You just got a new job.
You are very excited and looking forward to the new opportunity.
You go in on the first day, and right from the start you sense something is off.
Everyone is nice to you but you can tell there is something not quite right.
You can’t put your finger on it, you can only sense it.
You don’t want to admit it just yet, because who wants to deal with that kind of disappointment within the first few days of stating your new job?
Over the next few weeks or months, your disappointment will get bigger and bigger as you will start realizing how toxic is the work environment of your new job.
Eventually, denying the truth will not work anymore.
You will have to face the truth and realize that you will have two choices, plan your exit strategy or find a way of dealing with toxic work environment.
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Getting Stuck In A Toxic Work Environment?
“Genuine leaders lead by encouraging, not instilling fear in their fellow workers.” – Unknown
I had many jobs over the years with variety of different work cultures and environments.
But there was one job that most people would not believe the toxic environment that our manager single-handedly created.
I probably would not believe it myself if I haven’t experienced it first hand.
I knew something was off from the very start.
I really did not want to acknowledge this nagging feeling because I left a really good position thinking that this was a better opportunity for advancement.
The first clues were the following:
- the first week I found out that I was lied to about major items that we discussed in the interview
- right from the start, everyone was talking really poorly about previous employees that were not there and this behavior was encouraged by the manager in charge of the office
- the manager himself indulged in gossiping and spreading rumors on regular basis
- I caught him in some more lies, he didn’t even seem to care that I knew he was lying
- the whole team was very disorganized and there was obvious lack of trust between individuals
- no one was willing to help anyone
At first, I was treated very nicely until I realized the purpose of my position. My manager’s vision for my position was that I would blindly sign contracts and other binding documents with no questions asked. I wasn’t allow to review the contracts, just sign them.
The second I started asking clarifying questions, refusing to blindly sign legal documents, I was not treated nicely anymore. I became the enemy.
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Effects Of Toxic Work Environment
“People don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses.” – Unknown
The group of people I was working with were truly amazing people completely terrorized by the toxic environment we all found ourselves working in.
Surviving seemed to be the main focus of everyone in the office.
Those amazing people were turned into monsters by the manager who used fear to control people at the deepest level.
Many of the employees had families and responsibilities and could not afford to lose their job.
The controlling manager knew that and used that to force them to betray each other, stab knives in each other backs and do whatever else he demanded to be done to fulfill his plan that he envisioned just to ensure they still had employment.
On regular basis, his attack focus shifted from person to person.
No one was truly safe.
He would text us on the weekend just to say a little comment about the weather. While that text seemed innocent it was actually a controlling technique to see who will be the last one responding and then deal with the consequences.
He was very vindictive, if he even thought someone said something about him, he would punish you for ever. The worst was that If someone told him something he would never confirm the truth of it, and punish the person that had no idea what hit them.
And of course, in the culture that he created, people did that all the time. Just to get a promotion or to be on his good side, they would say lies or spread rumors about others.
The heartbreaking part is, that they were all good people at heart, this is what the culture did to them, the became conniving, scared, stressed, terrified people that were willing to stab others in the back just to feel a false sense of security until the next time the tyrant boss attacked.
The consequences of a toxic work environment are so harmful:
7. Lack of communication
8. Lack of enthusiasm and joy in life
You would walk into my office and you will see a polite group of people with fake smiles on their faces.
There would be a sense of heaviness in the air.
Joy, excitement, satisfaction do not exist, they were killed long time ago by the manipulating, narcissistic manager.
It sucked the life out of us.
We kept repeating this mantra to our self ” just do your job and don’t think about anything else” but life does not work like that.
you can only endure such horrid mental conditions for so long
Now some people are more resilient, or they appear to be, and it seemed that they made their peace with it while some couldn’t.
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Dealing With Toxic Work Environment
“A bad leader can take a good staff and destroy it, causing the best employees to flee and the remainder to lose all motivation.” – Unknown
My role as I manager, I attempted to change the environment.
I wanted to introduce excitement, joy, happiness, satisfaction, being proud back into my teams work lives.
it did not work very well for me, I was forced to leave
However, I did learn that there are some things I could try to fix a toxic work environment:
#1 Report the manager and have him terminated – this is an obvious one That was not an option for me and I did not have the authority to terminate him as I was reporting to him. The people that tried to report him in the past were now gone and he made sure he reminded everyone of that frequently.
#2 Training – reach out to HR and request additional training anonymously.
#3 Took for the subtle signs during interview – I have not noticed anything although I looked for signs. The only thing that I ignored was a feeling of being uncomfortable with this man in the room. But everything else looked good, and it didn’t even cross my mind not to accept this amazing opportunity because I had a slight feeling of discomfort. I should have listed to my body then.
#4 Be a role model to other employees – uplift others, try to develop health relationships, work on open communications. I tried doing that. I tied to the best of my abilities to make people a bit more happier. I met with them on regular basis, tried to get to know the better. Unfortunately it did not matter in the end, but I think I made a small difference at the time.
#5 Don’t get pulled into the drama – try to stay a safe emotional distance away.
#6 Try to focus on your job not the office or the boss
#7 Focus on what you can control – I did the most work with my team on the days when he was not in the office. I ordered lunches to show appreciation for the rest of the team. We had meetings with fun team building exercises.
#8 Understand how to deal with a bully – understand that at his core he is very insecure and manipulative. He is immature and probably in pain. Understanding this might make it easier to deal with
#9 Do the work, try not to be a target – don’t provoke him/her or give reasons to attack you
#10 Plan your exit strategy and move on
I lasted over 2 years in this horrific, spirit-killing environment. Then, what happened to a lot of people before me happened to me to. Someone ambitious decided to try to get a promotion and told some things about me. To this day I do not have the specifics. What I have been able to gather from the few pieces that I have is that someone went to the boss and told some lies about me. After that, my life become unbearable until I could not handle it anymore and resign.
Looking back at the whole experience, I actually do not understand why I stayed there for so long. I was so unhappy, very miserable with no joy and excitement in my life. And someone how I remain holding on to that horrible work culture. I loved my job and the people I worked with until they were forced to betray me so that they could preserve their environment.
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Now, I know this was the best thing that happened to me. Who knows how long I would stay in that horrific place if this did not happen to me. Life is too short to hold on to horrible relationships like that.
You can try the strategies that I suggested to try to fix a toxic work environment, I did and they seemed to work. I’m sure there were times when I made a difference.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I hope you have found some useful strategies to try out to make a difference. Please share your questions, comments, suggestions below.
This article really hits home for me. I sometimes feel like my work environment is very toxic. Your way to deal with a toxic work environment should really help me because there are some tips on there that I have not thought about yet. I also did realize some of the feelings I have were from the effects of my toxic work environment. Thank you for the great advice!
Hi Christopher, thank you for your comment. Yes, very often we might not even realize that our work environment might have toxic components to it. It is important to be aware of that and deal with it accordingly. When left unchecked, it will most likely get worse or like you said, you might experience some mental and physicals consequences not even realizing what is causing them,