How to Handle a Volatile Work Environment

Decide how much stress you're willing to put up with.

Decide how much stress you're willing to put up with.

A volatile work environment can keep you constantly on edge and waiting for the next shoe to drop. Plenty of things can contribute to this kind of environment, including staffers or managers who are poorly trained, major personality conflicts between coworkers or even working in an industry known for its high stress levels. No matter how you look at it, this kind of workplace can make it hard to focus on your job unless you’re proactive about handling it.

Avoid Conflict

If people in your office are continually at each other’s throats, avoid getting sucked into the fray. Take the time to learn what triggers people's tempers and avoid contentious interactions that can contribute to the overall volatility of the office. Don't participate in or spread gossip, and stay away from situations where you might look like you’re picking sides.

Do Your Job

Make it a point to thoroughly understand every aspect of your job and perform your tasks at a consistently high level so you don’t give problem colleagues or managers any room to criticize your work or stir up drama. Don't whine, complain or criticize, especially to or about colleagues that are known for having short tempers or for contributing to volatility in the office. Keeping a low profile can help you weather the storm.

Stay Calm

Constant stress can impact your work attitude and productivity, not to mention your personal well-being. Try to leave work at work and practice relaxation breathing techniques while you’re in the office. Break free from the madness when you need time to decompress and calm yourself. A quick walk around the building can do wonders for your attitude, as can a few minutes of simple meditation.

Document Hostile Encounters

There's a difference between a high-stress, sometimes volatile work environment and a hostile work environment. If volatile personalities cross the line into inappropriate workplace behaviors such as harassment or bullying, you’ll need to document this behavior and take it to a human resources representative. This type of volatility can result in legal problems for the company and shouldn’t be tolerated by staffers. Make sure you note the date, time and location of incidents, as well as specific details about what happened.

Get Out

If you dread going to work every day and always feel anxious and under pressure, maybe it’s time to look for a different job. You might be able to transfer in-house to another department. If not, begin the process of finding something else altogether. Start putting out feelers and scheduling job interviews. When you go to interviews, pay attention to the office vibe to make sure it's not just as volatile as the company you want to leave. You don’t want to go from the frying pan into the fire.

 

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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