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Toxic Work Environment: Don’t Let It Catch You Off Guard

We all have bad Mondays, challenging weeks, and even disappointing months. That’s the crucial nature of a career. However, a toxic work environment is like having all of these challenges on repeat, without a break.

A toxic work environment can be defined as any work setting where the atmosphere negatively impacts employees and causes disruption to their career growth. Here are 10 signs that your work environment might be toxic:

#1 Your input isn’t valued

When you speak up, do your managers and co-workers not listen? Employees that deal with problems day-to-day are reliable sources for coming up with solutions, so if your input is not being treated as valuable it is likely a sign that the management doesn’t prioritize their employees. An organization that doesn’t value its employees will allow a toxic environment to flourish.

#2 Gossip and Rumors run rampant

Does the workplace feel more like the gossip-filled halls of high school than a professional workplace? If yes, this is a definite sign of toxic behaviors. Rampant rumors spreading and gossiping indicates a leadership team that is indifferent to the wellbeing and privacy of their employees.

#3 Bullying

Bullying can take forms that don’t always look how it is typically portrayed. Enduring these abuses can be very harmful to an employee’s health and wellbeing and should never be tolerated in any environment.

#4 Unfair Policies and Unequal enforcement of them

Rules that seem to have no basis or rules that only apply selectively to certain employees usually mean that management plays favorites. Environments that don’t set the same standard of conduct for everyone enable some team members to exercise special privileges that are not accessible to others.

#5 Narcissistic Leadership

Leaders that exhibit narcissistic tendencies are far from an anomaly, unfortunately. These tendencies can manifest themselves in self-interest, lack of empathy, lack of self-awareness, or any of the behaviors included on this list. It can be difficult to reason or even coexist with a narcissist, resulting in high turnover due to employees’ inability to cope with this type of leader.

#6 Communication Issues and Lack of Transparency

Communication and honesty are essential for organizations to maintain the mutual trust that is necessary for a successful workplace environment. When these core elements are missing, a team is operating as separate disjointed pieces rather than as a cohesive unit.

#7 Lack of Work-Life Balance

The importance of work-life balance has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As the value of work-life balance rises, the awareness of having a poor balance becomes more apparent. In this climate, it is intolerable to work for a company that requires employees to sacrifice their well-being for the sake of their job. A company that doesn’t allow employees to have a work-life balance is guilty of enforcing a toxic environment.

#8 Low Morale

Although we are all entitled to being in a slump at times during a particularly stressful work week, organizations that maintain low morale amongst their team members long-term are usually also maintaining a toxic environment. Low morale tends to occur when employees do not feel financial or professionally valued, feel disconnected from their team, work under poor leadership, for example.

#9 Not having enough people to do the work and High levels of Burnout

Burnout is usually a symptom of a lack of work-life balance, which can happen when companies refuse to hire new members and instead force extra workload on their existing employees. Forcing team members to make up for work that should be done by another worker diminishes their work-life balance and can quickly lead to burnout. High levels of burnout almost always indicate the presence of a toxic work environment.

#10 Lack of Empathy and Compassion from Leadership— putting work deadlines first over your emotional well-being

Leaders that exhibit a lack of empathy or compassion are usually also narcissists, which prevents them from prioritizing their employees. These types of leaders will often require that their team members designate work as a top priority, diminishing the ability for them to achieve work-life balance, and possibly resulting in burnout. Any leader that forces employees to choose between their job and their health is poisoning their work environment.

It is essential to identify it early on so you can take proper steps to mitigate any damage it may cause to your employees’ mental health or workplace development. Left unaddressed, a toxic work environment is a serious problem. It negatively impacts employee well-being via chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms which, in turn, lead to an array of detrimental organizational outcomes: reduced productivity, burnout, absenteeism, and counterproductive work behavior.