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How to Stay Motivated in a Toxic Work Environment

By Edited Oct 10, 2016 1 6

If you've ever worked in a toxic work environment riddled with hostility, poor morale or even corruption, you understand well the challenges that come with working in this kind of atmosphere. A workplace which is perforated by these kinds of attributes is a very difficult one to work in and, as a result, it becomes hard to get motivated. Not to mention it can create serious self-esteem issues.

Toxic
Credit: Geralt via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/skull-and-crossbones-gift-toxic-91460/

A toxic workplace can lead to problems for both employer and employee.

Once a person realizes he or she is working in a toxic workplace, the easiest way to get out of this situation is to consider changing jobs. Unfortunately, that is not always an option, especially in an economy where good jobs are hard to come by and competition for those jobs is high.

More often than not people are ultimately forced to figure out a solution to working in this kind of situation. Fortunately, there are some techniques you can use to try to keep yourself motivated if you find yourself falling into the abyss of being drowned in negativity and/or struggling with poor morale

Leave Work at the Office

When you work in a toxic work environment it is often hard to leave those problems behind when you go home for the day. For many people, the issues happening on the job continue to plague their psyche even after they leave work. One of the most proactive things you can do if you find yourself in a poor work environment is to check your work at the door when you leave. If you bring the issues home - you aren't really clocking out for the day and it is difficult to get motivated when you don't catch a break from it all.

When you bring your work troubles home you theoretically are extending your work day and adding more burden and stress upon yourself. Over time, this can also impact quality of your home life. If anything, focus on the good things in your personal life and let those feelings spill over to your professional life.

This isn't to say you shouldn't talk about your job from time to time, but try to leave the stressors behind because, over the course of time, having ongoing focus on them will be bound to wear on you and make it even more difficult to do your job. When you leave for the day, just close the door until tomorrow. 

Lock the door
Credit: bohed via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/key-lock-door-security-home-565607/

When working in a toxic environment, it's best to lock those stressors at the office, don't bring them home. This way it's less likely to spill into your home life.

Focus on the Positive

Someone once said to me (paraphrased), "You cannot control what happens around you, you can only control the 18 inches that surrounds you, so let that other stuff go". While you might not be able to eliminate the toxicity that is happening at work, what you can do is be control your own reactions to it. 

Negativity breeds more negativity. In a low-motivated environment it is often hard to stay positive, but dwelling on the problems isn't going to resolve them. However, a focus on the positive can be just as contagious as negative feelings. If you can manage to keep up a positive outlook despite the bleakness surrounding you, this will help your inner self which will ultimately impact your work environment in a positive way.

Remember - you can only control your own actions.

Take Lunch and Breaks

If you feel chained to your desk you are going to feel anything but motivated. Many people opt to skip their breaks to keep on top of their work. In reality, this typically has an opposite effect. Those allotted breaks are important so you can recharge your batteries throughout the day.

When you take a break, even a quick one, it improves your frame of mind and it makes it a little easier to get motivated, especially when everyone else surrounding you doesn't feel motivated. Walking away, even if only for brief periods of time, can do wonders.

Work at a Healthy Pace

With so many companies downsizing, laying off employees, slashing budgets and trying to cut back on spending, unfortunately, many employees often feel the brunt of these actions and this is a high contributor to lack of motivation.

You can only do what you are physically able to do, and there is only so far the human capacity will stretch. When you work to your best ability at a healthy pace, you can rest easy knowing you did all humanly possible to get the job done.

It will be easier for you to stay motivated when you are aware of your boundaries of how much you can do, trying to stretch beyond that point will eventually reach a breaking point. If you continuously put more pressure on yourself to do what isn't humanly possible, motivation is not going to come.

Take Your Vacation Time

Everyone needs to rest and get invigorated. Organizational studies have leaned towards the conclusion that employees who take designated time and use it for vacation are happier and more productive employees in the long run.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Logic says the happier you feel, the more motivated you'll be. If you're feeling down in the dumps and riddled down with low morale from spending so much time in the workplace, it will be hard to get motivated.

Even if you can't afford to spend a lot of money to get away, consider using your time to go away for an extended weekend and then use the rest of your days to simply relax and recharge those batteries.

person walking on the beach at sunrise
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Surround Yourself With Things You Love

While you don't want your work life to spill into your personal life, you can try to bring some of your home life into work. Surround yourselves with pictures of loved ones or other attractive prints you like. It doesn't matter what you surround yourself with, the goal is to create a joyous and happy workstation. When you surround yourself with a positive environment, motivation will come easier and it'll also be easier to face the toxicity that is around you.

Getting motivated in an environment overwhelmed with poor morale is difficult to do. Nor is it an easy situation to cope with because you can't control the behavior of others and it becomes a vicious circle.

What you do have control of is yourself and your place in this circle. You can choose to go with the flow of the toxic environment or you can try to break your place in the circle to reflect a more proactive approach to a difficult atmosphere. With any luck, it will be contagious to others and, over the course of time, the environment will improve.

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Comments

Jun 17, 2016 12:29am
HLesley
Great advice, Leigh.
Jun 17, 2016 2:30am
LeighGoessl
Thanks Lesley, appreciate your comment
Jul 5, 2016 12:49pm
aspire3000
Cool advice, thanks
Jul 6, 2016 2:32am
LeighGoessl
Thanks for reading!
Jul 15, 2016 7:34pm
bestcatcher2016
Surviving a “sick office”, made sick by a person in charge who has a personality disorder, can be challenging – but many people I know (including myself) have been through it, and live to tell the tale. You will survive, and you will thrive. It takes a combination of coping in the short term and escaping in the long term.
Jul 21, 2016 12:43pm
LeighGoessl
Thanks for reading and commenting. Appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this topic. I agree what you describe is a challenge, but other times it's a deep-rooted organizational culture thing.
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Bibliography

  1. Paul White "5 Ways to Tell If Your Workplace Is Really Toxic." Entrepreneur. 23/12/2014. 18/05/2016 <Web >

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