The Importance of a Healthy Workplace
There are times when we all need to “suck up” a crappy job. I’ve had loads of crappy jobs in my lifetime. What makes a crappy job bearable is when it contributes to a bigger goal, and you can use as a motivator to keep your “eye on the prize”. To quote Oprah:
“do what you have to do, until you can do what you want to do”.
Working at a subpar job to pay your way through college is an example of this – your motivator is getting the education you desire; every day at the crappy job can be viewed as one day closer to your desired goal.
But what if you are stuck in a career job that does not fuel you? And you constantly feel demeaned, oppressed, or too fearful to contribute your thoughts and ideas?
Research shows that toxic work environments adversely affect your physical and mental health…..You may be reading this and thinking, “well, duh…”. Yet, societally we seem to just accept this and assert things like “Well, at least I have a job”, or “A shitty job is better than no job at all” (and, YES, I am guilty of holding those exact beliefs at one time).
Well, it turns out that a study done by the University of Manchester tested this assumption. What their study of 1,116 people aged 35-75 illuminated was that those who transitioned to a poor-quality job had higher biological indicators of stress than those who remained unemployed. These biological indicators move beyond “manageable” stress – they can move into serious metabolic or cardiovascular related diseases and compromised immune systems (your crappy job can literally be destroying your health).
To be frank, everyone generally experiences irksome things at even healthy work places – this is normal. For example: I am not a fan of too frequent, or too lengthy staff meetings – I fully appreciate the need for them, but I lose patience quickly if (in my mind), they are getting long-winded or get derailed from pertinent issues. This in of itself does NOT make for a toxic work environment; for the most part, I can recognize that I can own this as being something that bothers me more than others because I have a propensity toward being very (ahem, sometimes, “too”) task-oriented in my personal life.
Indicators of a toxic work environment include:
- Feeling a constant state of dread going into work
- Feeling as though you are “walking on eggshell” at your job, and do not feel safe to share your thoughts and ideas for fear of being demeaned, belittled, invalidated, job-loss
- Your boss uses “power-over” tactics with you such as instilling fear of punishment rather than fostering inclusiveness and a sense of collaboration (e.g: being constantly threatened that you will be fired/have your hours cut if you don’t “tow the line”)
- Feeling as though your sense of integrity is greatly compromised doing what is required at your job
- Inconsistent leadership – you never know where you stand: some days your work and ideas are esteemed, other days you feel attacked
- Your physical health is suffering – headaches, stomach aches, hives, shingles, et cetera
- There is a culture of gossiping/bullying/lateral violence (for the latter see more here: https://blacksheepcounselling.com/2017/06/lateral-violence/)
- You start to uncharacteristically entertain thoughts of retribution towards those you work with *although most of us do not like to admit to such feelings, this is a good indicator that you are feeling a normal sense of “push-back” towards feeling oppressed. Acknowledging this allows for you to address this in constructive ways before impulsivity (and then regret, guilt and shame) takes hold.
If you answered yes to some of these, you may wish to access whether staying in your current job is worth it. If it is a means to an end “I only have _________ number of months before I can move on/move up/afford to do ___________”, then perhaps a solid self-care plan can be enough to help you endure a toxic workplace for a duration of time. If, however, there is a lack of “light at the end of the tunnel”, it may be worth exploring new horizons.
Free vocational counselling on Vancouver Island is available through:
A desirable workplace is one in which employees have a sense of purpose and investment towards a shared mission; one is simultaneously felt supported, but also challenged in satisfying ways (not just monetarily).
Treat yourself with loving kindness – if you could not conceive of a loved one enduring a workplace like yours, use that as a concrete indicator that you too deserve a better job environment.
Emmanuel, D. (2017, August 22). A bad work environment can be bad for your health. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/22/health/bad-work-environment-studies/index.html
Trundel, L., Vornarx, N., Simard, C., Freeman, A., Vezina, M., Brisson, C., &….Dugas, N. (2009). The adverse effects of psychosocial constraints at work: A participatory study to irent prevention to mitigate psychological distress. Work, 34(3), 345-357. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2009-0933.