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Time To Put Your Toxic Workplace Behind You?

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

Last week, just before bedtime, I squirted the insides of a dishwasher liquitab in my right eye. In the packet, two pods had stuck together and by pulling them apart one exploded and, stupidly, I was looking straight at them whilst doing it. I immediately ran my eye under cold water while screaming in pain to my husband to check the back of the packet for advice:

"Highly toxic... chemical burns... permanent vision loss... visit emergency room immediately!"

At 2am I finally got to sleep, the pain and panic still burning. Two days later I managed to open my right eye and see again, blurry, but at least it was working. No permanent damage thank goodness.

I've learnt a lot of lessons over the last few years about toxicity in our environment. From the products we put on our skin and hair, to the food and drink we ingest, to the water flowing from our taps and even the air we breathe. Some of it is unavoidable, but most of it (once we're aware of it) can be banished for good, and I don't miss it at all. I'll save the details for another blog, as today I want to write about toxicity in the workplace.

As Britney sang with gusto... "don't you know that you're toxic?"

In my 20+ years experience in the corporate world, I learnt that toxic work environments aren’t specific to any particular organisation, leadership team or direct manager. They are, unfortunately, a part of everyone's working life at some stage, whether you're an employee in a bank or a contractor on a construction site. Realising what (or more to the point, who) is the common denominator can be a light bulb moment. Tough, but transformational.

So who's the common denominator?

In my talks, I encourage taking personal responsibility to build the resilience needed to protect ourselves from toxic workplace behaviours. As we should all take responsibility for our physical health, developing an immunity to these psychological factors is also essential. Essential for maintaining positive mental health, as well as preventing illness and disease. Those of us familiar with terrain theory will understand this well.

In MHFA, I teach that self-care is key to “immunising” yourself from these factors, developing a deeper self-awareness (e.g. through talking therapies or coaching), understanding you ALWAYS have a choice. Self-care creates a positive place from where you can build up your resilience to toxicity.

We can't change other people...

...But we can change ourselves; how we react to toxic behaviour, manage conflict and handle negativity. Using empathy can help us understand why people behave badly. More often than not, the fear gets to us; fear of failing, missing that deadline, losing that promotion, the carrot of the bonus pool, redundancy and job loss. As stress builds up and we become overwhelmed we can all crack, snap and pop! Of course, this isn't unique to the workplace, we see it happening across society as a whole.

I admit, I lost my resilience in 2015 when I was pregnant with my daughter. It took me 3 years to find it again, with the help of my coach (Justin Shelley Life Coaching) and a lot of life changes (house, country, job, lifestyle). My light bulb moment was realising I had a choice. No-one was forcing me to stay and fight the toxicity, it certainly wasn't worth my time or energy. The only change worth fighting for was ME. And once I put myself first, many areas of my life started to fall into their rightful place.

So, my message to you is this:

You ALWAYS have a choice, so don't stay too long in toxic organisations, workplaces, relationships and friendships. They are not worth your fight. Work on your resilience. Incorporate self-care into your daily life. Make those crucial changes you've been putting off. Focus on the good and turn your back on the toxic.

Oh, and never look at a Persil liquitab in the eye!

The Corporate Mind by Ann Camargo

Note: The workplace behaviours in the graphic below are certainly unpleasant, and I'm not saying they can't be addressed or even detoxed. However, in my experience they exist in every corporate workplace to some extent, so instead of focusing your energy on trying to fix them or other people's behaviour, focus on yourself and what you need in life to be happy and healthy. If that means making a change, just do it!

Graphic credit: BelievePHQ

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