5 Signs You’re in a Toxic Workplace

Published: Jan 12, 2023

 Workplace Issues       
Article image

The ideal workplace is one that encourages professional growth and collaboration, celebrates achievements, and provides the necessary downtime for its employees to relax and recharge. Unfortunately, not every workplace values its employees, and some even actively keep their workforce in a constant state of fear and discomfort. If you’ve been feeling that things aren’t quite right at work lately, you might be on to something. Here are some of the telltale warning signs of a toxic workplace.

A Revolving Door

Is your employer constantly hiring new people to fill in recently vacated positions? If so, it could be a sign of some serious issues in the workplace. High employee turnover is a good indicator that overall job satisfaction among workers is dangerously low. Worse yet, if your employer doesn’t seem affected by the high turnover, it probably means upper management is aware of the issues and isn’t interested in rectifying them. In other words, you’re in a meat grinder.

There’s a variety of reasons for high employee turnover. It could be consistently long hours (more on that in a bit), bad management, sub-par or otherwise dangerous working conditions, lack of meaningful perks and benefits, or a toxic workplace culture. You could wait it out to see if things improve, but keep in mind that it could cost you your sanity. If you decide to make a change, take your time and make sure you’re not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

No One Takes Off

When was the last time you saw one of your coworkers take a vacation or a day off? If you can’t remember, it’s probably because no one is using their vacation days or sick days. This could be a sign that your coworkers live in fear of upper management, or have been scolded for taking time off in the past. This is a very bad sign, and doesn’t bode well for you and that awesome trip you have planned.

Taking time off once in a while is crucial for your mental health. If you’re always pushing yourself too hard without any breaks, you’re all but guaranteeing burnout in the near future. When an employer refuses to recognize this, they’re showing you that they couldn’t care less about your well-being, as long as you’re at your desk producing. This goes along with the high turnover red flag, since in this case your employer knows the abuse leads to low employee retention rates, but simply doesn’t care. That’s cold.

You’re on Call Like A Doctor (But You’re Not a Doctor)

It’s Friday at 5 p.m. and you’re about the walk out the door when your boss stops you and says “where are you going?” The answer—“home”—seems obvious but somehow you know your boss expects you to be sitting at your desk long after they’ve left for the evening. In another scenario, you’re expected to come into the office on weekends to catch up on an assignment, even when the deadline is weeks away.

Of course, we all have to stay late from time to time, but if you’re constantly working overnight and on weekends, it’s a major red flag. When your employer doesn’t respect your time, it means they don’t respect you. You’re a cog in the wheel and if you break, they’ll simply replace you with the next one; rinse and repeat. I say to you this: start looking now before you get so burnt out that the task of even searching for another job seems insurmountable.

Negative Cliques

You know the type—they’re always gossiping in secret, or hatching some nefarious and targeted plot against an unsuspecting coworker. It’s hard to believe, but some people actually enjoy spending their time in such ways. There’s always bound to be a few bad apples in the bunch, but if you find that you’re surrounded by toxic cliques, you might want to consider other avenues of employment.

We talk a lot about how positive feelings and actions can be infectious; the same works for negative feelings and actions. When a group of people are always plotting, scheming and gossiping, it leads to a vicious cycle of negative feelings such as anger and frustration. We don’t want any part of that, and a good employer shouldn’t either.

A Climate of Fear

Feel like you’re always walking on eggshells at work? It’s probably because you are. Your boss is always lurking around and looking for a reason to reprimand you, your coworkers are afraid to step in and help one another because it could be misconstrued as frivolous time theft, and everyone is shaking in their boots because there’s an upcoming deadline and they know they’ll be asked to sleep in the office to meet it. Nightmare fuel.

If you can feel the overwhelming climate of fear around the workplace, it’s probably best to start putting the old resume out there once again. We spend a whole lot of our time at work, and there is absolutely no good reason why it should be encumbered by fear. Work should feel fulfilling, and we shouldn’t have to look over our shoulders when there’s more important tasks to attend to.

Finding the right company to work for is an integral component to a happy and successful career, so if you’re seeing any of these red flags in the workplace, you might want to think about making a change. Always remember, nothing is permanent, and work should be something you enjoy and that you can take pride in, so don’t let yourself fall victim to a hostile or otherwise toxic workplace.