I have been asked this a few times regards teaching unemployed adults and everyone has experienced this at all working environments at sometime or other.
What can we do to protect ourselves and not get sucked into this toxic environment:
KEEP AWAY FROM THE ACTION
Do not participate in the office gossip BUT sit back and observe, you need to separate yourself from this and keep your ‘head above the parapet’
REMAIN IN CONTROL
Avoid returning the ‘fire’ no matter how you might feel. This allows you to control the individuals who are trying to control you. These Egotists want you to fight with you as this would make them happy. Let them think they have one
It is important to just concentrate on your job and not to engage on these distracting situations as it is a positive way of coping with these distracting moments. You need to act professionally no matter how how strongly you feel about a particular situation and do not drop to their level. Staying assertive and true to your beliefs and convictions you can gain mutual respect and a better working relationship.
To protect yourself you need to close yourself from all the negativity from the working environment and everybody has different methods such as wearing headphones cuts you off from malicious gossip that some people like to participate in.
A useful method to undertake is find people who you can identify with and trust who you can joke at the other peoples’ antics. This could be a letting of steam scenario or a great way to improve matters. The important tactic is to keep your group under the radar, so you can’t be labelled in any way.
LOOK FOR PATTERNS
Observe and study your co-workers methods and tendencies as this could give you an advantages eg what people say and do and inconsistency in behavior. This gives you an insight in how to navigate for the future in a positive and effective way.
If nothing still works, then leave. A volatile unhealthy working environment does cause some skilled people to leave because of the working situation and find work elsewhere. Those who can’t find a way to cope and endure.