Threapy. Done Differently.

Give us a Call
03 9077 8194
Opening Hours
Mon - Sat - 09:00 - 18:00

When the workplace is the source of your pain

When the workplace is the source of your pain

I am a creature of habit and I have this very regular practice where I spend some time on a Sunday writing the upcoming week’s blog for TB Wellbeing.  It’s been something I do every week for about 2 and a half years.  Sundays in my world are associated with research, brunch, writing and food shopping.  I am grateful that they aren’t associated with what my Dad used to call “Sunday-night-itis” – that kind of dread that comes with Monday mornings and the thought of having to go to work tomorrow.

</p> <!– wp:more –><p>  Because workplaces, (and all that comes along for the ride in workplaces – complicated relationships with managers and supervisors, unreasonable workloads, problematic co-workers or a toxic work environment) can all take a significant toll on our mental health, which can lead to high levels of stress and impacting on sleep and mood.

Signs of a toxic work environment:

Fundamentally, it’s a workplace where you feel psychologically unsafe which is frequently accompanied by a general feeling of negativity, perhaps unhealthy competition, cliques that resemble the vibe of a high school playground or even bullying / aggressive behaviours by colleagues.  A 2021 study by Rasool et al. defined a toxic work environment by a mixture of:

  • Narcissistic behaviour
  • Offensive or aggressive leadership
  • Harassment
  • Bullying
  • Ostracism
  • Threatening behaviour from managers / colleagues

They also highlighted some signs that create or contribute to a toxic work environment, including:

  • A sabotaging boss who sets you up for failure
  • Micromanagement
  • Excessive gossip
  • Cliquish behaviour
  • Passive-aggressive manager/supervisor or colleagues
  • Harassment or discrimination
  • Microaggressions (indirect or subtle prejudice)
  • Bullying
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Environment of jealousy for others’ success or colleagues taking credit for your work
  • Unrealistic workloads
  • Low pay / renumeration
  • Unpredictable schedule
  • Colleagues getting away with inappropriate behaviour
  • Nonconstructive criticism
  • Being continually threatened with being fired
  • A general atmosphere of chronic negativity


How a toxic work environment can impact mental health:

Most of us spend at least 8 hours of our day at work – we probably spend time with our work colleagues than we do our family members – if that environment is full of those gross aspects listed above it can seriously impact our mental health.  That study by Rasool et al. showed that a toxic work environment is a significant source of psychological distress for employees and can lead to high levels of stress and burnout.  Recent studies (post-COVID 19) as part of the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ indicated that a poor workplace culture was 10 times more likely to contribute to an employee resigning from their job than low pay.

How to deal with a toxic work environment:

I’d be missing a trick here if I didn’t mention that seeing a therapist is a great place to start!  Because honestly this is a really hard thing to unpack – it’s not as simple for most of us to just quit a job and move somewhere else, particularly when we’re in the midst of a financially really volatile time with inflation pressures and a ‘cost of living crisis’ – but here a few thoughts to start us off:

  • Remember it’s not your fault:The negativity at your job isn’t your fault. Although having a positive attitude and collaborative mindset may help in certain situations, remember that there’s only so much you can do to improve the culture at your work.
  • Take your lunch breakelsewhere: Be sure to take a lunch break where you can get out of the work environment. Sit in nature if possible.
  • Set boundaries:Don’t get bullied into skipping your lunch break or working after hours for no pay. Explain to your boss that you need your breaks and time off to recharge and do your job well.
  • Don’t get involved in the drama:Try to walk away from any drama or gossip. Nothing positive will come from it.
  • Stay focused on your goals:Do your best to stay in a positive state of mind. You won’t be here forever, and you have bigger and better things ahead of you.
  • Have an after-work ritual to raise your vibes:Do something after work to psychologically clear away the negativity. You can take a walk-in nature, take a hot shower, or call a friend.
  • Stick with a few trustworthy colleagues:It’s a good idea to keep a few work allies, so you can support and confide in one another.
  • Don’t compromise your values:If someone at work is being cruel to you, do your best to not respond in kind. It will only make the situation escalate.
  • Engage in regular stress-coping techniques: Take up mindfulness practices like yoga or meditation or engage in daily exercise to help you handle chronic stress.
  • Plan your exit: If the toxic work situation isn’t going to improve anytime soon, start your search for a new position.


If you’ve experienced workplace bullying, harassment or your workplace is causing you pain we have a number of team members at Thea Baker Wellbeing who have a special interest in this space: / / 03 9077 8194.