We’ve all been there – a toxic work environment that we couldn’t just wait to get out of. Maybe your boss was too demeaning, or you couldn’t find a connection with a co-worker, or maybe you just struggled fitting in the office culture at all. It happens, and it sucks. Unfortunately, however, it’s not always our new employers that are to blame. Sometimes, the monster is us.
From understanding why your work environment is hostile (it might be you), your colleagues don’t invite you to lunch (it might be you), or you feel like your manager is aiming to get you to quit (maybe, just maybe, it’s you) here are 10 signs that you’re the monster in the workplace and not the other way around (and what you can do about it!).
You don’t have a friendly relationship with your boss
The best way to curb this is to take ownership of any behaviours or attitudes you may be displaying in the workplace (for better and worse) and have a conversation with your manager on how to align and improve your relationship.
“Nobody wakes up one day and says “wow I’m the jerk,” says Andreanna Tardelli, a Human Resources professional in Toronto. “It’s really a combined effort.”
The key is to assure your boss you want to work on improving and ask for specific and achievable goals.
You’re a micromanager
If you feel like you’re micromanaging, it’s important to take a step back and try and evaluate what’s really going on. Chances are, your micromanaging is the problem, not other people’s work.
“[They’ll] need a high degree of self awareness and be open to feedback from others,” says Tardelli. “It can be difficult if they aren’t open to feedback.”
You love to gossip
If you find yourself constantly prying into other people’s personal lives and trying to find out why Suresh had a meeting with the CEO, now’s the time to stop getting so actively involved in the world around you and give everyone a break. That kind of toxicity makes people wary of you and creates a feeling of untrustworthiness with our colleagues that won’t bode well for our long-term success in the office.
Your coworkers don’t invite you to lunch
If you’re feeling ready to change your interpersonal relationships at work, you can ask a colleague or manager to grab a coffee with you. Bridging the gap (and making connections) can make all the difference.
You feel like everyone’s out to get you
Instead of being defensive, this is the time that you need to be introspective. Spend your time figuring out how to resolve your issues and you’ll find that you feel less like people are coming for you.
You constantly argue at work
Your first step here is to be proactive. “Being proactive demonstrates a willingness to improve and [is] a good characteristic to have,” says Tardelli. And you can start with how you respond. Instead of arguing, take a step back from your “I’m right” attitude and start practising active listening by adding responses such as “let me think about that,” “you might be right,” or “I understand,” into your communication style.
You don’t have any friends or allies
With everything else, it is important for you to consider exactly how your behaviour is affecting others and correct it. Take advantage of social opportunities in the office, ask someone to grab a coffee, and be humble. No one gets anywhere by being a jerk.
You refuse to roll up your sleeves and chip in
And of course, you don’t want to be taken advantage of at work, but you can both set clear boundaries and help everyone around you succeed (including yourself). Like most everything on this list, self awareness is key, so don’t be afraid to dig deep to figure out exactly how you can help without depleting yourself.
You’re passive aggressive
The good news is that you can stop being passive-aggressive but like every other learned behaviour, the change has to start with you. Forgive yourself for behaving negatively and give yourself time to heal. Reminder yourself that emotions (even negative ones) are okay and healthy, but work towards changing how you speak to others and your reactions. If you have access to therapy, talking to someone about your feelings can help you stop being passive aggressive in all situations – because chances are, if you’re being PA at work, you’re being PA everywhere.
You feel like others are to blame for bad situations in the office
“Are you the only one who seems to have issues [at the office]?” Tardelli insists that a gut check is important in any negative work situation. “Being open to communication and feedback are so important.”
And that's what makes the difference in any situation where toxicity lives. If we can't see that we might not be the problem, we'll never be fulfilled at work or in life.