Coping With A Toxic Office—What Employees Can Do

While employees can’t make some of the sweeping changes available to leadership, there are definitely measures they can take to improve difficult working conditions.

First and foremost, it’s crucial not to become as negative as the office in which you are working. [5]

If that seems like an impossible goal, don’t worry. Let’s explore the step-by-step process you can take to limit your own negativity so you can survive (and thrive!) in rough working conditions.

1) Acknowledge your options

When your office environment is toxic, you still have choices: you can leave the company and search for a new position. Or, you can take a step back from your emotions and try to figure out exactly what bothers you most. Once you’ve identified your most pressing concerns, you can start to change your reactions in order to mitigate the emotional toll your job is taking on your well-being.

2) Don’t Take Work (or Work Negativity) Home With You

If you’ve already identified your work environment as toxic, why would you welcome that energy into your home? It’s like opening the door and inviting a cloud of darkness into your happy space. Don’t do it! Let that negative energy stay at work, where it belongs. Set a rule for yourself that you don’t talk about work in your home. Refrain from checking your email after you get home for the night (unless absolutely necessary or a requirement of your job). If your mind starts to wander back to work after hours, distract yourself with something else. Protect your happy space!

3) Have Someone You Can Vent To (Outside of Your Office!)

Having a support system is so key, especially if you want to follow the previous tip. This way you can vent and release pent-up frustration without bringing it home. Ask a friend or a wellness buddy who you trust if they would be willing to let you vent to them every so often. You can even let them know you don’t need a response, but just a safe space to release your pent-up frustration.

4) Look For the Positives, ANY Positives

Are you at a point where you have lost all motivation and are basically checked out? Well this is the perfect time to try and figure out any positives to your situation. Focus on those! Perhaps there are professional development or mentorship opportunities you can pursue to help train you for a future position (i.e. become a Wellness Champion or Wellness Leader for your organization). Take advantage of what’s available and think about how this job is just a stepping stone to something better down the road.

5) Create An Exit Strategy

Regardless of whether you plan to stay at your job for two more years or two more months, if your workplace toxicity continues or gets worse, you might want to think about a “self-preserving” exit strategy. (This is important because it will signal your brain that whatever you are experiencing now does not have to be a forever thing.) Remind yourself of what you are working towards (i.e. your career goals) and what you are creating instead of what is happening right now.

Final thoughts! Whether you are management or staff, you don’t have to accept a toxic work environment. As a unified force, you can work together to mitigate workplace toxicity and co-create an organization you can all be proud of. Yes, collectively you have the power to can turn your ship around and chart a new course!

Become a “wellness change agent” and help cultivate a healthy, positive work culture for your organization!

Connect with us to learn how!

About the Author:

Lisa Kelly, President, Workplace Wellness Centre of Excellence (a division of KWC Inc.), has been cultivating healthy changes within workplaces and with personal clients for over 20 years. Through her “Workplace Wellness Leadership Certification Series” and Executive Wellness Leadership Programs, Lisa’s mission is to create an innovative and collaborative landscape for global workplace wellness that fosters employee-driven, results-oriented wellness solutions that benefit employers, employees, and communities at large.


[1] George Dickson: “21 Expert Antidotes for a Toxic Work Environment.”

[2] Liz Ryan, “Ten Signs Your Workplace is Toxic: Whether You Know it or Not.”

[3] Patrick Lencioni: “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.”

[4] Josh Berson, “New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee Recognition.”

[5] Huffington Post: Kassy Scarcia, “11 Tips for Staying Sane in a Toxic Work Environment.”