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5 Books to Help You Stay Sane in a Toxic Workplace

If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of office drama, you know a toxic work environment and company politics can be instant energy drainers.

Perhaps the tension in your workplace takes the form of a gossip-mongering co-worker, a bullying boss who flies into a rage when you’re two minutes late to a meeting, or a conniving colleague who’s all about power plays and office politics.

Sometimes office annoyances seem harmless, like when your cube-mate leaves smelly leftovers in the fridge for weeks. But over the long term, a toxic workplace can have serious, long-lasting side effects—damaging your productivity and putting you on the fast track to burnout.

That’s why it’s important to learn to cope with irritations in a healthy way. When the drama seems overwhelming, it can help to turn to experts and thought leaders who have been through these kinds of situations before. And while you may not know those leaders personally, a number of them have written books that, in addition to being entertaining and relatable, can teach you a lot about constructively coping with drama in the workplace.

Here are five of the best.

1. The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun

This book chronicles Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise, as he makes a bold transition from working a high-paying but unfulfilling job to founding an organization that has built more than 300 schools around the world for disadvantaged children.

Braun has to gain the courage to navigate through entitled personalities and corporate policies in order to pursue his philanthropic work full time. By transferring lessons and skills he learned at his corporate job to his successful nonprofit organization, Braun demonstrates how you can turn a challenging situation into a positive, constructive one. His story is an inspiration if you find yourself stuck in a drama-filled environment and aspire to do something more meaningful.

2. Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

At one time or another, we’ve all wished we had a blueprint for approaching high-stakes, emotional office scenarios such as broken promises or unmet expectations. This book provides you with that framework. You’ll learn how to implement a structured, repeatable process for addressing tense situations, like confronting an employee who can’t seem to show up for work on time.

The book outlines keys skills we’re rarely taught in college or business school, such as how to foster greater personal accountability among teammates and how to deliver praise when things do go right to keep everyone motivated.

3. The No A**hole Rule by Robert l. Sutton

There’s no question that arrogant jerks in the workplace are toxic and demoralizing. In this book, Sutton explains how to buffer yourself against bullies who demean, criticize, and sap the energy of others. You know who they are: the people who toss dirty looks around during meetings or stir up arguments over email for no good reason.

This book provides terrific strategies for coping with co-workers who are prone to stirring up office drama, teaching you how to set up healthy boundaries that will keep you happy and productive.

4. Am I the Only Sane One Working Here? 101 Solutions for Surviving Office Insanity by Albert J. Bernstein, PhD

While you can’t control the office drama around you, you can prevent it from getting you down. This book serves up a no-nonsense, practical approach for dealing with difficult people, from slackers to chronic excuse-makers. You’ll learn how to apply step-by-step strategies to deal with annoying co-workers in real life—and you may even recognize where and how you’ve gone wrong in the past.

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Although Tina Fey’s office drama enviably involved the antics of stars like Jimmy Fallon, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan, it was office drama nonetheless. Fey’s memoir tells the story of how she pushed forward in the face of gender bias, the glass ceiling, and being passed over for well-deserved opportunities. A key ingredient to Fey’s standout success is how she works to put politics and challenges aside while staying laser-focused on her goals.

She offers this key piece of advice when dealing with a tough co-worker: “Ask yourself, ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”

When office drama strikes, looking for help outside your company’s walls can give you some breathing room. These great reads will arm you with actionable strategies that you can keep in your back pocket to use when challenging situations arise, equipping you to keep your cool and defuse tension. In the end, this will put you on the road to a happier, healthier, and more productive work life.

 

// This post originally appeared on The Muse.

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Master your psychology with therapeutic insights for your life, relationships, & career