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5 Ways to Survive a Toxic Work Environment as a Product Manager

Working in a toxic work environment is a big topic here at Product Gym, because when prospective members and PG members alike are investing their time, money, and energy into this program, landing the “right” Product Manager job is very important to them.

Recently, one of our members on the West Coast started a position that hasn’t been working out too well for her; she’s about to embark on the job hunt again. One of the perks we offer at Product Gym is allowing members to re-enroll free of charge should these types of events occur.

That said, as unenjoyable as working in a toxic work environment is, it can be a valuable experience. I think it’s really important for people to take a few moments to consider the benefits of working in a toxic environment for a Product Manager. If you’re in a toxic work environment, here are 5 things you can do to get through it.

5. Take Responsibility

This can be a tough pill to swallow, but you will be tougher for it. Ask yourself why you even took this job in the first place. You signed up for this. Why is a Product Manager position open? Why does the function of a Product Manager exist? What does a Product Manager do every single day? Why do companies employ Product Managers?

As a Product Manager, your job is to solve problems (serious problems) that nobody is going to bother to try to take on. Problems that nobody anticipated as well as problems that teams underestimated. The responsibilities of a Product Manager are to meet the unmet needs of customers as well as to manage the expectations of all the relevant stakeholders — just to name a few because we all know Product Managers do so much more than that.

I personally like to think of Product Managers as Battle Commanders, because leading people into war and doing battle is exactly what is expected of you. I laugh and cringe sometimes when people say that they want to go to an “established” product organization. I am sorry to say this, but most companies do not offer that. It’s your job and responsibility to make the situation better. All the great Product Managers that we all respect and admire have fought in the trenches. They have crafted solutions when others claimed there were none, turned the game around when all was thought to be lost, and yes, found ways to effectively work with difficult people.

Product Management has become a very attractive title in recent years. It’s okay if you don’t have all the skills, as you can learn them on the job.

4. Negotiate with the Source(s) of the Toxicity

Identify clearly what is bothering you and attempt to render the situation. If it’s your Head of Product who you have a problem with, let that person know. Let the individual that is responsible or has a say in the matter, know what is bothering you. Perhaps it’s not a person, rather a practice or process. Regardless of the issue, clearly identify it and create solutions on how to productively move forward. If you have a problem with your Head of Product, don’t just let the person know that you have a problem with them. Instead, attack the problem or issue and not the person. Stakeholder management includes all stakeholders, not just the ones you like.

3. Develop Clarity on Your Next Role

Adversity is success’ best friend, truly! It really is. Whether you believe in the law of attraction or not, I have found that our past members usually get what they “say” they want. Some members just want a Product Manager job, to break into big tech, or are just in it for the title (i.e., Director or Head) or money. What they focus on expands. I cannot scientifically prove that the law of attraction exists, but it seems to work out that way from my observation. If you jump ship now, the last thing you want is to end up in another company that is the same environment, and you don’t want that. I am very confident that is not what you want.

2. Get Some Grit

Appreciate tough times in your life and view this time as an opportunity to grow again. Recognize that how and what you are feeling right now isn’t ever really going to go away. It will come back at some point. Problems are constant in life. The only certainty we have is constant uncertainty. If you are able to find some meaning through the hardships, you’re going to come out of this experience a much better person.

1. Move On

Sometimes in life, you try everything and things still don’t work out. That’s fine. Start creating a roadmap on how you are going to create a better situation for yourself. There is no need to be emotional about this, but unfortunately, that might be difficult. This is why a community such as Product Gym can really help you during this time.

These are just a few suggestions that some of our past members have found to be very helpful. At the end of the day, everybody is in a unique situation.

Find Somewhere You Can Thrive

If you’re moving on to a better work environment, it helps to have some support as you reenter the job market. Product Gym is a lifetime membership program for PMs, PM job hunters, and product people of all sorts. Getting people exciting jobs in product management is our bread and butter: if you need to transition into a new role, we’re here for you to go through the program again. That’s why we call it a lifetime membership.

If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of Product Manager skills and job search tactics, get in touch with us! We’re offering free career coaching sessions with our in-house team of PM Recruiter experts. We’d love to hear from you.