Wyo4News Switchbacks: Surviving a toxic work environment

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By Ryan
Wyo4News feature writer

“I’m taking what they’re giving ’cause I’m working for a living.” Lyrics from the Huey Lewis and the News song “Workin’ for a Livin'” from 1982.

Even when hair was big, mullets were cool, and everyone was broke, working a job was tough. But, like mullets, most are not okay with accepting a terrible working environment as a way of life. Horrible bosses and draining coworkers are too much to handle. Life is already too challenging. 

That seems to be the point of the “Great Resignation” of 2021. Unfortunately, many have come to regret leaving their “safe” irritating jobs since then.

If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, you do have options. If you take some time to think it through, you may not have to plunge into unemployment. It is possible to do it well. There are ways to improve your current workplace or transition to something better.

Submitted photo by Leslie M Caudle

Start With Some Radical Honesty

There are reasons for job dissatisfaction and workplace toxicity. The demands of the workplace are increasing. Experienced workers are leaving, and new team members are far less efficient. Almost everyone is understaffed. Your superiors are grumpy. And, you may not be the most pleasant person from time to time, either.

Okay, what can be done? Do you like your career? Do you see potential in your current position or company? Is there hope for a better future? Can you see yourself enjoying your work and workplace under any circumstances at all?

Here is another way to come at this. The following question forced a major career change in my life that took quite a while to come into being. Here it is, “If money were not a factor, what would I be doing?” Obviously, it requires an honest answer. If you are in a rough place, your first answer might be, “I would buy a yacht and cruise the coasts while working on my tan.” That does sound like a nice vacation, but it’s not realistic. You have a need to matter in this life, and your vocation is what fulfills that need. So, honestly, what would you love to do? It’s possible you are in the wrong place, and that is what is making your life miserable.

However, is the issue workload, coworkers, or management? Then you may be headed down another path. If you like what you do and where you are doing it, then you can start working on the right problem.

Make Sure To Be Proactive

If you feel you need to change your career, that is actually a simple but drawn-out solution. You start preparing for the career you desire. Take classes and network in the area you want to make a difference. Sure, it takes time, but it’s simply a matter of choosing how much time you can dedicate to it each week and start doing it. 

The next 5 to 10 years are going to pass no matter what you do. You can be stuck, or you can get unstuck. You choose. It may seem overwhelming, but it’s not. Find some simple, achievable patterns of good investment with your time and money. Do that, and you will eventually buy your freedom.

However, if the problem isn’t that you are in the wrong field, then it’s time to start working on your company. The process of investing your time and energy is the same, but you are working to stay rather than exit.

Build Some Bridges

One of my favorite quotes of Zig Ziglar’s is this, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will eventually get what you want.” 

What does management want? It’s okay to exclude the free miracles they may demand. What does your team want or need? What do you want? If you can find ways to make the people around you successful, you will also become very successful. 

By the way, the easiest way to get rid of a horrible boss is to get them promoted. If you do, it’s highly possible that you will also be promoted. That may sound impossible and even undesirable. If that is how you feel, remember that the simple fact remains. When you invest in your team, even as a coworker, you make your own life better.

But there are a few traps to avoid and hacks to make your life easier. So I’ll see you next week, and we’ll talk about thriving at your workplace, even if it’s toxic.

Enjoy Your Work, And Make A Difference,

Ryan