Do you work in a toxic workplace?

Is flawed leadership the only cause of a toxic workplace?

An extensive national survey by recently showed a staggering 42% of respondents believe they work in a toxic workplace.

The same is being seen in the USA, according to the Society of Human Resources Management, which revealed that one in four working Americans dreads going to work. Whilst flawed leadership seems to be the most obvious causal factor, do we always recognise when we are working in a noxious organisation? 

Here are highlights 12 possible signs that you are working in a dysfunctional, toxic workplace:

1. A lack of diversity and inclusion.  Harassment, discrimination and bullying are all obvious and unacceptable signs of a toxic environment. But microaggressions with no recourse, being treated unfairly, undermined, excluded, singled out, gossiped about or denied basic work rights or opportunities show the detrimental power of a poor diversity and inclusion culture.  

2. No boundaries. Out-of-hours communication, asking you to cancel your holiday plans or interrupting you whilst you are on a break signal, there are no boundaries in your organisation and your needs and work/life balance are of little interest.

3. High-stress sickness rates. If you and your colleagues feel burned out because of unachievable time and workload pressures and high absenteeism rates, then the organisation’s culture is unlikely to be people-centric.

4. Rapid employee turnover – Equally, if there is rapid staff turnover and the newly hired workers don’t stay for long, this is likely to signal a defective working culture and faulty leadership.

5. If individuals feel trapped in their job and feel like opportunities are passing them by or are being repeatedly offered to others, there is little chance of further training or new opportunities and personal development. In these circumstances, they may need to reconsider their position. This is particularly difficult when they are told they won’t find better work elsewhere and should be happy with their lot.  

6. Limited communication – A healthy workspace will have good communication throughout the organisation’s hierarchy. When respectful different opinions and thoughts are not welcomed, people aren’t listened to, and there is a lack of transparency, clarity and shared important information, then there are likely to be systemic problems afoot.  

7. Happy interactions. Why should anyone submit themselves to working in an environment which is not fun? Casual conversations and interactions should be common throughout the day to create bonds between workers. Do you see people smiling or the welcome sound of laughter in the workplace every day? A lack of positive facial expressions slumped body language, and a cold or stagnant atmosphere can reveal many deep-rooted problems. The old adage of “You’re not here to have fun; you’re here to work” is Dickensian and has no place in our workplaces of today.

8. Inadequate leadership skills range from being uninspiring and restrictive to passive-aggressive, harassing or narcissistic behaviours. Micromanaging bosses for whom nothing is ever good enough and who often say they are disappointed in you, who don’t reward good work with affirmative language or who offer harsh rather than constructive criticism are sure signs of a toxic environment.

9. When there is no trust. Organisations with high levels of trust and purpose have better collaboration, strong leadership, highly value respect, better morale and lower employee turnover. On the other side, businesses with minimal trust suffer from conflict, rivalries, lack of engagement, poor creativity and divisive thinking.

10. Discrimination. Any sort of prejudice or bias is unacceptable. Taking sexism in the workplace as an example, inappropriate comments, misogyny, harassment, and gender condescension, such as mansplaining, are rarely seen in just one person and are often systemic.

11. Drama – Employee drama, conflict, gaslighting, infighting, over-emphasis on internal competition, and constant stressors breed unrest and low morale. Alarm bells should be ringing if this is happening in your workplace because it is likely to only get worse over time.

12. Your intuition says so – If you have a gut feeling that something is not right within your environment, you are probably right. The presence of negativity is often felt in minor interactions with people, but that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Listen to your feelings before it begins to permanently affect your self-esteem.

By Thom Dennis, CEO of culture change consultants Serenity in Leadership.

Rate This: