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Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment in Recovery

When you’re in recovery and actively working on preserving your sobriety, stress can serve as a significant relapse trigger. And, though all jobs and workplaces come with some level of stress, you’ll specifically want to avoid the anxiety and low quality of life that characterize a toxic work environment. A toxic or openly hostile workplace can have far-reaching effects on your self-esteem and relationships, and can manifest in some physical and psychological symptoms, too.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Is your work environment harming your health? Any job where the atmosphere, your co-workers’ attitudes or the work itself is so distressing that it severely disrupts every other aspect of your life is toxic. Many red flags accompany a toxic workplace, including the following.

  • Your colleagues or supervisor openly belittle your accomplishments and ideas.
  • Performance reviews feel like an ambush of negative feedback.
  • You dread going to work.
  • You have cried or had panic attacks in the workplace.
  • You often have anxiety dreams related to your job.
  • Your co-workers don’t respect your work/life balance.
  • The morale is low, and the turnover is high.
  • You feel burned out or overwhelmed to the point of frequently calling in sick.
  • You receive little to no positive feedback or recognition.
  • There are no genuine friendships among the employees, but there’s a lot of infighting, gossiping and backstabbing.
  • Workplace politics are complicated, with mistrust among the leadership team.

Healthy Ways to Handle a Toxic Work Environment

In recovery, you’ll need an arsenal of beneficial coping strategies to help you overcome the impulse to reach for drugs and alcohol at the first sign of stress. Here are some ideas for handling the dysfunction.

1. De-Stress After Work

Devote some time after work each day to your self-care. Whether you spend that time meditating, exercising, pulling up weeds in your garden or practicing a hobby like painting or journaling is up to you, as long as it gives you a productive outlet for your stress.

2. Talk About Your Problems

If you’re overwhelmed, it can feel good to share your burdens with a trusted friend, close family member or your therapist. Someone who doesn’t work with you can help you put your problems in perspective.

3. Set Boundaries With Co-Workers

Workplace boundaries are essential to help you rise above toxicity because they send a clear message that people can’t take you for granted or walk all over you. When someone oversteps the lines you’ve drawn, let them know immediately. For example, if a colleague wants to gossip or complain to you about another co-worker and you have no desire to get sucked into the drama, politely change the subject or find a way to end the conversation.

4. Plan Your Exit Strategy

If you actively identify and work to address the toxicity at your job, your circumstances could improve, in which case it might make sense for you to stick around. However, meaningful change needs to come from the top. If you can’t foresee the leadership team taking steps to reform the culture anytime soon, it’s time to start looking for a job where people appreciate your contributions and make you feel valued.

You Deserve to Be Happy in Recovery

The recovery journey has many ups and downs, but you can take steps to minimize stress as a relapse trigger and identify the aspects of your life that lie under your control. A toxic workplace could jeopardize the progress you’ve made in recovery, so knowing how to handle it is essential. If you need additional structure as you pursue sober living, contact us at Segue Recovery Support to learn about the culture we’ve created to help provide a healthy transition between addiction treatment and a return to the “real world.”