Signs Of A Toxic Workplace: 10 Red Flags You Mustn’t Ignore

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Signs You Stuck In Toxic Workplace

Does the thought of going to work make you sick in the pit of your stomach? Then watch out for these signs of a toxic workplace and learn how to cope with one.

Let’s face it; unless you are a workaholic or one of those lucky few who get immense satisfaction by doing what they do, going to work every day is not something you would enjoy or look forward to.

Work is a requirement for being a functioning adult that most of us begrudgingly do. To have a professional life in the present times means stiff competition, tight deadlines, long working hours, and continuous pressure to outperform yourself and others.

So, yes, work comes with some sort of stress for each one of us. But what you need to understand is that a toxic workplace is more than just Monday Morning Blue, poor pay, slogging, unattainable targets, and difficult bosses.

What Is A Toxic Workplace?

A toxic workplace is all these things, on a loop, with no corrective measures or support. It is the work culture or environment that normalizes:

  • Abuse
  • Harassment
  • Manipulation
  • Micro Aggression
  • Disrespect
  • Discrimination
  • Bias
  • Mansplaining
  • Retribution

It therefore mustn’t come as a surprise that toxic work culture has a direct negative effect on employees’ morale, productivity, and day-to-day wellbeing. Not to mention the huge financial loss that businesses incur due to their disengaged and one-foot-out-the-door workforce.

So, how to be sure whether the malaise you experience regarding your job is just regular work stress of 21st-century life or you are in fact trapped in a toxic work environment? What are the signs of a toxic workplace?

Read: Funny Quotes About Stress At Work

10 Warning Signs Of A Toxic Workplace

Here are the signs of a toxic workplace culture that will help you decide whether to stick through your work woes or plan an exit strategy.

The signs of a toxic workplace include abuse, discrimination, bullying, and other unethical behavior.

1. Non-Inclusive

If you want to be sure where a company stands on the policy of inclusion, inquire about the following questions:

  • Does the top management let employees participate in key decisions through their feedback or any other way?
  • Do employees of various gender identities, sexual orientations, races, disabilities, and age groups feel fairly treated and welcome in the workplace?
  • Does the organization has a recruitment policy that ensures representation, equality, and equity?

If you find the answers mostly negative, then this should be one of the first signs of a toxic workplace. An enterprise that differentiates among its employees on the basis of gender, race, or any personal identity and doesn’t care about their opinions while formulating policies or regulations, cannot offer a supportive work environment.

2. Unethical Behavior

Next on our list of signs of a toxic workplace come organizations that have a wishy-washy standpoint on critical issues such as:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Equal pay
  • Employee Health safety
  • Occupational safety
  • Sensitive Information or Employee Data Protection

Any employer who doesn’t have airtight regulatory compliance policies that safeguard employees’ interests dabbles in unlawful and unethical malpractices.

3. Abusive Management

Toxic leadership in the workplace is the prime reason why six out of ten employees leave their jobs. A toxic manager can singlehandedly bring down the morale and productivity of an entire team and cause significant stress to the employees’ emotional and physical health through several abusive behaviors, including:

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Disrespect
  • Yelling
  • Micromanaging
  • Violating boundaries like mailing or calling after office hours
  • Passing the buck or playing the blame game
  • Taking credit for others’ work
  • Setting unattainable targets and pushing employees to work harder

These are all signs of a toxic workplace and abusive leadership.

4. Lack Of Enthusiasm

Take a look around your cubicle. What do you see? Do you see driven, passionate workers, taking time off now and then to chat or say a cheery hello to one another? Or do you see people so gloomy like they are all scheduled for a colonoscopy?

Employees’ bad attitude is surely one of the most visible signs of a toxic workplace. It is a vicious cycle of dysfunctionality that stems from an unhealthy work culture and then fuels and perpetuates the overall negative vibe of the workplace.

5. Poor Communication

Confusion and mayhem reign where effective communication takes a back seat. Without proper communication and streamlined processes, team members across departments get their wires crossed and the following signs of a toxic workplace emerge:

  • Key members are left out of the loop
  • Job descriptions and KRAs are not clear
  • There is a lack of trust all around
  • Backstabbing and making people scapegoats become a norm
  • It becomes a challenge to collaborate on tasks and projects
  • Meetings turn out to be an exercise in futility
  • Relationships turn sour as friends become foes

6. Power Struggles

Work is supposed to be competitive but power struggle is one of the signs of a toxic workplace that turns healthy competition into manipulation, non-cooperation, and a game of the survival of the fittest.

When instead of recognizing and nurturing the unique talents of the employees, organizations pit them against each other, when job roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, or when the management turns a blind eye to bullying or other malpractices, the work environment turns hostile with people ruthlessly stomping on each other’s feet to get ahead in their career.

7. Fear

If you are overcome with fear to voice your opinions, making a suggestion, or trying out something new at your workplace, then you work in a negative environment that uses threats and punishments for any perceived wrongdoing.

If you don’t feel secure enough to take a risk, then you lack psychological safety and this is one of the blaring signs of a toxic workplace.

8. Hostility

How was high school life for you? Miss those judgy stares from the mean girls, the non-stop gossip at the canteen, and the aggressive attitude of the bullies?

If you hated all those toxicity then, you will be dismayed to find that same micro aggression and veiled hostility find their place in negative work culture.

Coworkers hang out by the water cooler in cliques, they gossip and create toxic drama, pass snide comments, or roll their eyes at others. All these might seem juvenile or harmless, but in the long run, they take a toll on your emotional well-being.

So, if you see your colleagues behaving as if they are straight out of a teen movie, consider their behaviors as signs of a toxic workplace.

9. Poor Work-Life Balance

While dealing with a toxic work culture, you must remember that it does not remain confined to your work life. It overflows and seeps into your personal life, relationships, and emotional and mental health.

You are always on call, you cannot take a day off without feeling guilty, and you have no time for your friends and family. You start losing your sleep, you get irritated easily, and it seems like your work has overshadowed all other aspects of your life.

10. High Turnover

One out of five people quit due to toxic culture in their workplace. To take the decision of leaving a secure job is not an easy one. So, if a company is experiencing a mass exodus then it surely indicates that there is something seriously wrong with its work environment.

If your company cannot keep people for the long haul or if employees get laid off often, then take these as signs of a toxic workplace, one that has multiple of the issues discussed above.

Read: 7 C’s Of Resilience

How To Deal With A Toxic Work Culture?

If you could relate to the signs of a toxic workplace, the following tips will help you cope:

  • Build a support system with trusted allies within the workplace
  • Work on what you can control and simply let what you cannot slide
  • Give your honest feedback if you get an opportunity to do so
  • Keep documented proof of your every interaction with HR regarding any issue
  • If you think the situation is unfixable, leave.

Your Life Is More Important Than You Making A Living

A toxic workplace can ruin your emotional, mental, and physical health by pushing you toward depression, burnout, and anxiety. It can also affect your sleep and appetite. Your relationships too will bear the brunt of your dysfunctional work life.

So, if you are sure you are stuck in a toxic workplace, try to cope as long as you are there, but get out as soon as you can.


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