What Is A Toxic Work Environment? : 10 Signs To Identify a Toxic Work Environment

Although all jobs can be stressful at a time, sometimes it’s not easy to notice that actually, your work environment is making you stressed. Don’t let a toxic work environment sneak up on you. I did and that was the worst year of my life. 

What is a toxic work environment? A toxic work environment is any workplace where the atmosphere, the people, the pressure, drama, and more, cause serious disruptions in your work-life balance, just the thought of going to work makes you not to leave your home, make you tired, drained, physically ill, or depressed. These places are recognizable by manipulations, back-stabbing, gossiping, and abuse on a daily bases.

Everything that is destroying the morale and performance of employees can be the result of a toxic environment.

Health is the first thing affected by excessive stressOpens in a new tab.; sleepless nights, racing heartbeat, or headaches are just the first symptoms. The negative effects of a toxic environment eventually will affect your friendships and self-esteem. 

The concept of working has changed. Employees no longer stay at the same company for several years. This means that employees are no longer afraid to leave when faced with a toxic work environment. So if you have the feeling of getting out before it gets worse, prepare your exit strategy.

Being aware of the signs of a toxic work environment and how to handle them can help you in planning your next move on your own terms, so when you have a new job you will enjoy it.

What are the signs of a toxic work environment?

1. Employees get sick very often

2. Poor communication and lack of transparency 

3. Narcissistic Managers/Bosses

4. There is no enthusiasm

5. High turnover rate

6. People love to gossip

7. Workplace abuse

8. People take credit for work they didn’t do

9. Throwing coworkers under the bus

10. You work all the time

1. Employees get sick very often

A toxic work environment and excessive stress are causing health issues, starting from digestive problems, reduced immunity, increased risk of stroke or heart attack, to burnout and fatigue. 

When your colleagues start to call sick very often or are fighting colds at their desks is a serious sign of a toxic work environment. 

2. Poor communication and lack of transparency

If you aren’t sure how to do your job, due to lack of information, or you are not sure how your performance will be measured due to lack of feedback and recognition, and on top of that you are told to be glad to even have a job, you are working in a toxic environment.  

Letting go of employees without prior notice or receiving feedback on tasks that should have been done months ago are just a few of the many indicators of a toxic workplace because of a lack of communication.

When there is no transparency on what is expected by the employees or there are no clear goals and objectives, it’s almost impossible for creating a positive and creative work environment. 

3. Narcissistic Managers/Bosses

Narcissism is especially present among leadership. If you can define your managers as people who demand that they’re right all the time, that they can’t do anything wrong or are feeling like they’re above company’s rules, you are in a toxic work environment. 

These narcissists tend to demand everyone else to be perfect, while not meeting those high expectations themselves. Very often they are not understanding the actual workflow, set tasks that are impossible to achieve, while providing vague descriptions, and complain when you weren’t able to do as they told you. They love to be reaffirmed and see any type of disagreement as disloyalty. All of this leads to higher stress levels among employees.

4. There is no enthusiasm

It’s natural that work doesn’t bring the positivity out of people, but in a toxic workplace, there is constant negativity cloud hovering over the employees. Employees tend to have little or no conversations. All of the conversations are regarding work frustration. There is no enthusiasm, and with this atmosphere is quite clear why almost everyone is not happy to be there.

5. High turnover rate

If you start noticing that people start leaving after one year, take it as a sign of a toxic workplace. People leave any work environment that is dysfunctional and with low morale. 

6. People love to gossip

Gossip in the workplace is inevitable. But when it comes to the point where everyone is talking bad about everyone, it turns into a serious problem. When employees create a culture of gossip not only waste their time unproductively on unimportant stuff, but they also cause people to lower their respect for other colleagues.

Any behavior that will hurt the dignity or respect of any employee should not be tolerated. 

7. Workplace abuse

If you or your coworkers are bullied verbally by your boss or other employees, you are working in a toxic work environment. There should not be any type of abuse in the workplace or any other place. 

Even when a certain employee is crucial to the company’s success, should not be allowed to treat people badly or be rude. Toxic workplaces allow the poor excuses such as “You know how he or she is, they don’t mean that”. That is the same as saying we will address the issue, but eventually, we won’t do.

Sexual harassment: Many of the women are experiencing sexual harassment of any kind in the workplace. Fostering a culture of sexual harassment is absolutely unacceptable.

Discrimination: Any type of discriminationOpens in a new tab. based on gender, race, age, etc, also is absolutely unacceptable.

8. People taking credit for work they didn’t do

Bragging is never a good idea. When a colleague tries to take credit for work done by someone else affects the morale of the office and may even affect the career of the person which work has been “stolen.”

Having to fight for what is rightfully yours is resented by everyone.

Even when a certain colleague is crucial for the successful completion of a project, a good team player should share the glory. By appreciating each contribution, employees feel more motivated.

9. Throwing coworkers under the bus

When people don’t take ownership of their mistakes and blame others is a clear indicator of a toxic workplace. This means that every time an issue arises, someone else is thrown under the bus, it’s someone else’s fault when in reality it isn’t.  

10. You work all the time

When you are required to be available all the time, even when you are on vacation, or you’ve taken days off to sort out through personal issues, will harm your physical and mental health. Having no work-life balance because you can’t break off your work is a sign of a toxic workplace.

How to handle a toxic work environment?

Many times we convince ourselves that it’s just work, I can deal with it for 8 hours, then will relax at home. Actually, if the emotional weight of a toxic work environment is not properly dealt with it will crawl into your personal life and disturb your work-life balance.

Besides consulting with HR making them aware of any issues you might have and of what is happening, you can do a few other things in the meantime to address the toxic workplace.

1. Find allies: In a toxic workplace you can’t trust your coworkers, however, there are probably a few people who feel the same as you. Developing friendships with these people will help you to vent out and watch each other back.

2. Document everything: Make sure to save records of all interactions – emails, direct messages, phone calls, write down comments, conversations, meetings, etc. Write down names, times, dates, places, everything that was said and done. In case you need to file a formal complaint, you’ll have the evidence to back up your claims.

3. Prepare your exit strategy: While waiting for things to improve, begin your search for a new job. You don’t have to leave your job immediately, but it will keep you to stay positive knowing that there are other potential jobs out there.

4. Find a stress-relieving activity: Make sure to find after-work activity that will help you to relieve your stress. Go to the gym, do yoga, learn a new skill, take care of your garden, etc. This is important because having a fulfilling life outside the workplace will help you to be stronger in your hardest moment at work.

5. Create a to-do list every day: By having a to-do list, you’ll be more focused on the completion of your daily tasks than to the toxic environment around you. This will give you a good reason to “survive” the day.

What to do if you burnout?

Most importantly take some time off. Disconnect yourself from anything that caused your burnout; turn off all of the apps like Asana, Slack, emails, anything that will notify you of work-related information. Don’t feel obligated to go to a place you have no desire to go, especially work-related events. Take care of your health; practice meditation, get enough sleep, eat well, spend some quality time with family and friends.  

All of these practices can help you to reduce the negative effects of burnout.

What practices in a toxic environment become legal issues?

Some practices such as discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, disability, or sexual orientation, then when employees are sexually harassed are considered legal issues.

If the company fails to properly address these types of discrimination or harassment you have the right to ask for legal help.



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