How can I determine a toxic environment?

Recently, I had a chance to support workshops which aimed to increase self-care and resiliency in the workplace. These workshops were conducted in various locations of an organisation. As I was just an observer, it was interesting to see what participants perceived as source of stress to them and what strategies they have implemented to overcome such situation.

Common challenges encountered in this particular organisation are lack of leadership/management understanding of the workforce, system that is not functioning, and heavy workload. All these were inducers for their stress. However, such inducers of stress are no different to other organisations. We had external participants who attended these workshop from other organisations. They highlighted that they had similar stress inducers in their workplace.

To explain such workplace, a common phrase used by participants is a ‘toxic environment’. Many people use this phrase to note challenges induced by interpersonal relationships in their workplace. There’s no doubt that in every organisation, there are individuals whose work values and ethics would be so different to your own. In some cases, they might be in the other end of spectrum to you. However, if you are in such situation that you need to work as a team with them collegially and productively, what will you do?

It becomes toxic when it strips a person of hope, damages their self-esteem or detrimentally affect their self-confidence.

Peter Frost

You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.

True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic.

If words control you that means everyone else can control you.

Breathe and allow things to pass.

Bruce Lee

I believe such so called ‘toxic environment’ is not limited to workplace. It can go beyond your personal and social life. I was raised by generally critical parents. They will talk bad about people and I was taking it in seriously. At one point, I actually said to my mum “look, I am not your rubbish bin where you can dump all your emotions and problems to me. Even you do so, I can’t do a thing for you. So, what’s the purpose of you telling me all these?” I think I had similar conversation with my father too. Probably, it was my way of protecting myself to not get negative influences from their unusual emotions.

Never feel bad for refusing to be a dumping ground for someone’s toxic waste.

Protect your emotional and mental environment.

John Mark Green

During the workshop a concept was emphasised over and over again: You have choice. If it is a toxic environment, you have a choice to leave or to thrive. In western society only those in jurisdictions and other legal authorities such as police can stop you from an action. Others cannot force you to do anything. Your managers cannot demand something from you but they can ask something from you; however you have a choice to put that in action or not.

Never fear leaving a toxic environment.

Be true and caring to yourself.

Trust there is peace and positive out there.

Brendon Burchard

One of the most simple techniques to feel good about yourself is to not let in destructive criticism.

Marisa Peer

A powerful strategy that I have picked up on the way and implemented is an imaginary shield. When my mum become a bit toxic, put up this shield and imagine everything she said will bounced back to her, which in turn, it will not affect or interfere with my life. At the beginning, I wasn’t always successful; however, with practice and time, it becomes natural for me to use that shield at necessary times. Eventually, I am able to observe such situation from a distance, from a different angle and that gave me space to think and response in different ways. Now, I feel I have control over such situation because I have power of choice.

What are you allowing to interfere with your life?
Is there any help around you?
Is it worth to risk your health and life, to continuous live in that toxic environment?

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