Toxic Shock at Work

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 went 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 didn’t 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 bosses 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, attending a local Bible-teaching church. I just can’t understand how anyone can go to church on Sunday, join in the worship music and hear a darn-good sermon on being Christ-like all the time 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?

Our youngest daughter and I were talking about this yesterday after enjoying our Easter lunch. She has heard of similar incidents in other work environments. It is sadly 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—loss of job, desertion of husband, financial stress, etc. Add to the 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 and in movies. Then, throw in a lot of immaturity. There you go—Ms. Toxic Christian. Not a pretty picture.

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 (Ephesians 4:29), 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.”

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, and maybe it will go away. It won’t. You can ask my friend. It didn’t. Not until someone revealed to the boss what was going on so he could do something about it. Like tell Ms. Toxic to stop gossiping. (He called it for what it was! Good for him!) The environmental cleanup has begun.

Be part of the solution to get rid of the “toxic shock” in your work environment.

More Resources:

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.

Melanie Newton is the founder of Joyful Walk Ministries, an online ministry that helps women learn to study the Bible for themselves and grow their Bible-teaching skills to lead others on a joyful walk with Jesus. Melanie has written many Bible study guides (available on and her website) and presented insightful messages to large groups of women. All of her BIble Studies are available as books on Melanie is wife to Ron Newton (“Integrity at Work” ministry), loves to be outside in her garden, and enjoys her yearly fix of boiled crawfish.

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