FEELING YOUR SENSE OF SELF SLIP FURTHER AWAY EACH DAY IS NO WAY TO BUILD A CAREER
5 MIN READ
Being in a toxic workplace every day is extremely stressful. Career coach Sara Young Wang found her way to coaching after being through many stressful career challenges herself. The stress took a toll on her health and her body said, "Enough". As she began to heal, she discovered joy in helping others reconnect with themselves and find their way to work they love.
Here, Sara explains how to handle workplace negativity, protect yourself physically and emotionally from the stress it causes, and move past a bad experience of a toxic work environment so it doesn't impact your career in the long term.
A toxic workplace can make us feel helpless and trapped. It's destructive to our physical and emotional wellbeing, and the factors that create it are often out of our control.
We each respond differently to stress. You might develop anxiety, fatigue or exhaustion, disrupted sleep, more frequent illness, skin disorders (stress impacts the immune system and it can manifest as acne, eczema flare-ups or psoriasis), or you might engage in your personal go-to stress-coping behaviours that may not be especially healthy.
You may seek comfort in things like eating, drinking, shopping, or try to find a sense of control by over-exercising, dieting, or even over-working. It requires some awareness to check in with yourself and reflect on how stress may be impacting you.
The biggest sign stress is taking over is when you can't really enjoy the other parts of your life. Many of the people I coach are high achievers who take their work to heart. So, when it's not going well it can take over their world.
If you feel constantly anxious, depressed, fatigued, or stressed even on your days off, or you're not able to be present and enjoy time spent with friends and family, you need to take action to change the situation.
In toxic work environments, stress can act as an accelerant to the negativity. It puts us in an emotional state where we're more easily triggered and more likely to act in a way that's not in our best interest.
STOP. Take a few deep breaths to ground yourself, and stay professional. Try to remain calm and if you're in a group situation try to focus on the common goal. After the moment has passed, take some time to reflect on what happened or what was said. If you choose to respond, do so after you have had some time to process things. It may still feel very emotional, but you will have greater ability to communicate from a place of rationality, logic, and clarity.
When you engage in negativity, even if everyone else is, you lose. It may seem harmless to engage in gossip or negativity with those around you, but reflect for a moment on how your perception of others who are behaving this way is altered. At the very least, your trust in them and their judgement is impacted, and it is likely they will also judge you in a similar way if you join in. It's a double standard, but this is how our minds can work – we can hold others to a higher standard than ourselves.
In situations where others are being negative, it's best not to respond directly to comments. And unless you're their manager, it's not your job to call people out on their lack of professionalism, either. Instead, redirect your conversations or provide a neutral response. Trying to defend others who are being spoken poorly of is often a losing battle and can pull you into the negativity vortex.
You are responsible for your own behaviour, so ask yourself: "Is what I'm about to say or do reflective of how I want to be seen?" You want to be perceived as respectful, trustworthy and professional, so keep this in mind in all your interactions.
Trying to drastically alter yourself to "fit in" – in any area of life – is unsustainable. But in some situations, you might need to stretch yourself to try a different approach to fit in with a new culture in your workplace. You have to find where the line is – how much can you adapt yourself, or your work, and still feel good? If making changes means losing enjoyment or feeling like you're pretending to be someone you're not, it's time to consider leaving and finding a role that's a better fit.
Toxic workplaces can really mess with you psychologically and emotionally, so even if you leave, there can be complicated thoughts and feelings to process afterwards. While you don't want past negative job experiences to continue to impact your life and career, try not to ignore them. The best way to move forward is to bring them into the light and examine them. Feeling angry at what happened is normal, but often underneath anger is pain and hurt. Acknowledging your feelings is an important part of healing.
If you're aware of your thoughts and emotions, you're more likely to spot if you're unconsciously allowing past events to control your present. It'll also give you a better idea of how you're showing up to work in your new job, and give you greater clarity with which to navigate your next steps to get back on track. Letting past bad experiences impact your confidence is not where you need to be.
We can create the lives and careers we want without pushing and forcing and constantly labouring. When we tune into ourselves, listen to our desires and follow the path of ease, we can create more joy, fulfilment and find the type of success we want.
Interviewed by Dee Behan
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