How a toxic workplace can sour your outlook on life and wreak havoc on your mental health

Whether it's a bully of a boss, a competitive colleague or an unrealistic workload, surviving a toxic workplace can really take its toll on your mental health. GP and mental health expert Dr Harry Barry and psychotherapist Enda Murphy joined the Today With Sean O'Rourke show on RTÉ Radio 1 to talk about how to stay cool when your workplace is stressing you out. 

"Sometimes we’re just not happy in our work, but sometimes it’s the actual workplace itself that’s actually quite toxic", explained Barry. "It may be that we’re having difficulties with fellow colleagues, maybe a boss who is not very empathetic or sometimes we may have found ourselves in a bit of a dead end where we’re in a job and we’re just basically unhappy. Those are the three common reasons I think why people really struggle and it’s very toxic to our mental health."

"I've often found if you have a good boss and a good leader you don’t get toxic environments because they would be very, very tuned in", said Murphy. "What can also happen as well is especially in big organisations that are like the civil service is that petty fiefdoms can actually develop where the actual pressure and the toxicity is actually coming up because people don’t actually move out. You don’t actually give up the permanent, pensionable job so when something actually happens, tomorrow everybody’s still sitting in the same office so, in an awful lot of ways, those situations can become chronically toxic."

Most people who would be in the toxic environment would tend to blame themselves and think 'there is something wrong with me'

Barry noted that stress doesn’t just stop at work and people bring the tension home to partners and families which can put a strain on home life. "Most people I meet who would be in the toxic environment, they would tend to blame themselves and think 'there is something wrong with me'. You will normalise the situation and think, 'well everybody else is coping with it, why aren’t I?'

"The first thing you have to remember is, it’s the situation that’s abnormal, not you or your reactions, but there are certain questions you can actually ask yourself, like 'am I going in filled with dread on a Monday morning?' There are’s the more subtle signs of bullying where you’re being given unachievable tasks or you’re being given a workload that nobody could actually keep up with but it’s presented that, oh well that’s just the way that the nature of the work is."

Listen to the feature in full below