Helping Others Recover from a Past Toxic Work Environment

One of the joys of navigating your career through a few different companies is the exposure to a wide range of experiences. That includes corporate cultures, team dynamics, individual work styles, business processes, and more. You see what’s done well, what unfortunately doesn’t work, and what epically fails. You observe others and evolve your own work style based on what you found effective and what matches your preferences. And along the way, you may also find yourself creating what feels like a painfully obvious list of what not to do. Ever. And yet, there they are – people creating or enabling a toxic work environment that, at best, hinders productive work and, at worst, causes real trauma to those involved.

Recovering from a Past Toxic Work Environment

Sitting in the safety of a truly supportive and nurturing environment, the differences between positive and harmful workplaces are crystal clear to me. And while I didn’t enjoy those experiences, I appreciate what they’ve taught me and how they’ve empowered me to help others. Unfortunately, these experiences are not uncommon. Like me, you may find yourself working with a new colleague, hiring a new employee, or advising a friend who experienced previous workplace trauma.

The first step is helping them see the space they’re in and the effect it’s having on their lives. Plenty of resources are available to help identify bad bosses, toxic cultures, etc. But the part of the journey that seems to get less attention is how to acclimate to the next job – how to develop a sense of resiliency, build trust, and form new relationships so your growth isn’t hindered by those past poor performers.

Helping Others

Here is some guidance on how to help others navigate this journey into a new, hopefully supportive, organization so they can thrive.

  1. Listen actively. One of the best things you can do is to provide a listening ear. Encourage your employee to express her concerns, fears, and feelings related to her past experiences. Be empathetic and non-judgmental as they share their story. This will help them feel heard and validated, which can be incredibly healing.
  2. Be transparent. Another way to build trust with your employee is to be transparent about the company’s values, mission, and goals. Communicate openly about the company culture and how it differs from their previous workplace. Let them know how their contributions are valued and how their work will be recognized.
  3. Provide training and support. If your employee is struggling to break old habits, consider providing them with training. Support them in developing new skills and behaviors. This might include coaching, mentoring, or access to resources such as books, articles, or online courses.
  4. Foster a positive work environment. Encourage your team to be supportive and welcoming of your new employee. Foster a positive work environment that promotes open communication, collaboration, and trust. Celebrate successes and create opportunities for team-building activities that can help your employee feel like a valued member of the team.
  5. Follow up. Check in with your employee regularly to see how they are doing. Ask for feedback on how the company can better support them in overcoming the effects of their past work environment. Show that you are invested in their success and care about their well-being.

Thriving in a New Workplace

Remember, recovering from a toxic work environment can take time and patience. By being supportive, empathetic, and transparent, you can help another person build trust and develop new habits that will enable them to thrive in their new workplace.


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