10 Strategies to Survive the Stress of a Toxic Workplace Culture

toxic office culture

Working in a normal office environment comes with a fair amount of stress. And there’s nothing unusual about that. But if your heart sinks on Sunday evening while contemplating the imminent start of the work week and you palpitate once you wake up on a weekday morning, then your workplace is toxic.

An office culture can be considered toxic if it promotes attitudes detrimental to the wellbeing of its employees. Their productivity suffers as a result, and good hands who cannot thrive in such a destructive environment leave the organizations which end up becoming quite inefficient.

Toxic workplace culture is often characterized by bullying and victimization, drama and backbiting all of which contribute to a loss of productivity. Toxic office culture is usually created by employers or employees who employ unethical, mean-spirited and manipulative means to satisfy their quest for power, money, or special status.

While being a bit stressed out in the course of doing your job is normal, working in a place with a toxic culture will destroy your self-esteem, your health and leave you depressed.

While this type of workplace is quite harmful to your psyche and general wellbeing, changing jobs right away might not be a feasible option.

Learning these effective steps to cope in a horrible and toxic workplace culture will go a long way in helping you keep your head up:

Be positive

The first thing you have to recognize is that you have the choice to be positive or negative about your job or your workplace environment.

Tune out all the negativity in your place of work. There are proven techniques you can employ to stay in a positive state of mind while surrounded by corporate darkness. These include meditations, visualizations and practicing mindfulness. You can even play your favorite songs through headphones (that is if your office allows it). Stuff that can help you stay calm no matter what is going on around you.

Remind yourself constantly that the job doesn’t describe who you really are.

Focus your mind on your tasks and let go of all the distractions and try to treat everyone at work professionally and with respect. This one may not be easy but if you have to pretend to be happy at work when dealing with your co-workers, you may do so.

You may not be able to change a lot of things at work, but you can certainly change one thing – your mindset.

Laughter is still the best medicine

Instead of focusing on all the negativity around you all the time. Learn to find something funny in certain situations in and out of the office.

Use your humor to help others see the positive side of life. Narrate and trade funny stories with co-workers and friends, especially shared experiences they can relate with.

There’s a lot of comfort in knowing you’re not alone. While work and business are a serious matter, learn to be silly – within limits of course. Laughter has numerous health benefits backed by hard science. It’s an effective stress buster and can be used as a coping mechanism for pain.

Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.  – Kenneth Branagh

Put that smile on your face as much as you can by looking at things that make you smile. If you make this a habit, it will eventually become more natural.

Leave work issues at work

Avoid talking about negative work situation at home. While it may help to vent now and then, constantly dwelling in and talking about your toxic workplace culture at home might worsen the problem. Because a negative mood can be contagious, your partner might be stressed out over your constant complaining which could in turn strain the relationship.

You do not want to carry your workplace mood at home. Get your mind off your office task, co-workers and other things work related as much as possible.

Focus on your family, focus on your dinner and leave work behind. You will find that by doing this, you will sleep better and be ready and more energize the next working day.

Take frequent breaks

Make sure you take short breaks throughout the workday. You can take a 10-minute walk or go sit in your car and simply relax. Once in a while, you should call or meet a friend if possible. A toxic environment can suck all your energy. Physically removing yourself from such an environment helps you to refresh yourself and resume your tasks with replenished energy.

Breaks are created simply because we all need and deserve it. According to Health.com research, after a morning break, employees had more energy, more motivation to return to work and were better able to concentrate.

They also mentioned that early breaks were associated with fewer health symptoms — such as headaches, eyestrain, and lower back pain — when employees returned to work

Bottom line, people become better employees when they take those short work breaks.


Seek ways to improve yourself daily. Loss of motivation in your terrible workplace might make you lethargic and unwilling to engage in extracurricular activities. Instead of giving in to this downward pull, strive to work on yourself. Register to learn a new skill online or work on improving your career-specific skill set so you can move up the ladder.

Also, I could not say enough about the benefits of regular exercising. Exercising should always be a part of one’s self-improvement program. All studies conducted showed evidence that for most people, exercising has a positive effect on mood and energy. Exercise is a natural way to produce and increase serotonin which stimulates the feelings of happiness in our brains.

You should be hopefully thinking of quitting your horrible job and developing yourself is the best way to attract a new and better job.

toxic workplace culture

Surround your desk with positive messages

Put up inspiring images and quotes around your desk. Include pictures of loved ones too. If you’re into gardening, take a picture of your garden and put it up there or just about anything that can possibly put that smile on your face and remind you of the good things in life.

These visual comforters serve to remind you of the things that matter most; that this situation will always pass. They instantly boost your mood when the toxic energies in your workplace threaten to pull you down into their dark vortex.

Don’t take things personally

If you are constantly at the receiving end of workplace bullying and intimidation, it’s often easy to begin to blame yourself. You’ll tend to lose self-esteem and find it difficult to see any redeeming qualities in yourself.

The truth is that who you really are has nothing to do with the other person’s behavior.

Always remind yourself of your self-worth and constantly strive to improve yourself. Your personal growth comes with increased self-esteem which in turn edges you on to increase your self-development.

Hangout with similarly minded, positive co-workers

Even in a workplace with the most toxic office culture, there will still be colleagues who just like you are trying to maintain their positivity.

Don’t let people disrespect you. My mom says don’t open the door to the devil. Surround yourself with positive people.  – Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Being around such co-workers does wonder for your morale. Spend your free time socializing with them. They can offer a support structure where you encouraged, teach and validate each other.

Count your blessings

Having a grateful attitude is one way to be happy. Look around you, and you will be amazed at the countless things that you ought to be grateful for. This will help you cope in a toxic workplace.

You’ve got great family, supportive friends, a place to lay your head. Even your unpleasant job helps pay your bills and put food on the table.

Never take things for granted. Always remind yourself that there are a lot less fortunate people in this world than you are. Every day is a gift and always looking out for the good in your life will help you attract more of it.

Maintain your sense of self

You can easily lose your sense of self if you have been working under toxic conditions. To recover your identity, it’s very important that you create a whole new life for yourself outside of work.

This is the time to aggressively pursue your side hustle, become part of a local sports club, enroll for training, or revisit your childhood passion.

Making progress in other areas of your life will renew your self-confidence and empower you to cope better in an office environment with a poisonous culture.

It can be a harrowing experience working in a toxic workplace culture, but by implementing these tips, you should be able to survive it long enough to one day get a better job.

BA in Accountancy, he entered the entrepreneurial world by starting his first online marketing business in 2004. Passionate about personal finance, the stock market and a digital marketing addict. I also love to read books on entrepreneurship and technology and always on the lookout for new opportunities. I'm an avid golfer and currently a 15 handicapper.

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