Survival Guide To A Toxic Work Environment

Let’s face it. Every job is not sunshine and rainbows. No matter the job, no matter the industry, we are bound to experience stress. But how do you know if you are stuck in a toxic work environment or just having a bad week? Just because it happens on a daily basis and all the other colleagues are experiencing it, doesn’t mean that it’s ‘normal’. We spend more than a third of our day working. So being in a toxic work environment is actually detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing in the long run.

Signs Of A Toxic Work Environment

For those who are new to the workforce or a particular industry, look out for these red flags! 

High Employee Turnover Rate – You notice that there are more employees exiting than entering the organisation. Even the most competent ones are leaving.

Unmotivated Colleagues – Your colleagues seldom or never engage in some fun and laughter during work. They are often glued to their screens, looking like zombies.

Poor Leadership – You are unsure about your roles and responsibilities and you feel as though someone is always breathing down your neck.

No Work-life Balance – It’s 6pm and you want to leave. But you’re still stuck with a mountain of work. Your colleagues are too engrossed in their own work to check the time.

Exclusive Cliques – You feel left out during lunch and you notice a group of colleagues insinuating gossip and rumours around the office.

Find yourself agreeing to any of these situations? It’s time to plan your exit strategy! If you are unable to leave your job because you are serving a bond or if you really need the money, here’s your survival guide to working in a toxic work environment!

Set Boundaries

Dealing with work-related emails and Whatsapp chats on a weekend? Working past your office hours almost everyday? Be firm on your work boundaries! You might be torn between wanting to be in your boss’ good books and wanting to take a break from work. But go have that break. Having a life outside of work helps you to stay sane in a toxic work environment and keep you from burning out. It’s okay to work overtime during ‘peak periods’ or urgent matters, but don’t make it a habit (it will become an expectation!). Don’t be afraid to renegotiate deadlines or ask for help too!

Focus On Your Goals

It’s easy to lose sight of your goals when you are too busy trying to survive in a toxic work environment. You’re too busy trying not to be the topic of these rumours and gossip. Every action you make is like a landmine about to explode. At times we might even unknowingly exacerbate the toxic work environment! Channel your energy to improving yourself instead of engaging in office politics and gossip. Stepping on the toes of your colleagues (especially well-connected ones) will only invite more trouble for you. So grow where you are planted and be a good employee. Work towards your goals and build up transferable skills. This will make it easier for you when you are looking for future job opportunities.

Confide In Trusted Colleagues

There’s nothing more comforting than being able to complain about your work issues to someone who understands. Most of us tend to confide in our friends or family, but having someone who can truly empathise and commiserate is more uplifting. Befriend colleagues whom you can trust. They will form the backbone of your support group and provide an avenue for you to vent your frustrations. Alternatively, surround yourself with positive colleagues. The work environment might be terrible but not all colleagues are bad.

Be Kind To Yourself

When mistakes are made, emotions run high. Hurtful words are hurled and others vent their anger. Don’t take it to heart. Everyone makes mistakes and you are so much more than what you are defined at work! What’s important is that you learn from your mistakes and avoid it in future. Uplift yourself with positive Post-It messages or quotes. If need be, take a break or a short walk to clear your mind and compose yourself. 


Don’t feel obligated to remain in a toxic work environment. Remember, you are in control of your own destiny. If an opportunity arises, go grab it! If not, start planning your exit strategy!


Check out more career tips here. Reach out to us for seminars and workshops to improve your work life!

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