Hostile Work Environment, Navigating The Toxic Workplace
A hostile work environment, it’s killing us.
Whether it is an abusive boss, a vindictive coworker, or a negative business culture, the persistent dysfunction reigns in one form or another. This range can include but is not limited to: professional bullying, harassment, interpersonal conflict, and discrimination. This unspoken struggle is no unfamiliar phenomenon in a hostile work environment, yet for many persons like myself, it has the potential to leech away at our self-confidence and our experience of positive mental health. The impact is significantly compounded if left unaddressed.
A study completed in 2015 by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles stated that 1 in 5 workers in the US work within a hostile work environment. That’s one person out of five professionals who wakes up each morning to head off to a debilitating work experience that inflicts a great amount of stress on their minds and bodies.
Earlier this year, the Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative, a Barbadian branding agency, conducted a survey that revealed that 80% of respondents in Barbados shared that they wouldn’t leave their current job for a hostile, poor corporate culture. This confirms that no one would intentionally choose to spend a significant portion of their day in a culture that robs them of their fulfillment and happiness, as the impact of these spaces on our physical and psychological health has the potential to be detrimental.
For many, the negative impacts of stress appear through somatic symptoms – unexplainable illnesses, back pains, and migraines, for example. For some others, this stress can be manifested within a mental health disorder, such as depression and anxiety. Renowned researcher, Hui Zheng, makes the claim that “The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems. Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won’t show up until they are older.”
Still, many persons find themselves in these highly volatile environments and remain there for an extended period of time due to the ambivalence surrounding holding a job within a tumultuous global economic climate.
That said, when leaving is not an immediate option, how do we remain mentally strong enough every day to cope? Here are four simple tips to help you handle a hostile work environment and attempt to avoid even more detrimental impacts.
We Start Our Day Right
It’s important that we start our day with a level of calm focus that works to fuel our minds and bodies with the right thoughts and nutrients.
Kick start your day with an activity that helps clear and focus your mind. I meditate on a daily devotional or scripture and reflect on an affirmation that I revisit multiple times throughout the day. I also eat a clean and simple breakfast, because I know that skipping my “power-up” meal can lower my blood sugar levels and release the stress hormone – cortisol – that researchers believe is linked to irritation and limits my ‘feel good’ brain chemical serotonin.
We Nurture Ourselves
When we are fighting for professional respect or trying to defuse an interpersonal dilemma, we often forget to care for ourselves.
We forget to take a minute to breathe, process the situation, and respond with kindness. We don’t engage in self-talk to talk ourselves through a rough situation. We choose not to take our lunch breaks to recharge ourselves. We even isolate ourselves from colleagues who we may be able to trust as a listening ear.
Consider the ‘Oxygen Mask Theory’ that reminds us to put our own oxygen masks on first before we attempt to help anyone else or handle a situation. Why? Because if we do not take the time to take care of ourselves, we will fall victim to the effects of stress and fall into the traps set by toxic members on our team.
We Invest In An After-Work Self-Care Act
If we are to remain in this less-than-perfect space for an indeterminate amount of time, it would be wise to utilize strategies that will help us to unwind and de-stress after work.
Taking long walks in the evenings allows me to burn off the feelings of stress accumulated throughout the day. Most days, just speaking to my family or jogging with my dog calms me down and helps me to refocus my energy. Some days, I treat myself to a Netflix movie, while on other days I tap into the 7 Cups app, where I engage in talk therapy with a qualified, unbiased listener or counselor. For those really tough days, I have a face-to-face meeting with my therapist to have a more direct dialogue with a professional.
Consider creating a self-care plan for yourself. This plan should include at least one activity that you can commit to every evening to keep your heart and mind right.
But before we can incorporate any of the above simple tools, we must first:
Acknowledge That We Are In A Hostile Work Environment.
Many may be in denial about their stressful hostile work environment. They ignore the alarm bells that could be sounding off in their bodies and minds, and rather stick to keeping their heads down and just keep going.
That was my situation.
I denied that my job situation was toxic until I found myself crying in my shower one morning over just the mere thought of heading to work.
Acknowledgment for me took place in therapy where, after a few sessions, I was able to comfortably articulate that my job situation was not okay and I was not okay as a result, and most importantly, I was not weak due to these epiphanies.
You too can do this, whether it is by yourself, with a trusted friend, family member, with a counseling professional. Only when we acknowledge that we are in a hostile work environment can we truly begin the work of changing our situation through healthy habits and actions.
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