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Are you currently working in a bad workplace? Explore this article on 10 tips on how to cope in a bad workplace. It provides 10 practical tips and includes other apt related posts to help you to cope in a bad workplace.

How to Cope in a Bad Workplace

By Catherine Adenle

Knowing how to cope in a bad workplace will help you to deal with any challenges at work especially if you love your job. However, if you can’t find joy in anything at work and you feel physically ill walking into work every morning because your environment just doesn’t have that special positive quality for various reasons, it’s time to know exactly why you feel the way you feel about your workplace.

There are various reasons why you may detest going to work. It could be because of a bad manager, a heavy and an unmanageable workload that makes you feel constantly stretched to a breaking point, serious culture problem, you may be resentful about feeling bullied or it could be that most of your colleagues may be great, but some others may be dragging you down and so the whole environment may just feel toxic because of any or combination of these things. If for any of these reasons, things start to cause havoc in other areas of your life, it’s time to take actions.

Usually, when you feel that you need to know how to cope in a bad workplace, it means you might need to stay put for a while in the job because it currently provides you with financial support and the benefits that you cannot afford to lose if you leave without lining up another job. You may also be staying in a bad workplace while you look for another position in the same company but working for another manager or plot your move to a new team. Whatever your reasons for the need to know how to cope in a bad workplace, you have to maintain professionalism so that a negative attitude does not sabotage your position or career.

Be sure you are not the problem or part of the problem

This is about self-reflection. It is important that you are not making a mountain out of a molehill regarding your need to know how to cope in a bad workplace. If you have worked in a few organization before and encountered none of the problems you face in your current work environment, then the problem may not be you. If someone in your team drives you completely crazy, then it’s vital that you address the situation immediately rather than let it affect other areas of your work life.

See How to Deal with a Bully at Work: 7 Tips

If you find it difficult to cope in a bad workplace because the employees are always complaining about how bad the workplace is, then it is time for you to take actions. Don’t become committed to the same attitude as the company you are spending so much time complaining about. The more you talk about the bad workplace, the more power you are giving away to the bad workplace and in the end, the person the negativity will hurt the most is you.

You are not helpless

Having the feeling that you need to know how to cope in a bad workplace is draining, unsettling and frustrating as you always have to think of finding another job or organization to work for. Be aware that there will always be bad bosses, colleagues, peers and companies everywhere you go. The bottom line is to learn how to deal with challenging people and situations. Part of the frustration you may feel comes from feeling that you cannot do anything about the situation. This article shows that you do have power over what you can control so that you can change your situation or your bad working environment.

Signs to show that you work in a bad workplace

  • You always feel like leaving your employer without having a new job lined up.
  • People call in sick a lot and you always consider calling in sick yourself.
  • There’s little or no interaction in the office.
  • Attrition is high because people detest working in such a toxic environment.
  • You realise that the toll the bad workplace was taking had become far too great that you don’t feel like staying another day.
  • Everyone asks for tips on how to cope in a bad workplace.
  • HR gets tons of complaints from employees but feels helpless to investigate.
  • No one likes to be at work because of the bad atmosphere.
  • No one addresses why the workplace is bad.
  • Fear rules everything as no one can speak up for fear of losing their jobs.
  • Negative cliques thrive in every nook and corner of the workplace.
  • You know you have to cope in a bad workplace when malice trumps kindness.
  • When your manager isn’t bothered about how people feel.
  • You need to know how to cope in a bad workplace when your boss is a recognized bully. When his/her behaviour resembles a list of what not to do at work as a leader.
  • Colleagues in a bad work environment will frequently gang up on each other.
  • When one person harasses another, even when they are equals, there are no consequences and no one else seems to think it is a problem.
  • You’re constantly doing the work of ten people without any recognition.
  • When there are insubordination and no repercussion.
  • False accusations and backbiting are the norms.
  • There is a lack of formal training plans or programs.
  • People are promoted in random, seemingly illogical ways.
  • Supervisors don’t communicate expectations well.
  • Communication skills are not seen as important.

See 10 Signs That a Company Has a Serious Culture Problem

This is how to cope in a bad workplace:

  1. Take Action, but don’t lose control: Once you start to feel unhappy at work, take actions by finding out why. Is it you or others? Do some soul-searching, ask yourself whether you are unhappy because of the attitude of some of your colleagues, the culture of the workplace or because of your own attitude to things. If the former, can you address the situation or not? What can you do straight away to alleviate things for yourself? Don’t quit your job on the spot or blow up at anyone at work. Losing control at work will not help you. It may have repercussions that may affect your career in the future.
  2. You cannot control others: Another important coping step is to realize that you cannot control what other people say or do, you can only control what you do and how you react. Mentally, your well-being is important. The sooner you accept that you cannot control what you can’t control, the better for your own mental well-being.  This will help you to let go of owning other people’s negative behaviour and make you feel empowered to focus on making yourself feel better.  The more you can focus on how to cope in a bad workplace, the better. You will learn to harm yourself with the skills and patience that you need to rise above the challenging situation.
  3. Practice radical acceptance and face the reality head-on: As you can’t make a change straight away, accept that the company is not where you want to be for longer than a particular period of time. To keep you going for a few months if you haven’t found another job, make a list of the good points about your workplace and focus on those. However, decide on the best time for you to leave the company and what you need to do to facilitate your departure. However, begin to take practical steps to change things. You have more control over how you can change the situation of things rather than try to change others or a whole organization. See 5 Critical Steps to Finding a New Job Fast! Search diligently for a better workplace to switch to and let your network of friends know that you are interested in new opportunities for work.
  4. Have a mentor at work: The advantages of having a mentor in the workplace are enormous. Having someone of great influence at work in a supervisory relationship extending support and extending a helping hand is great especially when you are both clued up well to know that you currently work in the bad organization. Such mentoring support can weaken the stress between bad workplace demands and your reactions to them. It is a well-documented fact that employees who are isolated at work and lack support from peers and mentors report less well-being and more exhaustion compared to those with mentors. See Need to Soar? Get a Mentor! If you need to cope in a bad workplace, a mentor can help you to alleviate the stress experienced by you. He can provide you with resources, such as appropriate behaviour models, which are aimed at helping you to navigate the arduous maze of a bad workplace. They will help you to manoeuvre through your day-to-day tasks challenges in a bad organization. A mentor will give you psychosocial versus career-related support that you need to move on. 
  5. Confront bad behaviour: If you need to cope in a bad workplace because of the consistent bad behaviour of some colleagues, then in a calm manner, speak up by pre-planning what you intend to say, know who to say it to and the best time to say it. Focus on your message and their behaviour, not your frustration or anger. You may also look for allies to support you in making a complaint. In most situations, be prepared, be brief, specific and get to the point quickly. Stay on topic and give examples. Explain the impact of behaviours and how other people perceive the behaviour or how it affects team performance and productivity. Go a step further and state the desired alternative. By stating the desired positive behaviours, you can use positive reinforcement to drive good behaviour.  See Overcoming ‘Negative Vibes’ Among your Staff: 10 Tips
  6. Surround yourself with what you love: On your desk or around you, have things that are uplifting. You can place positive quotes on the wall of your cubicle that will help keep your spirit uplifted.
  7. Learn a new skill: You could learn a new skill. At the very least, this will help you prepare for another role in another company. It will also occupy your time and take some time away from focusing on your bad workplace. It will lift your spirits and lead you to think of new possibilities.
  8. Capitalise on your hobby: Consider looking outside your job for greater fulfilment. Having a hobby to distress you are a great escape. Meet up with friends, go out for meals and visit well-loved relatives. An outside interest or two gives you another outlet and an activity to look forward to after work.
  9. Always take a walk to clear your head: During your lunch break at work, try and do what you enjoy. Do a puzzle, listen to calming music or chat to a good friend. This will help you to take a mental break from the environment.
  10. Find a new beginning: Finally, consider looking for another job in a great company. From a dead-end, create a new path for yourself. If you feel you have nowhere to turn. Know what you can control and what you cannot control. If you cannot control why you are unhappy at work, then control how you deal with the situation by finding your happiness somewhere else. Look for another role in another organization as we spend too much of our time at work to be unhappy. Focus on turning your bad situation into a good learning experience. Most often our strongest personal growth comes from living through our most difficult situations.  When you are working in a toxic environment, try to pay close attention to the lessons you can take away from the experience.  Perhaps you can learn the qualities in a leader that you never want to emulate.  Perhaps you can learn the management mistakes that you would not want to repeat if the opportunity for management ever comes your way.   In every bad situation there is something you can learn that will help you become a better person, so focus on each lesson you are learning. Always conduct yourself with integrity and always put in your very best effort toward the job you were hired to do.  It is easy to fall into the trap of giving up on the job, but the bottom line is that as long as you are taking a paycheck you have an obligation to give an honest day’s work.  Don’t allow yourself to justify personal bad behaviour on the failures that exist your company’s leadership.

Things to remember

If you need to cope in a bad workplace, first differentiate between what you can change and what you can’t. Then, take responsibility for making the change that you crave. Focus on making the best of a bad situation and getting to your own new beginning. Remember to continue doing your very best work up to the very last day when you can ecstatically hand in your letter of resignation and move on to bigger, and happier job role in a wonderful environment.

Don’t allow negative thoughts to rule your behaviour. Never assume that nothing will ever change for you or your situation.

Top 20 Ways to be Happy at Work (Infographic)

20 Ways to be happy at work

Now that you have explored how to cope in a bad workplace, what else can you add to help anyone to cope in a bad workplace?



Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle

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