I recently gave a seminar for MBA alumni at Simmons College. When we started the talk, I asked the attendees, How many of you are currently in a job search?. A smattering of them raised their hands. How many of you own your own businesses? Again, a few hands went up.

Then, I asked, How many of you work, or have worked, in what you feel is a toxic environment? Nearly everyone in the room raised their hands.  When I asked, How many of you have been in that situation twice or more? the response was almost the same.

My immediate feeling was one of shock. But then, when I thought about how many of my clients struggle to free themselves from negative professional patterning, it began to make sense. Over and over, people end up in the same situations, with the same issues. It’s like that song by The Who: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….

So, what makes us gravitate toward unhealthy work environments? Do we like being used and abused?

The answer may be yes. Subconsciously, we tend to seek out situations that reinforce our ingrained patterns and insecurities. We do it in marriages, in friendships, and at work. We develop a love-hate relationship with toxicity a co-dependence, if you will.

If you consistently find yourself in the same old boat with the same boss and the same stack of problems, it’s time to look within. The solution to your problems probably doesn’t lie in finding a new job, but in finding a new perspective about how you operate within your job.

Toxic Situation #1: You’re starved for recognition. No matter how hard you work, you can’t seem to get anyone to notice. Your solution is to work harder, faster, better, and longer because someone has to pay attention eventually.  Possible Cause: Fear of Success. Maybe you think you want recognition but are you uncomfortable with complements when they come? Do you deflect praise with modesty? Are you afraid that, if your efforts are recognized, that you’ll have to step up and become what you know you’re capable of being? Is it easier for you to labor in obscurity than to admit that you’re not operating at your full potential?

Toxic Situation #2: You’re being abused. There’s a difference between a boss who fails to recognize your efforts and a boss who is outright cruel. If you’re in a situation where your superiors routinely belittle you, embarrass you, or take advantage of you, it’s time to take a good long look at yourself. While their behavior is probably a result of their own insecurities and issues, you’re the one who is putting up with it and therefore acknowledging that such treatment is acceptable to you. Possible Cause: Familiarity. Ask yourself why you feel it’s acceptable for others to treat you this way. What do you feel you’re proving by trying to please them despite their actions toward you? Be warned: these simple questions can bring up some deep issues. Most of the people I’ve worked with who endure abuse at the hands of their employers have also endured abuse in other areas of their lives whether at the hands of a parent, a sibling, or a spouse.

Toxic Situation #3: You’re always butting heads with your boss. Some arguments can be healthy. But if you’re always at odds with your boss, chances are there’s a power struggle happening there and that you’re contributing to it by engaging in it. Possible Cause: Jealousy. This works two ways: either your boss is threatened by your competence, or you’re threatened by your bosses competence. Sometimes, we deal with our fear of being wrong by shouting louder that we’re right. If your boss is intimidated by you, it’s really not your problem but instead of feeling superior about it, try to be compassionate. If you’re jealous of your bosses position, power, or prestige, ask yourself why you want these things. What do you feel you need to prove by sustaining conflict? Who do you hope will notice that you’re right and your boss is wrong and why is it important to you that they notice?

Of course, there are numerous other toxic situations that occur in the workplace; those above are just a few of the most common. Recognizing your own patterns in work and in life can go a long way toward helping you create a healthy, sustainable, and rewarding work situation.

If you want to learn more about how coaching can help you identify and release these patterns, read J.F.s case study[B1] . By getting to know herself, J.F. was able to move beyond the cycle of toxicity and into a job she truly enjoys!

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG OR WEBSITE? Please do, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Dawn Quesnel, CPCC, PCC, known as Coach DQ, is a professional coach, radio show host and workshop leader. Through the use of her B.R.I.D.G.E. programs she helps marketing, advertising, and creative entrepreneurs navigate career or business transition while maintaining a healthy career-life balance. Her core belief that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, consistently leads clients to uncover hidden resources and strengths. B.R.I.D.G.E. the gap and accelerate your career so you can love your life now! Visit www.CareerLifeBalance.net or http://www.coachdq.com today or for more information email me.

As a certified professional coach, radio show host and workshop leader, Dawn helps sales, marketing, advertising and creative entrepreneurs to accelerate their career so they’ll love their life!

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