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Hey, Colleague: How do you deal with toxic work environments?

The current iteration of capitalism has given birth to workplaces that don't prioritize health, family, and balance. If we continue on this path, we will only drive ourselves to burnout and unhappiness.
bullying workplace
Companies that practice conscious capitalism perform 10x better in the long run than those that don’t because it facilitates personal growth and is a source of fulfillment.

Send questions about careers, productivity and work-life balance to kpn@glaciermedia.ca. Please include your name and location, or request to remain anonymous.


Hey, Colleague,

I loved my job when I first started. It was everything I’ve ever dreamt about, but now a few months in, I realize how toxic the work environment is. The pay is great, and there are a lot of opportunities for growth, but I’m afraid of what this will do to my mental health.

—Anonymous


I am a huge mental health advocate, and I am extremely familiar with trauma, PTSD, and the long-term effects of chronic inflammation from stress. You know what I’m going to say. The current iteration of capitalism has given birth to soulless workplaces that don't prioritize health, family, and balance. If we continue on this path, we will only drive ourselves to burnout and unhappiness. What kind of example are we setting for our children?

Companies that practice conscious capitalism perform 10x better in the long run than those that don’t because it facilitates personal growth and is a source of fulfillment. Conscious businesses have higher purposes that serve, align and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders. They cultivate authentic, caring cultures that create enduring values because happy workers are productive workers.

Toxic work environments are an existential threat to well-being — they are places where happiness festers and is left to die. Unless leadership is aware and actively trying to make positive changes, they should not be tolerated.

Signs that you are in a toxic work environment:

  • Poor communication
  • Bad leadership
  • High employee turnover
  • No room for growth
  • Gossiping and talking down on others
  • Offers zero work-life balance
  • You get anxiety before you have to go to work
  • You feel drained when you get home
  • Toxic positivity and toxic masculinity

If this sounds like your workplace, here are some options you can consider:

Do not stoop to their level

Firstly, never stoop to the level of your toxic co-workers. I know it’s more complicated than it sounds because energy is contagious, but in doing so, you are only as bad as them. Every time you react, consciously pull yourself back — it will only get easier over time as you rewire your brain to respond to triggers. Try to remain compassionate and put yourself in their shoes. Why are they so angry? Why are they reacting this way? Could they be going through something at home, or did a situation trigger an unresolved trauma?

Spearhead a change

I know it’s more complicated than it seems, and company cultures don’t change overnight. The good news is that individuals are inherently good, but we often become victims of our environment. Spark conversations about your concerns with your boss, colleagues, and HR. Without awareness, you can’t facilitate change. Timing is also on your side. Because of the pandemic, social unrest, and climate change, the urgency has erupted, forcing companies to revisit their values due to fierce competition from newly-formed conscious companies and changes in the mindset of millennials and gen-Z generations.

Explore different opportunities

It may not be realistic for you to leave your current toxic job due to many circumstances, but you should start looking and interviewing. If you work for a CEO with a fixed mindset, it may be better worth your time to find a job that respects its employees.

Think of your family

Whether you like it or not, you will bring the toxic energy from your work to your family. Like tossing a pebble in a pond, when you come home from work every night anxious and overworked, your mood will eventually bring negative ramifications to your family, and behaviours can be passed on to the next generation. Energy is contagious. Consider their well-being when making your next move.

Change your mindset about money 

Our society thrives on instant gratification, pump and dumps, and working long hours, but happiness levels have dropped to all-time lows. When are we going to realize that money doesn’t equate to happiness? I am not against money and living comfortably, but we should all explore our subconscious intent. Are we working towards burnout and tolerating toxic work cultures because we are operating from a scarcity mindset? To switch to an abundance mindset, you have to see money as energy– energy is currency. Money can always be made; you will never get your time back, nor your time with your family watching your kids grow up. Is it worth it? 

Of course, I am completely aware that not all of us have the time and finances to consider other options. If you do, you can perhaps try to invoke change by helping or mentoring stressed and overworked colleagues, whether it is finances, logistics, or mindset. You can help remove workplace toxicity by doing your role as an individual by promoting a supportive environment.

From a consumer perspective:

As a consumer of goods, you can contribute to conscious, non-toxic work environments by only purchasing from brands that are doing good work for the people and the planet because we live in a cyclic economy. 

From a business owner’s perspective:

The trend now is towards conscious and value-based capitalism. Sustainability and societal impact will force corporate responsibility driven by a new generation of buyers and investors undergoing a philosophical revolution.

If you are a business owner reading this, I highly recommend the book ‘Conscious Capitalism’ by John Mackey. Human Beings are driven by the need to give, fulfill and leave a meaningful life. Our souls are starving in this fractured society that’s slowly coming out of a pandemic, and millions recognize their mental health contributes to their entire well-being. When you build a purpose-driven company with solid and ethical core values and care about its employee’s growth, you will be changing your own life and the world.

The butterfly effect

You may think your small actions as an individual are insignificant, but we are a part of a colossal machine where everything you say, think and do will have a ripple effect in the universe. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be a thought leader!


Kate Pn writes about mastering a healthy work-life balance by focusing on productivity hacking. Write to her at kpn@glaciermedia.ca.