Toxic Workplace: How to Professionally Handle One

BY Jessica Helinski
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A toxic workplace can have major impacts on a salesperson’s productivity, state of mind and physical health. The emotional and physical toll, as discussed in Monday’s post, are real. Some reps may choose to leave a company entirely due to the unhealthy environment. But, not all reps are able to do so, or they may choose to stay and work with the issue. How can these salespeople continue their work while maintaining their own health? 

Surviving and addressing toxicity at work is vital for your well-​being and the success of the business,” writes Natasha Serafimovska in an article for CareerAddict. “While switching jobs can help you stay sane by getting out of toxic work environments, there are a few things you can do to address the issue head-on.”

Toxic workplace best practices

Serafimovska shares 15 tactics and actions that reps can make to professionally navigate this issue, a few of which are included below. 

Some of her suggestions involve speaking directly with the person who is causing the disruption. You may feel comfortable directly addressing the individual, especially if they are a colleague rather than a leader. Sometimes, their behavior may be caused by an external issue and they don’t even realize their professional life is impacted. “People nowadays are juggling so many things at work and at home,” she writes. “They might not be coping well with stress, which could lead to them having a negative behavior at work, which they are not even aware of. Having a friendly talk with them can go a long way in stopping such behaviors in the future.” Surprisingly, some toxic workplace issues can be solved simply by striking up a conversation.

Keep yourself in control

If you choose this approach, Serafimovska recommends focusing on the issue rather than the person. Limit accusatory language and, instead, steer the dialogue toward the problems you are facing. “When we say non-​accusatory language, we mean to leave the person out of the equation,” she explains. “When we start calling people out and accusing them of something, that automatically triggers a defensive reaction. It will be very hard to get through to them if you start pointing out their flaws.”

One way to ensure you are not doing this is to use language that reflects you and your own feelings. Dialogue that includes phrases like, “I feel” will be more conducive to a productive outcome because they don’t put the other person directly on the spot. 

When you are agitated, tired, upset, and frustrated, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and out of control. Those feelings can in turn affect your own professionalism. Then you actually contribute to the toxic workplace vibe. “Toxicity can be contagious,” warns Serafimovska. “Instead of exacerbating the situation by adding to the problem, try to defuse the situation by staying calm and addressing the issue directly.” It can be tough to do, but staying in control of your own emotions will help you address, rather than contribute to, the root problem.

Other tactics to try

A toxic workplace is a very sensitive subject. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable approaching the individual. Or, you fear doing so could impact your job (maybe the person is in a leadership role). Whatever the reason may be, Serafimovska shares other ways to try to improve the situation. Check out the rest of her tips, which include coping skills and speaking with HR. However you choose to deal with a toxic workplace, she firmly believes addressing the problem is better than ignoring it. “Being proactive and addressing toxic behaviors head-​on can be a great step forward in building a great career for yourself and helping the company you work for to thrive in the long term,” she adds.