Is Your Workplace Toxic?

toxic workplace"Toxic" is more than a Britney Spears song, it is a common adjective used to describe today's workplace.

"As millions can attest, the workplace today is a very difficult place to be. Because of the economic downturn, there is rampant downsizing, cutbacks, and employee misery, and people who have a job are holding on to it for dear life," says Orlando-based psychotherapist, Linda Durre'.

"People attribute the current economic situation to a variety of causes; the list is endless. Whatever the causes, the results in the workplace now are that people are crammed into regimented cubicles, there is a lack of privacy, the workload has increased, and one person can be doing the work of two, three, or four people, paid only one salary."

If all working environments are becoming more and more toxic, what can employees do to identify a toxic co-worker and deal with a toxic work environment?

Tips for keeping your workplace non-toxic

Humans by nature are influenced by so many external factors and internal emotions that it is easy to sometimes let the bad aspects of things create a negative outlook. The same is true of the workplace. As you go to work every day, there are many factors that can influence your focus, attitude, and performance at work -- such as a sick parent, marital problems, financial concerns, problems with your kids, or health problems of your own. The key point is that there are many factors that influence workers in a business environment. Put a lot of different workers together, each with their own influences and personal issues, and you have a very complex system of mixed emotions, needs, ideas, and desires, which if mixed together improperly, can lead to a toxic workplace.

How do you avoid bringing your own baggage to work and keeping your workplace clean and non-toxic? Durre' recommends the following:

  1. Work with purpose. "Making a lot of money is not the ultimate indication and marker of success." Focus more on quality service and excellent products, instead of money and profits. (See also: Does More Money Always Lead to Better Productivity at Work?)

  2. Lead by example. "Most management specialists and psychotherapists point out that the values and personalities of the people at the top of a company filter down to the mail clerk. So if you have companies run by sociopaths and psychopaths, liars, cheats, bullies, con artists, and people with no morals, ethics, or a conscience -- many of the employees will reflect those values and behaviors," cautions Durre'.

  3. Keep your eyes open. There is not just one definition of the toxic co-worker. There are so many qualities that can sabotage the work environment. These toxic qualities are not gender-specific either, so do not assume that a female co-worker cannot be a sexual predator in the workplace, for instance, or a man can't be the source of nasty gossip.

  4. Trust your intuition. "If you feel that someone is lying to you, you don't trust them, you get a queasy feeling in your stomach, you sense that they're giving you lip service or setting you up, confront it and deal with it."

  5. Be insightful. Acknowledge that no one is perfect and accept the fact that neither are you. Everyone has some negative qualities, but instead of letting pressure mount or tempers flare, further polluting your workplace, examine yourself as a person and be adult enough to apologize when you hurt someone's feelings and accept responsibility when you make a mistake. If there are areas in which you want to improve, enlist help (counseling, books, support groups, human resources etc.) and make a plan.

Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Advice From the Author

In her new book, Surviving the Toxic Workplace, Durre' examines effective communication skills. "My desire is to understand and empower all of my clients and readers with effective communication skills to cope with and/or eliminate toxic conditions and influences at work and in their lives," she says.

Written in a clear, concise manner, with funny stories and humor, the book is organized into four parts:

Part I: What is a toxic workplace and why is it harmful to people and productivity?

Part II: Communication techniques to get it right.

Part III: Toxic personalities and how to deal with them. (All 79 different types are classified into 12 groups.)

Part IV: What to do after a confrontation.

Because this wealth of information cannot be condensed into one short article, a series articles highlights the key points and take-aways that the author prescribes for navigating a toxic work environment and identifying the most common types of toxic personalities.

More information can be found at and more articles highlighting Durre's key points can be found here at AOL Find a Job.

Next: Does Your Office Keep You From Getting Work Done? >>

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John Williams

The best way to handle all this is to move to the woods, grow weed and learn how to cook crystal meth,

Then, armed to the teeth in your little off-grid compound, you can collect your wits and begin to work on your Kick the Bucket List.

Unlike the stupid movie, a real KTB list is literally that. It's a list of your enemies, ex-wives, girlfriends, school bullies who deserve to die.

Once you have written out the list, you can then enjoy your newfound freedom with some serious revenge hunting.

Try it! I mean, it really is fun.

July 14 2010 at 4:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"toxic" and "negative" are corporate words that describe workers who acknowledge and identify bad working conditions and give voice to being exploited. when corporations and their lackeys (like this author) tell you to focus on something other than money as your reward, pretend it doesn't make your head explode or your hair will catch fire.

April 28 2010 at 12:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
H. MacRivas

First of all, I used to be someone who apologized when I had hurt someone's feelings, kept my communitcation open when I was curious and/or felt there might be a better way to accomplish the goals. Employers don't appreciate it, I was thought of as "weak" because I apologized, and a discontent or uncooperative if I "challenged" anything I was told (even though my company supposedly "prided itself on listening to its employees at all levels). All supervisors and employers want to hear is "I'm working on it, or yes sir/ma'am". Sorry, I disagree, especially in this day and economic structure where employers like to say, "if you don't like it, there are 100 applicants out there that'd love your job, and they have college degrees!"

Secondly, the last two comments sound like people who've taken advantage of this article to advertise for their own pyramid scemes. There are way too many "home business opportunities" out there that just want to rip us off because we're unemployed. I caution anybody out there to be very careful.

April 19 2010 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to H. MacRivas's comment

I could not have said it better myself! Thank you.

What ever you do, don't disagree, they can't stand it when their power is undermined.

Why do people go to job's they hate? For the money, period.

January 25 2011 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bonnie Larsen

I worked in a toxic environment and I addressed the issue with both my Supervisor and her Manager. At first it seemed we had made a plan to correct several problems. However, at time went and I was the newest person in the department, after a transfer from a department that I did very well in. Addressing the issues seemed to make it worse with my supervisor. I had to call her on her training skills and identify problems in my new department. I was like the mail clerk and always wanted to help people and always work as hard as I could to maintain a clean and non-toxic environment. I was "fired" for poor performance. I worked in the other different department for 2 years and received 7 awards for leading by example, etc.

I have worked in the business world for over 30 years and feel I always work hard and do a good job. Yes, of course I make mistakes, like everyone else. However, when I make mistakes and women up and apologize and learn from it.

This is sad to say but I think it also has to do with age. Only when I became the agest of the department was I "fired".

I am currently looking for work.. It is not easy those days. I used to find a job within months, if not sooner. I'm a Admin Assist. and who doesn't need someone like me?????

April 19 2010 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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