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Published on April 9, 2019

Signs of a Toxic Workplace and How to Deal with It

Signs of a Toxic Workplace and How to Deal with It

Nobody should be forced to endure the pain of a toxic workplace, yet millions of Americans labor day in and day out in harsh conditions that suppress their identities and submit them to countless injustices.

Rather than wallowing away in a toxic workplace and allowing your hostile coworkers to eat you and your potential alive, you need to learn to recognize the signs of a toxic workplace, so you can effectively deal with it.

Here are the signs of a toxic workplace, and the steps you’ll need to take in order to ensure a healthier work environment and brighter future for your career.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

1. You’re Cut out of Communication

One of the earliest warning signs that you’re in the midst of a toxic workplace is that you’re finding yourself cut out of communication.

Many women and people of color in particular can attest to the fact that some workers will receive an email where a number of people are CC’d, only to respond to a selective number of the CC’d employees while leaving others in the dark.

Frequently, toxic coworkers will try to silence you or shut you out of the conversation entirely because they don’t want you to contribute ideas that may get you noticed instead of them.

Women at work should be particularly aware of this problem, as countless women in the workplace are familiar with sexist cultures that mitigate their ability to communicate effectively with the rest of the team. According to the Harvard Business Review, women need to take special steps to ensure they’re heard in the workplace rather than allowing toxicity to breed around them.[1]

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If you don’t learn to speak out when you’re getting cut out, you’re going to keep wallowing in isolation forever.

2. Others Take Credit for Your Ideas

Everyone who’s been working for a few years is familiar with the infuriating circumstance where you put forward a new idea, get a lacklustre response, and then witness your coworkers steal your idea and receive credit for themselves.

Colleagues who take credit for your work are more than merely frustrating – it can be downright stressful and even threatening to your career.

Learning how to subvert your colleague’s efforts to make off with your ideas and claim them for your own is an important part of conquering a toxic work environment.

Focus on immediately setting the record straight and learn how to take credit proudly for your own work,[2] and you’ll soon discover that your workplace is noticeably less toxic and insufferable than before.

Besides watching out for greedy coworkers who are eager to steal your ideas, you should also be on the lookout for signs of a toxic workplace like…

3. You’re Not Being Fairly Compensated

One of the biggest warning signs that you’re in a toxic workplace is that you’re not being fairly compensated for the hard work, you’re putting in on behalf of your boss.

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Far too many companies manage to get by with paying their employees criminally low salaries, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit down and quietly endure tiny paychecks that don’t match the effort you put in every day.

Wage gaps can be an incredibly difficult thing to approach, however, with many employees having struggled and failed to attain a raise despite their hard work and pristine records.

It’s imperative to understand that you can’t sit idly by and allow a gender pay gap or any other sort of pay discrepancies exist in your workplace – if your boss can exploit some of his or her employees, there’s little to stop your boss from exploiting all of them.

You need to understand that getting fairly compensated is about more than blaming your coworkers when they receive higher salaries than you. Overcoming the pay gap in the workplace requires the constant vigilance of everyone in the office, as you need to stand together in the fight for a good day’s payment for an honest day’s work.[3]

How to Deal with a Toxic Workplace

Learn How to Negotiate

Now that you’ve come to recognize the gravest warning signs of a toxic workplace, you need to start equipping yourself with the tools and skills needed to reshape your workplace culture.

Learning how to negotiate is a great place to start, as you’ll quickly discover that you need to argue your boss’ ear off if you’re going to get meaningful concessions from them.

Effective communication is the first step in winning any negotiation – you need to clearly establish what you’re seeking from the other party.

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If your boss is harassing you, for instance, or if your coworkers are making you feel uncomfortable and stealing your yogurt, you need to make it quite clear that things need to improve quickly and suddenly; or you’re finding employment elsewhere.

Never forget that you have rights and privileges which can’t be revoked just because your boss wants to earn an extra penny or two.

You’ll want to speak with your coworkers to see if they’re suffering from any issues related to workplace toxicity, too. You can make a much more effective case to your company’s senior officials that change is sorely overdue if you have the backing of most of the workforce.

Oftentimes, your boss may be entirely unaware of the fact that a number of his or her employees are struggling in the first place.

Become an Advocate for Change

You need to become an advocate for change in the workplace by modeling the better way to do business. Rather than shunning your coworkers, for instance, you should be welcoming them with open arms and trying to instill a cheery nature in your office.

Workers who don’t get along with one another are unlikely to overcome workplace toxicity together, after all.

Becoming an advocate for change also necessitates that you keep your ego in check – you may not want to admit it, but your coworkers may be egged on towards toxic behavior as a natural response to unfriendly behavior originating from your cubicle.

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Learn to calm down and take a glass of clean water to help you relax. It can be quite easy to accidentally offend a coworker without ever realizing it, for instance, so constant self-awareness and an ability to detect your own mistakes is an essential part of overcoming workplace toxicity for good.

If you feel that you got off on the wrong foot with a certain coworker and are struggling to deal with their toxicity,[4] you may need to talk to your boss or HR to mediate some conflict resolution between you two.

It’s also important for you to understand that workplace toxicity doesn’t only happen in the workplace – a boss who demands you keep working and check your emails after you’ve clocked out for the day, for instance, is creating a toxic workplace that follows you into your home environment.

Becoming an advocate for positive change means you must recognize the way that our work sometimes chases us out of the office and hounds us even in the midst of our personal lives.

Summing It up

In conclusion, you need to keep an open eye out for harassment in the workplace while also realizing you can contribute to the toxicity of others with unfriendly behavior.

Once you’ve recognized workplace toxicity, talk to our fellow coworkers and establish a game plan for raising the issue with your boss.

Finally, don’t let yourself get burned out in fighting workplace toxicity – after all, treating yourself with respect and giving yourself some occasional time off is the only way to ensure you don’t become toxic yourself.

Featured photo credit: Rashid Sadykov via unsplash.com

Reference

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Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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