Life Advice



Ask Amy: The office seems more toxic than ever

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Like so many others, I have faced my share of struggles trying to get through the pandemic and keep my health, family, and career on track.

I worked remotely and am now back working at our office space. We employees basically trade off working in the office and working from home. Working at the office is different than it used to be, but this is a compromise that seems to be effective, at least in the short term.

Now we wear masks in public spaces and are extremely careful to distance from one another, but – weirdly – one dynamic left over from the “before times” seems to persist: some of my co-workers still seem to traffic in negative gossip and petty sniping about management, and each other.

Honestly, this bothers me a lot more than it used to, and I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to change a dynamic that has more or less infiltrated our workplace.

— Tired of Toxicity

Dear Tired: A recent study published in Applied Psychology explores the effect of gratitude on negative workplace behavior. The study looked at 351 people, testing the effectiveness of keeping a “gratitude journal” for 10 days. Employees were asked to spend a brief time each morning simply writing down things they are grateful for.


The study concluded that participants who wrote in gratitude journals participated in significantly less gossip and other toxic behaviors at work. There are a number of theories about why this practice seems to work, but basically anchoring to gratitude can significantly boost an individual’s mental and emotional outlook and attitude. And people who feel good (or better) about themselves and their lives are kinder toward others.

This might be a good exercise for you and your colleagues; if you’re not in a position to directly address the toxicity and suggest this as a potential solution, then you might try it – or meditation – on your own. Starting each day with a mindful recognition of the good things in your own life may make the toxicity seem less pointed and painful.

Dear Amy: My husband “Paul’s” birthday is coming up.

Paul and I got married in our 40s. It is an only marriage for us both, so we were each single for a long time beforehand.


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