Marie: What I learned from being in a toxic work environment

  • 3 min read

Dealing with others' questionable work ethics can be a challenge, particularly when it’s your very first job. Here Marie shares her tips for avoiding toxicity in the workplace...

Shadow of work people talking

When I was 21, I graduated from college. I was so excited, as anyone new to the world of career work could identify with and understand. This is before becoming a bit jaded and then working my way out of my own skepticism and resentment. Now, I stand before you, as the sole owner of a public relations and writing consultation business.

This wasn’t without its fair share of hardships. I have an Obsessive Compulsive Personality (OCPD) Disorder, and with it comes obsessing about behaviors and compulsively reacting to them. This has been so confusing as I wade through what is appropriate for a workplace and what is out of place. Thank goodness my profession has its own Code of Ethics.

When I was fresh out of college, I received an opportunity to interview for my dream job. Without going into specifics of that job and those involved, I was hired and then left that dream job after two months. Why, you ask? I became aware of a certain toxicity that comprised my public relations professional’s Code of Ethics and personal moral compass. Let’s just say that these behaviors and actions were less than legal.

So, I left and worked in the nonprofit sector for five years before cultivating my own business. Although my first professional job was brief, I learned so much about my OCPD and anxiety from this situation. If you work in a toxic office setting, here are some things I learned the hard way that you could benefit from:


Don’t talk about the office’s stressors with your coworkers.

While it’s normal to vent about things at the water cooler or wherever you and your coworkers convene, don’t say things that could come back to haunt you. I was 21, so of course I made mistakes. My anxiety over the situation caused me to vent to people I shouldn’t have trusted.


Realize that it’s not your fault.

If your boss is hypercritical or a coworker bashes a project you did, don’t take it personally. Nothing that goes on in their personal lives is your fault. And as long as you are not instigating the toxic work environment, then that’s not your fault, either.


Talk with someone outside the office about your problems.

Chances are, at least one person around you has experienced a bad work environment of some nature. Talk with a person you trust, like a friend, family member, significant other or mentor. If you’re bogged down with stress related to your toxic work environment, consider talking about your problems to a mental health professional near you or on BetterHelp. Also read stress articles on BetterHelp to help you better understand stress and what it does to you and your work life. Read others’ stories. They can help motivate you when you need it most.


Get out of the environment when you can.

Try to find other jobs. Don’t think it will get better, because unless there’s a complete cleanse of leadership or other facets of the workplace, then you will need to find something that better suits you. Try to be positive and realize that you’re not stuck. You could struggle with depression when you have to deal with a toxic work environment every day, but learn to relax on your off time so you can work through the stressors and not take the stress home with you. Trust me, if you obsess over every little thing, you will be miserable. It’s best to just work your way out of the poisonous environment. It could be challenging to try something new and to take that first step, but trust me. Your mental health (and possible anxiety and OCPD) will thank you for it.


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