Is Your Workplace Toxic? How to Know — And What To Do Next

Do you dread going to work in the morning? You might not dislike your actual job, but the culture or environment of your workplace itself. Unfortunately, a toxic workplace is all too common and can be difficult to handle.

You’ve got an inbox full of real work to do. Yet, you spend much of your time at work worrying about a negative boss or a colleague who always blames others. A toxic workplace can leave you feeling drained, demoralized, and disengaged. But how do you know if your workplace is toxic? And more importantly, what steps can you take to navigate or escape that environment?

If you’re stuck in a bad situation, use this blog as a guide to handle it. We’ll delve into the telltale signs of toxicity in the workplace and provide actionable strategies to reclaim your well-being and career satisfaction.

Signs of a toxic workplace

1. Poor leadership

Toxic workplaces are often characterized by ineffective or abusive leadership. This can manifest in various forms, including micromanagement, favoritism, lack of transparency, and a disregard for employee well-being.

2. Negative culture

If negativity pervades the office atmosphere, it could be a sign of toxicity. Gossip, backstabbing, and a general sense of distrust among colleagues indicate underlying issues that need to be addressed.

3. Lack of support

In healthy work environments, employees feel supported and valued by their superiors and peers. However, in toxic workplaces, you may find yourself constantly undermined, belittled, or ignored, with little to no avenues for assistance or guidance.

4. High turnover rates

Pay attention to the rate at which employees come and go. A consistently high turnover rate may indicate systemic problems within the organization, such as poor management, unrealistic expectations, or a toxic culture.

5. Stress and burnout

Chronic stress and burnout are common symptoms of a toxic work environment. Perhaps, you find yourself constantly on edge, experiencing physical symptoms like headaches or insomnia, or feeling emotionally drained. It’s likely your workplace is taking a toll on your well-being.

What to do next

Realize you’re not alone

“Everybody has a terrible workplace story. May it be micro-managers or owners that are temperamental, the examples of poor business leaders are endless,” says Steve Farber, president of Extreme Leadership, Inc.

While it may not be in your best interest to discuss the environment with colleagues while you are physically in the office, it can be helpful to talk to others who are experiencing similar situations. Find out how your friends and mentors use healthy coping strategies in their workplaces. Evaluate which strategies work for your personality and situation.

When it comes to talking to your own colleagues about employers and bosses, remember it’s best to do it over coffee or a drink. Leave the conversations outside the workplace. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire.

Document your effort

When you work in a toxic environment, your work may be called into question, you may feel like you are blindsided by sudden deadlines or expectations, or you may simply receive nasty or unprofessional emails.

To combat this, rely on written communications to back you up. If your boss says they want reports on their desk by 5 p.m. Friday, follow up with an email confirming when you’ll have the completed reports. This way, when Wednesday rolls around and suddenly the reports are “late,” you’ll have an email chain (as opposed to an offhand remark) to back you up.

Further, you can jot down notes about toxic situations as they unfold. Farber encourages employees to “document what is happening, and try to meet in-person with their boss or HR to go over any concerns, or continue on their path to professional growth and search for a healthier work environment elsewhere.”

Interview the workplace

When you’re interviewing for a job, remember that it’s not just about you. It’s about them too! It’s important to create a non-negotiable list of what’s most important for you in a new job. Keep this list in mind to evaluate before, after, and during your interview.

Emily Merrell, founder of Six Degrees Society, says, “How badly do you want to work from home on Fridays? Is this a culture where they offer training or are you thrown right in? I would also grab a coffee and talk to previous employees of the company and ask them about their experience there and why they left.” Former employees will be free to speak more candidly about their experiences, giving you a good indication of what the culture is like.

Assess your health and happiness

“A toxic workplace can bring teamwork to a grinding halt, jeopardizing goals, affecting employee retention, and potentially becoming an enormous liability,” says Farber. “Some clear signs include not listening to their employees, constantly blaming others when things go wrong, focusing on the negative, and not setting goals or providing enough instruction to their team.”

If these things drive you crazy, it may be time to move on, especially if your health is at stake. A toxic environment can hurt your morale and your health. If you’ve noticed you’re grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, or getting stress headaches at work, it’s probably not worth staying. Move on to a company or organization that values your contributions and treats you fairly.

Related: How to Identify Value-Driven Employers in the Job Search

Move on from a toxic workplace

Trust yourself, advocate for your needs, and pursue opportunities that align with your values and aspirations. If you’re ready to be in a better role and workplace, check out how Hired helps jobseekers find dream jobs. We work with companies hiring around the world for remote, hybrid, and in-office positions.

Originally published October 2016. Updated February 2024.

Source: Talent Acquisition -


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