The Chili Factor: Keeping Your Sanity in Toxic Work Environments

It wasn’t the greatest place to work.  The pay was miniscule, my resources were limited, and in recent months the president of the company invaded my personal space, revamped the terms of my contract without notifying me, and micromanaged every decision my coworkers and I performed.  The stress from these situations bled into my personal life on several levels; including my marriage.

I wanted out….badly.

The problem was that searching for a new job is often a slow and cumbersome process; especially during a recession.  There was not much to look forward to and I resented being at work just about every single day that I was there.

Many of us were in similar boats.  We had our moments of sanity but if there was one thing that united us and gave us hope and lifted our spirits it was CHILI MONDAY!

At 11:40 am every Monday those two words would chime throughout the hallway and collectively we would all trek the cafeteria for a bowl of hot, tasty, honest-to-goodness chili.  Ok, in hindsight it was most likely made with leftovers from meatloaf night but at the time it was golden!

I don’t miss much if anything about that employer.  That being said, occasionally I do think about Chili Mondays, the excitement it created, the fun we had huddled around the table eating and sharing a few laughs.  Other lunches were good too but Mondays were special.

Unfortunately we don’t always work in dynamic and friendly environments. Scientifically speaking, sometimes our work situations suck but we have to weather the storm and stick it out until better opportunities arise.  Chili Monday taught me three things that made that work environment a little less toxic.

1) Get excited!  This can seem impossible when you are in a toxic work environment.  Maybe we got excited over chili because on some days, it was the only thing to get excited about.  You may have to dig hard for this one but it exists, trust me.  Sometimes it is a routine such as your morning cup of coffee while at other times it may be a special event.  Having something to look forward to makes the day(s) go bye just a little bit faster and keeps the positive juju flowing on some level.

2) Small victories and moments matter.  When things are terrible it can be difficult to find the good in any situation.  It is also very easy to focus on the negative.  Within every day there is always SOMETHING that is positive.  Focus on that as much as you can and the bad stuff will fade away….for a little while at least.

3) Isolation = Decimation.  The decimation of your sanity and happiness in particular.  I had some great coworkers with great senses of humor that improved the quality of many days.  Congregating in the cafeteria every Monday was an expression of that.  It was more about the comraderie than it was the chili.

Final Thought…

Toxic work environments can bring us down and can threaten to keep us there for a very long time.  Nobody wants to “live” in a place where fear, misery, and anger prevail all the time.  The next time things at work have taken a turn for the worse, take a moment and find your chili factor.  It can make the difference between sanity and insanity.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #burnout #motivation

For more information visit www.paulartale.com