For people living with bipolar disorder, a job can mean routine and financial stability. There may be the odd bump along the way, but with the right working environment, most people with mental illnesses can thrive within the workplace. But what happens when your work environment is toxic? This can often be unsettling for those with bipolar — and some people who have it might not even be aware their working environment is actually toxic.
Here are 10 toxic signs to look out for — and what you should do to deal with them.
Sign #1: Poor Communication
Bipolar disorder can cause people to second-guess themselves and feel paranoid. A lack of communication within the workplace can be really unsettling. Without the adequate structure needed to manage your symptoms alongside your role, you can quickly spiral. This can be really damaging and possibly lead to periods of absence. If you feel there is a lack of communication within your workplace, talk to your boss. Hopefully they’ll hear you and be willing to adjust. If they dismiss your request for a communicative approach, it may mean this isn’t the right setting for you.
Sign #2: Boss Who Lacks Empathy
As someone with bipolar disorder, I like to know where I stand. I’m quite open to others, and expect the same in return. Any signs of game-playing or selfishness can be unsettling. A boss who demands that you agree with them and their decisions all of the time can not only be frustrating, but can be very difficult to manage. Especially as someone with a mental illness, it is nice to know your boss cares about you and your wellbeing. The negative emotions that can come from dealing with someone so self-absorbed and, therefore, unable to support you, can become quite overwhelming. This is toxic.
Sign #3: Unprofessional or Cliquey Colleagues
Colleagues who don’t take their role seriously or who like to start drama via gossip create a toxic environment. If you don’t feel supported by your team or are scared to open up about your bipolar disorder for fear of people mocking you, then it will become increasingly difficult to do your job to a high standard. Overhearing colleagues making sweeping statements or joking about mental health problems can often make those who are struggling in silence feel scared to open up. It shouldn’t be like this.
Sign #4: You Don’t Feel Respected
A certain level of respect should be expected in most areas of a person’s life. This shouldn’t be any different at work. From people being courteous to offering empathy, respect can come in many forms. A lack of respect can present itself in a boss or colleague challenging your ability, pushing the boundaries or simply just speaking to you in a patronizing way. This could be nothing to do with your mental illness and everything to do with them just not understanding what respect means. If you feel able to address this, it could lead to a much healthier working environment.
Sign #5: Your Boss Encourages Extreme Levels of Competition
A healthy level of competition is OK, but what happens when it becomes something more than that? Feeling pressured to hit unrealistic goals or, worse, to try to sabotage a colleague in order to hit that target, is unhealthy. Offering cash incentives to persuade a colleague to do the job they’re supposed to do anyway can also cause ripples within an office that can be damaging. You’re more likely to go above and beyond in your job if there’s acknowledgment and appreciation of what you do — not because of extreme pressure.
Sign #6: There’s a Lack of Flexibility
Managing bipolar disorder is exhausting. Sometimes you bring your A-game, and other times you need to rest and recuperate or just be on your own. Having flexibility within any job role can be a big help. A boss who welcomes discussion about flexible working will definitely get the best out of you. More often than not, companies will offer a degree of flexibility within a role. Whether this is flexible working hours or allowing you to work from home if you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, someone with bipolar disorder will definitely be more productive if there is the opportunity for flexibility. If your boss demands that you work the same hours every single day, monitors your activity and simply won’t entertain the idea of flexible working, it might not end up being the best fit for you.
Sign #7: You Question Your Worth Regularly
If your employer rewards employees with bad attitudes who bring in the big bucks, that can have an impact on the other people they hire. If you have a great attitude and work hard, but are unable to achieve the same targets as other colleagues, this can cause a lot of undue anxiety. A boss who praises those who behave badly or, worse, rewards them, will be promoting a toxic environment. You need a boss who understands their employees and their individual capabilities, and rewards them based on their own achievements, not by comparing them to each other. Everyone is different and has different strengths. A good boss will notice that and reward those who succeed and discipline those who overstep the boundaries. Comparing colleagues is not only short-sighted, but it’s impractical.
Sign #8: You Feel Ignored
Everyone has the right to be listened to. Even if your ideas are not amazing or are unlikely to go ahead at that time, no one should feel afraid to speak up and make suggestions. A good boss will listen to anyone who has an opinion, within reason. They should never speak over you or scoff at your suggestions. Sometimes it takes someone with mental health problems a lot of courage to speak up, especially in front of a group of people. A good boss will acknowledge this and support that colleague. A toxic work environment comes from a leadership team belittling or ignoring their staff and any suggestions they make in favor of going with their own.
Sign #9: Your Friends and Family Notice Mood Changes
The people closest to you know you best. If they start noticing a dip in your mood or you’re beginning to talk negatively about your job, then it is worth considering whether your job might be toxic. Sometimes it can be easy to slip into negative thinking when you have bipolar disorder, so asking those around you what they think about your job, and any concerns you may have, can be helpful. They have your best interests at heart and if your boss or colleagues don’t, then that could be a big indicator you’re working somewhere bad for your mental health.
Sign #10: High Turnover of Staff
If you notice a lot of employees are choosing to leave your company or colleagues seem unmotivated, it could be a sign that it is a toxic workplace. For people with bipolar disorder, consistency is key. Lots of regular changes can massively affect your mood, so it’s not worth working somewhere where you never know where you stand and people you can become close to decide to leave.
If any of the above points seem familiar, it might be worth talking to your boss or HR, in the first instance, to see if they may be able to support you more. If they’re unwilling or don’t understand your concerns, then it’s time to start considering your exit strategy. Get your resume up to scratch and approach recruiters about potential openings. Focusing on a new venture, whilst remaining financially stable in your, albeit toxic, role should hopefully boost your morale. You’ll find the right role for you, with the right environment, soon enough.
What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.