There are many signs and symptoms to a toxic workplace.

It can involve leadership that is too removed from what is going on in their own organization, having a “boss” mindset rather than being a servant leader that creates an environment where it is unsafe to speak up about problems and that is closed to innovative ideas from those they lead.

A lack of communication or poor communication, especially on the “why” behind a key decision for the organization but also regarding the basics your team needs to know to get the job done.

A prevailing attitude of negativity, that nothing will ever change or get better and employees must simply suffer through or go someplace else for relief.

An organization that is rife with burnout, fatigue and physical illness, where selfcare and time off is discouraged, either directly or indirectly.

Where negative and destructive behavior such as gossip, backstabbing and excessive competition is tolerated for the sake of profit, despite the impact on morale.

Where there is no opportunity for upward mobility, learning opportunities or mentorship, or any sign that the organization invests in the growth of their employees.

Finally, where significant turnover becomes difficult to overlook.   

You may well have established that you work in a toxic environment, now where do you go from here?

One key point to remember is that you cannot change others, each of us only truly have the power to change our own behavior and mindset.  Once you come to grips with that reality, you can let go of fantasies about your boss, workplace or team members changing and instead focus on the areas where you do have control and you can make a difference.  

One such an area is your own mindset. Have you been grumbling and complaining about everything that is wrong or bad about your job expectations, team, boss, company, industry …? If you have been stuck in this mindset you will continue to only see the negative and quite frankly contribute to the toxic work environment. You are your own worst enemy.

Examine whether you tend to be focused on the negative or allow the negativity of others to impact your psychological well-being and choices. It is absolutely within your control to choose to focus on the positive and how you can be the positive energy you crave around you. What can you do right here, right now to shape the meeting that you are in or the project that you are working on? You may not be able to change others, but you can absolutely be an influencer that sets a positive tone. Others will notice and will likely gravitate to your positive energy and choose to mirror it. This may not be easy at first but once it becomes a way of being rather than just a thing you do, you will shake off that negativity like water rolling off a duck’s back. You will stand out among the crowd as a leader.

Similarly, you can choose to see adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow and be solution focused. Instead of waiting for your boss or your company to implement a fix, find ways to improve the process yourself. People will notice this can-do attitude. If you cannot implement the solution yourself, bring solutions to your leadership, show them how your idea can be beneficial to the company, keep doing this and don’t get discouraged if your idea is not immediately implemented.

Of course, I realize this may be exhausting work and even with the most positive, solution focused attitude you will run into roadblocks and have moments of low energy. Be proactive. Surround yourself with other positive people in your work environment. Seek positive sources of energy outside of your organization. Mentors are always a good idea, peers in similar positions in other organizations and completely different industries for a fresh perspective.

Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity if you want to operate at peak level and survive a toxic work environment.