Dealing with a Toxic Work Environment in Recovery

A toxic work environment causes unnecessary stress on our minds and bodies. It’s depleting to spend eight or more hours a day at a job that causes us to feel miserable.Yet, many of us put up with it. We tell ourselves good jobs are hard to find, we don’t have the credentials for a better one, our skill set is narrow, we’ve aged out, or we live in a rural area where good paying jobs are scarce.

Many examples exist for a toxic work environments. We’ve landed a great job only to discover the workplace environment is toxic. Our boss leaves and we are confronted with a difficult new one. An employee makes inappropriate sexual innuendos. Most everything was good until we clashed with a coworker. Our employer had a deadline and demanded we work over the holidays, weekends and or ten hour days.

We always have options for dealing with a toxic work environment. In the case of sexual harassment, if the company is large enough to have one, we can make a complaint to the human resources department. Depending upon the company’s integrity and observance of the laws, our complaint could result in mitigation. They could brush off the incident—boys will be boys, or worse move us to another department rather than confronting the perpetrator. If our complaint is not taken seriously, we have the option to leave the job and find a good lawyer.

Most everyone, at one time in our work lives, has issues with another employee. In recovery, we learn we can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. We can confront the employee who throws verbal spears in our direction. In a non adversarial tone, we can ask, I’m curious why you speak to me like that. Have I done something to offend you? There’s no telling the nature of their comeback. We may get an apology, or learn something about ourselves, like we are too intense.

If our employer demands overtime, we can say no. In doing so, we may risk getting fired, but in recovery, getting home to our family and off to a meeting has to come first. Taking care of ourselves and leaving work on time may also cause us to feel guilty because our co-workers are working overtime. One employee may secretly admire our ability to say no. Good, we’ve helped someone else by taking care of ourselves. Whatever we do to take care of ourselves in a toxic work environment, it’s a good idea to go over our options and make a plan for the better.

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