Toxic Workplace

Seems it is a common issue, is the toxic workplace. Some workplaces are worse than others but every workplace has one or two miserable folks who can’t seem to get through a day without denigrating someone else.

This is an annoyance at best, an atmospheric poison at its worst. As synchronicity would have it and it usually does in my world; I’ve had a number of conversations regarding this topic lately. Some co-worker or another talking smack about someone else, maybe a person situated lower down on the pecking order, maybe a department equal or in many cases, a boss.

It is a problem in my workplace as well, as great a bunch as my co-workers are? There are still a few that feel the need to constantly criticize or actually talk smack about someone else.

Years ago? This bothered me. It really bothered me to a point where I stressed over it. It was mean, it was cruel and totally unacceptable in my view but as I climbed up the chronological ladder, something called wisdom and life experience joined me on my journey. They are welcomed life partners.

These people still annoy me but on a far more superficial level. I have developed strategies to deal with the distaste I feel for these people. It does bother me that with each criticism my respect toward that person lowers but wisdom/life experience has yet to teach me how to not permit this to happen. Perhaps I should be losing respect as the behaviour is toxic and totally unproductive.

Expecting all co-workers/bosses to get along, every day, is ridiculous. A group of adults, spending a minimum of 8 hours a day together, 5 days a week, all year…minus stat. holidays, sick days and vacations is a tough environment, psychologically speaking; adults who come from all backgrounds, cultures and politico/socio-opinions, different personalities and personality disorders, thrown together by one common denominator – their employer. Their actual employer is not a human being, it is a thing but it is represented by human beings – “The Bosses.” The Bosses represent the top of the food chain. They are also easy targets.

How many people do you know, perhaps even you, yourself believe that they/you could do a far better job than the current boss? Come on, be honest. Through experience and listening to people, I figure a very high percentage, 99.999% of underlings believe they can do better than their bosses.

I’ve been 5 years with my current employer; a massive corporate entity – a globally massive corporate entity. Our place of business is a relatively tiny speck within this entity. My physical location is unique and advantageous to my sanity. I do get to see both sides of the office coin, all day long. I know what’s going on in the hub of the business, the daily workloads etc. but I also have a very good view of the bosses. I know what their workload entails; I know what they face every day. As bosses, they are easy targets. While the hub folks have the luxury of offloading their stresses to each other, the privilege of criticizing the bosses and each other, the bosses do not have that advantage. They have to eat it. In reality, few people are cut out to be bosses, regardless of what they believe of themselves. The minute a criticism of a co-worker escapes their lips and is given life? Their qualifications as a boss or supervisor is nullified. Even half-decent management should know that this is not a privilege afforded to them. It is all the more toxic when coming from someone with perceived authority.

With all that said? It is vital to remember the microcosm that is the workplace. Everyone has their baggage and yes, sure..that baggage should be left at home but when discussing human psychology, when discussing the people dynamic of a workplace? You may as well expect the employee to leave their arms and legs at home because their personalities, their psychology is as much a part of them as are their arms and legs. The trick is to identify who has what issue, from a psychological perspective. It ain’t that complicated. We all use psychological tools every day of our lives, most people just don’t know that this is what they are doing. Some are positive, constructive tools but some are destructive and are wielded without regard. Someone using the latter can be visualized as a person standing in a crowded room, with a revolver, shooting randomly. The injuries to person are the same, you just can’t see them. More often than not, these bullets will ricochet and return to sender, in the form of decreased respect and lack of trust.

If so and so can say such horrible things about their co-workers, what can he/she be saying about me??? Gossips and malicious persons do not discriminate, even their perceived friends are targets.

I have developed a strategy for dealing with this kind of behaviour. Perhaps it will work for you…a head-on confrontation won’t work so there is no point to it, unless of course, the gossip can cause real pain or trouble, and that is up to you to decide. If it is just ranting and raving? I simply nod or shake my head, mirror the individual’s words back at them, while I am doing that? I go over what I need to do that day, or visualize something else, anything else…perhaps I’ll allow a song’s refrain to bounce around but the one thing I won’t allow to happen is for those words to be given any credibility. It is an office survival tool that I employ many times during a day and I swear to you, it puts things into their perspective.

While some words spoken are truly cruel and mean spirited, I try to take a look at the person from whose lips the poison drips and try to understand what the real problem may be…by and large, denigrating comments are the result of a sense of inferiority, a lack of self-esteem. These people must perceive themselves above their victim in order to feel better, justified for their own actions. I’m NOT saying that I respect these people or that what they are doing is excusable, it isn’t, but trying to understand what character flaw necessitates this behaviour makes it a little easier to swallow on a daily basis.

People are what they are and it is up to each of us to develop skills to protect ourselves and our states of mind from these onslaughts. You cannot stop a gossip. You can’t turn someone who is unhappy in their skin into a positive, constructive individual but you can protect your own psyche from their toxins by developing your own office survival skills. It takes time but in the end, it will work and you will find yourself less inclined to get bent out of shape because of simple words spoken by a damaged personality.

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