How to Detox Your Toxic Relationships at Work

relationships stress Jul 22, 2018

This post is inspired by one of the lessons in our course for fashion professionals called How to Redesign Your Life and Live it Fully. In the lesson, we help you to recognise the toxic relationships that are negatively affecting your life and how to minimise the caustic effects of toxic behaviour you experience.

Fashion is notorious for the pressure it puts on its employees and many other stakeholders. Poor bosses, rotten management styles, and deliberate bullying can all be found in the industry.

Identifying and managing toxic relationships is important for your long-term well being.


First, some research to remind you of the potential there is for any of us to have toxic relationships. The more people in our lives, the more of a potential there is for us to be the victim of these relationships.

On average how many friends do we have?

In a study of 2,000 Brits conducted by HF Holidays, it was found that the average adult has 40 friends, including two best mates, four close pals and five work buddies.

They also have nine other friends, on top of their close ones, within their wider friendship circle, as well as 15 acquaintances and five friends outside of their immediate group.

On top of this number of 'friends', there are other individuals too. People we interact with either by choice or by necessity. There are clients, suppliers, shareholders, owners, managers, members of the press, accountants, church leaders, our communities etc.

Add all these people up and that's a significant number of people that can affect how you feel on a daily basis because of the style of relationship you have with each person you interact with.

Some people will be there to support and motivate you, to inspire and challenge you, helping you grow into a better human being.

Others you will see as competition or threats, undermining your confidence in your abilities.

Then there will be others that you feel drained by. Energy sappers that leave you feeling de-energised and possibly mildly depressed.

The study also found that 92 percent of people say their friendship group is made up of various personalities, with 43 percent saying they go to different friends depending on their mood and what they need.

"92% of people say their friendship group is made up of various personalities"

So we naturally build strategies for getting what we want from those around us. But how often do we check in to see which of the people we know are actually doing us more harm than good, so-called toxic relationships? Often we experience negative effects of toxic relationships and tolerate them, never challenging the behaviour or taking steps to avoid or minimise it.

In another long-term study that followed over 10,000 subjects for an average of 12.2 years, researchers discovered that subjects in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing heart problems, including a fatal cardiac event, than those subjects whose close relationships were not negative.

Toxic v Healthy Relationships

We all have relationships that are not blissful all of the time. That's being human. But some of us have more toxicity in our relationships than is good for our health. Some have toxic partners, toxic friendships, toxic parent/child relationships, or toxic coworkers, toxic boss, toxic business partners, toxic clients and so on. In fact as you read this post you'll probably be thinking of a t least one person that falls inot this category.

So what defines a toxic relationship?

Healthy relationships

These are full of compassion, security, safety, freedom of thinking, sharing, listening, mutual love and caring, healthy debates and disagreements, and respectfulness, especially when there are differences in opinions.

Toxic relationships

These consist of insecurity, distrust, abuse of power and control, overtly demanding, selfishness, insecurity, self-centeredness, criticism,  dishonesty, negativity, demeaning comments and attitudes, sarcasm and jealousy.

Toxic relationships don't have to include all these attributes as toxicity varies by degrees.

A toxic relationship with your boss will not necessarily include all of the factors above. Perhaps your he or she only shows distrust or demeaning comments. However, the result will still have an impact on your relationship, your productivity and willingness to commit fully to your work. 

How Do You Know if You Are in a Toxic Relationship?

Compare the characteristics above with your relationships and then use the questions below to help you recognise the impact people in your life are having on you.

  1. When you're with the person how do you feel? Content, even energised or unfulfilled and drained?
  2. After your time with him or her, do you usually feel better or worse about yourself?
  3. Do you feel physically and or emotionally safe with this person, or do you ever feel threatened, uneasy, intimidated or in danger?
  4. Is your relationship one of balanced "give and take," or do you feel like you're always the one doing all the giving and he or she is always taking?
  5. Do you feel like you have to change to make him or her happy, or do you feel like he or she is happy with you just the way you are?
  6. Is the relationship supported by feelings of security and contentment, or undermined by frequent drama and anxiety?

These are key questions to ask yourself and they begin the process of reducing the impact of toxic relationships.

Steps to Change a Toxic Relationship

There are four key steps to changing toxic relationships and reducing or eliminating their negative impacts on your life and health.

  1. Recognise you are in one. You can't do anything unless you first recognise that you are in this type of relationship. This post and the lesson in our course is useful in teaching you how to recognise toxic relationships within your life.
  2. Believe you deserve better. Once you recognise you are in a toxic relationship the next step is to believe that you deserve to be treated with love, respect, and compassion.  Some people, unfortunately, believe that they don't deserve anything better. They feel they deserve the treatment they receive and it's their duty to put up with it. To suck it up! This is typically due to low self-esteem and for people who really struggle with this then seeking support from a counselor or life coach will be a vital part of their journey out of the toxic relationship.
  3. Addressing the toxicity. Then, once you believe you deserve better and recognise the toxic behaviour in others, it must be addressed when it happens. Ignoring it will only perpetuate the problem.

    A good way to do this is by using "I" statements when the negative behaviour occurs. This reduces the likelihood of a defensive reaction because you are not directly attacking the other person.

    I'll give you an example to help illustrate the point. Where I've written XYZ below then you'd say whatever it is that you feel and ABC is whatever the other person needs to stop doing (i.e. the toxic behaviour.)

    Imagine a scenario where someone at work has once again criticised your work, part of their regular attitude and behaviour toward you. So you'd say something like:

    "I feel like you always find fault in almost everything I do. It makes me feel XYZ. I respect you, and I'd appreciate it if you would stop ABC."

  4. Distance yourself from the source. Finally if after trying this approach you find that nothing changes then it's time to consider putting some distance between yourself and the source of the toxic behaviour.

    This might mean a temporary separation, divorce, changing jobs, moving departments, seeing someone less often etc.

Now obviously if you are in a physically abusive relationship, this kind of confrontation may not be safe. So only use this approach if you are safe to do so. If you're not then you should contact a professional with experience in dealing with domestic violence or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for more information.

In our coaching program on How to Redesign Your Life and Live it Fully we are helping you develop a healthy, well-balanced life and addressing your relationships is a vital element of the work we do with you.

Download our free worksheet that will guide you through the process to identify your toxic relationships. 

Simply click here to download the FREE worksheet.

We'll also be sending you details of the launch date of our next group coaching program.

Take the steps you deserve to feel better in the relationships you have both inside and outside of work.

The fashion sector is stressful enough and you deserve better.


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