How to Survive a Toxic Office

Posted by in Technology

If you’re just out of college in your first job, you may have yet to encounter the toxic office. If you’ve been working for awhile, you’ll recognize the toxic situations so accurately described by Bruna Martinuzzi, founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd. and author of The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow. Her recent article, 7 Signs You’re Working in a Toxic Office aptly identifies situations that can make your working environment a living nightmare:

Superstars. These gifted experts often exhibit uncivil behavior since the rules seemingly don’t apply to them. They‘re allowed to openly flaunt company rules. You, on the other hand, are held accountable and punished for the slightest infraction.

Golden “Boys.” Relatives, drinking buddies or fans of the boss’s sports team who enjoy compensation, special trips, training or other perks, such as time off. You’re tempted to quaff a few with the boss after work or show up in a team jersey—but it’s just not in you.

Negatives and Meanies. They badmouth the company (not openly), but you get the feeling they’re working for the competition. They’re great at creating roadblocks to stymie everything you do. So you have to engage in endless CYA moves just to keep your job.

If you’re in a toxic office environment, you can either put up with the shenanigans or leave. If you decide to stay (an option many must choose in this economy), Martinuzzi suggests you avoid contact with the negatives and meanies. And don’t try to get even with them. As the Chinese saying warns: before you set out for revenge, dig two graves. She also says you should pick up a copy of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. 

Some other survival tips include:

  • Don’t take it home. Keep your work and home life separate. Don’t let the negativity and frustrations affect your life with family and friends.
  • Take up a hobby. One that satisfies your need for creativity, achievement and praise. Find these things outside of work. At work, do your job and tough it out, things may change. Or the economy will change and you’ll be able to move on to a less toxic workplace.
  • Retain your self esteem. You have the talent, the ability, and the resourcefulness to do the job you were hired to do. Remember that the next time someone tries to belittle you or your job performance. Say it out loud in the car before and after work.
  • Laugh. Bosses who hover (helicopter bosses), who analyze every word in an email or presentation you’ve written, who belittle you in front of coworkers all have an agenda—to build themselves up, make themselves feel important and tear you down. Recognize where they’re coming from and smile inside.

In Workplace Survivor: Toxic Work Environments Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, resume writer and president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services suggests you do your work and keep under the radar, rather than face the human storm around you. This helps you shed toxicity so it rolls away versus soaking you. She also suggest you stay involved in professional industry organizations to maintain your sanity outside of the office and remind yourself that not every company is this toxic.

Stuck in a toxic office? You can roll with the punches or get black and blue. The choice is yours.

Image courtesy of anankkml/



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