What to do when the atmosphere at the office is toxic

What to do when the atmosphere at the office is toxic

01 January


You hear it so often these days: the toxic atmosphere at work. Most common examples of a toxic work atmosphere are gossiping, shutting people out or shouting and bullying

I remember working for a director who could freak out at times. For example, he had told someone in the facilities department that he would rip her head off her torso. Something had gone wrong and my director was furious. When I later explained to him that that comment could come across as quite intimidating in his role, he looked at me not understanding. He said that of course it was physically impossible to rip a head off a torso (this really happened!). What he didn't realise was that everyone was a bit scared of him.

What to do?
Of course, people can expect a few things from someone in your role. But there are limits. And those limits are set by you! It is up to you to teach those around you how they may interact with you.

However, the role of an executive assistant is a supporting one. Setting boundaries is difficult. Most ladies I speak to from the secretarial profession just want a positive and constructive atmosphere where they feel appreciated.
I therefore advise you to define for yourself (and write down) what your boundaries are. In addition, practise for yourself what you will say if someone crosses those boundaries. Keep in mind to go for respect, not for being liked. Do you need help with that? Then you know where to find me.

Your boss
In one of my first jobs, I worked for a manager who was always very derogatory towards me. His standard line was always, "You shouldn't think Heleen, I'll do that for you." At one point, I was just fed up and resigned. That was the moment he came to me and apologised. I was so surprised I almost fell off my chair. He knew quite well that his behaviour was unacceptable, but then it was already a done deal for me.

This is also a great opportunity to start practising setting boundaries. In case you decide for yourself to leave the organisation, start practising with setting boundaries. What could go wrong? You are leaving anyway. Confront people who gossip. If someone is yelling at you, calmly walk away and say, "If you yell, we're done talking". By practicing, you will learn which way of setting boundaries feels most comfortable for you. And that, of course, will also be effective in your next job

Documenting everything
Should it ever come to a dismissal, it is smart to keep a diary. Preferably for a longer period of time. And it will come across even more convincingly in a courtroom if you have recorded bullying or aggressive behaviour with your phone

And finally: create a network
Both privately and at work, make sure you find someone you can vent to for a while. After all, you don't have to bear the burden of a toxic work atmosphere alone.

Deel je ervaringen en lees die van anderen!