At work. Monday morning. Your boss sends you an inflammatory email essentially accusing you and your department of something another co-worker or division consciously ignored, and you are now in the hot pot for it. So what do you do?
Some take a walk. Others take a deep breath and focus on something else. Others respond with an apology and open desire to improve things next time. Then, there are those who skip all the flower-y talk and diplomacy and head straight for their cannons, firing back with unhinged rage and thirst for justice.
This is where the game begins, and, depending on your reaction, potentially ends.
Navigating the work space in which we spend most of our daily life is a challenge we all know too well. As any environment containing humans, there is emotion. There is jealousy. There is greed and vanity. There’s goodness and evil. How balanced all these things are largely depends on your company’s work culture, which usually starts at the top. In some places, treating your fellow co-worker with dignity and respect is so fanatically enforced, that those unwilling to abide are naturally filtered out or quickly disciplined. I say “fanatically” because it takes a great deal of effort and attention to help people get along. It’s certainly worth it, because what you get is a healthy work environment where people feel safe, appreciated and respected; and that’s the least you can ask for from your work place.
Picking your fights where you earn your bread can be tricky, which is why mind over matter should take precedence.
Now, while this is all possible, such harmony isn’t always guaranteed. It’s an imperfect world out there and no one owes you anything. Without an emphasis on healthy work culture, it all becomes a game of survival. What you do and say changes the outcome, overshadowed by two very difficult questions: “Do I fire back because I’m right and I deserve respect?” or, “Do I go along with the flow and not rock the boat?”
More to the point, can you afford to not work there anymore? This is the final and most crucial question of all. In most cases (at least, in my experience) people choose B, because few of us can walk out the door with a marching band behind us.
Bottom line is, when you work in a toxic work environment that is preceded by a lifetime of bad work culture, your choices aren’t very good to begin with. Simply bowing your head and saying “yes” to everything won’t get you very far (unless your soul is so putrid, you now share your DNA with carpets) because at some point, you will reach your limit in some shape or form. Constant pushback and negative reactions mark you as a rebel, which, consequentially, makes their decision to can you a lot easier.
So don’t give them that satisfaction. When you can’t flee and you can’t fight, you build your own dingy and get yourself out. That is, look for another job. It’s easier said than done, and can even take months before your dingy is ready for your soft departure, but your mental health and well-being makes the pain worthwhile.