Thriving in a Toxic Work Environment, Part 2
Thriving in a Toxic Work Environment: Where are you? Are you in the right “room”? Last week we discussed “who you are” and how your own identity affects and influences the toxicity of your work environment. We discussed the Minnesota Theory of Work Adjustment and how the compatibility of person and environment makes a big difference in productivity.
Today we are going to discuss the real estate mantra: location, location, location! In other words: Where are you?
I remember being in Germany a few years ago; my vehicle was a very big Chevy Suburban. It was a beautiful ride on the highways, but on the city and mountain roads, that huge vehicle was downright scary at times. Most of the mountain roads were narrow two-lane roads built for small cars, so there were times when an approaching car would have to pull over to the side to make room for me. The natives would always ask that question we are discussing today: “Do you know where you are? Your vehicle is inappropriate for these roads!”
In case you missed Part 1 Check it out
So ― do you know where you are? And how do this simple question and my story relate to career advice?
Many of us change jobs, change careers, change locations, change offices, change, change, change, yet we are still taking our old or stagnated mindset into our opportunity of change. When I was in the military, whenever individuals changed their duty location, there were always statements of lament about how everything was so much better “at my last duty station.” There was no shortage of those stories!
But here’s what I’ve noticed in allegedly “toxic” work environments ― not everyone in the environment is in the same place emotionally. Two people can be sharing a cubicle yet, due to their different life circumstances and different attitudes, be in totally different emotional locations. This difference usually leads to inactivity and a lack of team cohesion because one of the members lacks the focus necessary to complete the given task.
If this scenario goes unchecked, or the individual continues down their individual path with no regard for where they are and whether or not they are meeting the required standards in their workplace, then attitudes sour, team unity is spoiled, and productivity suffers or becomes non-existent. This is also the case when you try to bring in old habits or patterns of behavior that are inconsistent with the vision of your new leadership.
There’s nothing wrong with having a growth mindset and making personal changes in order to function better in your work environment. This is quite necessary for some work environments to get over the proverbial hump.
Change is constant, and change is necessary; this is a given. What is definitely not good is when we intentionally go against the grain of the work environment simply for selfish reasons. Maybe we don’t personally like the structure of something, so we begin to make changes without asking our manager or at least seeking the advice of other team members. I often faced a similar situation with my Suburban on those German mountain roads. Sometimes I would see a sign that specifically said ‘no passing’ or ‘one-way road,’ at those moments, it was up to me to decide how I should handle the situation. This normally meant that I would be forced to go the long way around, into the city or town, and up a larger road.
In my case, the only thing lost was time and fuel. However, if your temperament and attitude are set against the grain of your work environment, then you are placing your need or desire to get to where you want to go over the needs of your co-workers. This is like a driver who recklessly drives on the wrong side of the road, not caring about anyone else’s safety. That would have been me if I had insisted on ignoring those road signs, not caring about anyone else’s safety, needs, or convenience.
Where are you? Where is your mindset taking you as you enter your workplace? Some people come into the workplace with their minds already occupied with external issues: their work focus is already compromised. Maybe they aren’t in the best mindset to be productive with the work at hand, so they add to the toxicity of the work environment.
But enough about the negative aspects of where you are: let’s be positive!
What if where you are is a symbol of how you’ve grown and developed? What if you’ve taken the time to do the work to improve yourself so that “where are you?” is now a question of self-discovery?
For example, REFEED the concept and REFEED the business are very different and more complex than they were when I started. Why? Because I’ve read books, I’ve met people, I’ve asked questions, and I’ve opened my mind to new ideas and trial and error. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve learned that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, I’ve trusted people, and that’s worked out, and at times it didn’t work out. But through all of this, I’ve evolved. Because of that, REFEED has evolved.
When we do the work, when we face our fears, when we answer the challenges that life throws at us, we find that we can evolve, we change, we leave our cocoon stage and morph into something more amazing than we used to be.
But sometimes, that metamorphosis requires us to change rooms.
What do I mean by ‘change rooms’?
I mean that growth and development require movement. The more you grow and develop, the more you will desire to move. Some of us relish the fact that we’re the smartest person in the room. We enjoy the ego-stroking and the superior feeling that it brings us; we don’t want to move. Others of us desire to get better and be better for those around us, for the clients and customers we serve. If you’re in this category, at some point, you will need to find a room that will give you an opportunity for growth.
Others feel that in order to be a great leader, they have to know everything; they have to have all the answers. For this reason, they find themselves seeking to move to a room where they are able to flex their muscles, so to speak, and impose their will on others. It makes them feel empowered.
Driving my Suburban on those windy mountain roads is also a good example of this attitude. The Suburban is an all-terrain vehicle, but it’s actually not appropriate for driving in all places. It’s similar to ours at work: our skillsets and personal demeanors won’t fit every work environment. It’s nice to be able to be multi-dimensional and move unilaterally into different work environments. Still, if we are not utilizing our skills in a meaningful way, the people around us aren’t benefiting from the knowledge and the know-how we possess, then eventually, we stagnate and become bitter with our work environment: thereby contributing to its toxicity. Just like the Suburban taking up two lanes on the mountain road, not only do I make everyone feel uncomfortable, but eventually, we will most likely cause an accident.
This is why self-reflection is so crucial, whether you’re an employee or an employer.
Analyzing yourself through introspection and asking yourself hard questions about your location and destination is crucial for your success. If you can determine where you are, you will better know how to navigate your next destination. If you haven’t yet determined these facts, then you’re restricting the movement of everyone around you, like continuing to sit at a traffic light that’s already turned green. Everyone behind you, even the passengers in the car with you, will become agitated, and in some cases, road rage occurs.
Again, like being on the wrong road with my Suburban: I was in the wrong “room.” Although my car could ― just barely! ― fit on those narrow roads, I made every other driver feel nervous and unsafe.
We are all whole people. Our whole personality and whole being contribute to our ability to work and be productive. This dimension has become even more important because of the new normal presented to us by the pandemic. We have to better understand where we are in our vision for our life and which “room” we are in.
Are we in the place for which we prepared, and are we prepared for the place we are in? Do we meet all the requirements? What are we doing to better prepare ourselves for now and the next? Where are we going, and how will we get there? It’s time to make physical and mental notes and then take steps to make progress. The base camp is not the destination when climbing a mountain: it’s only a stopping point.
So, take a look at where you are. Ensure that you are taking steps in the right direction to get to where you want to be. Then make sound decisions that will benefit you and all those around you.
Where are you? Are you in the right room?
Also Read: Victor D Latson And REFEED Paving Ways Towards Worldwide Transformation