top of page

Surviving Toxic Workplaces: 5 Effective Coping Strategies You Need to Know

When we’re in a toxic work environment, the first thing we may think about is - EXIT!!!

Maybe you didn’t but I sure did!

How did I survive?

I put a few things in place including my thoughts and action plan. But I thought Caroline Castrillon nicely laid it down the pointers in her article on Forbes. She shared 4 tips and I would like to add a fifth:

1. Let go of what you can’t control

2. Establish boundaries

3. Find a support system

4. Create an action plan

5. Lean on your faith

Let go of what you can’t control

There is one question I ask my clients to help them realise what they can control and what they can’t control: What is in your control?

An article on the PositivePsychology website by Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner ‘Understanding the Circles of Influence, Concern, and Control’ shares that we can control our responses to external events that are outside of our control. To a certain extent at least, we can also try to control our thoughts, judgments, interpretations, and emotions. Most of our behaviours such as what we eat, watch, do, can also be controlled. It adds that some of our reactions can be controlled. We can choose not to respond in anger or fear to certain stimuli or take action without careful consideration of resources needed or consequences.

During sessions, I ask my clients to explore their values and see if they are able to make conscious, deliberate choices in the situation that are aligned with them.

Establish boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries helps when navigating unhealthy work environments. Something to avoid is engaging in unhealthy workplace gossip such as negative remarks or criticisms about colleagues, or listening to a rumor about another person. Consider redirecting the conversation. This helps prevent being drawn into a cycle of negativity.

Find a support system

Despite the prevalence of negativity in the workplace, seek out positive colleagues who can uplift your spirits and alleviate feelings of isolation. If there are none, reach out to your own social circle for support. They can be your own family members, extended family members, friends and faith-based social circles There is a Self-Care Checkup check-list on PositivePsychology website which you might want to explore to do your own check-up including in the area of social self-care. Also consider engaging with a mentor or coach if you believe it's time to explore new career opportunities.

Create an action plan

I find this one of the best ways to cope with a toxic work environment as it sets in rhythm a cycle for change. Sometimes my clients jump into action mode pretty quickly, sometimes after a while and sometimes it takes longer.

Action points you can consider are talking to a therapist, coach or mentor about what you are facing and how you would like to overcome or manage it, intentionally cutting back on spending just in case you do need to leave at a short notice or leave without a job and possibly even looking out for another job or role within the same organisation (just not within that toxic department).

Lean on your faith

Finally, something that I don’t typically encounter in sessions except a few times, lean on your faith. A few of my clients have mentioned that it is their faith that keeps them going. And some share they believe there is a reason or a few for having to go through this type of environment or culture for a season or two. They find inner strength through their faith to journey through this season until it is time for them to move into another season. What I would like to add is that if you are not able to overcome whatever it is that you are facing in the current environment, it is likely something you may face again in the future.

It may not be possible to quit that toxic work environment immediately. Could we consider developing some healthy coping strategies like the above five while we figure out our next steps?

When I wanted to exit a toxic environment but knew it wasn't time to, I actively lived out these five tips to get through the season.

31 views0 comments


bottom of page