Are you trapped in a toxic career environment?

4 April 2014 04:56 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In today’s world, filled with stress, ambition and ruthless pursuit of career goals, environments and people can turn toxic without much notice. The toxicity generated can have a deadly effect on others, especially those caught by surprise. When environments do turn toxic, it is usually due to a few or a group of people who deliberately turn the heat on. Often such pursuits are undertaken by those who want short cuts whether to career opportunities or fame and are not willing to wait it out.


It is no secret that toxic environments can make us physically and emotionally sick, threatening the very core of our being. It is best to walk away from such places even though they might be some of the most attractive career choices around



Creating toxic environment
For most women climbing the career ladder, especially those belonging to the millennial generation, ambition has become their constant companion. Every step is measured against the level of ambition attached to it. Nothing wrong with ambition – on its own, it can be a good thing. Things can turn toxic when in pursuit of that ambition you will do anything, repeat anything to get to where you want to go.

Relationships can turn sour and toxic when ambition is not kept in check. While it is good to be ambitious, it is also good to keep the long range picture in mind. Are my current ambitions equally attractive in the long term? Being a woman, my biological clock does tick and time must, eventually, be found to get married and have kids and raise a family. Is ambition standing in the way – if so, you may be facing a lifetime of toxic build up. It is good to sit down and take stock and evaluate what your priorities are, every now and then.

A toxic environment is created when ambitions clash. In such an environment, what usually gets done is what empowers one to shine. Whatever road is the shortest to the top is the road chosen. Cuts are unkind and woe be unto you if you are the one who fell along the way and had to take a step back. Someone might be just waiting for the opportunity to trip you over or walk over you in her or his pursuit of career advancement. Such environments do exist and what can make a difference is in being able to identify and understand that in such a place, you cannot go far.



Rising above toxic levels
Some live in a toxic environment but are not willing to accept it, nor change the circumstances. They display the effect of the frog boiling in the pot, sometimes knowing that you are getting stewed but not really able to come to terms with it. The dangers of being trapped in a toxic place are that the toxins can make you sick too. It can morph your mind and your way of doing things, making you just one of the zombies who would stop at nothing to discredit someone else and take that place.

The key to getting out of a toxic work environment or for that matter a toxic relationship lies in understanding and acknowledging that you are indeed in this poison-filled trap which will do nothing for you. Some of us like to fool ourselves into thinking that things will change. In such an atmosphere, they usually do not. Change must come from you and that change must be linked to your choice.   

There can be some amount of toxins in most places, given the opportunities everyone is waiting to grab in a hurried pursuit of better and bigger career breaks. But it is within all of us to be able to rise above such toxic levels, before it consumes us and turn us into those very people we do not want to have anything to do with.
There are those who are happy, having left a poison filled work environment behind. Some of them choose to make deliberate career choices, switching careers sometimes or even giving up altogether. That they say is better than becoming physically, emotionally and spiritually sick with hatred, bitterness and envy. It is no secret that toxic environments can make us physically and emotionally sick, threatening the very core of our being. It is best to walk away from such places even though they might be some of the most attractive career choices around.



Navigating around toxic gateways
Being able to navigate around toxic gateways is also a success some people are able to muster, a quality that must be admired. Not everyone can do this but let’s tip our hats to those who can. It takes effort and of course, loads of psychological maturity. They are the ones who have risen above most of the mundane matters and can respond with a smile on the bleakest day.

Sometimes the toxins can spill over from the work environment into other areas. Before you know it, you are displaying the very behaviour that once shocked you. A set of behaviour patterns of others with whom you spend more time in a day than anywhere else, can have an impact on you too. Those are the red flags to watch out for and to come to the conclusion that maybe you need a change in order to keep yourself together.

At the end of the day, what is really important in life are not the trophies we have earned or our bank balance although they do have a key role to play. What matters is what kind of a person you have become, shaped by the experiences, the opportunities, the exposures you have had. Have you become a better person than you were or is that a big question mark – what is important to remember is that our legacy must have at least something to do with what we did for someone else, especially someone else who cannot return the favour or what we went out of our way to do. Life, when all is said and done, is after all a bigger canvas than our careers and our achievements. The sooner we realize that the better we become in what we do.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya @gmail.com)
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