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It is no secret that “toxic” has been a bit of a buzzword lately. From dating to dealing with in-laws to reading astrological charts, we can’t seem to escape the topic of toxicity.
But one of the most common yet challenging places to encounter toxicity is the workplace, where the behavior may be disguised as “work culture” and your livelihood may depend on tolerating harassment.
So how should you professionally navigate workplace harassment, and how do you know when it’s time to explore other career opportunities?
If you have been Googling “is my job toxic?” and taking BuzzFeed-esque quizzes to try and validate your concerns, this post is for you. We have collected our team’s best practices for identifying when a job is toxic, how to respond in the face of workplace harassment, and how to professionally navigate the next steps so that it does not impact your career.
How to identify if your job is toxic.
From a lack of a work/life balance to a fear-based atmosphere, there are a number of ways that your job may be toxic.
Now more than ever, professional boundaries are becoming muddled as many roles transition to being fully remote and more interactions take place in the digital space where there is limited accountability, making it easier than ever for a job to cross the line between healthy and toxic.
While this may look different in every job, here are a few red flags that may indicate that your job is toxic.
You do not have a healthy work/life balance
Having a healthy work/life balance is imperative not just for your quality of life, but also for your overall work performance. People who report not having a balance between personal life and work often complain of experiencing workplace fatigue, burnout, and a decrease in productivity.
This is becoming especially pervasive in remote roles when it is difficult to truly “log off” and differentiate between home time and work time.
Not sure if you have a healthy work/life balance? A general rule is that if you are able to meet work deadlines while still having time for friends, family, Bumble dates, wine and painting nights, and eating and sleeping well, then you probably have a balance that works for your lifestyle.
However, if the expectation is that you are available around the clock, your coworkers blow up your Slack messages at all hours of the day and night, you find yourself stressing about work even when you’re not working, or the amount that you work is not equal to the amount that you are paid, then you likely do not have a healthy work/life balance.
2. There is a lack of support
Here at Her First $100K, we are all about taking ownership of our own tasks and working independently. But we know the importance of teamwork and accountability firsthand and encourage each other to check in with each other and happily offer additional support when needed.
A common experience in toxic jobs is not receiving the support necessary to complete the required tasks. This can look like not being given adequate resources, information, and time to successfully complete your responsibilities or being punished when you ask for help.
A lack of support in the workplace can quickly take a toll on your mental energy and your ability to succeed in your role, and ultimately spiral into a pattern of toxicity.
3. There is an atmosphere of criticism
We all know what it’s like to feel that you can’t do anything right. Frustrating, draining, and exhausting – feeling like you keep making mistakes is a recipe for anxiety and burnout.
In the workplace, an atmosphere of criticism can take many forms: never offering positive validation of your work, consistently only receiving negative feedback regardless of your effort and results, always being compared to another high-performing employee, or repeatedly having a coworker or supervisor take your ideas as their own.
If you are in this type of work environment, it can be especially difficult to navigate, as you may begin to lose perspective on whether you are actually deserving of this criticism or if it is simply a symptom of your environment. In addition to affecting your productivity, this pattern of criticism can take a negative toll on your self-image and self-worth.
4. Harassment is normalized
In 2022, conversations about workplace harassment are more prevalent than ever with some of the world’s largest companies and household names coming under fire for creating hostile work environments. Unfortunately, these conversations have not slowed the pervasiveness of workplace harassment, and women and people of color, in particular, continue to be its primary recipient.
Workplace harassment can be difficult to distinguish due to it being nuanced, but generally, workplace harassment can be considered any unwelcome behavior that is based on gender, sexual orientation, race, age, economic class, etc. that negatively impacts your work or your work environment.
Harassment can look like inappropriate comments about your appearance, hurtful jokes made at your expense, threatening messages, usage of slurs, offensive pictures or objects, and more, and can come from supervisors, coworkers, or clients.
While harassment can occur in any work environment, a true sign of a toxic workplace is one that disregards or even normalizes harassment when it is brought to their attention. Often disguised as “banter” or “work culture,” enduring harassment can easily become an expectation for your employment.
Are you thinking to yourself, “oh sh*t, my job is totally toxic”?
If so, you aren’t alone, and we are here to help you navigate your toxic job so that you can have a more fulfilling professional and personal life.
How to stay at a toxic job
As easy as it may be to say “if your job is toxic, just get a new one,” we also know that this isn’t always a possibility. From working in an over-saturated industry to not being able to find childcare that works with your work schedule to just not wanting another job, there are countless reasons why changing jobs may be difficult or even impossible.
If you have found yourself in a toxic job situation and you do not want or cannot get a new job, you still have options to try and change the environment for the better.
Keep records of harassment
If you are enduring or witnessing harassment in your workplace, start keeping personal records as early as possible. Screenshot questionable texts, save offensive Slack messages, and write down inappropriate comments with the date and time that they were said. This information will be a valuable resource if you choose to report the harassment and will verify your claims.
2. Report the behavior to a supervisor or HR
Whether you are experiencing a lack of work/life balance, receiving constant criticism of your work, or enduring harassment in the workplace, you should make a formal report with a supervisor or your HR department as quickly as possible. Even if the situation is not resolved immediately, your report will establish a starting point for change within your workplace.
3. Connect with others in your workplace
Are there multiple people in your department that are working around the clock to meet unrealistic deadlines? Has your colleague overheard the inappropriate comments a coworker has said to you? Did your supervisor once warn you about the wandering hands of the company owner?
Not only can it be comforting to have your feelings validated by another person in your workplace who shares a similar experience, but there is also power in numbers. If multiple people within your workplace can attest to a toxic work environment or a pattern of damaging behavior, it can result in quicker action as well as add validity to your claims.
4. Consider legal action if necessary
Toxic workplaces are not only frustrating and draining, but they can even be illegal. especially when involving harassment. If you want to make a report to your supervisor or HR but fear retaliation, it could be time to consider legal action in order to protect yourself and your job.
If taking these steps does not help resolve the toxic issues within your workplace or you decide that you would rather seek a new job opportunity elsewhere, here are the best ways to leave your toxic job for good.
How to Leave a Toxic Job
Proactively apply for new jobs
The best way to prepare yourself to leave any job is to have another job lined up. Not only will this help you feel secure financially and avoid a gap on your resume, but it can also keep you confident in your resolve to leave your toxic job.
Pro tip: make sure to ask LOTS of questions about team culture in your interviews to try and weed out any future toxic job opportunities.
Want our top tips for securing the job of your dreams? Check out our Job Interview Package that gives you all the resources you need to create a resume that stands out from the competition and navigate interviews with confidence!
2. Come prepared with a resignation letter
Petty professionals of the world unite! If you have ever wanted to give a corporate middle finger to your job, this is your chance.
We are kidding, of course…but only kinda.
A resignation letter is not just a professional courtesy – it is also your opportunity to tell your employer exactly why you are choosing to resign.
While your letter may simply end up in a file cabinet, sharing your perspective or concerns about the toxic work environment could very well be the catalyst for systemic change within the company.
3. Roll over your 401(k) ASAP
After you leave a job, it is imperative that you roll over your 401(k)! Rolling over your 401(k) is a way to continue to grow the overall value of your investment so that you can prepare for retirement.
Some people choose to cash out their previous 401(k) when starting a new job, but we don’t recommend this option unless you are in a serious financial situation or an abusive workplace without financial support. Cashing out your 401(k) early does not allow you to earn the maximum amount of interest on your investment and best prepare for your financial future.
Others may choose to leave their 401(k) with their previous employer which may be a good option if they like the fees that they pay or have access to investments through that employer that they can’t get anywhere else.
If you choose to leave your 401(k) with a previous employer, it is important to check on and rebalance it periodically. The average person changes careers 12 times in their lifetime, so it can become progressively more and more difficult to upkeep 401(k)’s with so many different previous employers.
Additionally, leaving your 401(k) with a previous employer is like letting your ex manage your retirement: they get to decide what investment you have access to and what fees you pay. When you consider that your previous workplace may have been toxic, would you really want them to be in charge of your financial future? By rolling over your 401(k) you can cut ties with your previous employer for good.
You should try to initiate your roll over a couple weeks after changing jobs – you will just need to give your previous employer enough time to report to the plan that you are no longer employed with them.
Listen, we know rolling over your 401(k) doesn’t sound that exciting – heck, it may even sound a little complicated. That’s why we recommend using Capitalize to make rolling over your 401(k) a breeze.
Not only will Capitalize help you roll over your 401(k), but it will help you choose an IRA that is best suited for you and your financial goals so that you can grow your wealth with confidence and ease.
While we hope you never have to find yourself in a situation that requires you to use these tips, we also hope that you now feel equipped to navigate a toxic work situation in a way that will best protect you, your wellbeing, and your career.