The workplace can be a great source of inspiration. The best places to work have leadership teams that provide vivid and compelling visions for the future — some so spellbinding, in fact, that we may come to believe that there’s no better place to work on the planet. These same workplaces can also be a source of unparalleled frustration and anxiety. Often, the difference between the two comes down to how colleagues treat one another.
Source: Michael O’Keene / Adobe Stock
Generally, those leaders who consistently behave in ways that bring others down are not on top of their mental health. As a consequence, their people feel disrespected, belittled, and discounted — and those kinds of feelings seldom lead to people performing at their best.
Table of Contents
But You Are Not a Victim!
If you work at one of the organizations that tolerate bad behavior among colleagues, chances are you are not in a position to single-handedly change the workplace culture. However, you can change the ways in which you interact with those who act in ways that bring you down.
Here are some things to keep in mind so as not to become the victim of another’s poor mental health.
You cannot change how others behave: Understand that you cannot control or fix someone else’s mental health issues. More importantly, recognize no one can make someone else change their behavior. To be sure, toxic leaders and co-workers must decide to change how they treat others for themselves. We can’t control someone else’s conduct.
You can change how you react: We do have some control in bad situations. Indeed, we can control what we do and how we respond when we are not being treated in the ways that we deserve. Don’t underestimate the power that comes with this understanding.
You can set boundaries: Establish and maintain clear boundaries to protect your own mental and emotional well-being. It’s essential to take care of yourself by knowing and stating what behavior is acceptable to you and not tolerating being treated in ways that cross the line.
You can choose to exercise empathy and understanding: While setting boundaries, try to maintain empathy and understanding towards the person struggling with poor mental health. This can help you maintain a compassionate approach while still safeguarding your own well-being.
You should practice self-care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote your own mental and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that help you relax, recharge, and manage stress. This could include exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones and friends.
Remember, it’s them, not you. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
It serves as a great reminder for us to resist taking personally a colleague’s disagreeable behavior. Just know that those with toxic personalities are taking their issues out on anyone around them and that’s on them, not you. Modestly stated, it’s unfortunate that you happen to be there when they lose the ability to self-regulate.
Consider the Cultural Connection
Of course, company culture dictates which kinds of behaviors are tolerated within the organization.
Set from the top of the organizational chart, some company cultures stomp out bad behaviors by legislating and enforcing clear and serious consequences for staff who fail to behave as expected.
Other leadership teams have cultivated workplace cultures that accept less-than-stellar behavior among their people. Typically, these are leadership teams that are not paying attention or see the tolerance of bad behavior as a necessary trade-off to be made in the interest of keeping people (even when those people are toxic to the business) they perceive as high-performing individuals.
While I believe that such trade-offs are based on a false assumption, one that suggests high performance can only be delivered by these specific individuals, the situation can only be corrected when the top leaders come to recognize the limiting nature of this trade-off and choose to correct it.
If you are part of an organization that endures bad behavior, you just might have another choice to make about whether this organization is the right place for you to work.
Sometimes the answer is simply: No!
While leaving a job may appear to be a radical reaction to a colleague’s poor behavior, sometimes it may be the absolute best approach to maintaining your well-being. After all, if bad behavior is baked in to a company’s culture, you likely can’t escape becoming a victim of it, otherwise.