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7 Ways You Can Function in a Dysfunctional Workplace

We spend so much of our lives in the workplace. The right setting can make even a tedious job something to look forward to, but there are many workplaces that suffer from some degree of dysfunction. Knowing how to manage workplace dysfunction with grace is one of those priceless skills you don't learn at school. Here are seven thoughts that can help:

1. Stay focused. Rise above and stay focused on your job and your performance. Act as you would if you were the boss. Don't be concerned with what others do; concentrate on doing your own job and doing it well.

2. Keep your distance. Do not participate! One of the best things you can do is to keep yourself apart from the games, because participation--even as an adversary--makes dysfunctional behaviors thrive. If you distance yourself, you're not part of the problem.

3. Enlist allies. Fight isolation by finding a few allies who resonate with you and creating a close-knit inner circle. Together you can hold yourselves accountable and provide reality checks. Make sure that everyone within your circle stays neutral and above the drama.

4. Tune it out. I know this is easier said than done, but the more you can tune out the negativity and the craziness, the saner you can keep yourself. Is there a door you can close? Can you turn your desk to face a wall? Are headphones an option? Is it possible to work from home a day or two a week?

5. Look for triggers. The best way to arm yourself against problems is to be prepared before they arise. So look for triggers that set off the dysfunctional behavior. If understanding the triggers can help you avoid them, so much the better.

6. Set an example. Do everything you can to keep yourself apart at another level. Set high standards for yourself and do everything you can to meet them every day. Be an example of character and show others how it's done.

7. Take your leave. When all is said and done, if you have tried everything to turn the tide and isolate yourself from the dysfunction, maybe it's time to leave. The most talented, creative, and effective people don't stay in a bad environment longer than necessary; they navigate to workplaces where they can excel and not just endure. Remember, there's something valuable to be learned in even the worst workplace. If you have to spend some time in a dysfunctional environment, treat it as an opportunity for personal growth and discipline until it's in the rearview mirror.

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