When a workplace is toxic, it is, by definition, unhealthy and damaging to those who work there. Individuals who work in toxic work environments (especially over a long period of time) begin to experience problems with their personal health. This might include not being able to sleep, gaining weight or racking up medical problems.
Emotionally, employees become more discouraged, which can lead to depression. Some become more irritable, touchy and exhibit problems managing their anger. Others experience anxiety and a general sense of dread when they think about work. These symptoms can lead to increased use of alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal substances.
You know your work is affecting you negatively when friends and family members start to make comments such as "how you've changed" or "you seem stressed" and "maybe you need to talk to someone." When personal relationships are affected, it's time to take a serious look at what is going on.
If you work in a toxic workplace -- one that is poisonous, damaging and even potentially dangerous to the mental and emotional health of employees -- you can take steps to make it less toxic. You are not just a helpless bystander.
Related: 3 Strategies for Dealing With Toxic People
First, do a self-assessment. Consider, What am I doing that really isn't that helpful in creating a positive workplace?"
The second proactive step to take is to actively disengage from negative interactions.
A third simple step is to begin to communicate positive messages to others. Often, the easiest way is to share your appreciation for teammates and the work they do. Recognize that people like to feel appreciated in different ways. Find out what's meaningful to your team members and communicate appreciation through these actions.
Even though you may work in a really toxic environment, don't succumb to the belief that it's all just happening to you. You don't have to be a victim. Figure out what you can do to not add to the trash and help clean up the air a bit.
Related: 4 Ways to Diffuse a Toxic Workplace