How can you navigate a toxic work environment and come out on top? 

Whether you are dealing with a difficult boss, toxic coworkers, or a negative work culture, I’ll share some tips to help you navigate through these challenging situations. I’ve worked in the corporate world for a little over 20 years. Regardless of where you work, no company is perfect.  Some companies are more tolerable than others. I’ve definitely had my fair share of working for folks who are a couple fries short of a happy meal. 

I’m sorry if you are stuck working in a toxic environment. I completely understand.  Speaking from personal experience, I know it isn’t fun.  Obviously, the goal is to get out of that toxic work environment as fast as possible. If the company is pressuring you to do something illegal, does not align with your values, or is affecting your health, please do what you must to expedite your departure. God wants us to be bold as a lion, not a doormat that people feel comfortable walking on whenever they choose.

While you’re working on your exit plan from that toxic work environment, you are still in a position to let your light shine. Why not do some good on the way out? Why wouldn’t you want to expose those in power who choose to participate in illegal or discriminatory behavior so those after you don’t have to experience the pain and suffering you did when you were on the job? As Christians, whenever possible, we should strive to leave a place better than how we found it. Just because we worked in a hostile work environment doesn’t mean we can’t play a role to make it better for someone else.

That’s exactly what Obadiah chose to do. In 1 Kings, we read that Obadiah was a devout believer in God and the palace administrator for King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Unfortunately, Obadiah worked for both of these extremely wicked people who could care less about God. In fact, Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets. When Obadiah heard that Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets, he was presented with a variety of options. 

  1. He could have immediately quit, which most likely would have resulted in his death as well.
  2. He could have run away.
  3. He could have suppressed his conscience and helped Queen Jezebel. Doing so might have further elevated his status. 

However, he did not choose any of those options. Obadiah had courage and integrity. He figured out a way to save the Lord’s prophets. Obadiah risked his life by saving as many of the Lord’s prophets as possible. He hid 100 of the Lord’s prophets in groups of 50 in two different caves. He then provided them with food and water. I know what it’s like to work in a toxic environment, but Obadiah’s situation would definitely win first place for the world’s most toxic environment. 

None of us, or at least I hope, will ever be in a situation as toxic as Obadiah’s. However, if you work in the corporate world long enough, it’s only a matter of time before you will find yourself in a toxic work environment.  While waiting on God to create our escape route from that toxic job, we will face the dilemma of how we choose to react. Here are some lessons that we can learn from Obadiah:

  1. **Devoted to God** Despite Obadiah having a prestigious role working for a king who opposed worshipping God, Obadiah remained faithful to God and protected His prophets. We must prioritize our loyalty to God, even in challenging circumstances. Since we have free will, we will inevitably work for someone who does not honor God. God was very clear about our approach: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Col 3:23 NKJV). However, once that person we report to attempts to get us to disobey God, then we must obey God rather than this person (Acts 5: 29 NKJV)

At the end of the day, the person we report to is just a person. The only power a person has over your life is what you give them. That’s why you must place your focus on fearing the One that can kill the body and the soul…God. (Matt 10:28 NIV) 

  1. **Courage in adversity** Obadiah was brave. He risked his life to save the Lord’s prophets. His actions teach us the importance of standing up for what is right, even when it’s difficult or dangerous. I completely understand that we work to make a living. However, somewhere along the way, certain folks who ascend to the management level tend to develop a God-like complex. They adopt this warped mindset and view their employees as objects they bought instead of hired.  The folks who typically possess this tyrant attitude tend to overcompensate because they have low self-esteem or problems at home. The list of reasons why they choose to behave like this could go on forever, but this does not excuse them from dealing with their personal problems. They should not take their frustration and anger out on their employees.

The sad thing is I’ve seen and worked with so many people willing to give up their happiness to feed these egomaniacs. I’ve seen people basically sell their souls–lie, cheat, steal, or suck up to those in management because they thought that this behavior would help them save their jobs. The sad thing is that even if you willingly choose to be a liar, thief, or coward, you will lose that job and your dignity. Unfortunately, those who enable the egomaniac’s behavior will never experience the plans God has in store for them. All of this is due to fear. If you’re unwilling to fight for your rights, He won’t waste His time helping you. God will never cast His pearls before swine. God knows you’ll just allow someone else to steal His blessing from you. 

Fear is contagious. I don’t want to catch it in my life. Once fear gets inside you, it will hold you hostage. This may sound harsh, but when I encounter people who live in fear, are too afraid to stand up for themselves, or are too afraid or too lazy to invest in themselves, I let them go. God warns us that evil communication corrupts good morals. If you keep hanging around the wrong people, their bad habits and lifestyle will eventually rub off on you. 

Hence, why I choose not to keep cowards in my inner circle. God did not give us the spirit of fear but power, love, and a sound mind. I know how hard I fought to gain the courage I possess. I’m not about to increase my chances of losing my courage by hanging out with folks who have no intention of gaining it. Like Obadiah, I will show compassion if you’re willing to defend yourself.

  1. **Show compassion:** When Obadiah heard that the Lord’s prophets were going to be in danger, he didn’t just sit there and think, “Man, that sucks, hope it works out for them.” No! Obadiah assessed the situation to figure out how he could help prevent the Lord’s prophets from being persecuted. Obadiah provided for the needs of the Lord’s prophets by hiding and feeding them in two different caves. This demonstrates the importance of showing compassion and hospitality towards others, especially those in need or facing oppression. The Lord’s prophets were willing to risk their lives to share God’s word. This was their assignment or purpose in life. 

Our purpose may not be to preach, but we can certainly share our gratitude to God by being willing to assist in this endeavor by helping in whatever capacity. My mom is an amazing cook. She can throw down in the kitchen. Throughout my life, my parents invited various families to our house after church and would always send them home with the leftovers. On more than one occasion, those families would comment that their meal at our house was the best meal they had in a long time and were eternally grateful for the leftovers. Our actions may seem small to us, but may mean the world to someone else. 

  1. **Divine reward:** God ultimately rewarded Obadiah’s actions. God used Obadiah as an instrument to initiate the conversation between Elijah and King Ahab. Now, Obadiah did express fear in honoring Elijah’s request, but Elijah reassured Obadiah that he could trust Elijah. Obadiah gathered his courage and did what Elijah told him to do. Obadiah was spared from harm and continued to serve in a position of influence. This illustrates the principle of divine blessings for those who faithfully serve and obey God. 

I can’t begin to get into all the examples of how I’ve seen this principle in my life. Sometimes, I sit back and reflect on my life as if reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. For those unfamiliar with these types of books, it’s a book that requires you to answer various questions that force you to make a decision. Your answers determine how the story will end. 

I thank God and my mom every day for not allowing fear, impatience, and discouragement to prevent me from obeying God. Your willingness to allow God to use and leverage the gifts He’s given you to amplify His kingdom will lead you to discover your purpose in life and place you in a position to experience the extraordinary life Christ came to give us. We’re all connected. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to someone else. 

As you can see, Obadiah has taught us that a toxic work environment does not have the power to beat us down or rob us of the opportunity to help other people. Don’t let a toxic work environment bring you down; embrace and empower the lessons we learned from Obadiah so we can survive and thrive until God sees fit to move us on to our next adventure.