A year ago, I wrote and published my first ebook Loud: Confronting a Toxic Work Environment. A guidebook to help high-performing employees overcome a toxic work environment. It was my first professional run at self-publishing. The book received a decent amount of downloads when I offered it as a free promotion. I’ve learned so much since then. So, I’ve decided to deconstruct the 33 page guidebook and post it on my blog. Hopefully, it will help someone. Enjoy!
LOUD: Confronting a Toxic Work Environment, By Mari S. © 2016 By Mari S. All rights reserved.
Loud features artwork “Intimate Strangers” by Bill Strain available under Creative Commons Public Licenses © 2009 Bill Strain
No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the author.
Although every precaution has been taken to verify the accuracy of the information contained herein, the author assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for damages that may result from the use of information contained within.
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I closed my eyes and listened to the intense sounds of deteriorating health, abusive managers, and toxic coworkers. I cringed, wishing someone would adjust the volume but the fear of social alienation kept me bound. Refusing to confront my issues didn’t make them disappear but did reveal the fragility of my character and unmet need for acknowledgment. Unfortunately, my growing problems were too loud to ignore.
People and places that once fit into my life were becoming uncomfortable. The joy that I once experienced waking-up turned into drag. People that made me laugh triggered me into unhealthy behaviors. I needed coping skills to get through work. Days begin to run together like I never left the office. It took the entire weekend to realize I was at home. I was too tired to laugh and too numb to cry. I comforted myself with food and sleep. If this sounds like your life, you may need to change your work environment, which can translate into a new job or a new outlook. Either way, I’m going to help you put it into perspective.
I hope you aren’t offended by the term “highly-sensitive.” If so, then you probably don’t want to read this guidebook but need to. I took a personality test a few years ago and it said that I was a highly-sensitive person. Reading the results, I flew into a rage! Being highly-sensitive means that I weigh every possible result. I fear criticism and suffer from anxiety. I have a tiny house within my mind. I’m sensitive to smells. I read into everything and oversimplify. I need approval before and after completing tasks. I think that people are talking about me when they lean towards each other. I’m allergic to EVERYTHING. I monitor the pasta salad, at the potluck, to make sure everyone gets an olive. I look down when I walk to not step over any money. I look up when I walk to avoid falling objects and confused by people’s inability to read facial expressions. If this sounds familiar, you’ve come the right place. I’ve spent years trying to navigate the workplace with these quirks. I finally decided to write a book of my frustrations.
My problems began in 1979 at birth. I was nearly invisible as a middle child. Visibility meant overachieving, pushing boundaries and being everything to everyone—never letting anyone down. I aimed for perfection. The flaws that one develops striving for perfection isn’t worth the pursuit. Overachieving doesn’t guarantee your social existence, but it will make you the most despised person in the room.
Becoming a target isn’t difficult when you’re HSP. We wear our hearts on our sleeve. However, you do want to send a message to management that you are above the rest. I showed up early, stayed late, and was a top performer. Yet, I constantly succumbed to workplace drama. Getting caught up in workplace drama is soul crushing and will silence the voice of your work ethic. My coworkers dumped all of their crap onto me, and I let them because I’m a team player. Highly-sensitive people are great listeners but horrible at not taking on emotional baggage. I took home everything people said to me. Before going to bed, I would replay my entire day in my mind, which is why I developed insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
I thought that I could fix everyone’s problems. My coworkers needed fixing not their problems. My inner voice said to walk away. Twice, I resigned six months in advanced. I Googled like hell trying to find another job. I even applied to work on a farm. As those dates grew closer, I realized that I had no back-up plan. Unfortunately, I had to resend my resignations, but I knew I had to change. Work became strictly business, starting with not sharing personal business. I didn’t announce vacations or share weekend plans. I stopped making and taking personal calls around coworkers. Respecting myself and privacy was my top priority. I took control of the information that I chose to share. Whenever drama came my way, I kindly ran the other direction. Trust me, I stirred up enough trouble on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I still brought treats into the office and performed kind gestures. I was done with the negativity.
My office was an open floor plan, no cubicles just 30 employees in a big room with desks and computers. Management had offices, which I used as a hiding place from the chaos and noise. Sharing office space with 30 coworker’s fueled gossip, bullying, sabotage and commingling. These toxic behaviors can exist in any office set-up but magnify in this type of environment. Employees that have experienced working in a toxic environment knows it can be detrimental to productivity and job performance.
Controlling our environment is important to a HSP. The lack of privacy and productivity was overwhelming. Coworkers tried to hug me every few minutes and whisper in my ear; wanting to drag me off to the bathroom or trying to share my seat while I’m typing a report. To regain control and get ahead in my work, I spent weekends at the office.
I expressed concerns about the negative impact these behaviors, and others, had on our department, which labeled me a troublemaker. Coworkers complained about the same issues but weren’t on board with catalyzing change. I was in a crisis for five years before recognizing it and finally getting the balls to quit.
There are crises we unknowingly walk into, others we engage in and some that just happen but no crisis is without warning. My sensitivity to certain environments, people, sounds, and smells led me to recognize that I was in a crisis at work. The main focus of this guide is to help high-performing employees survive working in a counterproductive environment.