Dealing with a Toxic Work Environment

A toxic work environment is one in which you feel victimized and powerless. This can be due to any number of factors: racial, age or gender discrimination, narcissistic leadership that prioritizes personal loyalty over performance, rampant favoritism/nepotism, widespread malign gossiping, tolerance of bullying or ethical lapses, etc. If you find yourself in such a work environment there is unfortunately little that you can do to improve the situation, since what is really at issue here is organizational culture: you are embedded in a system that pervasively tolerates misbehavior towards selected employees as opposed to investing in their training and advancement.

Their Recommended Tactics

If you research “toxic work environment” online you’ll find numerous suggestions on how to address it. I very strongly disagree with most of this advice.

One recommended tactic in very serious situations is legal action, but the emotional and financial costs of embarking on that path are likely to be enormous and even if successful you’d wind up a pariah. Another is confronting the person or persons who feel empowered to contribute to the toxicity. But the problem here is that their behavior has most likely been tolerated by Management so that all you’re likely to gain is a temporary reprieve.

My Recommended Tactic

My best advice is to start working RIGHT AWAY on an exit strategy. The costs of tolerating a toxic work environment are enormous – not just emotional but physical as well, as the stress of coping with the toxic work environment can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease, among others. If the situation is particularly serious you may even want to consider resigning before finding another job – the old advice about not resigning until you’ve found a new position is a lot less relevant in today’s much more fluid and accommodating employment picture. I stand ready to provide you with the career counseling necessary to hasten your exit and find a more suitable and rewarding position.