Wyo4News Switchbacks: Thriving at work, even when it’s toxic

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By Ryan
Wyo4News feature writer

Last week, we talked about surviving your toxic workplace. In that article, we discussed ways to invest in your team and even your superiors in order to make things better. But there are traps to avoid.

A few common workplace challenges can trip you up, such as excellent work is often rewarded with more work. Also, dependable employees tend to fall behind in wage increases. And, seldom do superiors communicate the true reason for withheld raises or promotions.

The good news is that you can overcome these hurdles. The bad news is that it is pretty much all up to you to do so. Begin with strong boundaries.

You Are Only As Strong As Your Boundaries

You are not a puppy. Even though that would be cool in the workload department, it is not you. You are a strong, smart, and creative human being. You have the intellect to speak your mind, state your actions, and carry them out. You can communicate, negotiate, agree, and refuse. By doing so, you will maintain your dignity. You will also be able to look yourself in the eyes at the end of the day, knowing you were true.

Submitted photo by Leslie M. Caudle

You aren’t helping your supervisor succeed by allowing them to over-rely on you. You can always say, “Thanks, boss, for your confidence, but I am one of 5 people in this department. Please assign this to someone else.”  If they won’t, then you are far more valuable than you realized and have found the advantage. It’s time to bring up a raise.

Boundaries are always about what you will do. Boundaries are pre-decisions that you make. They maintain healthy management of your own life. So, you must set several. They must answer questions like. “How will I prevent my work world from bleeding into my private life?” “How will I protect my family and marriage from unhealthy work relationships?” “How will I keep from getting pulled into workplace drama?”

You may think that all of those questions are just part of your life, but they don’t have to be if you are willing to pre-decide what you are going to do when they come up. Boundaries will save you so much stress. 

Use Your Energy To Climb

Most people waste their energy complaining, especially at work. And, it isn’t a male or female tendency. Everyone complains, just at different volumes and pitches. But, here is what we seldom realize. Complaining, venting, grumbling, and gossiping all take energy. Your energy is a very limited resource. Don’t waste your energy trying to win the daily “My Life is Worse Than Yours” contest. If you do, you won’t have anything left to build the life you desire.

So, use your daily energy allotment to do better things. You can use your energy to form words that come from well-informed thoughts. Most waste their energy discussing how terrible someone, something, or somewhere is. There are better ways.

You could ask for a raise with good information about the norms for your industry and position. You could ask good questions that help you discover what may be holding you back. What if you accurately capture the challenges your team is facing? Then you could present well-thought-out solutions to those challenges. Encouraging your team members is also a compelling use of your energy.

High School is likely over for you. Popularity contests, geeks, nerds, and jocks are all relegated to a past you didn’t even enjoy. Dragging all those terrible social skills into the workplace will make you miserable. Your energy is your life. It is what enables you to grow and help others. Invest it wisely, and don’t get pulled into the coffee pot gossip crowd. Stay free of the draining complaining so common in the office, and you will be much happier. 

Remember, it takes energy to thrive. 

Ryan