Nowadays, toxic work environments are commonplace. In this environment, people often feel uncomfortable and as if they are constantly threatened. There is a general lack of trust and there is usually a lot of manipulation and gossip. Competition is above healthy levels and workplace harassment is often reported. The result is high turnover and low accountability in these environments.
Many people do not realise that they are part of a toxic work culture. Especially if you've been working in that environment for a long time. Employees may not feel comfortable voicing their concerns, so management is best positioned to monitor for signs of a toxic work environment. If you are regularly noticing some of the following signs of a toxic workplace, it may be time for you to think about finding a new company that aligns with your ideals.
#1 Constant Fear of Failure
A toxic corporate culture lacks psychological security. This means employees are afraid of the negative consequences of sharing thoughts and ideas, taking risks and making mistakes. In turn, this results in creating a culture of blame rather than accountability.
#2 Frequent Gossip or Drama
Most people engage in office gossip, but when the primary form of communication becomes passive-aggressive whispering and staring, the team becomes divided and suspicious, and as a result, it becomes difficult to cooperate effectively. This type of behaviour can lead to workplace bullying, which has been linked to depression, anxiety and burnout, especially if the office bully is a manager or company director.
#3 Low Employee Morale and Enthusiasm
In a toxic work environment, employees often feel discouraged and oftentimes show a lack of motivation. Studies show that this negativity is contagious and can spread among dissatisfied employees, contributing to a company’s high turnover as well as resulting in low productivity.
#4 Poor Communication
Poor communication is a common detrimental feature of the work environment. Communication suffers when a team is isolated or a manager lacks skills such as active listening. Employees feel that their roles, responsibilities and expectations are unclear, which can hinder productivity and stifle innovation.
#5 Failure to Prioritise Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Belonging
In a Toxic Work Environment, a leader may say that they are committed to an environment that prioritises DEI and belonging, But their actions can show another story. Underrepresented groups may face prejudice, exclusion or discrimination instead of safety, comfort and equal access to opportunities.
#6 Disrespectful or unethical behaviour
Feeling neglected at work is a strong indicator of how employees value your company's culture. Workers also warn against unethical behaviour such as lying, misleading, making false promises, and not following regulations, which are signs of a toxic work culture.
#7 Unhealthy Competition
Healthy competition is good for business, but a culture that encourages people to undermine each other in order to move forward can breed hatred and reduce productivity. Instead of working effectively across teams, employees in toxic work cultures may actively blame or sabotage each other. Trust is eroded. When unfairness leads to bullying, yelling, public insults and disrespect, it can lead to abuse and is a clear sign of a toxic workplace.
#8 Lack of Recognition or Growth
Employees need to be recognised and rewarded for their efforts, along with opportunities to learn and grow. Fair wages and generous benefits are a good start, but employees also need to know their work is seen and valued. In toxic workplaces, team members are left alone to make career development plans. There is no mentoring or advocacy or opportunities for internal promotions that can discourage even the most dedicated employees.
#9 Unclear or Imbalanced Expectations
Another sign of a toxic work culture is when managers assign tasks scheduled for Monday morning or late on Fridays, or emails sent in the evenings or over the weekend, expecting your reply soon. If employees feel unable to take breaks from work or enjoy their personal time after work, they may belong to a toxic work environment. Expecting top performance without a break is not only unrealistic, it also contributes to a poor work-life balance and burnout. If roles, responsibilities, or expectations are not clear, it can be difficult for employees to understand what to do or who to ask for help.
#10 Bad Management
It's often said that people leave managers, not companies. Managers are essential to building a positive culture, problem-solving, and setting a healthy example. Without proper support and training, they may engage in micromanagement, finger-pointing, or subversion, especially if these behaviours are modelled by their own managers. Layers of poor leadership indicate that you are in a toxic work environment.
When to Leave a Toxic Workplace
It's important to remember that toxic work environments exist for people at work. Choosing to leave shows that you understand that you can't change other people. . Prioritising your own needs and mental health is more beneficial than staying in a toxic work environment and hoping it will change.
The decision to quit is never easy, but it may be less stressful if you start your job search with a strategy for what you want to do before quitting your current job.
Ultimately, making the best choices for your professional future and mental health is imperative.