The belligerent boss. The nasty colleague. The passive-aggressive department head. We’ve all worked with them at one time or another, and their mere presence can create a toxic work environment.
But are there ways to find inner peace amid the storm? Is there anything we can really do about a poisonous work atmosphere? These are topics LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this week. Here’s what two of them had to say:
JT O’Donnell, chief executive officer at Careerealism
Can you truly find peace for yourself if you’re working in a venomous setting, asks O’Donnell in her post Secret to Finding Inner Peace at a Toxic Job. The answer, she wrote, is simple, but not one most people want to hear.
“Finding inner peace at a toxic job starts inside your head,” she wrote. “Most people say, ‘I can't help it. Things happen at work that cause me to feel the way I do.’” But, that might not be exactly true.
“If you see yourself as the victim, powerless against what's happening, then you will react with feelings of anxiety and frustration,” O’Donnel wrote. “But, if you choose to take ownership of the situation, you can… feel empowered instead.”
Of course, that’s not exactly easy. O’Donnell offers some steps to making it happen — and to surviving in a toxic office. Among them:
“Acknowledge you do have options. You can… decide to leave the company… or step back and try to understand why you are so upset… and what you could do differently so you don’t feel held hostage by the situation,” she wrote.
For instance, if your boss yells constantly, you could decide to find a new boss or you could learn to ignore the boss and “condition your body not to react to the yelling”.
“Take action. To change what's happening means you will need to make an extra effort. You have to build a game plan, find resources, and invest time and mental energy into fixing the situation,” O’Donnell wrote.
For people in such situations, “One factor predicts how quickly they get results and how successful they are overall with finding inner peace”, she wrote. “[It’s] their view of the future.” Those who think better days are ahead are more successful in finding harmony, while those who think things will never get better often stay stuck in a toxic situation and mind-set.
Rita J King, co-director at Science House
Who, exactly, is responsible for fixing big, systemic cultural issues that lead to an unhealthy workplace where family time is squeezed out in favour of more work — particularly in the United States — leading to fewer women at the top of organisations?
“We all are,” wrote King in her post What Can We Do About a Toxic Work World? “Nothing pervasive within a culture happens in complete isolation. Culture is the fabric of the way its participants think and act.”
Of course, she wrote, “companies should provide basic, common sense paid-leave policies for their employees, and as human beings, we should strive toward greater levels of empathy and care for one another,” But that might not be enough.
“We are at a crisis point in history, [around balance and toxicity at work],” King wrote. “During a crisis, it is short-sighted to see what more you can get for yourself, even when what you have is not enough.”
Most companies don’t overwork employees because they don't care but “because they haven’t yet fully figured out what a modern work environment looks like”. In some cases, even in workplaces where there’s flexibility, balance and the like, some people will not get the message.
“Individual and team work habits contribute hugely to overwork,” King wrote, pointing to subtle reinforcement of outdated thinking about things like face time.
That’s why King believes there’s a need for broader, deeper reflection about the future world of work. “It isn’t just about what our employers can do for us, but about what we can do for the future generations who may not have the benefit of the relatively stable employment structures many people have today,” she wrote. “Bad work culture is everyone’s problem, for men just as much for women.”