Are you kind to your Christian friends on Sunday but mean to your co-workers on Monday? Do you tend to talk about other women behind their backs, especially the other women in your workplace? Are you emotionally miserable and take that out on others around you? You might be the one bringing “toxic shock” to your workplace, a poisonous condition that is lethal to relationships and to your purpose as a Christian at work.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Years ago, a condition called “toxic shock syndrome” suddenly appeared in the news during the late ‘70s. Toxic shock syndrome is a potentially fatal condition caused by the release of toxins from the presence of certain bacteria in the body. Although this life-threatening condition can affect anyone,
“toxic shock syndrome is still mostly a disease of menstruating women who use tampons. More than one-third of all cases of toxic shock involve women under 19, and up to 30% of women who have had the disease will get it again.” (“Toxic Shock Syndrome,” webmd.com, accessed 4/20/22)
Just as the release of toxins can cause toxic shock syndrome in a woman’s body, the release of toxic behavior can cause a similarly dangerous “infection” among women in a workplace.
Toxic Behavior in the Workplace
A friend of mine recently told me of the change in her work environment that happened with the addition of one female co-worker. Just one. Female. Assistant.
What was once a team-oriented, respect-and-support-each-other work climate soon became toxic because of the influence of one woman. Ms. Toxic’s continual gossiping about the other women and backbiting created “toxic shock” in a matter of 3-4 weeks! How does that happen?
From the moment she stepped into her new job, Ms. Toxic began targeting her fellow administrative personnel (mainly women) with harsh criticism. The rest of her work team did not know what to do. They were in shock! No one had done this before in their “safe” little office.
Pretty soon, Ms. Toxic had planted seeds of doubt in all the other women about each other so that distrust and hurt feelings prevailed based on gossip and slander. This was done without the managers recognizing what was happening. Finally, one of the hurting women cracked under the torture and spilled the beans to her boss.
The sad thing is that the woman who created the “toxic shock” work environment calls herself a Christian and said that she attends a local Bible-teaching church. I personally cannot understand how anyone could go to church on Sunday, join in the worship music, and hear a good sermon on being Christlike then leave it at home when she goes to work on Monday. What about work is not part of the 24/7 when a Christian is supposed to be in loving ministry to those around her?
What Causes Toxic Behavior
Our youngest daughter and I were talking about this recently. She had heard of similar incidents in other work environments. This toxic behavior even among Christian women is not uncommon. Yes, it is the ugly sin nature rearing its ugly head. But we concluded that women who are emotionally unhealthy fall victim to this behavior more easily than those who are emotionally healthy.
Christian women who have not learned to trust in Christ more than in themselves can become emotionally unhealthy pretty easily, especially when stress hits. All it takes is the loss of a job, desertion of a husband, financial stress, or chronic illness to send a woman into a sinkhole. Add to that mix what mothers or other female “mentors” have done to model such bad behavior (gossiping, slander, backbiting). Be sure to include the gossiping, manipulating female image that is presented on television, in movies, and on social media. Then, throw in a lot of immaturity. There you go—Ms. Toxic Christian. Not a pretty picture!
Dealing with Toxic Behavior
I hope none of you reading this blog are like Ms. Toxic in your work environment. If you are, STOP IT! Agree with the Lord that it is wrong. Accept His forgiveness. Ask Him to create in you a new way of speaking that builds others up and benefits those who listen.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)
Say something good that flows from the heart He created in you already. Depend on the Spirit to do that in your life. Say, “Lord, I can’t. But, you can in me and through me.” Then, watch what He does! Defeat that mean spirit.
If you find yourself in this kind of work environment with Ms. Toxic, let someone in authority whom you trust know about it as soon as possible. Do not assume that if you keep it to yourself, you won’t be part of the problem. Don’t think that it will just go away. It won’t. You can ask my friend. It did not. Nothing happened until someone revealed to the boss what was going on so they could do something about it. That supervisor actually told Ms. Toxic to stop gossiping. He called it for what it was! Good for him! The environmental cleanup began.
Looking at Work as Worship
Be part of the solution to get rid of the “toxic shock” in your work environment. View your work as your worship to the Lord. Work is not secular. Your work is just as sacred to God as anything else you do for Him. Work is God’s idea. View your workplace as a place where you accomplish His mission as He matures you as a Christian. Work has purpose beyond yourself. And it is where you learn to depend on Jesus more than on yourself.
If you go to work with this mindset, you will never be Ms. Toxic to your co-workers. They might even be drawn to Jesus because of your healthy behavior.
Read my blog, Counter the “Work Is Secular” Infection, for more insight into this.
- Your Work Matters to God by Sue Bohlin
- Faith in the Workplace
- When Did Good Workers Get Labeled as “Haters”?
- Doing a Lunchtime Bible Study at Work
- Perspective Bible Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (read online)
- Perspective Bible Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (download pdf)
- An Honest Day’s Work
- How to Glorify Christ in the Workplace.