The place you work has such a huge impact on your life. You spend most of your time and energy doing the work.
If you do not find your job fulfilling, it can be jarring on your self-esteem, mood and cause depressive episodes.
There are instances where the workload might be much, but that is different from a toxic work environment.
In a toxic work environment, there is unhealthy competition, stress, bullying, and a high turnover of employees.
The worst part of working in a toxic environment is how the toxicity affects your private life, you worry more, it damages your self-esteem and interferes with the relationship you have with your friends and family.
You do not even need to be told that your workplace is toxic, but in case you are looking for signs, here are some.
- Lack of proper communication
An essential part of human relationships is communication. Even more so in the workplace, that is why the tower of Babel could not be built.
In the same vein, the goal of the company cannot be met if communication is poor and not just communication, good communication, one devoid of bullying, insults, harsh words.
Feedback and appraisal are also important.
- There are many cliques and gossips
In a way, you cannot prevent humans from bonding with one another but no one feels good to be ostracized.
If you notice that some people band together to the exclusion of others, it is not a good workplace culture.
- High turnover rate
Rapid employee turnover is a pretty sure sign that a workplace is toxic. Leaving a job is a tough decision to make. When you notice that several people are making that decision, then something is really rotten. Conversely, if employees are constantly being laid off or fired, this can be a sign of a few other toxic elements. It means the company is disorganized, lacks direction, there is no opportunity for growth, and has terrible leadership.
- Bad leadership
There’s the old saying, “You don’t leave a job, you leave a bad boss,” for a reason. Bad leadership can seep into every fiber of an organization—and it often does.
Bad bosses wear a variety of hats. You might have a micromanaging boss who constantly corrects you, undermines your decisions, and ultimately disallows you from doing your job.
You might have the “Blame Game” boss, who is quick to pass mistakes on to anyone but themselves. Or, you might be lucky enough to have the “No Respect” boss, who emails at all hours, forgets how to spell your name, and likely doesn’t even know what you do.
- There’s no work-life balance
You deserve to have a full life outside of work.
You should be able to toggle your Slack notifications to OFF. You should be able to leave an email unread after dinner on a Tuesday. You should be able to make your dentist appointment without feeling guilty.
You should take the vacation days that you earned. Work-life balance is essential to survival. No human should be expected to be on the clock at all times. If your job requires that you be on-call at all times, it’s toxic. If your boss requires you to answer emails mid-Saturday—every Saturday—your job is toxic.
Yes, at times, things come up at inopportune hours. However, if you are working under the expectation that you are always to be available for work, your job is toxic garbage.
- Lack of innovation
You do not want to work at a place where your ideas are stifled, and they are always like; “My way or the highway” People should be able to pitch ideas, and the management should be malleable.
- When you have a gut feeling
Just like when you eat spoiled food or too much candy, your gut is your best warning sign.
If your intuition is telling you that your workplace is bad, it’s probably bad. If your anxiety is through the roof, if you suspect you're experiencing discrimination, if your physical health is suffering—and all of this is happening on a regular basis, there's a big problem.
Trust your gut. If you need to get a second opinion from a friend or loved one, do so. But, your gut is a pro. Listen to it.
NB: If all of the above seems reflective of your workplace, your workplace might be worse than toxic. You might be in a hostile work environment. Hostile work environments are even worse—and it's likely that a lot of the inter-office behavior is actually illegal.
Look for some of these characteristics of an absolutely hostile work environment:
- Sexual harassment
- Late payments of salaries
- Experiencing burnouts
- Comments about sexual orientation, race, creed, or disability
- No human resources (in a company larger than 15 or 20 people this is a problem)
- Groups of people at odds with others