When You Work In A Toxic Work Environment
All working moms have experienced the “Sunday blues” to varying degrees, where you dread having to go to work on Monday and wish you had more vacation time. Or maybe it’s Wednesdays that are challenging for you because they promise the weekend, and it never seems to come soon enough.
While we’ve all had times where we have a love/hate relationship with our job, unfortunately it’s becoming more mainstream for people to be complaining about working in toxic work environments. 50 years ago a toxic work environment meant working in a space where there were literally toxic chemicals or harmful substances, however today, a toxic work environment could mean an unlimited number of issues.
From extreme cases of verbal abuse to sexual harassment, companies are having to handle various issues legally and ethically so that their employees can work in a safe, non-toxic environment. As more people are standing up and no longer accepting unacceptable behavior, big public companies are having their dirty laundry aired and having to stop sweeping things under the rug.
In those extreme cases where there is a clear ethical boundary that has been crossed, it’s important to speak up, address the issue, and leave the job if need be. But what about those less extreme work problems like an overly demanding boss, gossipy work environment, unmotivated coworkers, or an absence of work-life balance? What do you do when you work in that type of toxic work environment?
If you work for a large company, you probably have the option to go to the HR department to express your concerns, or you always have the option to quit and look for work elsewhere. But what if you don’t have an HR department or you really can’t, or don’t want to, leave and find another job?
Unfortunately, the issue with working in a toxic work environment is that it breeds unrest, constant stressors, and often low morale. It’s as if a dense fog creeps in and covers everyone affected, with a dark cloud of overwhelm, frustration, and distraction.
Before you know it, you’re bringing your toxic work environment issues home with you. When this happens, it begins to take over your conversations with loved ones, robs you of much needed rest, and causes more burnout, stress and overwhelm.
Fortunately, for those non-extreme situations, where you don’t have an HR department to handle your issues, or maybe you do and they’re ineffective, or where you aren’t quitting anytime soon, there is a way to handle working in a toxic work environment. You don’t need to feel hopeless and suffer with the daily blues any longer.
This week I’m going to discuss why you might be dreading your job and what to do when you work in a toxic work environment.
Why you might be dreading your job
As an accountant faced with never-ending quarterly financial and tax deadlines, dreading various times of the year can seem like just a normal part of your chosen career. Truthfully, you aren’t supposed to be thrilled that overtime is necessary in order to get your clients what they need for their refinancing, or that the mood in the office is dark and stormy because there’s a big push to file your corporate tax returns on time.
We all know that the life of an accountant and a mom naturally has its ups and down, ebbs and flows, where you’re grateful for all the hard work you put in to become an accountant and that you have a job, and then times where you curse your college professor for encouraging you to switch from Biology to Accounting. There’s no denying that the profession of accounting is challenging and ever-changing.
Just like you, I’ve come across very few people who absolutely love their job all the time and are okay with all aspects of it. More often than not, the complaints I hear are:
- He’s too demanding and unreasonable
- She is so lazy and no one is doing anything about it
- He expects me to be a mind reader and doesn’t know how to communicate well
- She thinks I’m available 24/7 and has no clue about work/life balance
- He’s so passive-agressive that I never know where I stand
- Everyone is so caught up in drama and gossip; it’s distracting
- She’s just a horrible boss/leader
I’m sure you could add your own complaints to this list, but you get the drift. Dreading your job is one of the biggest issues facing accountant moms today, often leading to a sense of anxiety and frustration because of the desire to support your family financially, as well as the desire to utilize your intelligence and advance your career.
When it comes to the feeling of dread, like most working moms you might believe it has to do with the job, the demands, the people, or a whole host of other reasons, but that’s actually not the case. The real reason you dread your job has nothing to do with the circumstances of your job, and everything to do with how you are thinking about your job, the demands, the people, etc.
This may not sound like good news, but I can tell you that it’s actually great news. Knowing why you dread your job and that you have the power to change that, will help you not only remove the dread, but also dramatically reduce your anxiety, frustration and overwhelm as well.
Of course this is not to say that you should tolerate unacceptable behavior or stay in a situation where you are being mistreated. If you feel unsafe or unfairly treated, you need to speak up, set a firm boundary, or leave.
But for the majority of women who are dealing with a mid to low-level toxic work environment, who are frustrated and don’t know how to improve the situation, this episode is for you. If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, but don’t feel unsafe or mistreated and would like to figure out a way to make your job easier to work at, I’ve got you covered.
As I’ve shared in previous podcast episodes, the truth is that it’s not your job’s job to make you happy; but in the same vein, it’s also not possible for your job to make you unhappy. It’s not the demanding and unreasonable boss, the manager who’s horrible at communication, or the drama and gossip happening in the office that’s making you dread your job; it’s the relationship you have with your job that is creating the feeling of dread.
The reason this is important to accept is that you probably feel pretty powerless when you dread your job and it’s most likely getting in the way for you both personally and professionally. Like most of the working moms I speak to, it often becomes a distraction, preventing you from being at your best whether it’s at work or at home, as well as affecting you physically with added stress influencing how you feel, how productive you are, and how well you sleep.
As a working mom trying to balance it all, the last thing you need is to dread your job on top of all the other things you need to navigate in order to have a successful career and a happy home life. Thankfully, there is a way to take your power back and to become much better at handling a toxic work environment.
What to do when you work in a toxic work environment
Let’s face it, if we all left our accounting jobs when the people and the work became difficult or intolerable, we’d never stay in one place for very long. I’m sure most of us have worked in challenging work environments to varying degrees, with some being more toxic than others.
The key to dealing with a toxic work environment is to understand the relationship you have with your job. Just like you can have a relationship with the various people in your life, you also can have a relationship with things like money, time, and even your job.
As I’ve shared in the past, since any relationship you have is composed of your thoughts about the person, place or thing, you definitely have a relationship with your job, whether you realize it or not. So the question is, when you think about your job, how do you feel? Excited, energized, respected or stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious?
It’s important to understand how you feel about your job right now because in order to change any relationship, you first have to know your starting point. You have to be clear about where you’re at, in order to get to where you’d like to be, no matter who or what the relationship is with.
Don’t just assume you hate your job and that’s how you feel; really sit with it and ask yourself what your predominant feeling is towards your job. Think about it this way – if you had the same relationship with a person, how would you describe how you feel about that person?
For example, after an incident happened between my two bosses and myself a number of years ago, my predominant feeling towards my job and towards them was mistrust. They had crossed a boundary by bringing into my yearly work review the fact that in my free time I was coaching clients on how to handle life after a divorce.
The bottom line was that my accounting work wasn’t being affected at all by what I did during my free time but they tried to make me feel like I was doing something wrong. Honestly, I had liked so many aspects of my job up until that point, but now I felt like I was working in a toxic work environment where the partners were watching my every move, even when I wasn’t at work.
It was very challenging to deal with the aftermath of that yearly work review meeting, and to figure out whether I wanted to stay at the firm or not. There were many good aspects of the job, like the flexibility, and the proximity to my home, but I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to stay or go, describing my relationship with my job at the time as very strained.
As I said before, there are lots of great reasons to change positions or leave a job entirely, but you have to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reason. When you’re just trying to run away from the feeling of stress or anxiety, unfortunately your female brain is going with you and you’re going to have those same feelings of stress and anxiety in the next job, probably for other reasons.
That’s why it’s important to understand that your female brain forms patterns of thoughts and beliefs over the course of your personal and work life. Those patterns will go with you everywhere you go, just like a freckle on your shoulder, until you have it removed.
So again, first get clear on the current relationship you have with your job and how you feel about it. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to decide the kind of relationship you want to have. If you were thinking of your job as a relationship, how would you want it to be? Dysfunctional, stressful, dreadful, or kind, respectful, and supportive?
Of course you wouldn’t want to spend time with someone that you feel stressed and anxious around, who sucks the life out of you, day in and day out. So if this is the relationship you’ve been having with your job, then it’s no wonder you don’t feel good about it!
But if you think about a relationship you’ve had for a long time, like with a partner or with one of your children, you’ve most likely had times where you have disagreed, maybe you fought, but you worked it out together. You probably chose how you wanted to show up in that relationship and you figured it out, learning and growing along the way.
The same thing goes for your relationship with your job. As you work towards having the relationship you want, you create a deeper connection, especially during the difficult and challenging times where walking away would have been easier than staying and working it out.
The good news is that when you take a step back and acknowledge that you aren’t having the relationship you want with your job, you absolutely have the power to change that. It’s important to point out that by changing your relationship with your job, so many other things are able to improve as well – your productivity, effectiveness, sense of purpose, your level of stress, and how you show up at home with your family.
If you’re feeling some resistance towards the idea of changing your relationship with your job then consider this – if you had your dream job, and you felt how you wanted to feel, what would that feeling be? Once you know the feeling you would have, thankfully you can now create that feeling on purpose without needing anything to change.
You don’t need to, nor could you really, make the giant leap from hating your job to loving your job, but you can gradually lessen the bad feelings you have about it by reaching for a more neutral feeling. If you’ve been following this podcast then you already know that you have the power to change how you feel, by the power you have to choose your thoughts on purpose.
For example, if you would want to feel respect or connection in your dream job, but feel disrespected in your current job, you could choose a more neutral thought like “I respect my job enough to show up for it” or “I respect the paycheck I receive from my job for my efforts”. Small shifts in the way you think about your job, will make bigger shifts in how you feel about it as well.
Think about it this way – if you already felt respect or connection, what would you be thinking and how would you be talking about it? How would you describe it to other people? How would you go home at the end of the day and talk about your day if you were feeling respect or connection?
No matter what type of toxic work environment you work in, you get to show up in that relationship however you want. You get to improve your relationship with your job, because how you want to feel about your job is 100% within your control, not within your job’s control.
I’ve worked really hard at my relationship with my job since that incident happened a number of years ago and thankfully I’ll be celebrating my 20th work anniversary next year. As with all relationship challenges, it would have been easier to walk away, but I’m so grateful I stayed and did the work I needed to, in order to feel how I want to feel about my job.
I realized that the relationship that I wanted to have with my job was 100% mine to create, not for my bosses to create, not based on anything they did or said in the past, and not based on anything they could do or say in the future. The thoughts I chose to focus on, every day over the last number of years since that incident, have changed the relationship I have with my job, with my bosses and with myself.
Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But I no longer work in a toxic work environment because I learned how much power I have, to have a job I feel respected, connected and grateful for, without needing to leave.
- Unfortunately, the issue with working in a toxic work environment is that it breeds unrest, constant stressors, and often low morale.
- The real reason you dread your job has nothing to do with the circumstances of your job, and everything to do with how you are thinking about your job, the demands, the people, etc.
- The key to dealing with a toxic work environment is to understand the relationship you have with your job.
- If you’re feeling some resistance towards the idea of changing your relationship with your job then consider this – if you had your dream job, and you felt how you wanted to feel, what would that feeling be?
- You get to improve your relationship with your job, because how you want to feel about your job is 100% within your control, not within your job’s control.