Like it or not, being good at executing your job in M&A is about more than just your technical skills and knowledge. One of the keys to surviving (and succeeding) in the industry is knowing how to navigate less-than-perfect or even downright toxic team environments.
Here, we’ll take a look at signs of a toxic work environment and ways to help deal with the situation.
Is Your Work Environment Toxic?
Knowing if you’re in a toxic environment seems like it would be pretty straightforward. But, some people end up dismissing their feelings and convincing themselves it’s not that bad.
Guess what? Sometimes it is that bad, and when you’re dealing with a toxic workplace, completely ignoring it isn’t the solution.
Working in M&A is obviously a super demanding job, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets to act like an [insert your preferred insult here] all the time. So, before gaslighting yourself into thinking your awful boss/coworker/company isn’t so bad, take a look at a few tell-tale signs that you’re in a toxic work environment.
- Everyone is Constantly Sick. Working tough jobs is tough on our minds and bodies. But, if you and others at your company are often running yourselves into the ground to the extent that you’re all constantly sick (and most likely working through it), there’s a chance that your workplace is toxic. And not just because everyone is coughing their gross germs everywhere.
- Poor Communication. Are you repeatedly being left out of important email chains, people are consistently giving you incorrect information, and/or there is tons of finger-pointing happening every time something goes wrong? Fast-paced jobs are going to have a fair share of miscues, but if it gets to the point where it feels malicious, or downright incompetent, take it as a not-so-subtle toxicity sign.
- Narcissistic Leadership. Yes, you work in finance. Yes, everyone can be a bit narcissistic every now and then. No, your boss shouldn’t make you agree with every single thing they say and hold you to a standard far above their own. Rotten workplaces tend to permeate from the top down. If your boss is a Grade-A A-hole every day, good chance your workplace is toxic.
- Gossip and Cliques. This is a big one. While being an analyst lends itself to a competitive environment, poor leadership can let things get out of hand. If everyone is always out for themselves and there are zero signs of camaraderie or teamwork, that’s a bad sign. If there is constant infighting and gossip being spread, your workplace is toxic.
How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment
Alright, so now you know your work environment isn’t great, but what can you really do about it? Outside of finding a better situation (which is probably the best option, but isn’t always realistic), here are a few ways to deal with a toxic work environment.
Find the Right People
Sometimes all we need to get through a rough situation is a little support. Odds are if things are bad for you they’re bad for everyone. While that can bring out the worst in some people, there’s a good chance that one or more of your coworkers are feeling similar to you. Try and find coworkers you can trust, and lean on each other for support and strategies on getting through the days. Be careful though, try not to become the gossipy clique that can drive workplace toxicity!
Be Nice (Really!)
The golden rule (treat others how you want to be treated) can be really tough when everyone around you is acting like a pack of hyenas.
While competitive workplaces tend to pull the worst out of certain people, rise above the lying, backstabbing, and general nastiness, and just be nice. While you don’t want to bend over backward for anyone or let yourself get pushed around, being kind and even aiding your “work enemies” will eventually lead to them valuing you, and that can lead to positive change.
As much as we would love to change a negative workplace, it isn’t always in the cards. If nothing seems to be improving (despite your best efforts), it’s time to look outside of work for relief.
Find things that help you unwind and separate yourself from work. Things like:
- Exercising. Finding time to exercise can be tough. And even when you do find the time, actually doing it is a whole other battle. Exercise has been proven to help with mental health, and the more you can build a routine outside of work, the less your life will revolve around the negativity you deal with in your workplace. (And hey, taking out your frustration in a boxing class is a good two-for-one activity.)
- Reading. Much like exercising, reading has been proven to reduce stress and benefit your mind in a number of ways. Find 30 minutes each day to read and science says there’s a good chance the stresses of life won’t weigh so heavily on your mind.
- Journaling. Is journaling associated with teenage angst? Maybe. But don’t let that stop you. Researchers have found that journaling is a helpful tool for regulating your mental health, and can help with stress, anxiety, and even depression.
- Listening to Music. Sometimes there’s nothing like turning up your favorite tunes and just getting lost in the sound. Studies have found that listening to music is a good way to deal with stress, plus it gives you an excuse to drown out any annoyances near your desk.
- Spending Time With Friends. As we get older it gets tougher and tougher to get together and spend time with friends. Don’t give up — research shows that getting together with friends has an endless number of benefits, including the type of stress-reducing and happiness boosting you need to combat all the toxicity you deal with at work. And just because it needs to be said, no, going out to drinks with that VDR salesman who’s been pestering you definitely doesn’t count as spending time with friends. (Which is why we at CapLinked would never dream of doing that!)
Keep Your Head Up
While a bad work environment isn’t all in your head, some of the solutions might be. Building a strong mindset can help build your resilience, and ease the burdens of the daily negativity you might be facing at work.
Some ways you can reinforce your mentality:
- Meditate. Take a few minutes each day (and whenever you’re feeling yourself reaching your mental limit) and just breathe. Meditation is a great way to reset your mind and get yourself in the right headspace to power out the rest of your day.
- Self-affirmations. It might feel silly, but don’t be afraid to tell yourself that you rock. In fact, make notes that you can glance at and remember you aren’t any of the negative things that a toxic work environment can make you feel. Keep that head high, even if you have to live, laugh, love your way through the day.
- Remember It’s Temporary. If your workplace is toxic beyond repair, remind yourself it’s temporary while you begin planning for something new and better. While you might not have the luxury of up and leaving, start looking for new opportunities that keep the bigger picture in perspective.
While the best solution for a toxic work environment is to quit and find a new place to work, it’s often not a realistic option. If you do find yourself in a toxic situation at work, try and do what you can to promote change. If change feels impossible, implement whatever tips you find helpful with managing the stress, anxiety, and overall negativity that come with a toxic workplace. (And get to searching for a better situation — it’s out there!)
For more work-related tips, check out The Grind by CapLinked.