“Don’t stay up for me, I am going to be working till late” is followed by finding yourself stepping inside your house at 11:30 pm. This has become a way of life. Working frantically is now being associated with “making it big in career”, “taking over roles of great responsibility”, “slogging because I get paid that much” and many more such beliefs that make practicing toxic work culture acceptable. But should it really be?
Motivational speakers, therapists, our own parents too have stressed how important it is to maintain a work-life balance, but we miss the point of it over all the workload that is always piled on us. Many of you, I am sure, must have not even known about the existence of such a concept as toxic work culture, but it does and in every one of our lives.
While we might feel that this is what it takes to survive in a competitive environment and move closer to our career goals, we are also endorsing to be a part of a toxic work culture that we did not ask for in the first place. Research study states that a majority of employees in India feel guilty to take a vacation leave and only end up taking sick leaves that too when needed in extreme cases.
Superiors especially can be very demanding most of the time. They will at many times try to squeeze the work out of you by hiding behind reasons like “the client needs it” or “we cannot upset the client”, however, succumbing to such pressures can be the worst we can do to ourselves. We get so used to enduring this kind of work culture that after a certain period, we even fail to see the toxicity in it. If you have reached this point already, let me remind you what amounts to toxic work culture and how to deal with it.
Working after office hours:
This one is the most common toxic pattern that has risen beyond levels. In most offices, there are no ‘office hours’ left to abide by because the employees never really stop working. Even if they leave the office after the work hours get over, they are yet hooked to work. Conference calls, checking and replying to emails, receiving calls from the boss at the dead of the night, to opening your laptop almost anywhere to send over files for urgent approval, employees are always working round the clock without uttering a single NO. Working after office hours once in a while during the time of urgency can be considered, but every day cannot be an urgency. Its time we put an end to it. Drawing a clear and bold line between your work hours and personal time will keep you from picking up this toxic habit. Plan and organize your work so that you meet your deadlines in time, and once you get done with your work, make it clear to your boss and your colleagues that you won’t work out of time.
Working on holidays and weekends:
All companies have a list of holidays the employees are entitled to and no one can expect nor ask them to work on those days. If you are asked to work during a holiday or during weekends and if you find it happening often, politely decline without feeling guilty. This way you are setting your boundaries and letting your superiors know that though your job is important to you, so is your personal life.
Doing a job that doesn’t fall under your job role:
Most of the time it so happens that your colleagues pawn off their work to you which you gracefully agree to do as a polite gesture. Your superiors can also do the same with you. You do it once and the next thing you know, it is their work that’s keeping you worked up than your own job. Again, you can agree to do it once in times of unforeseen circumstances like taking over a presentation if a colleague gets sick a night before the meeting because you also have to be a team player. However, repetition in this pattern is unacceptable. At such a time, a firm no is what you need to say.
Setting a clear boundary of when and who can contact you outside work hours:
Technology is a boon as well as a bane to the world. Earlier in the pre-phone and pre-internet period, once the office was over, the only way to contact employees was the next day at the office itself. Now however, people can be communicated at any point in time. Therefore it is important to strictly define who all from work can get in touch with you outside work hours and at what time. You cannot be expected to be available and the beck and call of your employer whenever they want. Absolutely nobody can dictate what you must and must not do outside your work hours.
Letting such a toxic work culture pass unacknowledged has damaging impacts on the employees both physically and more mentally.
- Often during work, most of us end up skipping meals or having them at odd hours
- Working till late makes us compromise on the much needed 7-8 hours of sleep and also rest
- Stress further causes indigestion, sleepless nights, acne, etc.
- Working for long hours restricts us from moving our body which can cause back pain, headache, frozen shoulders, and even increase our body weight.
Toxic work culture further deteriorates mental health causing:
- Loss of productivity/creativity
- Loss of enthusiasm to perform duties
- Job Dissatisfaction
Further, with the pandemic hitting the world hard, work cultures across the globe have become toxic with employers expecting more than ever from their employees. It’s up to you how you and your fellow employees keep your work habits in check so that the toxic work culture at your company doesn’t escalate making you want to quit your job.