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Women in Toxic Work Environments

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

I realized recently that I have been acting outside of my integrity. There have been some things I have been avoiding and ignoring as I have launched my coaching business. Lately, I have really been allowing myself to sit with some things that really piss me off.

  • Pay gaps for women and people of color

  • Discrimination and harassment at work (or anywhere)

  • Women competing and suppressing other women in the workplace (or anywhere)

  • The thought that you can’t have an amazing career and raise a family

  • Companies that refuse to address diversity, equity, and inclusion

  • Lack of support for mental illness

I plan to be more vocal about these topics in the future. But the one thing that sets me off and I want to spend some time discussing in coming weeks is Toxic Work Environments.

First of all, let’s call a thing a thing. A toxic work culture is a working environment that breeds unrest, competition, low morale, constant stressors, negativity, sickness, high turnover, harassment, and even bullying.

Here are just a few of the signs that you’re in a toxic work environment:

  • Negligent Communication

  • High Turnover Rate

  • Harassment/Discriminatory Behavior

  • Unreasonable workload

  • Gossip

  • Manipulation and Blame Games

  • Draining workplace energy

  • Unclear vision and guidance

I’ve been speaking to women about their experiences working in varying toxic environments. Some had issues with just one superior, others had issues with an overall abusive work culture. Here are some of their stories:

  • After a gossipy boss was not available for training upon hire or any point thereafter, my performance was criticized repeatedly. My boss spoke openly and poorly to me about her boss. My manager told me during a performance conversation, “You’re probably going to get terminated soon, but I really want to keep up with you after.”

  • There were constant arguments and fights. One toxic employee was the problem, and everyone knew about it. But no one in management did anything about it. We were on constant pins and needles around this one employee and the manager was saying there is nothing that can be done.

  • My boss would regularly aggressively address my performance in front of the entire office.

  • When I bring an idea to my boss, he says it's dumb. My male coworker has the same idea and it's brilliant. Unfortunately, I now just tell my Male counterpart to consider it a gift when I tell them the idea.

  • I lost 14 lbs. due to the stress and had ongoing digestive issues.

  • Because of the depression over my work life, I turned to food as solace.

I asked these women to share with me the feelings they experienced working in toxic environments. The feelings they named were DISGUST, ANGER, HELPLESS, STUCK, ANXIOUS, FRUSTRATED, HOPELESS, THREATENED, BEAT DOWN, VOICELESS, and SELF DOUBT.

During each of these conversations, I realized what I was asking these women to recount was deeply painful.

I began to realize just how prevalent toxic work cultures are and how deeply they can wound us as we plow through and question ourselves over and over thinking we should just be tougher and move on. If you hear nothing else in this post, just know YOU ARE NOT ALONE! A company’s culture is bigger than you. You are not the cause, and more than likely others are feeling the same.

According to SHRM, 58% of people leaving a job are leaving due to culture and their leaders. The Great Resignation is happening now that we are seeing business start to bounce back from pandemic shutdowns. People now have more choices and flexibility for work environments. My hope is that company leaders will now see this as the proverbial “call to the carpet” on a grand scale to examine how they are operating and the best practices to shift the work environment to one that brings out the best in people!

The toll that is paid for staying in a toxic environment come in the form of: Burnout, depression, anxiety, fatigue, illness, damaged personal relationships, PTSD, broken confidence, and challenged integrity. These are all prices that are way too high to pay! Being in a place that is no longer serving you and keeping you small or stagnant, can damage your self-worth and keep you out of alignment with who you were meant to be.

There are companies out there that have clear visions and guidance, regular communication opportunities, low turnover, inclusive and equitable treatment (or at least making efforts to get there), challenging and reasonable workload. No company is perfect, but many leaders out there are seeing the amazing returns by treating employees mindfully and as whole people, not just another cog in the machine.

YOU can overcome this pain. It’s time to look at your options. It’s important to know your rights and that you deserve a hostility-free, harassment-free workspace. It’s your right! Let’s start working on your exit strategy and healing process! The trauma and abuse that comes from poor leaders and negative company culture are very real and very damaging. The future is female, but we need to heal our past wounds in order to move forward.

Take it from me, someone who knows recovering from work trauma, I SEE YOU, I HEAR YOU. When you are ready to do the work, I want to WORK with you! Let’s kick some glass together!

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