Is Your Workplace Socially Toxic?

I’m an introvert, which means I gain energy from being alone and I exert energy whenever I’m around people, especially large groups.  This doesn’t mean that I hate being around people—in fact, a lot of people who know me will tell you that I’m at my most boisterous when I’m at parties or giving speeches.

This relates to work (specifically Day Job work) in that when I’m at my job, I always feel more tired at the end of the day if I’ve had to deal with a lot of social situations.  In contrast, I feel WAY more able to do my creative work in the evenings if I’ve been working by myself all day.

Even though every job I’ve ever had has involved dealing with people in some form, I’ve found the absolute most draining jobs are the ones where you have to deal with  straight-up dicks.

People who are difficult to work with cause workplace problems—the kind that involve miscommunications, last-minute deadlines, childish bullying, or actual, for-serious arguments.  Workplace problems, in turn, cause stress, and stress makes it more difficult for you to focus—whether it’s on your creative work, your Day Job, or other real-life stuff you need to get done.

For me, the people I work with are the most important factor affecting whether I’ll be happy at a given job, even more than the actual work!  That’s because I’m better at adjusting to different kinds of work than I am at dealing with people who cause workplace problems, so I try to compensate for my weakness by avoiding stressful, socially toxic work environments.

If you’re like me and struggle with coworker-related stress, you should probably remember one thing:

 

ALL WORKPLACES HAVE DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE WORKING IN THEM.

 

Just because one work environment is socially toxic doesn’t mean every work environment in the world functions that way.  I’ve had to deal with cutthroat offices where everyone was stressed and busy and trying to pass work on to everyone else, workplaces where petty squabbles were the norm and the slightest thing could set people off, and self-aggrandizing bosses who thought nothing of giving you more work than you could possibly handle in a 40-hour workweek.

Likewise, though, I’ve also worked in places where people took long lunches and were flexible about leaving early, places where I could openly hold fun conversations about movies and video games with my coworkers, and places where the people I worked with wanted someone cool to talk to just as badly as I did.  This was often because my coworkers were of similar age and shared similar life perspectives as me (especially if they were also just there as a Day Job), but most often it was because they were just good, interesting people.

I decided a while ago that I never want to work in a socially toxic environment again, because the stress was too great and it left me feeling terrible all the time.  We spend huge amounts of our time at work, so doesn’t it make more sense to be around people you actually get along with?

There are plenty of other factors that affect how well your Day Job will suit you, but it’s always worthwhile to think about the quality of your job’s social environment and whether it’s boosting you up or bringing you down.

If a toxic social scene is affecting you in a negative way, you might try talking to your boss, or if your boss is part of the problem, taking other steps to navigate your job’s social scene.  If it’s the kind of problem that can’t be fixed, you might consider switching jobs, which could at least give you a change of pace.  This all depends on how well your Day Job’s working for you and what your needs are—but in any case, know that the option’s always there.

One thing’s for sure, though: at the end of the day, the easier your work life is, the more productively you’ll be able to spend your creative time.

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