If you’re constantly dealing with these 10 things, you’re in a toxic work environment

Identifying a toxic work environment isn’t always as cut-and-dried as you would think. Toxic behavior is normalized so much these days that it can be hard to recognize. 

That’s pretty sad, isn’t it? 

If you’ve ever wondered if you’re trapped in a toxic workplace, read on and learn the biggest red flags of a toxic work environment. 

1) Lack of transparency 

Clear communication and transparency are must-haves for a happy, healthy workplace. It’s an indisputable calling card of a toxic work culture

If workers are left in the dark about company developments like new policies or goals, for instance, they may struggle to remain invested and productive. 

Poor communication can be the death knell for any business. It leads to frustration, resentment, low morale, and decreased productivity. Bad communication leads to confusion and a lack of purpose for employees, and it will show.

Any other problems in the workplace are exacerbated by a lack of transparency, causing a domino effect of bad vibes. 

2) Micromanagement

Every toxic workplace has at least a handful of micromanagers. This “leadership” style is the cause of countless worker migraines.  

Micromanagement means supervisors hovering over employees trying to control every move they make. But in the end, micromanagement is demotivational behavior and a leading cause of plummeting job satisfaction.

3) High turnover 

If a company has a high employee turnover rate it could be the result of a toxic work environment negatively affecting team dynamics and productivity. 

When employees leave in droves, something is definitely up. Some common toxic threads in these kinds of workplaces include:

  • Non-existent leadership
  • Lack of appropriate employee resources
  • Unreasonable expectations
  • Little growth opportunities
  • Pay disparity

If departing employees aren’t given the opportunity to speak frankly in an exit interview, they’ll probably be reluctant to share important information pointing to the real problem.

This happens for many reasons, but two of the most common are not wanting to “throw shade” or drag negativity with them to their new gig.

4) Toxic leadership

There’s the old saying, “You don’t leave a job, you leave a bad boss,” for a reason. Bad leadership can find its way into every corner of an organization, and many employees in toxic work situations are left to “sink or swim’ because there’s no support in place to help them navigate. 

This is even a problem for virtual workers since you’re already physically disconnected from your supervisor or teammates.

Toxic leadership can damage any healthy work environment. It can seriously affect employee well-being, output, and retention. 

If you see a high turnover rate at your company or on your team, it may be your heads up that other employees have sensed the toxicity poisoning your workplace. 

5) Limited growth potential

While we’re talking about growth, if you’re not experiencing any at your job, your workplace could be toxic—even just for you. And that’s all that matters. 

If your employer doesn’t offer any learning opportunities or mentorship programs, odds are this is a company not invested in your future. 

Some (not me, but some) might argue that it’s not your employer’s job to motivate you, but this lack of support can reveal a toxic workplace. 

This should encourage you to start exploring your other options. If you can’t grow as your company grows, why even bother showing up? 

If your workplace doesn’t seem to offer any mobility, learning opportunities for advancing your skills or career, or mentorship, they are likely not invested in the growth of their employees.

Once you’ve figured out that you have nowhere to grow and nowhere to go, it’s time to find a new place to put down roots. 

6) Literally sick and tired

work related struggles that cause silent pain for introverts If you’re constantly dealing with these 10 things, you're in a toxic work environment

If you’re in a toxic work environment, the stress caused by dealing with it can begin to affect your physical health. 

You’re in “ fight or flight” mode so your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats. As far as your nervous system is concerned, you’re in a dangerous situation. 

Being in “fight or flight” mode for a long 

time will adversely affect your long-term physical health. You may begin to experience some of the common symptoms of anxiety or depression, which include digestive problems, body aches, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and full-blown panic attacks.

If you’re calling in sick a lot or if you’re constantly exhausted and mentally drained, this is your wake-up call that your toxic job is affecting your health.

7) Mean girl (or boy) cliques

If it feels like you’re walking into homeroom in front of many judgemental eyes when you show up for work, this could be because the social dynamics are similar to the joiner mentality you thought you left behind in high school. 

Most of us already know what a clique looks like. It’s that group of people who stick together, laugh at a gazillionty inside jokes, and joyously exclude anyone outside of their little bubble of childish obnoxiousness.

Yeah, we’re all supposedly adults here, but it can be alienating and demeaning being on the outside looking in on a work social clique. 

And, let’s face it, it’s pretty darn unprofessional in any work setting

The bottom line is that cliques are counterproductive in the work environment. It’s great having work friends to talk you off the ledge, but behavior that’s described as “clique-ish” is not acceptable. 

8) Gossip

“I have some hot tea to spill … but remember you didn’t hear this from me.”

Gross, right? 

If you hear this kind of stuff regularly at the workplace, it’s toxic.

When gossip is involved, you’re either a victim or a participant. Some people join in because they’d rather be the latter than the former. 

Resist the urge to engage. Indulging in gossip, even half-heartedly, destroys the work environment by causing tension among your fellow employees. 

9) Burnout

Burnout is more than a buzzword or jargon. In fact, workplace burnout is a legit medical diagnosis recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

But wait, there’s more! 

A survey from the Families and Work Institute found that 43% of employees who felt  overworked were resentful or angry on the job often or very often.

Like, a lot.

Burnout is a surefire sign your work environment is toxic—or at the very least it’s a work environment that’s toxic for you. 

There are three kinds of burnout. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • Frenetic burnout

Frenetic burnout is usually seen in workers who put their all into their work hoping that their impressive output will be rewarded. 

Unfortunately, the frenetic employee reaps no benefits from their hard work and positive outcomes.

This kind of burnout happens when a worker is bored at work. Since they’re experiencing exactly zero job satisfaction in a job, the under-challenged employees find themselves in a perpetually crummy mood. 

  • Worn-out burnout

The worn-out worker is pretty much resigned to their unfulfilled fate after experiencing a long stretch of work-induced stress. 

With negligible benefits and no support, the worn-out worker is completely disillusioned by their job and employer.

10) Gaslighting

“Gaslighting” was Merriam Webster’s 2022 word of the year. So it’s definitely a thing and not a good one.

When someone gaslights you, they intentionally cause you to question your own experiences, perceptions, or mental health. 

For example, I had a friend whose supervisor would assign projects to his team with a very specific goal as the desired endgame. 

But when it came time to review, the supervisor wanted to know why the project was done the way it was and inexplicably moved the goalposts, completely dismissing the original brief. 

It drove my friend nuts, and rightly so.

Final thoughts

Toxic work environments breed low morale, stress, negativity, illness, high employee turnover, and even bullying. 

What’s worse is that toxicity doesn’t just stay at work. It follows you home, and everywhere else you go, for that matter.

Fortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a shift toward creating workplaces that are more transparent, supportive, and nurturing. 

This means that companies and employees are both more knowledgeable about what a toxic work environment entails and how to avoid it in the first place. 

And that’s good news all around.

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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