Every workplace has its issues. It’s human nature for there to be conflict, and we’re all imperfect beings. But when the negative qualities drastically outweigh the positives, you’re probably in a highly toxic work environment.
Since the Great Resignation in 2021, more employees than ever are choosing to leave behind their toxic workplaces. A McKinsey Health Institute study found that over a quarter of worldwide workers experience high rates of toxic behavior while at work. A toxic workplace can take its toll on you mentally and physically. Only you can decide whether you can help fix the culture or whether it’s time to move on, but if you recognize these signs, you may need to take action.
Not everyone loves their job. Sometimes, we need to take a job we aren’t excited about to pay the bills or learn the skills needed for a dream job. But there’s a difference between not loving your job and being actively drained by it.
“As time goes on, you may experience burnout, which is a worldwide epidemic. If left untreated, burnout can even lead to more serious issues like a heart attack or stroke.” –Caroline Castrillon, Forbes
Forbes’ Caroline Castrillon writes that a good job should energize you—not the opposite. If you’re feeling mentally and physically drained after every day of work, you might be in a toxic environment.
A good sign that it isn’t just you viewing your workplace as toxic is if your company has a high turnover rate. If your organization churns through new workers at an alarming rate, there’s a good chance there is a deep problem.
There are many reasons employees leave jobs, according to Amanda Hetler. Low pay, limited advancement opportunities, role confusion, and poor company culture all lead to high turnover rates. While there are other circumstances that could be going on, high turnover is a big red flag If you’re interviewing for a new job, it never hurts to research the company or even ask why the position is open.
Lack of support
The best workplaces will invest in their talent to help them grow and become more fulfilled and skilled individuals. The inverse is sadly true; a toxic workplace will not only not offer additional support but may even actively hinder your attempts for growth.
If your company doesn’t offer things like continued education, learning opportunities, leadership opportunities, or room for advancement, it might be toxic even if just toward you according to Career Contessa. They may not be guilty of some of these other toxic traits, but if they aren’t providing you with a chance to develop, they might not be the right place for you.
“Many people in toxic workplaces have to “figure it out” on their own because there’s no mentorship or support to help them grow.” –Eli Bohemond, career coach
A poor work-life balance is a common denominator of toxic workplaces, and it often starts with no boundaries and poor leadership. If you’re constantly feeling micromanaged, that you can’t make a mistake, or you can’t say no, you’re in a toxic place.
Marijana Stojanovic believes respect goes both ways between an employer and an employee. Even though you might not be in charge, your skills, time, and input should be valued. A collaborative team will be more successful. If your managers view you as a tool to get the work done and nothing more, it’s an unhealthy relationship. If you, like the great Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect, you need to take action.
Poor interpersonal interactions
It isn’t only bosses that contribute to a toxic environment, though they can often be the cause. Your coworkers might also be caught in a miasma of negativity and try to pass it on to you.
The Muse’s Puneet Sandhu lists people not trusting each other, people having active contempt for each other, and gaslighting as common ways employees in a toxic environment treat their peers. Fast Company’s Executive Board adds “cronyism”, or a mass of playing favorites, lots of gossip, a sense of disengagement, and hostile nonverbal communication as even more signs of a toxic workplace.
“Employees in a toxic workplace rarely support their colleagues, volunteer to help with projects or go over and above. Instead, employees aim to finish their work as quickly as possible and limit interactions with others.” –Indeed
Take some time and think of how many of these might apply to your company. If you’re seeing many of these traits on a day-to-day basis, your company has a toxic problem.
If you’ve been feeling the ick at work, it’s a good idea to see if these circumstances apply to your workplace. Not every toxic trait is easy to spot, especially from the ground level. Trust your gut and take a good long look at your place of employment and consider whether you need to make a change. Meanwhile, if you’re a job seeker, always be on the lookout for these traits before you accept a new job.