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Is It Time to Walk Away? Recognizing the Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

Walking away from a toxic environment can be one of the most difficult things to do. Feelings of fear, shame, guilt and loyalty can create a sense of obligation to stay in a place that is negatively impacting your mental and physical well-being. But by staying, you can become drained of your energy and creativity. It can be difficult to be productive, and you may even start to doubt yourself. All these factors can lead to serious burnout and affect other aspects of your mental health.

Although it can be very hard to see ‘the forest for the trees’ in the midst of these situations, there are ways for individuals to create enough space to logically assess a toxic situation. Based on my own experience and advice that I’ve given to others going through something similar, here are few ways to start:

1. Reframe your mindset: Instead of seeing the possibility of leaving as a sign of defeat or quitting, reframe your mindset to view it as an act of self-prioritization and care. Remember that everyone deserves to work in a positive & supportive environment.

2. Acknowledge that you are not alone: Although you may feel that you are completely alone in the situation, unfortunately, many individuals in these environments experience feelings of fear, shame, guilt, and isolation when considering leaving. Recognize that you are not alone in these feelings and that it's okay to seek support from friends, family, or a professional.

3. Create a plan: Leaving a toxic environment can be a big decision, so it's important to create a plan that helps alleviate concerns vs creating additional stressors. This can include researching new job opportunities, setting financial goals, and reaching out to potential contacts or mentors. Having a plan with clear milestones that can be celebrated will boost you mental well-being can help you feel more in control and empowered during the transition.

Organizations can also play an important role in preventing toxic environments from forming in the first place or continuing to perpetuate once engrained.

1. They can create cultural non-negotiables that promote inclusivity, respect, and positivity through aligned messaging and execution.

2. Leaders can set clear expectations for their team and hold themselves and others accountable for their actions when not upholding these non-negotiables.

3. They can place a balanced focus on financial and employee-related goals and KPIs (especially in reward systems) that prioritize the importance of employee well-being & advocacy.

If you're in a toxic environment, remember that you deserve better. Leaving is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of great strength! If you are an individual going through a rough time & feeling stuck or an organization trying to prioritize overall well-being in your employee experience strategies & initiatives, let’s chat.

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