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Toxic Workplace Relations: How to Detox?

A capitalistic system produces maximum returns for the entire society. 
Yet, profitable transactions must rest on some form of unequal or exploitative relationship. 

When I was still an Economics student, Capitalism, to me, was just a money-raking economic system that allows countries like Singapore to develop swiftly and transform into a first world country. It was not until I entered the workplace that I understood the full brunt of the capitalistic world.

Perhaps you are wondering: what has capitalism got to do with toxic workplace relations? Well, everything. Philosopher Ayn Rand speaks of a “morality of selfishness” in capitalism, whereby the capitalistic system incentivizes people to self-actualise, or in economic terms, maximise one’s profits and gains.

For every individual to want the best for themselves, is not that bad right? It isn’t, until it becomes unequal, exploitative and toxic. You see, sometimes what is best for one person, isn’t the best for another, in fact it could sometimes be the worst for another. In order to be in a favourable position in one’s workplace, whether this means to be on your boss’s good side or to be in line for a promotion and pay raise, different ones will be motivated to various extents to preserve or fulfil themselves at the expense of others. And this often becomes toxic. These toxic behaviour can take the form of a boss / coworker being:

These toxic behaviour can take the form of a boss / coworker being:

  • irresponsible (especially for their own mistakes)
  • aggressive or passive-aggressive
  • controlling or micro-manages
  • apathetic or inconsiderate
  • rude or disrespectful
  • always negative
  • gossipy

The following stories may be triggering for some, so feel free to skip through uncomfortable content or if you would like to speak to someone about it, do not hesitate to reach out to us on Whatsapp.

The story is real, the names are not.

Scapegoat for a $100,000 blame.

Jaz worked in the finance department and of her multitude of responsibilities, one of which is to perform monetary transactions on behalf of her then company. There was a particular case where a supplier directly requested her boss for the release of payment since the goods were already delivered. Her boss then instructed her to complete the payment. As she was about to do so, she noticed that the bank account provided by her boss, which was supposedly provided by the supplier, was different from that of the initial invoice received. She alerted the boss regarding this matter, and her boss just dismissed her in a hasty reply saying, “Just do as I say, don’t ask so much.”

Though in doubt, she went ahead to make the payment of $100,000 to their supplier. 

Within days, the supplier requested payment again. Confused, they investigated further into the matter and to their horror, found out that they had been scammed of $100,000 as the person who corresponded with the boss was actually not the supplier himself, but an imposter.

This bad news spread like wildfire within the company, and very quickly all fingers were pointing at Jaz. They blamed her for negligence. The other bosses were especially agitated by this incident, and wanted to fire her. 

And all her direct boss said to her was, “They are going to fire you, I think it’s better if you resign before they do.”

No apologies, no admitting of his own mistake, no speaking up for her. She became the scapegoat for a $100,000 blame, and resigned. 

Intoxicated and sexually assaulted.

When Jiajia first graduated from university, she felt lost as to what kind of jobs she wanted to do, and so she took up a waitressing job while looking for one. It was during a banquet dinner that she was serving at, when she met a suited, respectable-looking man in his late thirties, who happened to be at the table she was assigned to. Towards the end of the banquet, the man approached Jiajia for a quick chat, and found out that she was looking for a job. He then told her that he was coincidentally looking for a secretary and her qualifications would come in useful for that role. He was the CEO of the company. 

Jiajia, who was agonising about her job search, was overjoyed and agreed to go for an interview. The interview went smoothly, and in no time, she was working as his secretary. She was gradually eased into the company, with only a few tasks to be completed each day. It turned out to be way less hectic than she expected, in fact, it was a relaxing job with hardly much to do. Still, she was grateful for this job.

One day, during an office party, they feasted and drank. Jiajia wasn’t a frequent drinker, so within the first few glasses, she was already feeling dizzy. Still, her boss egged her to drink more. First, it was a friendly clink of their glasses, then it was the accidental rubs of their shoulders as he sat closer, soon he was patting her thigh to ask if she was alright, then his hands were over her shoulders, seemingly supporting her as she got increasingly intoxicated with alcohol. Next, he whispered into her ear, a question in Mandarin, “Can I sleep with you?” Without much thought, she vaguely nodded as her world spun in a disorienting mess. 

The last thing she recalled was being helped to his office where they did it. 

(Singapore sexual assault law states that consent given voluntarily is not valid if the person was drunk or under the influence of drugs.)

The next day she woke up, not knowing what to think of her blurry memory of having slept with her boss. She was confused and conflicted about her decision, and was worried about how this might alter their dynamics or if this incident would leak out to the rest of her colleagues. However, in a matter of days, these would be the least of her concerns, because soon, she noticed some blisters around her nether regions. 

She went for a check up, and was diagnosed with herpes. 

Her boss continued to ask for sexual favours, and she passively complied. When she brought up her diagnosis, he claimed to not have herpes, and that he was not the one who passed it to her. He was gaslighting her.

It took Jiajia a while to muster up the courage to finally resign from the job, which she was later convinced was not even a necessary position in the company, since she hardly had anything to do as his secretary. He probably carved out a position just to hire her. 

How to Detox from Toxic Workplace Relations?

I definitely do not wish for any of such workplace horror stories to happen to anyone. Perhaps, you have had or heard of similar experiences, or you encountered a different type of toxicity at your workplace, that has left you unappreciated, drained, unbalanced, indignant, bitter, unconfident, anxious, depressed or even traumatised. You do not have to go through this alone. Maybe what is much needed, is a safe space to process and evaluate your workplace circumstances and options. Or perhaps, you have already made your decision, and need a safe space to heal and rejuvenate. 

If so, join us on our wholesome Wellness Retreat, where you would be guided to free your mind, heart and body through mindfulness, yoga and meditation sessions along with other useful workshops, and even enjoy a free meridian treatment and therapy session post-retreat.

This Wellness Retreat is brought to you by A Kind Place and eGe to detoxify your mind, heart and body. Limited slots available, sign up and secure your spot today. Click here to register.

A Kind Place supports and welcomes everyone from all walks of life, gender identity, orientation, and backgrounds. We offer free 15-minutes consultation for you to meet with your choice of therapist / psychologist / counsellor to support you on your journey of mental wellness. Bookings for consultation or services can be done here. For any enquiries, Whatsapp us or send them to team@akindplace.co. Reach out to us today!