How to Handle an Unhealthy Work Environment
November 17, 2020
BR Work Amtosphere

Social awareness and mental health have been growing topics of discussion as it pertains to the workforce since many of us have moved to remote work. Unfortunately, we can sometimes find ourselves in these less than favorable situations at our jobs. Sometimes those moments stem from an unhealthy work environment.

Determining how to handle an unhealthy work environment can be difficult, but it’s even more difficult when you aren’t aware that you’re in that environment. We’ve highlighted some of the potential signs of an unhealthy work environment and what you can do about it.

What do we mean by an “unhealthy work environment?”

Many of us have understood that some of our personal situations can cause an unhealthy or toxic environment, but this can also occur at our place of work. However, these types of situations can be rectified. First, let’s start with what we mean by “unhealthy.”

Indeed has defined an unhealthy work environment as follows: “An unhealthy working environment is one that is characterized by ineffective or negative communication, unprofessional or dishonest behavior, punitive practices or policies and/or strained relationships between employees and office leadership.”

If your coworkers are consistently gossiping about others or putting down the work of others, you’re in an unhealthy work environment. Another example would be if coworkers, or even leadership, treats someone differently for speaking up on social issues within the office such as inappropriate comments or jokes being made, etc.

What can I do if this is happening?

First and foremost, it’s important to not let yourself be discouraged by this type of behavior as best as you can. We can’t control the thoughts, actions, or opinions of others, but we can always control how we want to react to those situations. It’s also equally important to not ignore this harmful behavior. If you want to see a change, you’ll have to try and bring that change.

Confront the situation

The problem cannot be solved if no one takes any steps to solve it. Sometimes, we have to be the ones to take those first steps. If you’re seeing traits of an unhealthy work environment in your job, talk to someone. It can be either leadership, human resources, or even the one causing the problem. Whoever you choose to bring the matter to, be sure to do so in a way that is also calm, respectful, and professional.

Document the situation

If the situation escalates, you’re going to need proof of your claims. This can be done by saving or recording emails, phone calls, gathering witnesses, etc. If you don’t document anything, you won’t have much of an argument to present to leadership and human resources to prove that what’s happening is inappropriate and causing problems.

Be proactive

If you’re in a negative work environment, take steps to switch that around. Be a force of good in your workplace. If you’re in a situation where there’s a lot of gossip amongst employees, refuse to be a part of it and hold people accountable for participating. Instead, talk kindly to others about your employees and the work they’re doing. Normalizing that positive behavior and energy will make it easier for others to replicate it.

Have a plan for if the situation doesn’t improve

If the situation is getting increasingly worse, you may have to consider preparing an exit strategy. As unfortunate as that is, being in an unhealthy work environment won’t benefit your personal or professional self. Sometimes the best choice is also the hardest choice. If you or other employees are unable to rectify the situation, consider the next best moves for you and your career. If you don’t know where to begin, our BrandResumes team is here to help.

Nobody wants to hate the job they work every day, and an unhealthy work environment can change that situation extremely fast. For more information and tips on how to navigate the workplace, subscribe to our blog for more tips like this every Tuesday and Thursday.

1 Comment

  1. Applicant_2022

    Even in organizations without unions, joining forces with one or more colleagues may help strengthen your argument and gain the attention of senior leaders. If you are considering this option, think about strategies for approaching this that are collaborative and solutions-oriented. Although there is value in naming issues directly, planning for how that will be received will be key to your success. In situations where there is not an immediate solution for the unhealthy working environment, a helpful strategy can be to focus more on your work and less on engaging with colleagues. Whenever possible, try and limit contact with triggering coworkers, managers or situations. You could do this by eating lunch at your desk instead of in the staff lounge or taking on additional projects to stay busy.


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By Emily Provost

Emily is BrandResumes' Content Specialist and is an Associate Resume Writer. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Publishing Studies with double minors in Marketing and Journalism from Hofstra University. She has had editorial experience working as an editor for various publications from Hofstra and worked as a writing tutor for undergraduate students.

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