When you’re in a toxic work environment, it can take a serious toll on your mental health. Effects from a volatile workplace can even cause you to experience emotional and physical symptoms as well.
You know it’s time to find a new job, but what happens in the meantime? Many don’t have the luxury of quitting on the spot without a backup plan, and finding a new job takes time and patience. If you’re stuck in a toxic workplace until you land a new gig, follow this advice from the members of Forbes Coaches Council to keep hanging on.
Forbes Coaches Council members suggest steps to take when attempting to leave a toxic workplace.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Take Action In Your Job Search
Continue to look for a job while you’re waiting for opportunities to come along. Taking action will feel good. It’ll remind you that you have options and choices. When we feel like we’re “in choice,” we feel empowered, which safeguards our emotions around a toxic environment. Additionally, you’ll connect with others, continuing to build your network and, therefore, finding more job opportunities. – Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching
2. Negotiate A Third Space
If your work environment—the space or the people—drain your energy, consider negotiating a “third space” with your team leader. A third space is not your office and not your home. It could be a coffee shop, a shared, open workspace or even an unused conference room within your office—quieter and more insulated. You’ll improve your health and work. – John Hittler, Evoking Genius
3. Don’t Contribute To Toxic Waste
Avoid watercooler conversations that recount wrongs, bond the group in adversity and devolve into more toxicity. Avoid recycled negative thoughts that sap your energy and creativity that will be needed to move from this situation. Mentally and emotionally “slipcover” yourself each day to shed toxicity and avoid taking things too personally so your focus stays on positive forward movement. – Kathleen Cabot-Smith, LeadersCore
4. Become The Leader That You Needed
I’ve had clients ask about this exact issue, and what’s worked really well for them (among other tools I have), is when they figure out how they can lead in the organization. Perhaps things aren’t perfect, but can you mentor someone young? Can you tell people that you no longer are going to be a part of the gossip and won’t stand for hearing it? I challenge you to think, how can you be a leader? – Cody Dakota Wooten, The Leadership Guide
5. Lean On Your Posse
Never has my closest network been so critical as when I am combating toxic behavior of any kind. The feelings this type of environment creates—shame, anxiety, vulnerability—can keep us stuck or even make us ill if we are in it long enough. That’s when I call or text or have coffee with the three people I trust most with my heart. Articulating the feelings takes their negative power away. – Lisa Walsh, Bridgepath Career Advisors, LLC
6. Focus On What You Can Control
Focus on what you can control, and, in all cases, what you can control is yourself and how you react to toxic situations. By focusing on what you can control, you start to let go of what is happening with others and an unhealthy environment. Stay focused on your larger goal of finding a different place to work and complete actions every day to get you closer to your exit. – Holly Knoll, Holly Knoll Coaching and Consulting
7. Don’t Take Things Personally
While a toxic work environment might have a big impact on you personally, the culture itself isn’t personal. It likely existed before you came to the organization and it will last after you leave. Focusing on how the work you’re doing now serves you can help get you through. Maybe it’s all about the paycheck, or perhaps you’re working on a career-enhancing project. Try to stay positive! – Kate Dixon, Dixon Consulting
8. Set Boundaries And Stay True To Yourself
Establish clearly in your own mind who you are and what you stand for. That boundary will help you remember you are not the environment you’re in or the people you’re with. And it keeps your integrity intact so you can choose to let this roll off your back because you’re already moving on. Finally, to balance this all successfully, focus on meaningful play outside work. – Kathryn Gorges, Essentials³
9. Stay Focused On The Prize
Stay focused on the prize, knowing that you are only in that situation for a short period of time. If possible, have a “face-to-face” to let those affecting the environment know the impact they are having on you and that your position there is temporary. Start and end each day with positive affirmations to reinforce your goal, take breaks away from the work area and leave the toxicity at work. – Sandra Hill, New Horizen Coaching & Professional Growth Advancement
10. Try To Find The Lesson In Your Situation
You’ve tried it all: direct conversations, requests for different behavior and diagnosing what’s “toxic” versus what’s just different. Now you’re ready to move on. But how do you handle the in-between time? Focus on what the experience is teaching you. In the long-view, negative situations are gifts in disguise that help us learn how to make hard decisions and manage ourselves better. – Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, Red Cape Revolution
Volunteering during times where your sanity is challenged can be the most overlooked mental health tool available. People under pressure pull back on interviewing and focus on self-care. I get it. No problem. But do not underestimate the ability to find balance by giving back to people who are less fortunate or taking care of abused animals or serving on a committee to assist kids with cancer. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
12. Believe In Yourself
Every minute in a toxic work environment will take years off your life. If money is tight, negotiate with your employer to leave amicably—negotiate your severance. Have the courage to explain why you need to leave and they will most likely help you and maybe even fix the problem in the end. By saying something you are doing something and most likely helping others to find the courage too. – Kristy McCann, GoCoach
13. Keep Your Head Down And Be A ‘Turtle’
A turtle, when poked and prodded, will pull into its shell for protection. While you can’t stop doing your work, you can put your head down, get work done and choose to avoid conflict as much as possible until you can stride happily for the exit. Just focus on getting work done while maximizing off-the-clock hours to develop your winning resume and strategic job search. – Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International
14. Set A ‘Go’ Date
My advice is to set a date in your head as to when your last day will be. Mark it on a calendar, meditate on it daily and work like hell to get out! Focus on the work while you’re in the office, but know in the back of your head you won’t be there much longer. Enlist the help of coaches, agencies, friends and sites like LinkedIn. Get networking, set the date and prepare to celebrate! – Miranda VonFricken, Miranda VonFricken Mastermind Coaching
15. Clarify Your Vision For The Future
We learn much more from our wrong turns in life than our successes, so take note of your environment. Determine the cause of your discomfort. Is it the organizational structure, leadership style, their communication or lack thereof that is toxic? Gaining clarity in the bad times will enable you to choose your next organization, one that is in sync and aligned with your values, goals and expectations. – Debbie Ince, Executive Talent Finders, Inc