- Bob Sutton
Some office cultures are like something out of “Lord of the Flies.”
“If you’re in one of those extreme situations – they call them mobbing situations – when a——- are everywhere, basically, there are little things you can do temporarily,” he told Business Insider.
However, he said that people stick with terrible workplace environments at their own peril.
“When I talk to people who come out of those situations, they almost always had to fight back to survive,” he said. “When you think of ‘Lord of the Flies,’ who got killed? It was the people who couldn’t fight back.”
Here are some tips from Sutton on how to survive working in a terrible office:
1. Prepare to fight back
In an ideal office, you wouldn’t have to treat each day like a potential battle waiting to break out. However, in a toxic workplace, you’ll likely have to take more drastic measures to stand up for your own interests.
“In terms of a toxic workplace, if you’re walking into a ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation where everybody treats everybody terribly, either you hide in the corner or you go to war,” Sutton said.
Don’t compromise your principles and completely mimic the bad behavior that you colleagues have been demonstrating. But, according to Sutton, you’d better brace yourself for conflict.
2. Avoid fighting whenever possible
- Andy Morales/flickr
It’s one thing to prepare for conflict. It’s another thing entirely to seek it out. Sutton said that it’s better to avoid fights whenever possible.
“Try to figure out when the most obnoxious, difficult people are around and when you can avoid them,” he said.
Some workers Sutton interviewed had developed an “early warning system” to deal with their manager’s foul temper. Before work, they would call the boss’ assistant and ask about their manager’s mood ahead of time. That way, they could avoid their boss during bad times.
3. Try to make some friends
It might seem hard to make friends at work when all your coworkers seem terrible. But finding allies in a bad situation can really improve matters.
“Sometimes people will band together to protect themselves,” Sutton said.
Basically, give people a chance.
4. Try not to become a jerk yourself
Ultimately, Sutton said it’s usually best to plan an exit strategy if you are working in a truly toxic office.
Otherwise, you’ll risk becoming a jerk.
“One of the things I say to my students at Stanford if they interview at a place where there’s a bunch of nasty people, or incompetent people, is, ‘Look at the people you’re going to be working with. The odds are you will become like them. You’re not going to change them,'” Sutton said.