Women & Leadership Australia Mini Mag

August 2010


Why Surviving the Toxic Workplace can help you, the economy and the world


Linnda DurreIn this extract from Surviving the Toxic Workplace, author Linnda Durre argues that you can learn to speak up against toxic colleagues, and change your work environment for the better.

Do you dread getting out of bed each day and dealing with bosses and co-workers who drive you crazy? Are you surrounded by people who are incompetent, negative, verbally abusive, and impossible to deal with? Have you asked the human resources department for help, yet nothing changes? These are all signs of Staff Infections – the difficulties you experience in dealing with toxic people and workplace conditions. Welcome to the reality that millions of people face on a daily basis. If it feels as if you are living in a 'Dilbert' cartoon some days, then you need this book! In it you will find important information that will empower you to change your work environment, psychological explanations of the toxic behavior you experience, and, most important, techniques to remedy situations with obnoxious and difficult co-workers and bosses.

After reading Surviving the Toxic Workplace and understanding how to communicate and be assertive, hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy your job, get along with people, and have a productive, rewarding, and satisfying work experience in a safe and protected environment.

This book is important to companies as well as individuals. On a larger scale, it could benefit the world economy. Companies lose billions of dollars each year because of miscommunication, poor time management, alcoholism and drug addiction, high turnover, and lowered productivity. The reverberations from any single incident could be catastrophic, resulting in costly lawsuits and court-imposed fines. This book will show you how to change such situations, stop them, and prevent them from happening again—no matter if you’re an entry-level employee or an executive.

Whether we’re in a flourishing, abundant economy or a recession, good communication skills, assertiveness, and cooperation are essential to running a company. In a recession, these traits become even more crucial because many times there are harsh cutbacks, with employees doing the job of two or even three people, hours and benefits are slashed, and tension, stress, and problems arise.

I will address these issues by first describing effective communication techniques and instructing you how to communicate with coworkers yourself. If my suggestions don’t work, then it may be necessary to report the difficult co-worker to the boss or HR. Granted, there is times when it is mandatory to seek assistance from a supervisor and the head of HR. Try my techniques first before going to a higher level. Nobody benefits from being perceived as a helpless whiner, so it’s up to you to solve these challenges – using my proven techniques.

In some instances it might be necessary to confront your boss about his or her own difficult behavior. Obviously in this depressed economy you don’t want to get fired. However, a confrontation won’t necessarily translate into your losing your job. Find an example in this book that reflects your situation, and use it to your advantage.

Be as tactful and diplomatic as possible while remaining clear, firm, and assertive. Practice the words beforehand – perhaps in front of a mirror – until you feel comfortable. You may even want to tape-record or videotape yourself, then review the tape to find your weak spots. You may also want to ask close friends, your partner, spouse, or a colleague for feedback. Remember, you have a right to a happy, hassle free workplace – one that is free of distraction and discrimination.

Many people feel helpless and hopeless in confronting problems at work. They are thwarted at each turn by a rigid administration that doesn’t want change, stifles open and honest communication, and makes trouble for people who make any attempt to speak up. In some companies, HR may side with the management against the workers, so your complaints could be squelched even further. It’s true that this can be frustrating and painful, and in a bad economy, most people don’t want to rock the boat. So you have a choice – keep quiet and put up with it, or say something to remedy it.

If you keep quiet, you will increase the stress you feel, and you might even begin to hate going to work even more. Such a tense emotional state can bring on physical ailments such as migraine headaches, backaches, ulcers, and high blood pressure. On the other hand, you can learn to speak up, be assertive, and confront the situation directly in a variety of ways. If direct communication fails to effect change, you can also explore other options to solve the situation – reporting it to HR, alerting the union or professional/trade association, publicizing it with the media, seeking legal help, and filing a lawsuit ora class-action suit. Websites and contact information are provided in Chapter 38 and on my website for reporting violations to federal agencies.

I hope all of the information in the following chapters helps you to remedy a negative situation so you can work in a cooperative, productive environment where you enjoy going to work!

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