Do you regularly struggle to get out of bed in the morning, dreading the work day ahead? Do you have a constant sense of anxiety lurking in the pit of your stomach before every Zoom meeting? Do you feel like your work prevents you from having the life you want and has become a weight around your neck? If you have answered, ‘yes’ to any or all of the above, it could be a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship with your job.
For many of us, the landscape of our working day has changed completely over the last ten months. Where once we would drive into work and spend the day in a busy office, working and chatting with colleagues, we now find ourselves rolling out of bed, opening our laptops and logging on to an endless supply of video meetings and email requests. It’s tough and some people struggle with it, but if you were already struggling before and feeling negative about your job then the chances are that the shift in working practices is not the problem. The problem is your job.
We spend the majority of our adult life working so it’s important that the job we choose and the colleagues we spend so much of our time with leave us feeling happy, secure, respected and valued for our contributions. If in contrast, you spend the majority of your time feeling anxious, drained, worried, self-conscious and miserable then something is definitely out of kilter in your working life and needs to be addressed.
Take a look at the list below for more warning signs that your job has become toxic and some ideas for what to do about it:-
Everything Revolves Around Your Job
Your job and your career are important but your work commitments should not be taking up the time normally reserved for family, friends and the other things that matter to you. If you’re constantly being asked to work late or feel like you have to in order to manage your workload then you definitely need to address this issue with your boss. If you’re regularly getting phone calls or emails that require urgent attention over the weekend, it’s clear that some boundaries need to be set. Not having the ability to switch off from the working week will leave you feeling stressed, anxious and constantly under pressure. Everyone needs a break and that includes you. There is no shame in taking time for yourself.
Stuck in a Cycle
We all go through periods when there is a lot of work to do, projects go awry and deadlines are missed. You make it through the days by convincing yourself that ‘things will get better’ whilst you slog away trying to fix the problems, support your colleagues and manage the expectations of your boss. When the project is finally over the line, you breathe a huge sigh of relief, workloads ease and you start to feel as though everything is better again.
The trouble starts when this cycle begins to repeat itself. The next project kicks off and the same problems occur again and you find yourself again convincing yourself that ‘things will get better’. If you’re permanently stuck in a cycle of ‘things will get better’ there’s a good chance that they probably won’t unless you identify the problem and do something about it. If it’s a chink in the process chain or a colleague who is not pulling their weight then identifying the issue and tackling it head-on could improve things immeasurably for you. If it’s the job or the pattern of work itself, then it could well be that the job just isn’t for you.
Your Job Always Leaves You Drained
If your job and your colleagues are making too many demands of you, this can result in a constant ‘draining’ feeling. You give and you give and you give and if you get nothing back, you’re eventually going to be completely de-energized. Is your job drawing on your energy both mentally and physically without giving anything back? You should be getting some comfort or at least a sense of satisfaction from the work itself. If you’re not, then it sounds as though your work may be actively harming your health and you need to re-evaluate.
Passive Aggression Has Replaced Communication
Passive aggression has no place in a working relationship. In business, it’s important to communicate clearly and factually. You should be confident enough to communicate in a clear and professional manner and you should feel comfortable that your colleagues will too. If your colleagues are not communicating with you professionally and your work life has started to feel hostile as a result then I would recommend trying to be open with them without putting them on the defensive. Try to be unemotive. Instead of saying ‘I feel that that you haven’t given me the feedback I need’, try to reframe it as, ‘Is there something I should be doing differently because I really do want to meet your standards’.
Do you have team members or colleagues who belittle you in front of others? Does your boss shout at you in front of other members of your department? Guess what? You’re definitely in a toxic relationship. Work is not a playground. If everything seems to be constantly blown out of proportion and there is always drama and gossip then that is a major alarm bell. You shouldn’t have to worry about someone’s anger lashing out at any minute and you shouldn’t have to work in such a hostile environment either. We all left school behind many moons ago, so if there is constant drama and upset within your team and you are being bullied or undermined, take it straight to your HR office. There is no excuse for that kind of behaviour in the workplace. We should all be polite and respectful of each other. End of.
Battle For Control
If someone is the head of a team or a department then that person is in control. As an employee of a company, you are hired to fulfil a particular function and skillset. If your boss has an opinion about a project that you are working on then it is important to listen to and acknowledge their ideas. It’s also equally important that they take your opinions into consideration. If you’re stuck in a battle for control with someone when the project falls under you or if you always find yourself being overridden by the opinions of others when you’re supposed to be the one in charge then something has gone very wrong.
People who always need to be in control are also generally uncontrollable. They show up late to work, shirk their work responsibilities in favour of doing things their own way or consistently fail to deliver on their parts of a project. These people are also quite difficult to reason with because they can’t let go of control. If you find yourself in a situation like this, I highly recommend talking to a third party, such as your boss or a member of your HR department about it. Brainstorm ways of dealing with the situation together. Remember, you’re not alone at work and having a problem with a colleague isn’t a sign of weakness.
You need to be able to rely on the people that you work with and to feel as though they have got your back. In situations involving passive aggressive communication, constant drama and battles for control, it is very likely that there will be an erosion of trust as well. If your colleagues are constantly bitching and sniping behind each others backs, then how can you trust that they are not doing the same thing to you?
Paranoia can easily slip in and you could end up feeling like there is no one to trust which will lead you to try and do all the work yourself. To be successful in your job without working yourself to death, you need to be able to trust your colleagues. If this is your situation at the moment then it is really important that you speak to someone and air your problems. Things will not get better until you say something.
If avoiding people and tasks that cause you problems has become commonplace then it’s time to ‘fess up and face the music. Avoiding your problems will not help make matters any better. You are merely delaying the inevitable. If you have a problem with a colleague and are deliberately avoiding them, it’s not just impacting your working day, it’s effecting your company’s goals as well.
Avoidance does not work, it just causes animosity to build up instead, leading to the problem ultimately becoming harder to deal with. You need to have that uncomfortable conversation with your colleague and try to reach an understanding. If you’re calling in sick to avoid dealing with a project or a person then it’s time to talk to your boss and get the help you need.
If you were in a toxic relationship with another person, you would probably, eventually come to the conclusion that you needed to walk away from them. It’s no different in a job situation where you feel constantly unhappy. You have to take the time to review your situation and do what’s right for you. It’s never too late to find a job that makes you happy so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there on the job market. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Life is too short to be miserable.
Sending you a virtual hug and a large gin.