Thanks to Jyoti Dhiman for contributing this article.
An average career takes 90,000 hours. That’s a precious decade of life. Most of us are not spending this exactly how we want to, and are settling for something we can tolerate. Other times, the work environment gets venomous enough to harm your mental health and emotional intelligence. This can be true even if everything is great on paper, at a reputable company with high pay.
If you are stuck with negativity around your cubicle and can’t escape, here are some tips to design a survival strategy.
1) Positive Mindset
An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship so long as it stays on the outside. Fill yourself with positivity and try to block out how toxic the environment is. Ignore the scanning stares and head towards your cubicle in a positive mood. Start working with gratitude. If it helps, remember there are people who would love to achieve where you are. Try to see the silver lining in everything and isolate yourself from the toxicity.
Ignoring the environment is not a solution. But it can help you get through it, and sometimes maybe that’s all you need.
2) Document your tasks
Keep a journal of what you’ve done and what was assigned to you. Document daily targets. This helps with personal growth and time management, and it also means you have a paper trail if you need to complain or defend yourself with management.
3) List the "after-work" activities
Make new goals to achieve after you’re done for the day. List sports you can play with your kids, or places you want to go. You have a life outside work. It’s probably happier and more colorful, and you definitely have more control over it. Remind yourself about the rest of life, and maybe start a new hobby. Meditation or breathing exercises often help with calmness.
Remember, work is a part of your life. Maintain a strict boundary. Once you’re out of the office, don’t mix work with life. Think of yourself as a new person in a different environment. This helps you stay positive in the long run.
4) Kill them with kindness
If your colleagues are being venomous, don’t stoop to their level. Compassion can be contagious. Be kind to everyone, even the people who might be plotting against you. This can make you feel good about yourself and help your psychological health, and it may also help your career progression.
5) Build your own network
No matter how toxic your office is, chances are there are some individuals there who are just honest workers. Build your own network of trustworthy people to talk to.
This might also help with emotional support to combat the negativity and help you stay grounded. If there are enough people like this, talking to them might even make the workplace a bit more tolerable. They might also help you get out: telling you about other roles or helping you find a new job.
6) Stay away from the conflict creators
An entire workplace can get turned rotten by one bad apple. Figure out who it is, and stay away from them. Hopefully it’s someone you can avoid, not a direct superior. Even if you can’t, don’t get involved in unnecessary gossip or back-biting. You need your peace of mind.
7) Work from home
If your company has a work from home option, this might help you avoid the poisonous office politics. It can also keep you connected with your family and help you save the transportation cost. It might also just make you directly happier: spending time on a commute hits many workers hard. If you can skip that, do.
8) Hone your skills
Try to learn something new that you can add to your resume. No HR firm can ignore a combination of degree, skills, and experience. Whatever you’ve learned at your office, try to frame it in a way that helps you land a new job somewhere else.
9) Design your exit
Plan your way out. Don’t tell your coworkers you’re leaving or word might spread. Don’t use the office computer for job searching; firms can look at your history and sometimes do.
Remember, leaving will take time. Don’t rush for the first offer you can get, weigh all the pros and cons. You don’t want to end up in the same situation again.
Don’t mess around with your superiors just because you’re leaving. Your next job will do a background and might talk to your old boss. And remember that you’d rather have a good boss at a mediocre firm than work for a snob in a great company. You can’t pick a new job based just on the paper description. Unlike the office you’re trying to leave, you want somewhere you can be both productive and cheerful.