Rising Above the Officesphere

COMPANIES ARE FINDING creative ways to maximize office space by opting for open floor plans. The strategy is cost effective, but it’s usually at the expense of productivity. Employees that have experienced working in a toxic environment knows it can be soul-crushing, as well as, detrimental to productivity and job performance.

I worked in an open office for five years, and it nearly destroyed me.  Senior management built a culture around unprofessional work ethics and wasn’t vested in protecting, valuing, and respecting its employees. Lack of solidarity in management left staff to govern themselves. Employees engaged in unprofessional behaviors with no fear of consequences.

Coworker’s lack of respect for the work environment and personal space was a huge distraction. Most afternoons, our office sounded like a rave. I had a coworker to actually sit on my lap while trying to type a report.  I won’t say that open offices are the blame for unprofessional behavior. But, sometimes employees have to see boundaries to know they exist.

Sharing an 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. Coworker’s tried to constantly web me into office drama. I allowed the negativity to control me because I feared social alienation.

I spent years being a dumping site for negativity.  Listening to gossip is just as bad as spreading it. Not knowing what do with all the negativity transferred to me, I turned to food to make myself feel better. In 2013, I was diagnosed with obesity, PTSD, anxiety, and depression. It’s always best to remove yourself from any situation that is causing psychological and physical discomfort.  However, with employment it’s not always financially possible.

I was a high-performance employee working in a counter-productive environment. Setting boundaries is vital to surviving a workplace plagued with distractions and void of privacy.  Setting boundaries is not easy because coworkers will test your character. Remember why you are at work. It’s not a social gathering. If you are looking to make friends, find a mate or have fun, you’re headed for trouble.

My advice: stop looking at work as a source to getting any or all of your needs met.  You’re the answer to your company’s unmet need. A job is a means to fulfill a financial need not emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. With your compensation and time-off, it’s your responsibility to get those other needs met elsewhere. I can’t stress the importance of work-life balance enough. Engage in activities that socially enrich your life outside of the office. Employees fall victim to toxic environments when they fail to guard psychological, physical, and environmental space.  Avoid negative social interaction.  Don’t actively participate in unprofessional behaviors like gossiping by choosing to listen. It’s important to consistently nourish yourself with positive influences. Be the change that you want to see.

Live. Bless. Prosper.

Artwork “Intimate Strangers” by Bill Strain available under Creative Commons Public Licenses


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