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Is your workplace 'high performance' or 'toxic'?

There's a lot of talk of high performance workplaces these days. Long hours, high expectations and sometimes less of the scrupulous management practices are often cited in newspapers and studies. The term 'toxic work environment' has been used by researchers to describe where workplaces have a negative impact on employee well-being.

Everyone handles stress differently, and everyone has different values related to work/life balance. But, there are a number of tell tale signs that signal a workplace might be toxic. Look out for these:

  • Where bullying, scapegoating, micromanagement or undermining behaviour come from colleagues or management.
  • When your responsibilities or organisation structures are changed arbitrarily by management and have a negative impact on your performance.
  • Increased level of staff sickness, turnover or stress-related complaints.
  • If management frequently changes direction, does not listen to staff concerns or is dishonest.

These might lead you to lose sleep, feel anxious or otherwise stressed. You might feel trapped, helpless or begin to suffer from paranoia or a lack of motivation, which might worsen the initial situation.

Help is at hand! Many counsellors and psychotherapists have experience helping individuals to navigate such environments. A safe, confidential space to unpack and manage emotions, and also to help you see the situation objectively can be very beneficial. Techniques such as mindfulness to reduce stress and assertiveness and boundary work to help improve negotiations can also be useful. As self-care is so important during times of high stress, counsellors and therapists often have a large set of self-care practices to draw upon.

While those encountering a toxic workplace may feel helpless or trapped, it is often the case that reflection and considered action in such circumstances can be powerful for the individual. In fact, difficult situations often help us move closer to our true potential. Factors which hold us back, both practical (external) and related to our worldview (internal) can be released, so long as we are prepared to encounter them.

Change, though often times scary, can be incredibly renewing.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Jared Green (MA, UKCP)

Jared Green is an accredited psychotherapist and counsellor working in London Kings Cross and London Paddington. He has masters level training in integrative psychotherapy and specific training on CBT and mindfulness. He has experience working with workplace issues, stress and anxiety and life purpose.… Read more

Written by Jared Green (MA, UKCP)

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