Surviving a Toxic Work Environment Should Never Be Your Goal

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Recently, I was invited to a webinar on “Surviving a Toxic Work Environment”. At first glance, I shrugged it off. My mouse hovered above the delete button. I love my job. This event isn’t for me. But then I got to thinking, “Why would anyone need to know how to survive a toxic work environment?”

We’ve all heard that “people leave managers, not jobs” but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. At ADVISA, we believe there are four key forces when it comes to employee disengagement: their job, manager, team, and culture. Whenever one of these forces misaligns with the employee, there could be trouble.

For example, in a previous role I really liked my company, team, and role. I had a lot of independence and was a trusted member of the management team. However, I soon found myself falling out of alignment with the work culture [and my manager] when I determined a hybrid workstyle would be a better fit for me. A feeling of “if I can’t see you, you aren’t working” permeated through the business and was ultimately why I decided to move on to something else. Because, to me, that sort of philosophy really means people aren’t trusted to do the job they’ve been hired to do, regardless of where they are and what time it is.

For me, an untrusting manager can create a toxic work environment for their team. And if presented the opportunity to advise a friend on what to do in a similar situation, I would very likely tell them to do what I did—leave. So, in this case, don’t “survive” the toxicity. Leave so you can thrive elsewhere. But that doesn’t really solve the problem, does it? The culture will remain, long after you leave. And, very likely, the pattern will repeat itself. Consider organizations you’ve left and then heard about the exodus that followed after you.

In my opinion, a better webinar would be on “Fixing Your Toxic Work Environment” and the attendees shouldn’t be disgruntled employees but, rather, leaders who have a disengaged workforce.

Stop losing talent to better managers and better jobs.

Looking back, I wish I had said more in my exit interview. I’ve thought about this quite a bit since seeing this particular webinar invitation. My feedback to the standard, “Is there anything we could have done differently?” question should have been this:

Yes, actually. I’m leaving because I don’t feel trusted. And I likely won’t be the last person to leave unless leadership considers what type of work environment best suits our people, our clients, and our brand. The perks don’t outweigh the general feeling of exhaustion I feel each day when I wake up and mentally prepare to come into work. I hope you take the time to survey the level of engagement and satisfaction throughout the organization. With that data, I firmly believe you can make a plan for change that would benefit everyone, improve retention and even future hiring efforts. Until then, however, I’m afraid you will continue to lose talent and potentially revenue.


I didn’t delete the webinar invitation after all. I printed it as a reminder of what any team member could receive in their inbox at any point in time. And I share it with you in the hopes that you can use this webinar as a launch pad for considering how engaged and happy your people are at work. Together, our goal will be to make sure no one ever registers.


Interested in learning more? Read “Be the Organization People Love not the One People Leave” by ADVISA’s President Heather Haas.

To dig deeper into employee engagement, we also recommend reading “Taking Action on Employee Data”.