A Glassie’s Guide to Surviving Toxic Workplaces  

Welcome Glassies, to your guide to life. This series takes a deep dive into all your pressing need-to-knows (how to contact your local MP, how to make the perfect cocktail, and how to get over your ex, goddamnit) and offers comprehensive guides so that you can live your Best Glassie Life™.    

 This edition is A Glassie’s Guide to Surviving Toxic Workplaces.

You told yourself work would get better after the Christmas period, but has it? 

As much as it pains us to admit it: we’ve all been there, Glassies. 

It’s not uncommon to stay too long at a job where you are undervalued and overworked, spend sleepless nights debating in your mind whether it would be financially irresponsible to quit, or feel sick with worry walking into work in the morning.  

In an ideal world, none of us would prioritise a paycheque over our sanity, but sometimes we just need to keep on trudging through the mud so we can stay afloat. It’s a sad reality of the cost of living crisis, and may become even more prevalent as uni graduates around the country face ever growing indexation of their HECS debts. 

Whether you’re in retail, hospitality, corporate, or any other kind of personal hell, we’ve compiled some life advice to help you survive your less-than-ideal employment.  

1. Set Boundaries 

    No matter how you feel, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to cave under the peer pressure of being asked to stay back, doing unpaid extra work, or even just having to join people for drinks after a long shift. You should never feel obligated to do something you don’t want to do. And if anyone tells you differently, they may be guilt-tripping or manipulating you. Remember, ‘no’ is a full sentence.  

    If you’re already exhausted after a big week and need a break, don’t pick up the extra shifts just because someone “called in sick” to go to a festival. If your manager keeps forgetting your availability and rostering you on days you have an Econ lecture that you hate but can’t afford to fall behind on, speak up. 

      Setting and communicating boundaries can be a challenging exercise, but the discomfort you may initially feel will be worth the peace of mind later on. 

      2. Keep Your Coworkers Close, But Your Not-From-Work Friends Closer 

        When you’re going through the motions of a toxic workplace, it’s nice to have a friend that gets it. Someone to share a glance with during a tough meeting, or to have a laugh with while you’re sorting through stock out the back. Through hardship, community is fundamental. But as nice as that partnership is, it’s also good to establish a balance between your job and the rest of your life. As much as we love a good work buddy, when your closest friends are also your co-workers, it can be difficult to ever really disconnect from work drama. Although it can seem difficult to maintain friendships outside of your day-to-day routine, catching up with at least one non-work-related friend every once in a while can do wonders for your inner peace and mental health.  

        3. Make Yourself a Mantra 

          If you’re anything like me, you might have had to coach yourself to get out of bed and into work more than once. Mantras can help. Some of my favourites over the years have been:  

          This job does not define me. I am more than this job. 

          My boss doesn’t hate me, I just have an anxious attachment style. 

          I am great at my job. No customer will yell at me today. The customer is always wrong. 

          I will not be lectured to by someone who lacks the communication skills their role requires 

          Early morning commutes are just so great. I love my life. 

          Alternatively, develop a war cry. This one sounds more efficient, but you’ll need chill neighbours that don’t complain if you wake them up.  

          Manifest that will to work babe, you’ve got this.  

          4. Exercise  

            Try to not take work stress home with you. No matter how bad the day was, don’t let it keep eating away at you if you can help it. And if you can’t leave your worries at your front door, leave them at the gym. Cardio is a great way to burn off the day’s anxieties.  

            Was your manager shitty? Speed walk it off. 

            Did a customer yell at you? Punch-bag the rage away.  

            Did your favourite customer come in with a date today and that was the way you found out they’re not single even though you’ve been flirting with each other for the past two weeks? Choose a press, any press.  

            Of course, you don’t need a gym membership to do cardio. You can always go for a brisk walk, watch a scary movie, or pay the hottie in your DMs a visit.  

            5. Remember Your Worth  

              In toxic workplaces, you can often be made to feel as if you’re replaceable, or indispensable. Either option can have you working overtime to try and prove your worth. But Glassies, you are worth a job that treats you well, with higher-ups that care for your well-being, and coworkers that don’t stir the pot with you in it.  

              When you’re feeling down ask yourself, are you getting more out of this job than what it’s taking from you? If you’re not, reevaluate if it’s the job for you, and look for other jobs on the side. Don’t give too much of yourself to the point of burning out.  

              Taking the decision to leave your job is never easy, and we would not recommend it if you can’t afford it financially or emotionally. There’s never any shame in staying in a shitty job so that you can stay afloat.  

              But we want you to know that you deserve to feel comfortable in your workplace, and to be appreciated and respected. And even if that’s not your current situation, we hope you find it soon.  

              If you are experiencing financial hardship, there are many scholarships for you to consider applying to, including the Equity Scholarship. You can find information about this scholarship here.  

              The Guild also offers welfare assistance, including transport vouchers and food assistance if you require it. You can find information about these services here. 

              Konstanz Muller Hering
              Konstanz Muller Hering

              Konstanz (she/ they) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and QUT Creative Writing graduate. Konstanz was a Glass editor, and now contributes as an alumni.

              Articles: 24

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