5 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

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    Are you experiencing workplace harassment or workplace bullying? Do you feel burnt out, stressed, or exhausted? Maybe you dread going into work, feel overworked and underappreciated, or are unable to relax on your days off. If this is the case, especially if you are constantly thinking about work after hours, you may be suffering from a toxic work environment. In some cases, it may even be time to start thinking about alternative career paths.

    There are a lot of signs of a toxic work environment to consider — ranging from serious offenses such as workplace sexual harassment, workplace violence, and workplace discrimination, to more subtle offenses such as workplace gossip and poor leadership. Your workplace safety, health, and comfort should always be a top priority, for yourself and for your employers. 

    It’s important to periodically check in with yourself about your job and your workplace culture. Take a moment to reflect on the following questions: Do you feel content, safe, and fulfilled at work? Do you feel valued? Appreciated? Does your employer prioritize your health, safety, and well-being, or are they more focused on deadlines and quotas? Are you able to advocate for yourself, negotiate your salary, communicate boundaries, and ask for accommodations if needed?

    Maybe you feel uncomfortable, stressed, or otherwise discontent at work, but aren’t necessarily able to pinpoint why. In this article, we will discuss signs of a toxic work environment and strategies to address common workplace problems. Read on to learn about how to identify common signs of a toxic work environment.

    01

    Workplace Gossip, Cliques, and Bullying

    Unfortunately, workplaces are often strife with gossip, cliques, and workplace bullying. Although workplace bullying is not an illegal form of workplace harassment — such as sexual harassment or racial discrimination — it is still a serious problem and should always be addressed. Workplace bullying can affect morale, teamwork, and workplace mental health. 

    Are there close-knit social groups within your workplace? Workplace friendships are healthy and are often a sign of goodwill and positive collaboration. But do these groups of people gossip and actively exclude others? If the answer is yes, then these groups are cliques. Friendships, teamwork, and collaboration are ideal, but cliques can be destructive to workplace culture. 

    Workplace cliques are often responsible for workplace gossip, rumors, bullying, and other toxic workplace drama. Cliques are bad for morale, collaboration, and can contribute to toxic work culture. Workplace bullying is a common problem and cliques can exacerbate this problem greatly.

    workplace bullying

    If you or one of your coworkers is being bullied, either in-person or online, review your workplace policies and complaint system. Then schedule a time to sit down and talk with your manager. Together you can brainstorm strategies to minimize workplace bullying and create a healthier work environment and work culture.

    02

    Poor Written and Verbal Communication

    Good communication are key for any successful work environment. It’s important to know exactly what is expected of you and others so you can work efficiently and meaningfully towards a common goal. This includes both verbal and written communication. 

    There are lots of workplace communication factors to consider. Do people listen to and value your opinion and input? Is communication clear? Or do you often get frustrated due to mixed messages and vague instructions? If this is the case, do you feel comfortable asking your boss and coworkers clarifying questions? Is it easy to reach out to others when you need to? 

    If workplace communication is negative, unclear, or inconsistent, make an effort to reflect on your expectations. Do you wish people communicated with you differently? How so? Sometimes, people aren’t good about checking their emails, but always answer their phone or vice versa. This is why it’s helpful to check in with others about their preferred method of workplace communication. 

    Good workplace communication is not only helpful for you, but for the entire company. Share your expectations and concerns with your boss and coworkers so you can collaborate more successfully in the future. Remember though, communication goes both ways, so be open to feedback as well.

    03

    Low Morale and High Turnover

    A common sign of a toxic work environment is a high turnover rate. This is especially important to be mindful of when you begin a new job. Sometimes it may take a while to understand a workplace’s underlying dynamics, especially if you are working in a toxic work environment. Make a point to be mindful of the employee turnover rate. If you notice patterns and trends early, you may be able to gain insights into the inner workings of your workplace sooner rather than later. 

    A high turnover rate is disruptive to the workplace. It takes time to adjust to changes, and if your coworkers are constantly changing, it can be difficult to work effectively. Teamwork and collaboration is key for workplace morale, and a high turnover rate can contribute to low work morale. 

    A high employee turnover rate is often a warning sign of a toxic workplace. If you are aware of this early, it may help you mitigate potential problems. Like with all things, practice mindfulness, boundaries, and discernment in the workplace.

    04

    Poor Leadership and Workplace Management

    Poor leadership is a common sign of a toxic work environment. Does your boss or manager struggle to delegate deliberately and effectively? Perhaps they display narcissistic tendencies and abuse their position of power. This might present itself as your boss or manager showing favoritism towards certain coworkers. Are our workplace policies enforced equally? Or do certain workers always seem to get a pass for certain behaviors or standards? In some work environments, favoritism may present itself in your schedule. Are some workers more likely than others to get days off when they request them? 

    Other bosses or managers may be disorganized and not know how to properly delegate in order to keep workers busy. There are countless ways for poor leadership to manifest in a company. Key questions to ask yourself though are: Do you respect your boss? Do they treat you fairly? If you approach them with a concern, will they listen to you? How likely are they to follow through?

    05

    Serious Workplace Offenses

    While some signs of a toxic work environment may be remedied with effective communication, positivity, and perseverance, other offenses are more serious and may even be illegal. Serious workplace offenses include workplace sexual harassment, workplace violence, workplace retaliation, and workplace discrimination. Workplace discrimination may be based on any number of factors, including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and health. Workplace diversity is important, and if you feel like a company is discriminating against you or a coworker due to any of these factors, it’s important to speak up and issue a formal complaint. Workplace safety should always be a top priority and if anyone feels unsafe or discriminated against, it is time to take action. In some instances, company treatment of an employee may even warrant a lawsuit. There are many factors that may contribute to a toxic culture in the workplace, but some offenses are much more serious and should be treated as such.

    Key Takeaways and Moving Forward

    In order to feel happy, respected, and fulfilled by your career, it’s important to feel like your personal ethics align with your company’s workplace ethics. If there is a disconnect between your values and that of your company and/or coworkers, it may be time to move on and start looking for alternative employment. There are lots of factors to keep in mind as you consider future career moves. For instance, you may be interested in pursuing jobs that employ lots of women or are otherwise more culturally diverse. People spend the majority of their days at work, so it’s important to have a healthy work environment. It is possible to take initiative and improve workplace culture. Sometimes, though, the best way to address a toxic work environment is to quit your job and seek an alternative career path.

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