How to Escape the Toxic Office when you feel low, tired, doubtful + anxious.
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Have you ever felt a victim of office politics, or thought about how to escape a toxic work environment?
You must escape the toxic office if you are ever going to regain your self-worth, self-respect, and a sense of safety + agency over your own life.
Prior to becoming a healer, I spent years navigating the beige and biscotti of office politics, in between running my own business.
From horrible bosses or vindictive colleagues, I’ve lived through a variety of less than healthy workplace cultures during years working in central London.
As an employee, some of my experiences have been traumatic and anxiety provoking.
The ultimate realisation is that no amount of financial security was the worth the compromise of values, gas lighting, long unappreciated hours or undermining attitudes and behaviour.
You can’t beat ’em or join ’em
Some people say you can play office politics to your advantage. Yet, what kind of person do you have to become to meet your ‘opponents’ at their level? And at what cost you your sanity and health?
I’m writing this article to share with you my secrets of surviving a toxic work environment.
However, my secrets are not about winning office politics.
Instead, if you are considering how long to stay in a toxic work environment, I want you to think seriously about what exactly got you into such an unhealthy position in the first place.
If you want to stop toxic work environment symptoms such as anxiety, stress, overwhelm and – often – low pay, then you have to go to the root of the problem.
The truth is, the problem starts with you.
Don’t stop reading.
I understand your boss is a creep,
… or your co-worker takes the credit for your hard work,
… or you are always working unpaid overtime
…and, despite all your loyalty, devotion, conscientiousness, reliability, caring and concern
Nobody at your work gives a sh*t about you.
Yet, the onus for change still comes down to YOU alone.
Because you got yourself into this situation.
And you are the only one who has the power to get yourself out. Permanently.
Escape The Toxic Office: You Did This To Yourself
You see, if you don’t start to examine the patterns that have kept you in over-giving, people-pleasing, compromising and generally under-valuing yourself, those workplace issues are going to follow you around like a bad smell.
It doesn’t matter if you plan on escaping a toxic work environment to a seemingly better job or even to start a business.
If you haven’t looked at your own psychology – the one that attracted certain negative people and situations to you, that fit you like a glove – it’s only a matter of time before they pop back up.
Escape The Toxic Office: Who Am I To Talk?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but… I should know.
I have been an employee, a freelancer and a temp (i.e. employed as a temporary staff member via an agency) within small businesses, organisations, larger companies and corporates in the UK.
These include national charities, government funded agencies, banks, hospitals, the postal service as well as a a host of small businesses.
I witnessed or experienced covert bullying, routine constructive dismissal of co-workers, power plays, envious employees excluding colleagues who shone too brightly, silencing, sexual harassment and nepotism… and much more.
I’m an empathic, highly sensitive person, so functioning within these corrosive ecosystems was highly harmful to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
Not only did I feel toxic work environment anxiety on a mental level, I found my sleep was disturbed, my neck and shoulders were rigid with tension, I ground my teeth at night and I put on weight.
Toxic Office Symptoms
The effects of surviving in the daily prison of a toxic work environment, are parallel to those of an abusive relationship:
Emotional effects of a toxic office:
- Guilt – feeling that it’s all your fault.
Behavioural / physical side effects of a toxic office
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Nightmares / Insomnia
- Racing heartbeat
- Various aches and pains
- Social withdrawal or loneliness
The chronic stress of long term exposure to toxic politics or a negative working atmosphere can result in mild to severe trauma. Even after you have left, you may get flashbacks, feel burnt out or even, in extreme cases where you have been victimised, suffer from PTSD which may take years to recover from.
Unfortunately, the longer you stay, the worse you feel, and the less likely you are to leave.
Your toxic job will slowly but surely erode your self-esteem until you feel gratitude to your employer for paying someone as “useless” as you to be there.
…But my co-workers are lovely
Even if the majority of your co-workers are lovely and your life is being made miserable by only one or two people higher up in the food chain, the workplace can still become a living hell.
In fact, sometimes it’s easier to have a workplace that’s either really terrible or really great. A plan of action is so much easier to create for a black and white situation.
When each working day is a wildly different shade of grey, you just end up feel more confused + doubtful, because the goal posts keep moving.
If you have lovely colleagues, you may even have a misplaced loyalty to protect them.
You may feel guilty about planning how to escape your toxic office.
Combined with your fear of the future, the idea of leaving your allies leaves you feeling furtive and outcast.
Altogether, it becomes too big a risk to take.
Unfortunately, staying put for short term gain, only results in long term pain.
Inside The Toxic Office: I was a bully magnet
My personal Achilles heel was workplace bullies. Wherever I went, one would pop up and the victim / perpetrator dance would begin again.
It was a riddle that was so hard to solve. Why me?
Around 2009, when I set up my healing practice, I was convinced I’d left toxic work environment characteristics behind. I remember saying proudly: “I’ll never work in an office again!”.
However, it was only a few years before I was backed into a corner in my own home while a toxic client wiped the floor with me.
Finally, I realised that enough was enough.
I had to break deep-rooted patterns from childhood by looking deep within.
I discovered certain beliefs below conscious awareness that made it impossible for me to stand up for myself, or value myself and what I was doing.
After previous years of psychotherapy, I began searching for answers using intuitive energy healing. In particular, I worked with and ultimately trained in the Theta Healing Technique TM.
Yet, my change in mindset and attitude was a bumpy ride.
Not least because I experienced resistance from people who had benefited from my low self-esteem and lack of boundaries in the past.
Regardless, I’m pleased to tell you it’s now been 5 years since I encountered my last bully.
I still encounter difficult people.
However, I’m no longer trapped and powerless. My approach to handling would-be bullies has become more effective, and they no longer cripple me.
Toxic Office Characteristics
If you are wondering if you are in a toxic workplace, some toxic workplace characteristics can be:
- Intense or unsustainable amounts of pressure for little reward
- Poor communication or disregard for workers’ needs
- Dysfunctional relationships, such as co-worker competition
- Gossip, back-stabbing, inter-office politics, negativity, rumours
- Management talk about values, but lack of consistent action
- Lack of clarity around a vision, or job roles + responsibilities
- Favouritism, cliques or nepotism
- Disrespect, rudeness + hurtfulness ignored or encouraged
- Inequity, absence of meritocracy and injustice, including
- Lack of appreciation or acknowledgement for hard work
- Exclusion, sabotage, gas lighting or other forms of overt / covert bullying
This toxic office checklist is not definitive, but you can use it as a rough guide to see whether or not your workplace is healthy.
How long to stay in a toxic work environment?
If you are experiencing toxic work environment anxiety or you’ve scored high on the above toxic workplace checklist above, then you need to think about escaping your toxic work environment.
From my personal experience, staying and fighting for justice is a waste of your time + energy.
Even if you win your personal battle, it will be a hollow victory.
As Oprah said in 2018:
“You can’t meet negative energy where it is, you have to rise above it, you have to transcend it. You have to be the light… I would never stoop to try to meet somebody where they are negatively. Don’t care who they are.”
Article copyright Amy Garner 2021. See my Copyright Notice and Disclaimer.
Escape The Toxic Office: The Golden Rule for HSPs
Life too short to waste it in a toxic, stress or unsupportive environment.
As a highly sensitive empath or introvert, you need to protect your energy.
You have to become strong so you can make an escape plan.
First, practice extreme self care – see Self-Care for Sensitive People.
Second, learn about the No Bitches or Arsh*les Rule.
6 years ago, I put in place this golden rule, which I now live by.
This rule has helped me:
• reduce stress
• make more money
• improve my relationships +
• have more time.
Learn about the Rule below:
– How to spot a bitch or arseh*le
– Theory for creating distance or detachment
– My story – why I created this rule
– How to set boundaries
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