Toxic Workplaces: How to Stay Positive
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Keeping a positive mindset in a toxic work environment can be an extremely difficult task. I've spent some time in toxic work places and motivating workplaces and there is a vast difference between employee moral …

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Toxic Workplaces: How to Stay Positive

Submitted by on Friday, 10 October 2014No Comment
Toxic Workplaces: How to Stay Positive

Keeping a positive mindset in a toxic work environment can be an extremely difficult task. I've spent some time in toxic work places and motivating workplaces and there is a vast difference between employee moral and overall performance of the organization. While I wont name any organizations, I can tell you that every sector, industry and even departments in culturally sound organization can become toxic very quickly. As a matter of fact, Ive worked with a large retailer that had an excellent operations team where it was very team oriented, productive and motivating whereas their supply chain group was a whole other can or worms.

Toxic workplaces have employees that are disgruntled, declining self-esteem and consistent fear of losing their jobs. Its a sink or swim environment and to be frank, its a very counter productive atmosphere. The usual suspect to poorly managed teams/organizations is usually leadership. Lack of clarity in role definition puts the onus on everybody to be jack of all trades and stepping on others toes, a consistent message to do whatever is necessary to get the job done completely obliterates ethics and sometimes team work, and unrealistic timelines leads to undue pressure. I've been there so I know it all to well.

Even though i've had to live that nightmare on more than one occasion, there are a few things I did keep in mind to keep my sanity and lead with a calm demeanour. First, I follow the saying “keep business and personal lives separate” very well. I tried not to take any comments as personal and let the little things slide right past me. It's not about being a push over but its about choosing the right battles to fight and ending with a compromise. You would be surprised at how many people don't even think of compromise as a viable resolution to a workplace discussion? It was mind boggling for me and a learning experience. Try to be calm, collective and listen to the other person and their arguments. Then find ways to compromise where necessary. You wont always win with compromise but thats where reason and logic come in. If there is a reasonable and logical argument on either end, leverage that to lead towards a compromise. I remember once I was trying to gain access to outputs of a project, but the PM denied me any involvement over and over in fear that I was trying to take over his job. We sat down, I asked him for his rationale and after about 25 min of discussion, he came out with the fact that a former PM had taken certain ideas from him and leveraged that to his advantage. I was very clear with my requirements, told him what the information was going to be used for, offered him to sit in on our projects and ended off with showing him my badge. The badge indicated that we work for the same team and we should help each other out to make the organization a success. Eventually he agreed and today we're working on some projects together. That could have went several ways had we not had that conversation.

Another method I use to stay positive is to always “assume positive intent”. What I mean by this is if someone sends an email or makes a statement that could sound negative, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt to explain what they meant by the statement. In majority of the cases, positive intent was meant by their original statement. Human's are programmed to be defensive and sometimes hostile in toxic workplaces but actually taking a step back can just hearing the other person out can go a long way in avoiding unnecessary argument and can help build relationships.

Last, always be fact driven. People who are irritated and angry tend to make very impractical decisions in the heat of the moment. If you try to be calm and collective and take a step back if you're not ready to make the decision right away, there is no harm in doing so. However, whenever you make any decision, whether in good conscience or not, always bring some facts that can support your arguments. This will earn you credibility amongst your peers and help prevent other coworkers from continually challenging you when its not warranted.

You cannot control the actions of others in a toxic workplace but you can certainly control your own. Avoid any destructive workplace conversations and stay focussed on what you were hired to do. Toxic environments aren't always permanent and can often be cyclical based on current events in an organization. Try to understand the environment, work with it and don't resist it. You will be surprised with how much a positive attitude can impact your own mood but also that of your colleagues in a work place. Just think positive and stay focused. Good luck


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