10 Tips to Survive a Toxic Work Environment

Pharmacy TimesOctober 2023
Volume 89
Issue 10

Maintaining a strict work-life balance, setting boundaries, and trusting instincts can help technicians manage a challenging workplace.

Pharmacy technicians are professionals who play an important role in today’s health care landscape, but dealing with a toxic work environment can significantly affect their motivation, productivity, and even their physical and mental health.

Resignation from toxic job, workplace or relationship concept. Exit and toxic wooden block crossword puzzle flat lay in blue background - Image credit: Sulit.photos | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Sulit.photos | stock.adobe.com

There are many positions that can be deeply rewarding, but every so often, a workplace becomes a toxic work environment. It could be caused by a bad manager, a new coworker, or a new company that seems just not to care about its employees. A toxic work environment can drastically reduce productivity, affect employees’ mental health, and actually cause physical health issues. With deadlines, urgent orders, and patients to accommodate, pharmacy technicians need to handle a lot of stress and be mentally sharp at all times. Unfortunately, when working in a toxic environment, those challenges and the additional stresses are amplified.

Learning to manage or eliminate these stressors is a crucial part of creating a productive and rewarding work environment. Following are 10 tips for pharmacy technicians who may find themselves in such a situation.


When at work, do what is needed to succeed and do the best that you can do during your work hours. When it is quitting time, head home promptly. Turn off your computer, walk out of the pharmacy, and go home. If at all possible, don’t check emails, team chats, or anything else when you are off the clock. Your time is your time, and work time is work time. Do your 8 and hit the gate.


Many pharmacy technicians are either not taking their breaks or are sitting at their desks during their breaks. Taking a break away from your work area is crucial to allow your brain to reset and allows you to breathe for a few moments. Walk to another floor, go outside, sit in your car, or find a place that gives you a moment of privacy to relax. If you find that you often forget to take a break or get too wrapped up in work, set an alarm to ensure that you take that time for yourself. Those breaks can become very important to surviving the shift.


There are many reasons why a work environment is toxic. It could be because of a bad manager or a toxic coworker, or because the company simply does not care about you and your work environment. Regardless of the reason, it is important not to take it personally. If it is because of a bad manager, chances are they are placing that toxicity onto other people. If it is because of a bad colleague, they are probably also spreading their toxicity to others. And if the company doesn’t care, then most likely you are not going to be able to change their minds. You cannot force others to change their attitudes and you usually cannot force a large company to take notice, so avoid taking such issues personally.


Not only does documentation help with keeping a paper trail, but it allows others to know what you are doing. The documentation does not even have to be official documentation but could be a journal or simply notes that other colleagues or leaders may or may not see. Documentation allows you to communicate to yourself and/or others about how you are feeling or what is going on in your work life. If the challenges reach the point where you feel the need to go to management, be sure to include upper management such as a district manager or a director of pharmacy, as they may not be aware of the issues.


Boundaries are very important in work environments overall but even more important when surviving a toxic work environment. Make sure you are doing what you need to do to set the boundaries that you need to set in place. Do not get pressured into doing things that you do not need to do, and always remember that it is never too late to set those boundaries.


If your gut is telling you to go to higher management, then do that. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, then try to find a solution if you can. If you think that you need to step out of the office for a few minutes and you are able to do that, then do so. This is your license, your career, your mental health; do what you need to do. Believe in yourself and do not allow the toxic environment to make you question the actions you take to protect your well-being.


Distractions can have a negative connotation because they can cause medication errors. However, I would advise you to take mental health distractions when you can. Mental health distractions can include finding something that you can do to minimize thoughts of the toxic environment. Some ideas include listening to music, downloading relaxing apps on your phone, walking, and reading. Do what you need to do to distract yourself from the toxic environment that you work in, and always maintain passions and interests outside of your work life.


Toxic work environments can be very hard to continue to work in. However, changing the way you look at it can help you substantially. Most likely, you won’t be able to change that environment, but you certainly are able to change how you look at it and how you handle it. If you are smiling and in a good mood, then most of the time the toxic environment becomes more manageable. Try your best to not gripe, fight, or argue about it. Your attitude will go a long way in combating the toxicity.


Do not look negatively on seeking professional advice or opinions. It truly can help. Professional help is easy to find, whether on apps, your phone, or in person. In addition to seeking therapy or other professional counseling, some pharmacy technicians may find that pharmaceutical approaches can help with serious mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. As pharmacy professionals, we fill medications that help millions of people, and sometimes those medications can help us, too.


Sometimes a work environment is so toxic that nothing seems to help, even after trying many approaches. In that case, it could be time to update your resume and start looking for other work. Leaving a toxic work environment can have drastic impacts on one’s quality of life and outlook. Never be afraid to start seeking other opportunities when you feel that your current position is no longer serving you. Working in the pharmacy profession can be stressful enough. With patients’ lives literally in our hands, we need to find ways to limit additional stresses. Working in a toxic environment benefits nobody and can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. These tips may allow pharmacy technicians to continue to make pharmacy a more enjoyable and fulfilling profession.

About the Author

Dimitrios Papadopoulos, RPHT, CPHT, IN-D, is a pharmacy technician with almost 20 years in the pharmacy field. He is a licensed pharmacy technician in Nevada and Florida who currently works for PPD, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, and serves on the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians Leadership Team.

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