Cht, Dip App Sci, Mas NLP

As a Wellbeing Coach I speak to many students having issues in their workplace environment.This article intends to give some simple ways to assess your current workplace and suggests some ways you could enhance / improve the working environment.

What is a toxic work ENVIRONMENT?

A toxic work environment can mean having challenges at work not just occasionally but repeatedly. Due to the fact that we spend so many hours at work each week and over the year, if the workplace environment is overly stressful or toxic it can have a huge emotional toll on our overall sense of confidence and wellbeing. The more we are exposed to this, the more our self-esteem can begin to suffer. From there a low sense of self-worth may creep in and we can suddenly find ourselves worrying if we are part of the problem.

Things to indicate your workplace culture may be unhealthy or toxic include –
  • Communication is not welcome – concerns you raise are ignored, not actioned or just totally dismissed
  • It may feel cliquey – like staff who get the good shifts are the bosses besties, or you feel punished with less hours because you don’t fit into the workplace social life. You may feel left out of social activities.
  • There is no invitation to grow or upskill – sharing new skills is undermined and regularly dis-encouraged in some way.
  • Staff turnover may be high – staff leave at a rapid rate or employees don’t last long term.
  • There are poor boundaries around Work / Life balance – it is commonplace to be contacted with questions from other staff members outside of your working hours, or when sick / taking a day off. Un-reasonable overtime is normal.
  • You feel criticized about your work – when no positive feedback is given, only comments about things that are wrong and that you may feel are small.
  • You struggle to switch off from work at the end of your shift –bad workdays are impacting your emotional mental state at night, draining your motivation, ability to study, or affecting your sleep and stress levels consistently.
  • You are approaching burnout – you feel like you are giving more to work than what you are receiving back financially. You are stressed, run down and struggling to make time for yourself. You may feel guilty about taking a day off as it will impact the workload of colleagues.
  • You don’t feel safe to raise concerns with management – the idea of asking for help, discussing stressful situations, or negotiating a change to your work hours causes anxiety. There isn’t a dedicated HR person or someone you feel you can speak with confidentially.


If some of these red flags sound like your workplace then what next? Firstly, know that chances are you’re not alone. Some simple steps to begin implementing include:

  • Get support

    Find yourself some supportive co-workers to lean on and share your challenges with. It is ideal to surround yourself with others who have a positive mindset – and if colleagues can’t offer that, expand your support network outside of work. Having a safe place to share how you are feeling is always important.
  • Get Professional help

    Symptoms of burnout can sometimes be similar to that of a toxic work environment. If you’re wondering whether the problem is you or the workplace get some independent professional advice. This will help you more clearly assess your feelings and uncover the real issue. Professionals can also help you develop strategies to deal with a toxic work environment. Reach out to the Wellbeing Coach for support today.*
  • Take care of yourself
    After a stressful day at work time to unwind is important. Look to some self-care activities that will help you get your mind off work – these could be exercise, creative projects, time with friends, or relaxing in a bath with a book.
  • Talk to HR
    Every workplace should have someone you can speak with about your concerns and right as an employee. If yours doesn’t provide one, look for external agencies that can offer you some guidance here. If you experience acts of disrespect, abuse or bullying at work make sure to document it – this ensures if you need to escalate the matter in the future, you are prepared.
  • Setup healthy boundaries
    Begin to create your own healthy boundaries so you can turn off from work when its outside of work time. Consider switching off your work phone after a certain time each day or only respond to emails during business hours. Practice communicating your boundaries clearly to your manager and co-workers.
  • Consider an exit strategy
    Once we realise how unhappy a workplace is making us, moving on is a natural thought. Once you’ve spoken to HR and tried to address your concerns without success, it may be time to start looking for other
    work. Reach out to your industry network and update your CV. Get written references from current or past managers you trust and respect. Think about your ideal job, then consider how to move yourself towards that.

Finding yourself in a toxic work environment doesn’t mean the end of your career. It helps to focus on stress reduction, self-care and healthy boundaries first. Give your current workplace some time to improve and as always seek external advice for more ideas and tips. If you found this article useful or need some confidential support, book a coaching call with your Wellbeing Coach here.*

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