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THE INC. LIFE

Feeling Toxic at Work Lately? Here Are 2 Reasons Why

If you think about it, these two signs are not too obvious to tell

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 02 Jul 2018

Feeling Toxic at Work Lately? Here Are 2 Reasons Why

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Tired of getting up to go to work lately? Maybe there’s something that keeps you from being excited about going to the office. One possible reason is you could be dealing with a toxic work culture.

According to a research by Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer cited in this Inc. article, “The impact of toxic work environments has reached crisis levels. More than a million people a year are dying in China due to overwork. Two-million workplace violence incidents are reported a year.”

Moreover, the research shows that mismanagement of workforces causes 120,000 deaths per year and 5% to 8% of employees’ annual healthcare costs.

Some signs of a toxic work culture can be easily identified, like those mentioned in the study — overwork and verbal abuse, for instance. But some signs are not so obvious, hiding behind the surface of workplace chatter and familiarity. Want to spot them? Here are examples.

 

Mindless rants

Ranting is common and inevitable in the workplace. But too many mindless rants, as in venting out without much thought and intention to find solutions, can be annoying and discouraging for the team.

Katie Douthwaite Wolf writes in her career advice article, “You can vent all you want, but nothing is actually going to get better unless you also come up with solutions… So, whenever you find yourself venting to a colleague, vow to spend the same amount of time (or more) trying to determine how you can make that particular issue less frustrating.”

She advises keeping a stress journal because writing thoughts down make a person reflect on the causes of stress and frustration, hence, a way to spark ideas on how to make things better.

She also cites the importance of balancing the negative with the positive.

“It’s incredibly easy to pinpoint things to complain about. There’s always someone who’s making your life harder… If you simply challenge yourself to be a little more observant, you’ll notice plenty of good things that are happening around you: your co-worker who nailed his presentation at the board meeting, the excellent draft your colleague wrote (which made your editing job a whole lot easier), or the training you attended that was actually really helpful, and not at all a waste of your afternoon,” Wolf writes.

 

Humble brags

Perhaps we are all guilty of “humble bragging” at some point because it’s natural for people to want to feel acknowledged. However, too much bragging in the workplace can elicit annoyance.

A study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that humble bragging or bragging masked by complaint or humility makes braggarts less likeable than if they do a straight-up self-promotion.

“It’s such a common phenomenon. All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing,” says researcher Ovul Sezer, an assistant professor specializing in organizational behavior at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The study posits that there are two distinct types of humble brags: one is in a form of a complaint and one seems to express humility, citing examples like “I hate that I look so young; even a 19-year-old hit on me!” and “Why do I always get asked to work on the most important assignment?”

Another type of braggart that contributes to the toxicity in a workplace culture is the salary braggart. Rappler columnist Shakira Sison describes them as those whose conversations always revolve around money, and does not hesitate to inject their possessions in any equation. Sison says that they often ask questions about valuable things, feigning interest before mentioning their own, and usually with an unnecessary mention of a price tag.

“Recently, my Salary Braggart pointed out to a younger friend of mine that she made over 4 times the national average annual income. To the SB this was a matter-of-fact statement that needed to be advertised without solicitation, dumbfounding my friend in the same way it irked me that someone who claimed to be so rich financially could be so poor in class, and so insecure that she had to announce it,” Sison writes.

Sison has interesting pieces of advice on how to deal with braggarts. One of them was to let them spew their venom and just let them talk. “Pretty soon they will be so caught up in themselves that even the most oblivious audience will soon catch on to the SB's excessive self-promotion. It's not a pretty reputation to have,” she writes.

She also advises that when dealing with salary braggarts, although difficult, people should keep the conversation away from money. “Talk about art and the SB will enumerate what he owns and how much it costs. Talk about sports and they will involve a piece of equipment ("I have a $6,000 road bike!") that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Keep talking,” she says, emphasizing that soon enough the braggart will realize that their bragging has no bearing.

With the right attitude, these subtle signs of a toxic work culture should not keep you from doing your best at work. And it is crucial to practice emotional intelligence when dealing with these kinds of situations. While toxicity spreads like a virus, it is never too late to be the cure that everyone needs to make the workplace bright again.

 

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