burnout. A constant feeling of stress, exhaustion, and cynicism.
  • High turnover. An employee revolving door may indicate deeper problems.
  • Insufficient support. Nothing is worse than feeling isolated, unsupported, and unable to get help from HR, colleagues, or your manager.

Building Your Resilience: Strategies for Coping

Escaping a toxic workplace is often the best course of action. However, it might not be feasible at the time. In the meantime, here are some strategies to help you cope:

Set boundaries.

Don’t be afraid to refuse unreasonable demands. Protect your personal time, and don’t worry about leaving your work at the office.

Focus on controllables.

You can’t control others’ behavior but can control your own. As such, you should stay organized, focus on your work, and prioritize tasks effectively.

Seek a support system.

You can get emotional support and vent to someone outside of work. It might be a friend, family member, therapist, or support group for people who are also dealing with workplace issues.

Build alliances.

It makes a world of difference to have supportive colleagues. Identify allies who share your values and can provide a sense of camaraderie in the workplace.

Document everything.

Make a note of bullying behavior, unreasonable expectations, or discriminatory behavior. If you decide to take legal action, this information can be useful.

Practice self-care.

Don’t let your physical or mental health suffer. Get enough sleep, engage in physical activity, eat nutritious meals, and engage in activities that bring you joy. You may also want to consider relaxing techniques like meditation or yoga.

Turn negatives into neutrals.

When negative conversations dominate, steer them towards neutral topics. Talk about the weather, your local baseball team’s performance, or upcoming weekend plans.

Seek guidance.

When you witness bullying or discrimination, speak with HR. Investigating internal conflict resolution resources might be necessary if the situation does not improve.

Develop a “mental escape plan.”

During the workday, create positive mental distractions. For example, listen to uplifting music during breaks and visualize a calming picture. You might also want to practice deep breathing.

Develop your career options.

Consider evaluating different options, including skills required, qualifications needed, and earning potential. It is also possible to acquire skills that are relevant to your career goals.

Escape from the Jungle: When to Consider Leaving

To survive a toxic workplace requires fortitude, but sometimes escaping is the best course of action. You might be ready to switch jobs if you see these signs:

  • There is a decline in your mental and physical health. In addition to anxiety and depression, constant negativity can impact you physically. This can include fatigue, headaches, and weight gain.
  • Your performance has declined. Making mistakes and being less productive when feeling exhausted and overwhelmed is possible.
  • You dread going to work every day. Instead of joy, you feel dread and a constant desire to leave the workplace.
  • Your values have been compromised. If negativity is compromising your ethics or values, it’s time to move on.

Taking Back Control: Protecting Yourself and Planning Your Next Move

Despite coping strategies, staying in a toxic environment can have long-term consequences. To protect yourself while planning your next move, follow these steps:

  • Be aware of your rights. Make sure you are familiar with the employment laws in your state. If you decide to speak up, knowing your rights will help you navigate the situation more effectively.
  • Gather evidence. If you’ve encountered unprofessional behavior, document it. It’s crucial to keep details of incidents in emails, recordings (if legal), and notes.
  • Utilize internal resources. Take advantage of your company’s employee assistance program or HR department. The results may vary, but it’s important to document your internal efforts.
  • Prioritize your health. It can be detrimental to your mental and physical health to work in a toxic environment. If you need to focus on your health, don’t be afraid to take time off.
  • Get started with your job search. Find a new job by networking actively, using online platforms, and leveraging connections. Explain your reasons for leaving in a professional, positive manner. If you seek a better work-life balance or growth opportunities, you can focus on that.

Empowering Yourself: Strategies for Escape

There can be a lot of anxiety involved with leaving a toxic job. However, it can also be a very empowering decision. Here are some tips for planning your escape:

  • Keep your resume and portfolio up to date. By highlighting your accomplishments and skills, you can make yourself more attractive to prospective employers.
  • Invest in strategic networking. Reach out to colleagues from your past and reconnect with them.
  • Don’t wait. Apply today. Explore opportunities that align with your goals and values by being open-minded and casting a wide net. Additionally, you should practice your interviewing skills.
  • Save up. When you are searching for a job, having a financial safety net gives you more freedom and peace of mind.
  • Negotiate your exit. Consider negotiating a severance package to cushion your transition, depending on your situation financially.
  • Prepare for the counteroffer. When a toxic company threatens to lose an employee, they might offer a raise or promotion to entice them to stay. When considering a counteroffer, weigh all options carefully.

Beyond Survival: Thriving After Escape

The fact that you’ve left a toxic job is a victory. You should celebrate your escape and prioritize your well-being. There is,to however, a possibility that the experience will leave scars. To move forward, follow these steps:

  • Process your trauma. To address the emotional effects of the experience, consider therapy.
  • Focus on your strengths. Do not forget what makes you a valuable employee. Identify your career goals and refocus.
  • Learn from the experience. Understand what you won’t tolerate in a future workplace. The next time you choose a workplace culture, you will be better prepared.

Remember, You Are Not Alone

Many people find toxic workplaces problematic. However, the situation is not your fault. Ultimately, you can find a work environment that fosters well-being and growth.


What is a toxic work environment?

Employees’ health and well-being are negatively affected in a toxic work environment. Among these things are bullying, harassment, discrimination, unfair treatment, poor communication, and disrespect.

What are the effects of a toxic work environment?

  • A decrease in productivity and morale.
  • Depression, anxiety, and stress are increased.
  • There has been an increase in absenteeism and turnover.
  • Problems with your physical health.

How can I cope with a toxic workplace?

You can manage a toxic work environment by following these strategies:

  • Establish boundaries. Keep your personal life separate from your work life. Take time to disconnect after work and take care of yourself.
  • Build a support system. If you’re experiencing a difficult time, talk to a friend, family member, or therapist about how you feel.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make sure you don’t allow negativity to drag you down. Focus on the things you can control instead.
  • Practice self-care. To manage stress, prioritize sleeping well, exercising, and engaging in activities you enjoy.
  • Document everything. Keep records of dates, times, and details if you experience harassment or discrimination.

Should I try to address the situation directly?

Consider the following options, depending on the severity of the toxicity:

  • Talking to HR. An HR investigation may be necessary if the issue pertains to harassment or a policy violation.
  • Talk to your manager. If the problem stems from workload or communication, try to converse directly with your manager.

Is looking for a new job while still working in a toxic environment okay?


You should prioritize your well-being. In the meantime, seek a new job while managing your current situation.

When is it time to leave a toxic workplace?

You may need to move on if the toxicity affects your mental or physical health, and there is no hope of improvement.

Image Credit: Antoni Shkraba; Pexels

The post Trapped in a Toxic Jungle: A Guide to Surviving a Negative Workplace appeared first on Calendar.

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