5 Ways to Survive a Dysfunctional Workplace

As a psychologist, I regularly work with clients who have difficulty coping with a dysfunctional workplace. Maybe they are challenged by an unhealthy team, ineffective management, or feel harassed. Regardless of their circumstances, if they cannot quit their jobs and feel uncomfortable talking with management or HR, they must find ways to survive this experience with minimal damage to themselves and others. Over the years, I have identified 5 simple strategies that help my clients cope more effectively. These 5 strategies have been effective in a broad range of industries with both hourly and salaried workers, and executives to entry level employees.

  1. Smile: When you enter work, say hello and smile at your co-workers and supervisor even if you hate being there. Smile like you mean it and keep smiling throughout the day. Smiling is known to have positive physiological effects on your mind and body, and can really improve the atmosphere at work.
  2. Bring Food: Bringing food and snacks to a psychologically unhealthy workplace can cheer up the atmosphere and cheer you up! If you can bake or cook, make something special for the people you hate, and you will be surprised how much better you will feel.
  3. Give Compliments: Be nice and compliment your hated coworkers or dreaded boss. Tell them what a good job they are doing and most importantly tell them how grateful you are to have a job and how much you appreciate working with them.
  4. Stop Gossiping: Refuse to participate in gossip. Refuse to create any more drama or negativity in your psychologically unhealthy workplace.
  5. Let Drama Bounce Off You: Psychologically unhealthy workplaces are riddled with drama, and underlying this drama is fear. Fear of being fired, fear of being targeted, fear of being disliked, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR. People seem to live in a constant state of fear in psychologically unhealthy workplaces. Worst of all employees rarely recognize that this “fear” is originating from the workplace dysfunction, and instead believe that something is wrong with them! First, I teach my clients to STOP living in fear, and then I teach them how to recognize the dysfunction at work. As a result, my clients feel empowered and can let the drama bounce off of them rather than stick to them like glue.

It is critical that employees stop waiting for the workplace to change and begin taking action themselves. Even small scale action like the strategies that I noted above help my clients feel more empowered and as a result survive and sometimes thrive in a dysfunctional workplace.

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