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A toxic work environment can spoil any employee’s mood, which can hurt their productivity and overall performance. These environments consist of an atmosphere that negatively affects employees and can cause disruption in their growth.


If you’re in a toxic work environment, it’s important to identify it as early as possible so you can mitigate potential damage to your mental health and overall work performance. Here are signs you’re in a toxic work environment.


You Aren’t Valued


When you speak up in a healthy work environment, managers and coworkers listen and view your opinion as valuable. Managers and coworkers will not listen to you in a toxic workplace, which is a major red flag. Those who handle problems daily are a source for coming up with good solutions, so if your input isn’t valued, then it’s likely management doesn’t prioritize employees or care about the problems you face.


Businesses invest in people. When these individuals are dismissed, priceless information is lost, and solvable problems remain unsolved. Any company that doesn’t demonstrate they value their employees will allow a toxic environment to grow.


Gossiping


There’s acceptable small talk, and then there’s gossip. If you feel like you’re still in high school because of the daily gossip you hear, you’ll know you’re in a toxic workplace. Gossip is a toxic behavior, but it’s something that can make individuals not feel safe at work. Spreading rumors indicates leadership doesn’t care about the privacy and well-being of employees.


In some cases, gossip may come from coworkers who are not management, typically resulting from friendships forming in the workplace. While it’s not uncommon, it is still inappropriate for work.

On the other hand, gossip may come from leadership and management itself, which is a definite sign of a toxic work environment. Therefore, leadership should not talk negatively about an employee to anyone plus not divulging in any personal matters.


Bullying



Along with gossiping comes bullying. Bullying takes many forms in the workplace, including verbal, physical, nonverbal, and psychological abuse. Name-calling is just one example of verbal abuse, while physical abuse is more obvious and completely illegal. Enduring any type of bullying can be harmful to your mental health and should never be tolerated. Bullies thrive in toxic environments because their behavior goes unchecked.


Unequal Enforcement of Policies


Every work environment has policies when it comes to how employees should act. These policies are typically laid out in an employee handbook. An employee handbook should establish a positive work environment because it lets all of the employees know what behavior is acceptable.


Unfortunately, policies themselves can show you whether or not you’re in a toxic workplace. Check your handbook and look for any rules with no basis or rules that only apply to a select number of employees. This usually means management will play favorites, and environments don’t hold all employees to the same standards, allowing some employees privileges while others suffer under their policies.


For example, let’s say a handbook states all employees must work a total number of hours in the office, but there’s one employee who works much less than that. This person is getting special treatment others are not, which means you’re in a toxic workplace that chooses who the rules are for and who can break them. Not only that, but by allowing special privileges, these workplaces tell you other people are more important than you.


Communication Issues


All workplaces need to have some type of communication with their employees. Transparency is key for healthy company cultures. One of the best things management can do for you is offer complete transparency regarding your job and any changes being made within the company. For example, if you’re working on a marketing project and a big product launch has been canceled, you’ll need to know so you can shift gears. A lack of transparency and communication shows your managers and leaders don’t care about your time or projects.


Lack of Work-life Balance


Work-life balance is becoming increasingly more important, especially because many people saw the benefits of this balance when they began working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the value of work-life balance becomes more widely known, poor balance becomes even more apparent than before. In today’s world, it’s unacceptable for a job to become more important than your well-being. A company that doesn’t allow you proper work-life balance means you are just a cog in a machine to them, and they’ll replace you with someone else if you leave.


If you’ve noticed your home life is being affected by work, try to set clear boundaries with your superiors to ensure you get the proper amount of time doing what you need to do at home so you can perform your best at work.


Low Morale


Very few individuals are happy at their jobs all the time. However, constant low morale is a sign of a toxic workplace. If you notice low morale at your job, the odds are you’re in a toxic workplace environment. This can happen when employees don’t feel valued, aren’t being paid enough, are being bullied, or feel disconnected. Simply put, anyone that hates their job and doesn’t want to be there will make it known either verbally or through their body language. If more than a few employees at your company are like this, management may be to blame.


High Levels of Burnout


Everyone feels burnt out sometimes, especially if they’ve been working long hours. However, chronic burnout is typically a lack of proper work-life balance. Burnout can happen for many reasons, but the most common are companies that refuse to hire new team members and force extra work on their existing employees without extra pay.


Forcing employees to make up for work that another person should do can impact their work-life balance by forcing them to stay at work longer or come in earlier. If you add to the fact many workers aren’t given additional pay for taking on these job duties, burnout can happen quickly.

Handling a Toxic Work Environment


If you feel like you’re in a toxic work environment, the best thing you can do is have a conversation with leadership. If leadership itself is toxic and you’ve found you’re getting nowhere, it could be time to speak to a higher authority within the company to make them aware of the very serious issue. Nobody wants to leave their job, but you may be able to find something with a better company culture that makes you feel valued if you can’t positively impact your current company’s culture.



Matt Casadona has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Psychology. Matt is passionate about marketing and business strategy and enjoys San Diego life, traveling, and music.

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