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Clues you're in a toxic work environment and what to do about it

It’s Carrie from New to Consulting. I help driven professional women escape their 9-5 and start their own consulting businesses. Most of the women who come to me already have jobs that look great on paper.


When I ask them what’s prompting them to make a change, I almost always hear the same two things: I want the freedom of working for myself And My current work environment is toxic. Ugh! Have you been there? Are you there now? I was definitely in some highly toxic work environments, so I can absolutely relate.


Looking back now, I suppose I can say I’m glad because it taught me what I don’t want in my own business and because it helped push me out of a pretty comfortable comfort zone. For myself, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, but I’ve also been afraid of making that leap. If it weren’t for THAT boss, I might never have done it. Here are some signs your workplace is toxic, and what you can do about it.


You don’t just suspect, you’ve actually had confirmation that your boss is not honest with you. A working relationship is still a relationship, and when honesty isn’t there, it’s hard to keep going, am I right? Whether you’ve caught your boss in an outright lie, or it’s just that your spider sense is tingling, this is a prime indication that your environment is toxic. Your boss or colleagues spend more time putting you or others down than lifting them up. Do you have to check your back for stab marks every time you leave the room?


Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but if the main type of humor at your workplace is that edgy, bitey, one-uppy type of humor, that can start to wear you down after a while. Cynicism is like the flu, something you can easily catch from your co-workers, and something no one should bring to work. If there’s an excess of even ‘joking’ put downs in your company, you’re probably in a toxic environment. You secretly wish something would happen to force you to get another job (or start your own business). This one is more common than you might think, so if this is you you’re definitely not alone.


Sometimes we KNOW in our heart that we need to move on, but our minds need some extra encouragement. That’s where the creative thinking comes in! If you find yourself secretly hoping that your office will relocate to Europe, or go under, or get bought out by your competitor so you can get a nice exit package, you can take this as a big fat clue that you’re not in your dream job. I probably don’t need to tell you that staying in a toxic job is harmful. Of course the constant stress is terrible for your emotional and physical health. But not trusting yourself or giving yourself permission to leave is even more damaging! I’ve been there, I get it, and I know it’s usually not that easy to just leave (although believe it or not, that’s easier than it seems).But here are some things you can do to start to expand your windows of possibility and get out from under the crushing stress and despair of a toxic environment.


1) Update your resume. I know, this seems like weird advice, considering that I’m a diehard advocate for starting your own business, but do you know what resumes are when they’re done right? They are skills inventories! By taking the time to reflect on all the things you’ve accomplished over the last 5 years or so, you will start to realize you DO have more options that you feel like you have.


2) Let yourself dream. WHAT IF you did act on your dream of starting your own business? What would that look like? What kinds of things would you like to do? Just allowing yourself to imagine possibilities will allow you to perceive more of them out there in the world.


3) Practice gratitude. Gratitude has gotten me through some very tough spots in life. Now, I am NOT saying ‘be grateful you even have a job’ because toxic jobs don’t deserve your gratitude. But I bet you’re learning some things, and gaining some stories that will help others, and getting the motivation you need because of that toxic environment. When I was getting my coaching certification, one of my coaches suggested I imagine all the most difficult people in my life sitting in the stands wearing an “I’m on Carrie’s Team” t-shirt.


She said that whether they’re intending to or not, these (some of them truly horrible hahaha) people were teaching me SOMETHING, and I could be grateful for that. These are practices that helped me cope in a toxic environment. If you’re there, I hope they help you too. What else might help, is a breakthrough session!


If you’re ready to seriously consider starting your own consulting business, then I invite you to book some time with me to talk through what this might look like for you. Have a wonderful week!

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