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Dear Career Coach,

The atmosphere in my office is really starting to get me down. Although I enjoy my job, after only six months I already dread going into work. Should I just quit?

Dear Career Coach

The atmosphere in my office is really starting to get me down. A lot of the staff in my department are long servers and don’t seem to have any enthusiasm for what they do. When I suggest new ideas I get a lot of negative comments from colleagues, even for things that will improve our work. Although I enjoy my job and it is a good opportunity for me to experience a new industry, after only six months in this job I already dread going into work every day. How do I cope with this atmosphere or should I just quit?

We spend so many hours of our lives at work that being surrounded by difficult people and situations for most of the day can become overwhelming and very stressful. Negative people can drain our energy and create a toxic environment that, if not handled properly, can lead to us getting angry, demotivated and depressed.

Your new ideas and apparent desire to change their status quo – no matter how miserable – is leading to resistance from your colleagues who sound like they are well and truly stuck in a career rut and have no intention of jumping out.

Before you give in to the temptation to hand in your resignation letter, take a step back and think strategically about what you want and need from this job. You wanted an opportunity to branch out into a new industry and to learn new skills; with this job you have the chance to do just that. I would imagine that you need to stay in the role for at least one to two years to embed the knowledge that you are gaining and to demonstrate a good level of competence to your next employer or for your job role. If that’s the case, then ask yourself what strategies you can employ to enable you to get through the next 18 months or so to achieve your objectives. Allowing your negative colleagues to derail your ambitions and spoil your enjoyment of your job would be a wasted opportunity.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Focus on the positive aspects of your job and keep these at the forefront of your thinking every day. Take advantage of all the things you enjoy about the role – whether it’s free training or free coffee – and try and keep smiling and being positive regardless of the provocation.
  • Step back for perspective. Every office has its share of negative people, lazy people, and so on. These naysayers are not core to your job, they’re just a necessary evil that comes along with your job and if you can change your mindset about their importance, you will find you are better able to dismiss their behaviour.
  • Check your own reactions. Do you perhaps overreact to things that are said or to negative feedback? Sometimes when we anticipate negativity, we don’t listen properly or give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Ask yourself what you can do to make things better. Are there some people you can get to know better and who might help champion some of your ideas? Since you love your job, are there other parts of your organisation or another department that you could transfer to? Are there things you can do but are not doing because you worry that it will be too difficult?
  • Consider whether your communication style is hindering your positive contributions. People can often feel resentful about newcomers who try and change things without perhaps understanding the context or recognising the limitations or constraints. Maybe some of your ideas have been tried before or are not practicable – it might be worth asking questions about why people are reacting negatively when the situation arises.

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  • You can’t control other people’s behaviour, only your own; so focus on what you can do to stay positive and upbeat. Keep a smile on your face and keep your distance from the people that radiate negativity and complain all the time.

There are ways to improve your own situation even when surrounded by a bad work environment. It’s a great opportunity to learn new ways of managing difficult people, which is a constant in any work place. Once you recognise what you want from your job role and feel more in control of how you are dealing with the situation, your positive mindset will help you feel less engaged with the backbiting and toxicity around you.

That said, while every job comes with down sides, if your mental well-being is really at risk from the stress and anxiety of staying, then you should of course take steps to find a new job. If the company really isn’t the right one for you, then it probably is time to move on before your unhappiness spirals out of control.

But if you can stick it out, your negative colleagues will still be there when you have moved on to bigger and better things. Aim above all to keep your own agenda in mind and do everything you can to rise above the toxicity to breathe in fresh air.

All the best!

Need some help to solve your career dilemma? Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced career coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you get back on track with your career.

From online CV checking to face-to-face coaching and presentation skills training to making the right impact at interview, our careers services will help you reach your goals.

Contact us now to discuss your needs: careers@reconnectafrica.com
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