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Toxic Workplaces: Signs You're In One and How to Handle It

Date 3/18/2024
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Toxic Workplace

If you’ve caught yourself thinking “I hate my job,” it’s time to look deeper with help of an objective and intuitive professional. Are you dissatisfied with your role and responsibilities, your compensation, or your prospects for advancement? Or are you dealing with toxic co-workers, a bad boss, or patterns of favoritism, bullying, or pressure to conform? In the latter cases, you may be facing a toxic work environment. Our psychics have helped hundreds of clients navigate these issues and can help you identify the hidden motivations and dynamics at work so that you can make positive and empowering choices.

What is a Toxic Work Environment?

Let’s start with some definitions. A toxic work environment goes deeper than just a job you hate. It’s a constellation of interpersonal dysfunction and drama played out in a workplace setting, that while just short of being illegal, may cause you to become stressed, sick, anxious, or disempowered -- despite enjoying the actual work itself. Often there are multiple signs of a toxic workplace, ranging from mild gossip to outright bullying.

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Signs of Work Related Stress

Work stress resulting from toxic employees, coworkers, and bosses is common. Can you relate to any of these signs of work stress? 

  • You dread getting up in the morning. Your alarm goes off and you immediately go to that unpleasant place. This is a tell-tale sign that your work may be affecting other areas of your life. Let’s be honest, jumping up for joy each day is unrealistic! But if you awake unhappy on most days, there’s something wrong.
  • You’ve stopped interacting with your coworkers. The time you spend at work ultimately revolves around the people you work with, so interacting with them is natural. If you’ve noticed yourself becoming distant from them, removing yourself from social interactions, there may be a deeper issue.
  • You’re unable to turn work worries off. Our minds are powerful and can affect our mood, behavior, and physical body. If you can’t seem to stop worrying about problems of the workplace, can’t get to sleep due to worried obsession, or talk about anything else with as much focus and passion as what’s wrong with your workplace, it may be time to examine what’s really going on.
  • The thought of interacting with your boss make you feel anxious, defensive, or avoidant. According to many sources, a poor relationship with one’s boss is the main reason people leave their jobs. If you aren’t in a position to leave, you may find your self-confidence eroding under the influence of a bad boss.

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Office Politics

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Let’s look at some common signs of a toxic work environment and how to deal with them.

Office Politics

Office politics are the manifestation of power dynamics between individuals and groups. A highly politicized work environment can be toxic when navigating relationships takes precedence over getting work done. Work alliances form wherein the same favored people get the praise and perks. Brown-nosing the boss gets power and promotion. Individuals and departments are pitted against each other with an expectation that people will take sides. There is a system to be worked, and unspoken rules dictate how work gets done or else it’s blocked.

Here are some suggestions on what to do if your work environment is highly politicized.

  • Seek an Outside Perspective. Discussing aspects of office politics with someone outside your organization may help you gain even more perspective. Friends who have more experience navigating their way through tough situations with co-workers may have some advice.
  • Find your Allies. They are there, often hidden in plain sight, and can validate your experience. Just take care not to let a bond over what’s wrong with the organization amplify a sense of negativity.
  • Build Your Relationships. It’s always best to avoid explicitly taking sides because just one person quitting or getting fired may tip the balance away from your alliances. Instead, work on building strong relationships with people on all sides of the political fence. If your department doesn’t usually work well with another, take it upon yourself to become the liaison between the two factions. The goal is to earn respect from everyone by positioning yourself as a bridge builder.
  • Create Your Own Organizational Chart. After you’ve had the chance to observe the power structure within your department or company based on office politics, think about people and their positions in terms of that hierarchy. Using this strategy gives you better insight into how people are connected, which may or may not have much to do with actual job titles. Creating your own mental organizational chart using office politics may reveal to you the best people to approach when you need something done quickly.
Work Cliques

Office Gossip and Cliques

A clique can be neutral or even supportive when a group of people who share similar values or experiences spend time together without any exclusionary intent. However, cliques can have a negative impact on the workplace when they cause people outside the clique to feel like they are less valued than people on the inside, and when the clique actively excludes others or talks down about them behind their backs.

What’s the difference between casual conversation, idle gossip, and harmful gossip? Though they all may take place behind your back, there is a key difference of intent. If you overhear a co-worker talking about a work project you’re on, it may be idle conversation, but if they have no direct knowledge of the project and are essentially passing along rumors, it’s almost certainly gossip. If the co-worker expresses delight that you were removed from a project team or says something personally demeaning about you, it's harmful gossip.

When cliques begin to form and harmful gossip starts to swirl, your workplace can become toxic quickly. Here are some strategies to cope.

  • Communicate with Difficult Co-Workers Directly. Don't wait to stop gossip in its tracks. As soon as you overhear it or learn about it from someone else, communicate with the offending co-workers directly. Rather than taking an aggressive approach, confront them in a straightforward but non-hostile way. Even if you're offended, keep your emotions in check as you calmly explain what you overheard and why it isn't OK. An empathetic approach can help as you ask your co-workers to refrain from gossiping.
  • Do Your Best and Have a Positive Outlook. If you sense your co-workers are continuing to talk behind your back, take care not to respond with negativity or retaliation. After all, they're probably seeking a reaction, and if you give them one, they may respond with more gossip. Instead, maintain a positive outlook and focus on doing great work.
  • Involve Human Resources. Although you should always try to communicate directly with difficult co-workers rather than complaining to your manager, you shouldn't hesitate to involve your office's human resources team if you can't resolve the issue on your own. It's especially important to talk with your HR team if the gossip has started to turn into harassment, if it's affecting your ability to work, or if the clique has violated part of your company's code of conduct. For best results, keep documentation of any incidents and have witnesses who can support your story.
Jealousy at Work

Jealousy in the Workplace

Instead of working together and being openly supportive of individual talents, people often mistakenly turn to a counterproductive tug of war to get ahead of those they admire. Workplace jealousy reveals professional insecurity and feelings of ineptitude on your coworker's, or even your boss’s part. Sometimes you can alleviate that fear with positive reinforcement of their talents, but more often than not this person's toxic thinking lies beyond your control. It can often have more to do with their self-image than your treatment of them.

One tell-tale sign that your coworker or boss is threatened by you is when disagreements happen in the workplace, they feel more like competition or power struggles. Often this is because your talents have been noticed and jealousy abounds. This means you excelled enough at what you do that others felt threatened by your success. If you have encountered resistance from insecure coworkers, then it may be a result of you having been especially good at what you do, not the opposite. Do not let condescending remarks hurt your pride or self-image.

Take this tip from Psychic Adelinda, “Growing past fear to handle life with confidence and love is an inner journey. Self-confidence shines from within. You cannot obtain the inner light of self-love from outer sources. In this case the best thing to do is to protect yourself from this negativity and remember not to let what is surrounding you dim the sparkling light that is within you.”

Negative Culture at Work

Negative Workplace Culture

Sometimes the work culture is heavily influenced by individuals whose focus on their grievances has a disproportionate impact on the culture as a whole. When an organization doesn’t step in to actively define and promote a healthy work culture, or when leadership fails to live up to the very standards they promote, a negative culture can naturally fill the void. Nothing feeds a negative workplace culture like hypocrisy.

So what do you do in a culture of negativity, if you don’t want to get sucked into the drama or be seen as a defender of the status quo?

  • Set Boundaries. You will not get any work done and will become stressed if you have to deal with someone who is constantly coming to your desk to complain about everything. When you encounter this person, calmly but firmly state that you do not engage in those kinds of conversations, and that you have to get back to work.
  • Talk it Over with Someone Close to You. Even after setting boundaries, there's a chance that the problematic person will disregard them. Talking to someone who isn't a part of your workplace can shed some light on the situation and can help you relax by allowing you to vent your frustrations.
  • Keep Your Distance. You can't concentrate on your work if you hear constant negativity from your coworkers. If they're chatting near your desk, take a break and go outside or to the lobby. Stepping away from the situation helps to keep you from getting involved and lowers your stress levels.
  • Focus on Positive Thoughts. When you're caught up in a swirl of toxicity in the workplace, the negative emotions that come with it can easily become a part of your daily thinking. This negativity can affect your family and friends outside work if you're not careful! Keep a list of positive affirmations to say and read them first thing in the morning or whenever you need a pick-me-up. If you have trouble coming up with affirmations on your own, speaking to a phone psychic can provide you with inspiration.
  • Meditate. Stepping away, literally, from the office scene may help you achieve some perspective. Expect to approach the situation renewed and with a fresh outlook by taking your mind completely off the relationship tensions. Carve out a ten-minute break each day to clear your mind and reenergize yourself so you can handle office politics with a positive attitude.
  • Keep Relationships Professional. While you don't want negative co-workers in the workplace keep you from doing your job, networking with your colleagues, or building a strong connection with your boss, keeping your work-related relationships professional can help you avoid some of the most problematic office politics. Rather than going out for happy hours or letting loose at company functions, strive to keep things work-appropriate to stay above the fray.
  • Stay Healthy. Stress levels that don't remain in check can lead to many health issues, so make sure you take care of yourself. Yoga is a good way to release stress through slowing your heart rate down, which results in a calmer state. Or, if you need to work up a sweat, take up jogging or an athletic sport.
Complaining at Work

Toxic Coworkers

A sure sign of a toxic work environment is one that enables dysfunctional coworkers to engage in sabotaging behaviors without reprimand. Signs of a sabotaging coworker can include backstabbing or blackmailing a colleague, intentionally spreading rumors about others or withholding information that could help them or forming malicious alliances for the purpose of bringing someone down. If you’re facing a colleague who’s out to get you, here are some things you can do:

  • Take Lots of Notes. Once you're sure that there's a sabotage occurring, you need to document everything that happens, including but not limited to:
    • Erasing or misplacing files
    • Taking important documents
    • Spreading rumors
    • Questioning your competence
  • If there are witnesses, note their names too. If anyone reveals a rumor, write it down verbatim, if possible, and where you heard it. Jot down all dates and times as well.
  • It's also a good idea to take notes on your own tasks. If your colleague starts saying that you haven't completed your tasks or did something wrong, you need proof that he or she is lying. Note when you turn something in, back up all your files, and be as detailed as you can.
  • Excel at Your Position. The best way to cope with a coworker who is trying to sabotage you or strip you of confidence is to do well at your job. You're a superstar, so act like it. If you excel at every task you're given, it won't matter what your colleague says. He or she could take a load of lies straight to your boss, but your performance and successes will speak for themselves.
  • Plan a Cordial Confrontation. It's essential to let your coworker know that you know the score. You should not by any means engage in warfare in the middle of the office; you need to keep your cool. Approach your colleague calmly and cordially, let him or her know that you're aware of what he or she has said, that it needs to stop, and that you want to keep up a good working relationship. That puts the burden on your colleague's shoulders. It flips the switch and puts the bad behavior in the spotlight.
  • Make Management Aware of the Problem. If the behavior continues or escalates, it's time to go talk to your boss. You should make an appointment with Human Resources as well. Take along those detailed notes. Because talking to your boss can also be nerve-wracking, especially over such a serious matter, work with your phone psychic to come up with an approach that will keep you secure but firm and resolute.
Bully Boss

A Bad Boss

Nothing ruins a great job faster than a boss with whom you just don't mesh. From management style to personality, countless factors can cause friction between you and your manager. In many cases, you're experiencing an unfortunate trait your boss unleashes on everyone in your workplace. It may not actually be about you. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of insecurity or poor management skills, but often the problems are rooted in narcissism.

Gaslighting, micromanagement, bullying, and creating chaos are surprisingly common behaviors among leaders who make unreasonable demands upon their staff yet seem to have a blind spot regarding their own behaviors. Other signs of toxic bosses include demanding blind agreement, setting impossibly high standards for work they don’t really understand, never being satisfied with the results, expecting employees to read their minds despite giving vague or contradictory assignments, and triangulating communications between several people so that each hears a slightly different version, or is pressured into speaking negatively about a colleague.

Listen carefully to try and understand what your boss is really saying before taking anything personally.

  • Rethink Your Role. In some cases, you might contribute to the friction, whether or not you intend to do so. Think carefully about your role in the relationship and assess whether you can change your behavior to alleviate things.
  • Turn the tables. Sometimes a little reverse psychology can work, especially with a narcissist. Even if you detest having your boss review each step of your work, try taking a proactive approach to their micromanaging habits and ask them for their ideas and feedback frequently. If your boss has a habit of bullying you, make a point of resisting their negativity and answer with a compliment or a positive response about them instead.
  • Talk with Colleagues. While you might not feel comfortable discussing your personality clash directly with your boss, you can certainly talk with colleagues you trust. Rather than venting or voicing an opinion that may make its way back to your boss, try asking for advice on dealing with the situation in a professional way. Talking through tough issues with your colleagues can help you build stronger relationships and can also give you a new outlook on your workplace. After all, if you have a team you love, working with a boss you can't stand might not seem so bad.
  • Channel Your Energy. Before you allow any lingering negativity to build and boil over, develop a strategy for channeling your energy. Try working it out in a spin class after work, or practice yoga and do meditation to calm down. Seek out a trusted psychic to vent about your day and get a better perspective on your career and your life.
  • Develop an Exit Plan. Whether you think you can stick it out or you're close to storming out and never returning, always have an exit plan you can put into action if necessary. Besides, thinking about the next role you want to land or an advanced certification you want to earn can prompt you to think about the future of your career and may renew your desire to do what's best for you in the long run.

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Coping with Work Stress

How to Survive a Toxic Workplace

Leaving even a bad job requires planning and preparation. The last thing you want to do is jump from the frying pan to the fire! Sometimes leaving is not practical, and you have to find a way to get through the day to day until circumstances change. Here are some tips on coping when you’re in it for the long haul.

Try a Ritual of Self Protection

A metaphysical approach to making it through another day can be just as impactful as many practical coping strategies. Psychic Adelinda recommends this ritual of self-protection to help you make it through a toxic work environment:

Before you start your workday, visualize a white light of protection around you. Think about this white light as a shield of positive energy, where no negative energy can enter, and ask the universe to keep this positive shield around you throughout your day. When you feel hurt by snide comments of others, release that feeling, do not own it. Tell yourself “I am protected from negative energy. This person has no influence over me.” Then go about your day, confident in your inner beauty, conquering the insecurities around you warm in the knowledge that the universe sees and values the amazing person that you are!

Know When to Take a Mental Health Break

If any one of these toxic workplace factors is present in your organization, you may be carrying the stress of it into other parts of your life. If multiple factors are present, the toll on your mental health and physical health can be significant. Before reaching the point of a mental breakdown or physical pain--take advantage of your vacation time or sick days to allow yourself to recuperate. Feeling to overwhelmed with work responsibilities to take time off? Try these tips: 

  • Delegate Your Tasks. You can lighten your workload by delegating tasks to others. Is there an intern available who can help you file paperwork? Can you get an office friend to take on one of your tasks? Maybe you can also outsource projects, a solution that's especially useful if you're running a small business.
  • Say No When You're Overwhelmed. When the task will only overwhelm you, let people know that you don't have the time for it and that they're better off finding someone who is more available. It's tough to say no but doing so can actually benefit all those involved. You'll avoid a high-stress situation, and the project your coworker is trying to delegate will likely get done faster if he or she goes to someone more available.

Stay Focused on the Positive

When you focus on the change you want to see in others, you give away your power. When you focus on being the change you want to see, you take back control and operate from a place of choice rather than victimhood. Psychic Antares shares this story to illustrate how an outward focus on others can sabotage your best efforts managing a toxic work situation.

 “Let’s say you do all the right things. You get up in the morning do some stretches, get a little exercise, have a wholesome breakfast, and say some affirmations. You are feeling pretty good, right? 

It’s Gonna Be a Great Day!

Now you are on your way to work. Your favorite song is on, and you’re rocking out. Everything is going smoothly. Traffic is cruising along and you seem to get every green light possible. Now you are really feeling awesome. You feel like today is going to be almost supernatural you feel so good. Then you go into work radiating happiness, unlimited possibility, with a smile beaming on your face. 

It's Gonna Be a Good Day!

The first co-worker you run into appears to be down. You want everyone to be on cloud nine with you. You try and cheer up your co-worker with a smile, warm greeting, and a compliment. They return your smile with a sneer and your compliment with a complaint. You feel a little of your sunny disposition start to cloud over. You try to shake it off and move on with your day.

Now you are hard at work just killing it! Your work is effortless. You are in the flow. A co-worker notices how good of a mood you are in, and how well things are going for you. They decide to come over for a little visit as they are avoiding their own work. You notice a figure looming over you, with nasty look on their face. You look up smiling and ask them how they are doing. They just unload on you, “Why are you so happy? We are at work you know? The boss must have given you all the easy work I see. It must be nice to be so oblivious.” Then your co-worker skulks away. 

It's Gonna Be an OK Day.

This incident really hits you like a ton of bricks, but as some time goes by you manage to shake it off again. You realize they are trying to make you feel as miserable as they feel, and you just aren’t down for that. Even still you feel your energy has dropped again and now you are feeling a bit vulnerable. You eventually get back into the flow again. Then your boss comes by. 

Well, There’s Always Tomorrow…

They blame you for not completing something that was not your responsibility. They notice your good mood and mistake it for something else. They tell you, “You really need to get it together. You need to take things more seriously. This is work not play time.” Your boss rolls their eyes and walks off without noticing how much work you have finished, or even giving you a chance to speak at all. Your mood and energy plummets. By the time you get back home from work, you are in a terrible mood. You feel like something subhuman. Then you try and pick yourself up again for the next day. 

Free to Be You!

What if it was possible to go through that day without ever missing a beat? What if you could keep your amazing, uplifted state of being all day no matter who came at you with what attitude. People will try different ways to pull you down because they either feel threatened by your awesome state of being or they are jealous and feel they cannot have what you have.

One of the most common manipulations people will use is to try and make you less by thinking less of you. I believe the most important and freeing step to remaining positive that you can make is not to care how others perceive you. If you don’t care how others perceive you then you do not give their opinion of you any power over you. They can’t classify you and put you in a box. You are simply free to be you without their interference. 

It’s Nothing Personal

The next thing is to not take other people’s thoughts, feelings, words, or actions personally. People will try and project on to you how they perceive reality to be. It’s the rules they have accepted, and they feel it’s the rules everyone should have to live by. If someone sees you being happy and fulfilled in place that they have concluded should not be allowed or is not possible for them, it makes them angry. It makes them feel cheated, left out, or inadequate in some way. 

The sensible thing for these people to do would be to ask you how you manage to accomplish positivity amidst adversity. Given enough time they will, but first they have to overcome all the excuses they have made to be a victim and to behave irresponsibly. 

You can’t change anyone. They must want to make the change in themselves.”

Raise Your Vibration at Work

You might be surprised at how easily you can achieve more at work despite the dysfunction if you simply put your mind to it - a positive mind, of course. While you might not feel especially optimistic, putting a smile on your face and improving your attitude can do wonders for your ability to cope.

It’s tough to keep your head up if you're constantly surrounded by negative people. Nevertheless, you have to be one of them. Instead of taking the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach, think of ways that you can improve the atmosphere for everyone by being more positive.

Try to end your conversations with a smile as well to avoid any hard feelings and let the other person know you're still open to conversation. Even though some people might become irritated with your cheery, upbeat attitude, showing it can reduce the tension in the air and make your workplace a better space.

Psychic Arabella provides these suggestions for raising your personal vibration at work, regardless of the level of toxicity or dysfunction you encounter.

  • Greet Others. To start, when you greet others, put a little zip into your voice and sound excited to see them. Ask them how they are or simply give them a good morning, afternoon, or evening greeting. You know how people often complain about the "bubbly" person at work? If you become that bubbly person, rather than being one of the ones who complains about them, your vibration will soar. 
  • Stay Positive Throughout the Day. Next, you want to do all you can to maintain a positive frame of mind throughout the day. There is no denying that work can be frustrating for many people, but how you choose to view your situation can either help or hurt you. You could spend all day thinking about what is wrong with your workplace; but if you spend even a few minutes being thankful for what is right at work, then your day will go much smoother. You may even find you begin to enjoy it more.
  • Avoid Procrastination. Finally, do not procrastinate or partake in any other behavior that could potentially make work more difficult. A great work ethic is key to raising your vibration at work. You have tasks that need completion. Finish them as quickly and efficiently as you can and then move on to the next task. Worrying about them or procrastinating will only cause your vibration to go down. This is why we begin to feel stress at work when a deadline approaches. Keep the motto: Just get it done! You will feel better, and you will be ready to attack your next task.

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Quit Your Job

When to Leave a Toxic Work Environment

A toxic work environment is just one of several factors to consider when deciding if it’s time to quit your job. As difficult as these situations may be, there may be a lesson you are meant to learn by digging deeper into which factors are pushing your buttons and finding healthy ways to cope. Speaking with a career psychic can reveal these messages from the universe so that you aren’t forced to face them again in your next job.

That said, the decision to leave your job is personal and no one should have to endure a toxic work environment that is causing stress and burnout. Maybe you’ve been doing your best to cope with your work situation and have had some success in setting boundaries around the negativity. You don’t need to settle for just surviving when you could be thriving. Most people don’t stay in the same job their entire life, so take a look at these four additional signs that it’s time to move on.

  • There Is No Room for Advancement. If you’re stuck in a job where there is no room for advancement, and the work dynamics are toxic, consider moving on. Sure, you might get a small raise every year in your current job, but it isn’t usually enough to keep up with the cost of living or even inflation, and the negative impact of the toxic work environment can undermine your confidence making it harder to advance in another position.
  • You Have No Time for Family and Friends. If family time is important to you and your work takes you away from it, it might be time to quit your job and look for something new. If you’re never home, you’ll miss your kids growing up and this combined with a bad boss or dysfunctional coworkers will strain your relationships over time.
  • You’ve Lost Your Passion for the Job. Starting a new job is exciting because you get to learn new things. However, jobs can become more boring the longer you do them, especially if you’re responsible for tedious tasks. So, be careful to choose a job where you can keep your passion alive. Otherwise, you won’t be happy and going to work will become a drag, especially if the culture reinforces negativity. The best way to find a good job is to look at the things you are passionate about and then try to find a job to match. 
  • Your Job Is Negatively Affecting Your Health. Some jobs are bad for your health. For instance, manual labor is taxing on your back and hands and can lead to all sorts of health problems. Additionally, some warehouses can expose you to chemicals and other hazards that can make you sick over time. If you work in one of these jobs for too long, your health might become an issue for you sooner than you’d like.

No job that makes you unhappy is worth your time. Work doesn’t have to be fun, but it shouldn’t make you so unhappy that it affects your mood even when you’re not there. If you’re facing a toxic work environment, a bad boss or dysfunctional colleagues, know that you always have choices. If you’re not sure where to turn, an online psychic can help you look at the current situation and guide you towards more positive future possibilities.

Speak to a Career Psychic

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