Workplace Toxicity: Is Care and Concern for Office Colleagues a Mission Impossible?

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We spend seven to eight hours of the day in our workplaces. A healthy working environment is crucial for a happy life. Workers of vitiated environments have become victims of stress, various health problems, and performance impairment. Finally, they end up being perpetrators contributing to workplace toxicity, anguishes Hemashri, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

My husband had herpes zoster. A huge patch of skin in his chest area first swelled and then numerous reddish eruption appeared. He kept on attending office wearing warm clothes. It pained me to see his discomfort. At the same time, I was moved to see his devotion to duty. A sudden announcement preponing office time by half an hour made me take the resolution that I shall take the challenge to be there at 9.30 am.

On the New Year’s Day, as per the fresh schedule, I reached office and shared a selfie with my buddies. One of them commented that she is not excited about the new schedule. She boasted that she never obeyed time schedules and added that such discipline is for lesser mortals. She announced that she is a result oriented extraordinary performer. She was married to a high ranking officer and travelled many parts of the world. Thus, she happens to be one of those globetrotters, who lament the state of affairs in this country. She often expresses her desire to migrate to a developed country.

She is one of those to want all the dramatic transformation to happen in this country but is least willing to break her own comfort zone. They may ridicule people like me as dehatis, who have not seen the world. However, this dehati thinks they are the global-villagers, who cannot think anything beyond pure self-interest. People like them may have travelled to many parts of the world at the expense of the government, but they give back nothing in return.

The following day, I shared the news of my husband’s ailment in that forum. My globetrotting friend advised me to proceed on earned leave along with my sick husband, totally unaware of the prevailing official emergency of NRC. Government employees were working day and night to comply the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s direction to complete an exercise within a time limit. So obviously under such a situation applying for leave could invite serious consequences. My colleague showed no courtesy to even make a call to inquire about his health condition, though she was a mutual friend of my husband and me.

However, my husband was lucky to have had a very considerate boss, who allowed him to take a few days rest to recover. Herpes Zoster was an unknown monster and I googled to know more about it. I came to know that it was a viral infection of the chicken pox family and it was extremely painful. The weak immune system led to this infection and healing took minimum one month’s time but the pain was extreme and might linger for a long time.

I saw my husband wreathing in acute pain for more than a month. Sleeping was a big problem as he could not turn sides on the bed. One of those days, during his sickness, I received his call on his behalf. The caller was a senior lady colleague, who in a rather harsh tone was telling me that my husband was supposed to attend a meeting, and was enquiring whether he was attending it. She also expressed her concern that in his absence who would sign the papers. She did not bother even once to ask me about his health. I did not see any of his colleagues enquiring or expressing concern about his health.

On the day of his return to normal work, he told me, “I feel bad to go to an office where no one ever bothered to call me once to know how I am.” I could empathise his pain. The colleague who had advised me to take my husband to a doctor and to proceed on leave also did not call. I was wondering, were we despised in the workplaces or had those become so competitive that people had totally lost the human touch? Or was it because sickness was the most abused excuse of lazy workers to escape from duty? Were we too soft to crave affection or to expect such concern from our colleagues?

The expectation is the cause of all disappointment, as the wise say! A little love, a little trust from people we spend time with to earn a living and work together cannot be termed as great expectations!

We spend seven to eight hours of the day, at times even longer durations in our workplaces. A healthy working environment is crucial for a happy life. What actually prevents us from creating a beautiful workplace? Is it a competition where everyone is just a potential opponent or is it due to interpersonal aggression? No wonder that workers of vitiated environments have become victims of stress, various health problems, and performance impairment. Finally, they end up being perpetrators contributing to workplace toxicity.

Maybe a little more empathy at the workplace will not only improve productivity but make working real fun! Wish we all could flourish in a congenial environment enjoying every moment of our work. Is it a ‘Mission Impossible’? Even the word impossible says I’m possible!

©Hemashri Hazarika

Photos from the Internet

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Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.