When #GymLife Becomes Toxic
“Show me who your friends are, and I will tell you what you are.” — Vladimir Lenin
If the people you surround yourself with truly say a lot about who you are, or who you will become, then I may need to switch jobs.
I work at the front desk of the smallest and most exclusive gym in my hometown — I like to think of it as a boutique gym, but it’s really just small and exclusive. I’ve been here for about 15 months, and I enjoy my job and the people I interact with on a daily basis, including my coworkers. However, while I believe I was lucky to end up here, it didn’t take long to notice that I landed in a work environment that is not nearly as healthy as the lifestyles that we (as a wellness center) promote to our members. No, actually, this work environment is…kind of toxic. Not strictly because of the #gymlife or because of the people we cater to, but because of the toxic kind of behavior that the staff members engage in with one another.
With ten full-time staff members, currently nine of whom are women, one of two things will happen: either we will support and build each other up, or we will succumb to the petty cattiness that, if allowed, can easily run rampant among women who talk.
Around here, the gossip spreads faster than I’ve ever seen.
I’m as guilty as anyone. I like to listen to my supervisor bitch about our manager, and I engage in those conversations, too. Every one of us does it, or has done it at some point; people like to have something — or someone — to talk about.
I want to say that she has engaged in unprofessional behavior before, but the truth is, the incident which immediately comes to mind is actually one that I heard about, not one I was there to witness. While I have no reason to believe that my friend would lie to me about what happened, it’s not fair to recount it here when it’s merely hearsay. So I won’t. What I will say is that she has on multiple occasions made decisions that the rest of the team doesn’t agree with, and instead of voicing our objections to her or holding our peace, we gossip about it behind her back. (And sometimes in front of her face.)
That’s not acceptable, professional workplace behavior.
In fact, I just watched a lot of videos this morning for a Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Training course, and gossip was listed under “Workplace Bullying.”
If everyone does it, if it’s no big deal, then why would it be listed as a form of bullying in a Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Training seminar?
If you guessed, “It wouldn’t, so it must be a big deal,” then I guess you’re right.
Let’s take it one step further: if I know that everyone talks about our manager when she’s not around, and complains about her, then what right do I have to assume that they’re not doing the same thing about me? No one is safe from the effects of a toxic work environment.
If the people I surround myself with engage in toxic behavior, then so will I, and I will become just as bad as the place I work in. I don’t want to be a toxic person. I know firsthand the effect that toxic people can have on others, and I don’t want to be anything like that.
I need to be part of the solution, not the problem. The truth is, I want to gossip with my coworkers, because I find entertainment in that. But I don’t want to be that person that people don’t feel comfortable talking to, and I don’t want to give people reason to talk about me, either. I don’t want to contribute to toxic workplace culture, so I need to check my impulses and tendencies.
As I work in the health and wellness industry, we try to promote healthy habits and lifestyle choices — one of which should be to contribute to a healthy workplace culture in all industries. Healthy workplace culture starts in the workplace, with the people who are employed there. If I want to be one of those women who supports other women and builds them up, that has to start with me.