Here’s the thing, if you don’t know you’re in a toxic environment you can keep going for an impressively long time and you may never actually get out of it. Once you’re aware however that there is another way, and what toxic means, I can assure you its not an environment you want to put up with for very long. I mean why would you knowingly want to do harm to yourself?
And yet we do. We put up with work cultures and work environments which don’t nourish us, inspire us or help us grow. Some environments do the opposite, they corrode our self-esteem and confidence, they stifle our creativity, we can feel under-valued, like I don’t matter here, voiceless and we stagnate.
A bit like dirty water, polluted with no fresh water coming in or anyone to remove the rubbish which flowed into it. Before we know it we are surrounded by unhealthy junk, we might see it, but think, this is my life, I’m stuck here, there’s no way out.
The problem is much of traditional ways of working and management reinforce and reward toxic ways of working and interacting. We get trained to put up with toxicity! Like it’s an expected part of being a good employee. So yes, you can survive like this because this is how many of us have been programmed but what if you knew there was another way?
I recently had an experience where I felt unappreciated, my voice was not heard, my ideas not considered, and my work not valued. There was no kindness in this organisation, and people were talked AT rather than TO. There were parent-child relationships rather than adult-adult. I could sense fear and distrust. There was no sharing or collaborating. I felt micro-managed and controlled. Very quickly I started to feel suffocated. At first I was in disbelief, I’m too old for this, this can’t be how it is, I can change this, but it was like this and this organisation was not open to change. After the first three weeks, I started to get physically ill. I noticed my mood going down and my motivation to do things I enjoy start to slide. I felt irritable and angry. Once I recognized how negative I was starting to think and feel about pretty much everything, I decided to get out. It sucked me in quickly but luckily I was quick to get out.
So what are some of the signs of a toxic environment?
Once you are aware of what’s toxic in your culture or environment, then you must start to act. Save yourself! What’s really below the surface. You will feel it, you will experience it, and if it’s not good then either do something about it, change it or GET OUT.