Author: Stav Ziv
Source: The Muse
If Jeffrey Pfeffer had to sum up his latest book in one sentence, he’d say that “the workplace is killing us and nobody cares.” Take a minute, because that’s quite a summary.
You should care, obviously. Employees, employers, governments, and societies all suffer from the effects of toxic work environments.
“If I work you to a point where you’re so sick physically or psychologically you can no longer work…you become the public’s problem,” says Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business whose research has focused on organization theory and human resource management. Companies are squandering money via medical costs, lost productivity, and high turnover, and governments and societies have to deal with the long-term consequences and costs to the public health and welfare systems.
In the U.S., 120,000 deaths a year could be attributed to work environments, according to Pfeffer’s book, Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It, racking up about $180 billion in health-care costs. He estimates that about half the deaths and a third of the costs could be prevented.
So once you know and care, what can you do to fight back?
1. Get Out of There (or at Least Take Your Vacation)
Pfeffer believes that “in every single industry, there are better and worse employers.” If your office is toxic, you should follow your instinct and try to leave for something better before you “get so psychologically and physically ill that [you] simply cannot keep going,” as Pfeffer writes.
“The way to buffer yourself is to get out. And if you can’t get out permanently, then get out temporarily,” he says. “Many people for obvious reasons don’t take all the vacation to which they’re entitled.”
2. Establish Your Own Support Network
Again, it’s not always possible to jump ship as soon as you’ve realized how much the ship’s grinding you down. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, and it takes time and effort to find a new job—a tall order especially while you’re doing a soul-sucking job.
The irony of the situation is that the very things making your job miserable might be preventing you from doing something to make it better, like spending time with people you care about and who care about you. But remember that “friends make you healthier,” Pfeffer says. Find people at work and away from work who can provide the support you need.
3. Surround Yourself With People Who Have More Balance
The cliché goes that the first step to fixing a problem is to recognize there is one. But it’s hard to do that in a society where harmful work habits are so common.
“Surrounded by people who act as if long hours, an absence of job control, and work-family conflict is normal, people come to accept that definition of the situation,” Pfeffer writes in his book, emphasizing how potent social influence can be.
So if you can’t change your company, change who you spend time with. “Find some people who don’t work all the time, who have relationships with their family and friends that extend beyond pictures on screen savers, and who have work that provides a sense of autonomy and control,” Pfeffer writes.