SIGNS YOU’RE IN A TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT
Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas
SIGNS OF TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT
Do you feel like you have serious concerns about the place you work? Almost everyone complains about their job, and you might not be sure if you are overreacting to everyday difficulties or if your troubles at work are slightly more real. This article should help you clarify if your office is a toxic work environment. You might consider leaving if the toxic situations laid out below are unlikely or impossible to improve.
1. Everyone has a bad attitude and there’s always office drama
Do you or others come in to work with a halfhearted smile, or even a frown? In a toxic environment, there is always something to be upset about. People come in expecting the worst because often that is what they will get. Drama is the norm and people are not happy overall working there. Particularly, coworkers who have been at the company a long time might have long standing beef with each other, leading to lots of microaggressions or drama. To a new coworker, these fights might seem petty or unnecessary, but they indicate a deeper schism. If this divide is present between coworkers, or between the boss and employees, this is a major sign of a toxic environment.
2. Everything gets criticized
Do you get acknowledged for your hard work, or receive praise when you complete a task to perfection? At least, do you receive a slight nod or neutral silence, indicating that you have done a task well enough to merit approval? In an unhealthy workplace, criticism is around every corner. You may have come to expect the constant barrage of criticism, but you should know that in a healthy environment, you would receive positive feedback as well. If people are constantly tearing each other down, it’s hard to work together. Of course, it’s impossible to receive purely positive feedback, but ask yourself: Am I receiving constructive feedback, which I will grow from? If not, this is a major red flag.
3. People keep quitting or being fired
Does the turnover seem unnaturally high? Does it seem like all the people you started with are now replaced by new employees? Does your boss say that none of your ex-coworkers “were a good fit?” If so, it’s safe to say that the problem is the workplace, not the workers. Ask yourself what qualities those employees brought to the table, and even consider personally contacting them to see what happened. You may be sticking around because you can put up with things others would draw the line at, but you should consider why they left.
4. You’re constantly worried about being fired
If you’re doing your job properly, you should not have to worry about being fired on a daily basis. In situations where the variables are out of your control, it may seem as though your boss will decide to fire you if they are having a bad day. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but in a toxic environment, you may worry that any mistake, no matter how small, will cost you your job.
5. Everybody has little to no enthusiasm
Does it seem like people are just waiting for the time to pass until they can go home? Would it come as a surprise to you if your coworkers seemed genuinely excited about a project you were working on? In unhealthy environments, people may have given up. They are not expecting to enjoy the work, and they do not look forward to the next day.
6. Managers are dictators, not leaders
Managers are human too—they make mistakes and have bad ideas sometimes. In a healthy environment, there is a give and take. They may tell you to do something irrational, and you should be able to explain your point of view, and a solution that would make more sense. If they are not listening to your ideas, and are simply demanding you follow seemingly irrational rules, you are likely dealing with a dictator, not a leader.
7. You exhibit symptoms of anxiety at work
Do you routinely feel that it’s difficult to breathe? Or have unusual aches in your shoulders, neck, and back? Maybe you stress over every little thing, in a way that is unusual for you, or seems exaggerated to others. All of these are symptoms of anxiety, a very common emotion. According to research, one in five people in the US have an anxiety disorder. It’s normal to be nervous before a presentation, or a work function you have poured your efforts into. However, if you find yourself anxious just to be in the building or around your boss or fellow employees, you are probably in a toxic environment. While anxiety disorders are complex, your toxic work environment could be causing you to have situational anxiety. In this case, the best thing you can do for your body and mind is find another job.
8. You notice bullying or harassment in the office
In healthy environments, people build each other up, encourage, and support one another. Bullying and harassment are clear signs that your environment is unhealthy. If such disruptive behavior is being tolerated in your workplace, you or your coworkers may feel unsafe completing work and may go out of your way to avoid being harassed. In a healthy environment, you should feel free to report problems, and feel confident that the problem will be treated seriously. If this doesn’t occur, it signals toxicity.
9. Your workload is unreasonable
Every work place goes through busy periods from time to time. But when you have more work on your plate than you could possibly complete, and you aren’t receiving support or overtime pay, you are being used. When employers overwork their employees and have little concern for how they are affected, workers are drained of energy and feel under-appreciated. If you feel this way, speak up. If your boss or coworkers do not assist you, that is very concerning.
10. You and other people constantly get sick
Sometimes your body lets you know something is not working out before your mind fully realizes it. Working under stress causes you to feel mentally and physically worn down and drained, which can and will make you sick. You may be getting sick because you are stressed out going in to work or because they are overworking you. Regardless, if you are constantly sick, that is a sign that your body is unable to manage and is shutting down to protect you, leaving you vulnerable.
If you have read through this list and found it achingly familiar, you are in a toxic working environment. Perhaps you are in a position to help make healthy changes to your workplace, and now you have a starting point. Working in a toxic environment will wear away at your happiness and health over time. If you are not in this position, you may want to consider a change and look for a new place of work. Best of luck!
If you want to learn more about managing toxic personalities, read the book “Toxic Workplace!: Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power” by Mitchell Kusy and Elizabeth Holloway.