3 Ways to Stop Your Career From Destroying Your Mental Health, While in a Toxic Workplace

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 14, 2024 at 4:58AM UTC

Micromanaging bosses. Constant putdowns from coworkers. Lack of support. Zero work-life balance. Even harassment and discrimination. All these things can make for an extremely toxic workplace.

If you find yourself in this type of environment, what do you do? Many people aren’t able to just up and quit — they need the paycheck and don’t want to burn bridges — but sticking around seems unbearable.

Here are three ideas for how to keep your mental health intact while dealing with an unhealthy work environment.

1. Know your rights.

In a recent post in Fairygodboss’ community feed, one professional reported that her employer was giving her a hard time while she was struggling to care for her daughter. Many community members encouraged them to take FMLA leave, which protects your job and salary for the duration of your time away.

The Family and Medical Leave Act protects certain employees but not all. It’s important for you to understand whether and how this and other employment laws can protect you.

2. Establish clear boundaries.

Say no. This two-letter word will come in handy in a variety of contexts, and you’ll find it quite useful when it comes to establishing boundaries at work. 

Your personal boundaries depend on your individual needs, but they might include being able to take PTO without judgment and staying off email when you’re not on the clock (except in the case of real emergencies).

3. Find outlets to curb your frustration.

When you’re in a toxic work environment, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the frustrations of your day-to-day activities — and the people around you. Instead of daydreaming about up and quitting without notice, channel your feelings into something else, such as activities that will give you something to look forward to and take your mind off of your work situation.

For example, the ticket might be a meditation session or a long chat with a good friend. Perhaps you have a great book going or love to run. Anything that helps you relax, even briefly, will help.

Bonus: Have an exit strategy.

If you’re in a really terrible work environment, one that’s draining you and wreaking havoc on your personal life in addition to your professional one, it’s important to start planning your exit. You should be actively looking for a new job. In extreme cases, you may even consider leaving without giving two weeks’ notice and without a backup job — it’s up to you to determine whether this is appropriate in your case.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is an editor and writer based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab-mix Hercules. She primarily focuses on education, technology and career development. She has worked with Penguin Random House, Fairygodboss, CollegeVine, BairesDev and many other publications and organizations. Her humor writing has appeared in the Belladonna, Weekly Humorist, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, and Points in Case. She also writes fiction and essays, which have appeared in publications including The Memoirist and The Avalon Literary Review. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice on putting your mental health first at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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