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Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

You Can Deal With the Characteristics of a Toxic Work Culture

Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

Toxic work culture is a huge problem in business, and one that many choose to ignore because they feel that addressing the issue would make no difference.  

What makes a workplace toxic? Researchers Amna Anjum, Xu Ming, Ahmed Faisal Siddiqi, and Samma Faiz Rasool identified four specific characteristics: ostracism, incivility, harassment, and bullying.  

Elements That Define and Cause Toxic Work Culture

The human resources department should work to tackle toxic behavior—even if other people don’t think that this does any good. Here’s why you should fight against all four of these negative elements and how to do it.

Ostracism

Workplace ostracism is the perception that you’re being left out or ignored by your peers. This doesn’t have to be a literal case of your coworkers excluding you—it could simply be your perception that they are. For example, the other team members go out for drinks on Thursday nights and don’t invite you. Is it because they are ostracizing you, or is it because you said you like to go straight home after work, so they believe they are kind in not inviting you?

However, in a case like this, even real, targeted ostracism is hard to identify. After all, if you say “my coworkers are ostracizing me,” they can respond, “oh, we certainly didn’t mean to. We thought Jane had no interest in X.”

In recent years, more than 70% of people have reported experiencing ostracism. It’s not a small problem.  

The human resources team can tackle ostracism in several different ways. You can help people get to know each other through events like icebreakers and team-building activities. Additionally, asking managers to keep an eye out for cliques that develop within a department can help you to tackle ostracism before it starts.

Incivility

While ostracism is often accidental, incivility is a deliberate attack on people. Researchers Christine Porath and Christine Pearson found that incivility breeds negativity, in some cases retaliation, along with damage to customer relationships, and even a decrease in a worker’s creativity and effort.  

Incivility is destructive for businesses. Human resources team members can step in to help the company change its culture from incivility to civility. Porath and Pearson recommend that the first step is for managers to manage themselves. You can’t scream at other people to get them to stop screaming. HR needs to model this behavior to managers and employees.

HR should provide feedback to managers—and managers should learn to ask for it themselves. Letting people know how their behavior impacts others can help bring civility back to the workplace, too. Importantly, you should also “hire for civility.” If you look out specifically for candidates who behave correctly, politely, and respectfully, you can change the culture—just make sure these new people don’t adopt any toxic behavior.

Harassment

You may think of harassment as only relating to sexual harassment, but it can take on many forms. Harassment is illegal if it violates the principles in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or some other legally protected employee classification. That is, if you harass someone because of their race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy status, you break the law.    

Besides demoralizing the victim, this type of behavior puts the company at legal risk. People filed over 26,000 harassment claims with the EEOC in 2019.  

The human resources department needs to protect the company by putting a halt to harassment. By creating policies, training staff, and investigating all allegations, HR can reduce actual harassment and lower the risks to the company.

Bullying

The other three toxic behaviors described above can all occur as a part of bullying. Anjum et. al. say bullying includes “criticism, blaming, social isolation, humiliation, joking, and excessive monitoring of an employee,” adding that it is not only limited to bosses, but peers, subordinates, and colleagues.  

How to Fix a Toxic Work Environment

Let the bully know the behavior is unwelcome.

Speak up about exactly what behavior you regard as bullying. If you don’t say anything to the bully, their actions could continue.

Report the misconduct to human resources.

If you have a human resources department, start by reporting the bullying there. Otherwise, your manager or your manager’s boss is a good starting place to report the toxic environment.

Document the behavior.

Provide the names of witnesses, the dates of the toxic behavior, and descriptions of exactly what the bully did. This documentation can help create a case for HR to take on.

Consult your employer’s policies.

If the bullying is based on any protected characteristics, it is against company policy. If not, many companies have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.

Find an ally.

You don’t have to take on the bullying behavior alone. The employee relations manager or a company ombudsman is an excellent place to start to get help.

Seek medical attention.

Bullying can damage your mental and physical health, so see a doctor to determine if any treatment is needed or available. If your organization has an Employee Assistance Program as a benefit, you can also consider asking for their help.

The Bottom Line

Toxic workplaces can cause problems and make employees’ lives miserable. Make sure to beware of the different elements that comprise it and take the appropriate measures to temper toxicity in your workplace.

Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

Tired or stressed employee sitting in front of computer in office

Many high-profile companies have been under fire for having toxic workplaces as former, and current employees have started speaking out. When it comes to toxic workplaces, there are always apparent signs like outright bullying, sexual aggression, and leaders that can’t hide their gaslighting, but many other warning signs are much more subtle.

Research shows that a toxic workplace can lead to depression, substance abuse, and health issues. If you are starting to feel like workplace problems are affecting you negatively, it might be time to reevaluate.

Here are a few warning signs that your workplace may be toxic.

High Turnover Rate

If the company you work for can’t retain employees, there may be a reason. A high turnover rate usually indicates poor leadership, low employee engagement, or unrealistic expectations, at the very least. If you’ve been at your company for a year and notice many coworkers leaving voluntarily, and seeming much happier once they are gone, take note.

Unfair Practices

Mailchimp recently hit the news as allegations of bullying, sexism, and unequal pay came out. This should go without saying, but if your company participates in the unfair treatment of any of its employees, that should be your number one warning sign. Take note of this immediately. Many will turn a blind eye, but if it happens to one, it could happen to you. Your skills and experience are too valuable to be mistreated, and frankly, companies can’t afford to keep up such toxic behavior.

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In Clive Lewis’ new book, Toxic, he mentions that, on average, it takes 19 months for a conflict to go to mediation. In that amount of time, the adverse effects from a health perspective from the employee side and a cost perspective from the company side can become significant.

Personal Negative Impact

Workplace stress is inevitable. If we’re not being challenged, we’re not growing. However, if you’re lashing out, withdrawing, having health issues, or having trouble sleeping, it could be because you are ruminating on the adverse effects of your workplace culture. This can quickly lead to the desire for substances to cope.

“Emotionally, we become more discouraged, which can lead to depression. For some, they are more irritable, ‘touchy,’ and demonstrate problems managing their anger. Others experience anxiety and a general sense of dread when they think about work. These symptoms then can lead to increased use of alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal substances,” Paul White, a speaker, trainer, psychologist, and co-author of “Rising Above a Toxic Workplace,” says.

Dread When it Comes to New Projects or Promotions

Do you remember being that excited, willing, and enthusiastic new hire ready to take on the world their first day? Then a few months later, you only see coworkers when you’re running to the breakroom getting your fourth cup of coffee? Maybe you’re experiencing that now as you start a second pot before your fifth Zoom meeting of the day.

If starting something new, whether it’s a job, project, or promotion, makes you feel uneasy, that’s a sign that maybe the company is headed on a path in which you’re no longer aligned.

Personal Goals Move to the Back Burner

When you work in an environment that consumes all of your time and energy, you may feel that you no longer do activities you used to enjoy. Reading, yoga, taking a walk, or even just relaxing can feel like too much work or a distraction from looming deadlines.

Personal accomplishments mean just as much as professional accomplishments. It is equally important to have a balance of both.

No Culture or Bad Culture

If your workplace places no value on culture or has negative culture, it will be toxic. Focusing only on negative aspects and focusing solely on improving employees without being constructive will cause employees to always be on edge.

A company’s culture is one of its most important assets. When it’s clear that leadership does not value the company culture, it will be apparent that leadership no longer values its employees.

No One Speaks Up In Meetings

If meetings or training sessions are full of executives and leaders doing all the talking because employees are afraid to speak up, this is a big red flag. Leaders can be sure employees are talking, and it will only serve the company well that employees feel comfortable that their voices are encouraged and heard.

Employees don’t care about an anonymous employee suggestion email; they care about getting directly in front of leaders, being heard, and seeing their leaders take action when it makes sense. If townhalls, company zooms, and even team meetings are top-heavy, but the employees’ zoom happy hour goes all night, there’s a lot not being said in meetings.

Growth is Prevented Instead of Encouraged

Ideally, everyone would have a leader who sees our potential and wants to help us grow. Nevertheless, in many toxic workplaces, managers and supervisors impede growth by blocking opportunities, either by doling out busy work or even taking credit for their employee’s work.

We can know on a deeper level this stems from the leader’s own insecurity, but it doesn’t make it any less toxic for the employee. Poor leaders such as micromanagers, bullies, or even just ones who plays favorites can easily contribute to a toxic work environment. So while your company may have an incredible culture, your job may be toxic solely based on your leader.

If you find that you’re experiencing things such as high turnover rates, prevented growth, or even if your gut instinct is to leave, it may be time to update your resume and start looking for another job. If your mental and physical health is suffering, and more than a few of these ring true, it’s definitely time to consider your next career move. No one can determine the right move for you, but what you bring to the table is worth more when you’re not suffering, and companies that have this figured out are the ones who are perpetually growing because they’re taking care of their best assets: their employees.

November 15, 2020

According to Gallup, 85% of the world’s one billion full-time employees are unhappy at work.

While there are a number of reasons that contribute towards job dissatisfaction, a toxic work environment can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, not to mention their physical and mental health.

But identifying red flags before accepting a job offer can be difficult; companies often sell themselves as a model workplace, when in reality, their inner workings are hugely problematic.

How to Identify a Toxic Work Environment

Today’s graphic comes to us from resume.io and it illustrates the 15 warning signs to look out for before, during, and after a job interview.

Lifting the Corporate Veil

A toxic work environment diminishes productivity by breeding a culture of discrimination, disorganization, bullying, and may even be fueled by unethical or selfish motivations.

Luckily, prospective employees can avoid 40 hours of torment a week by probing the company’s culture before signing on the dotted line. Here is a list of things to look out for:

Before the Interview

For better or worse, first impressions matter. Although excitement levels may be high, it’s important to pay attention to potential missteps, even before the interview starts.

  1. Vague job description: There should be clarity around the roles and responsibilities associated with the job, even if it is a new role in the company.
  2. Negative reviews on Glassdoor: Company review platforms are quickly becoming an indispensable tool for jobseekers who are interested in learning more about previous and current employees’ experiences.
  3. It took a long time to arrange an interview: Companies should show respect for the interviewee by getting back to them in a timely manner.
  4. Forgetting interviews: This could suggest that either the company has serious communication issues, or they do not prioritize interviewing potential employees.
  5. The interview starts late: Punctuality is not only expected from the person being interviewed, the interviewer should also be on time.

During the Interview

Adrenaline may be pumping when the interviewee is in the hot seat, but it’s crucial that they take stock of how the interviewers are conducting themselves.

  1. Unprepared interviewers: If the interview lacks structure, this could signal a disorganized team and a lack of clear expectations for the role.
  2. No interest in listening: Both parties need to put their best foot forward in an interview, to make sure that the interviewee’s personality and skill set aligns with the company, and vice versa.
  3. Authoritarian interviewer: This may indicate a lack of respect for employees.
  4. Inability to communicate company values: If company values are embodied by employees, then they should be top of mind and easily communicated.
  5. Questions are skimmed over: Companies should be transparent and be willing to provide comprehensive answers to any questions an interviewee may have.

After the Interview

In addition to assessing their own performance, interviewees should give careful consideration to how the entire interview experience went.

  1. Short interview: Either the company has already chosen another candidate, or they are desperate to fill the role as quickly as possible.
  2. Quiet workspace: A lack of teamwork or fearful employees could be the culprit for a silent office.
  3. No office tour: Companies should always give prospective employees a glimpse into what their day-to-day could look like by showing them around and introducing them to the team.
  4. Job offer was given on the day of the interview: The company could be trying to restrict the interviewee doing further research into the company, or simply filling the role as quickly as possible.
  5. Delayed decision-making: Failing to get back to someone who has done an interview shows a lack of respect for their time or disorganization on the company’s end.

It’s also worth mentioning that mistakes can be made by anyone, so it is perhaps not helpful to scrutinize companies for small errors in judgement when most of the experience has been positive.

Regardless, if there are any looming uncertainties, it is up to the person being interviewed to ask.

Finding the Courage to Ask Questions

When it comes to interviews, questioning the culture of the company is just as important as questioning the interviewee on their knowledge and skills.

“He who asks a question may be a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask questions, remains a fool forever.”

Switching jobs is rarely an easy process, especially when jobseekers have come up against unforeseen challenges as a result of COVID-19.

But it is more important than ever for people to do their due diligence, and be brave enough to ask tough questions. Otherwise, they may have to repeat the cycle all over again—much sooner than they would have thought.

A toxic workplace involves more than just being in a job you don’t like. We’ve all had bad days, weeks or months on the job. But a toxic work environment encourages employees’ bad behavior, and the cycle of lousy days never ends. Workers might be bullied, harassed, or overworked to the point of burnout.

Anyone, in any industry, can find themselves in a toxic work environment. These workplaces take a serious toll on their workers’ mental health and often aren’t as productive as they may think they are.

Below, you’ll find some of the signs of a toxic workplace and what to do if you find yourself in one.

What Causes a Toxic Work Environment?

There’s no single factor that causes a toxic work environment. Dysfunctional workplaces come in many different forms, and there can even be several types across a single organization. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of clear company values
  • Harassment or bullying
  • Discrimination

Truly toxic work environments often have more than one of these factors at play. Not to mention, toxic employees can exist at any level of an organization. However, toxic environments tend to get worse when someone in a management or leadership position participates in toxic behaviors.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

It can be hard to see the warning signs of a toxic workplace, especially if you’ve been working there for a long time. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • High employee turnover
  • Lots of gossip and office drama
  • Low morale or lack of motivation
  • Few opportunities to move up
  • Being stressed or overworked is the norm
  • Lack of professional development opportunities
  • Lack of feedback
  • Excessive communication when you’re “off the clock”
  • Lots of people calling in sick, or coming to work sick
  • Employees who “try too hard” are bullied

Employees in a toxic workplace might be discouraged from taking breaks, or even be reprimanded for taking legally required breaks.

In most cases, if your gut is telling you something is not right at your job – you’re probably right. Toxic employers often try to make workers feel they’re lucky to have a job to justify unhealthy practices.

Effects of a Toxic Workplace

Toxic work environments harm everyone involved, including bosses, employees, and often customers as well. If left unchecked, toxic practices can seep into an entire organization.

— Effects On Employees

Employees in a toxic workplace often have a hard time performing to the best of their ability. In addition to poor work performance, they also might experience negative mental health effects such as burnout. Burnout is characterized by chronic stress and can include physical symptoms, like trouble sleeping and digestive issues, as well as emotional symptoms like irritability or constantly feeling ineffective. In many cases, the problems a person has in a toxic work environment follow them home. Work issues take over, and it’s hard to enjoy time with family and loved ones.

— Effects On Employers

The high employee turnover that comes with a toxic workplace is ultimately bad for a business’s bottom line. Training new employees costs more than many may think. And the more often you’re replacing people, the more you’re incurring those costs.

Plus, if employees are struggling to find meaning in their work, they aren’t productive. Toxic work environments just don’t function at the same level as others, even if it seems like everyone is continuously swamped.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

Coping with a toxic work environment isn’t easy. For most people, the best way to improve the situation is to leave the job. But there are a few other things you can do in the meantime to make the experience more manageable. Not all of them will work for everyone or every toxic work situation. It’s important to try a variety of coping strategies to find what works for you.

— Try to Be Positive

You can’t always control the people who cause a toxic workplace, but you can control how you respond. Think about how you can maintain a positive attitude. Or, find ways you can avoid contributing to the issues that make your workplace unpleasant. If you hear coworkers gossiping, don’t participate. Even better, point out that what they’re doing doesn’t support a productive workplace. Focusing on your own language can go a long way.

— Keep Work At Work

Venting to someone you trust about issues at work can sometimes be helpful. But if you find that most of your conversations are dominated by bad office experiences, it’s time for some new boundaries.

— Leave the Organization

Of course, this is easier said than done. But, if your workplace environment is impacting your mental health, physical health, or life outside of work, it might be time to explore other opportunities. If you do decide you’re ready to leave, remember that you still have certain rights.

— Take Legal Action

In some cases, leaving a toxic workplace is not enough. If you have experienced harassment, discrimination, or a violation of your rights as an employee, it is absolutely worth considering taking legal action. Far too many organizations will not make changes to fix a toxic environment until they are told to do so by the courts.

Speak to an Experienced Employment Law Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified employment lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.

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Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

Toxic achievers pose a serious dilemma for business owners, managers, and supervisors. On the one hand, they get the job done — quickly, and more successfully than their peers. So, their work production or sales numbers look great. But, on the other hand, they create major headaches due to the way they relate to others, their negative conflictual attitude, and their propensity to frequently want “exceptions” to company policies and procedures.

7 Signs of a Toxic Achiever

How do you know if one of your team members is a toxic achiever, or just a pretty good producer who can be irritating to work with? Let me describe some common characteristics.

  1. Are brighter, faster, and more productive than anyone else in their area within the organization. From a production point-of-view, they are “top dog” (They know it. You know it. The management knows it. And they use this position to their advantage.)
  2. Relate to others in a condescending, brusque manner, flaunting their productivity as a reason to be treated as special. Toxic achievers are good at what they do and they are not shy about reminding others of their performance history. They freely share their advice with colleagues (even when it is not asked for), and are loath to receive input from colleagues.
  3. Can be angry, vindictive, and destructive with their words. These individuals can chew you up and spit you out in one motion, either in private (if you’re lucky) or in front of your peers and supervisor.
  4. Have no compunction about using others to help them accomplish their goals. In their mind, since they are so successful, it makes sense for others in the organization to serve them so that they can become even more successful.
  5. Believe they are above the rules. Rules, policies, and procedures are for “normal” employees, not high achievers like them. Standard procedures and paperwork just get in the way of them being able to achieve more, so they should be able to “go around” procedures or have someone else go through them for them. (This includes paperwork, expense reports, how vacation time is calculated, or going through the correct channels to request resources.)
  6. Create frequent turnover in staff around them. Whether it is their administrative assistant, clerical support for the team, their colleagues, their supervisor, or others in departments that have to collaborate with them — a revolving door of staff develops around the toxic achiever. Nobody wants to work with or for them for long.
  7. Produce conflict among their supervisor and managers — about how best to deal with them. Eventually, heated discussions occur between the toxic achiever’s supervisor and other department heads or high level managers. Often the high level managers want to keep them because their production numbers are so high (and they don’t have to work with them on a day-to-day basis).

How to Deal With a Toxic Performer at Work

Toxic achievers are like a large black walnut tree — it produces pounds and pounds of walnuts but nothing else can grow near the tree due to the toxicity of its leaves and root system. They produce but nothing else lives.

Ultimately, you must get rid of the toxic achiever if you’re going to have a healthy organization. Until they are gone, chaos and conflict will continue (they will create it) and they aren’t going to change without a dramatic life changing experience (so don’t hold your breath for that).

One of the main reasons toxic achievers have to go is because the work environment will not heal and become healthy until they are gone (kind of like having to get a splinter out of your finger). No other course of action works. They are who they are and they bring the associated positive and negative results with them.

Rarely is the survival or the organization dependent on them (unless they have core knowledge or key relationships necessary for the existence of the company) — it’s wise not to let them get to that point of power.

It is important to note that expelling the toxic achiever from the system requires documenting their negative impact on “non-productive” areas, such as their unwillingness to follow rules and procedures, or their inability to work collaboratively with others. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a lawsuit once they are dismissed.

Relief

Once the toxic achiever is gone, you and those who worked with them will begin to realize how poisoned you felt and how much better life at work is with them gone (while allowing them to poison some other place).

Resources

Dr. White’s book, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace, shares numerous stories of individuals who worked in nasty places and what they did to survive.

We have developed a new and expanded individual video training program to address these issues: The Online Toxic Workplace Training Series. We have five videos that can stand alone to address individual topics, or be combined with others to create training tailored to meet specific needs.

Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

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Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

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“Toxicity in the workplace spreads like a virus. Before you know it, you have caught the ‘infection’ and find yourself acting in ways that complement or replicate the very behaviors that are making you angry, frustrated, and/or depressed,” said Elizabeth Holloway and Mitchell Kusy, famous consultants and full-time professors at Antioch University, specially known for their book “Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power”.

Toxicity at workplace is a big no-no for everybody as it affects a person at multiple levels. Research says toxic workplaces cost employees billions annually in the form of absenteeism, health care, lost productivity, and more.

How will you identify the signs of toxicity at your workplace? Is there any tactic to cope with toxic work environment?

Here are the three unmistakable signs of a toxic workplace and how to fix it:

The Leadership Goes Wrong

Leaders are responsible for creating an atmosphere where employees feel encouraged, appreciated and as a result become more productive.

Saumya Raghav, Deputy Manager at Policybazaar.com feels, “It is vital for companies to hire smart leaders who can energize and inspire their subordinates, peers and even superiors. They can become architects of an employee’s success, counselors for those going through hard times and keep employees motivated at all times.”

But when you work under a person who lacks leadership quality, practices favoritism, hardly listens to your opinion about anything and tries to control your every single move, it is natural that you will eventually lose your zeal to do something creative. Such a dominating manager seldom appreciates good work and often tries to find faults in each and every task. Demanding perfection is not a wrong thing, but we all need a little dose of appreciation from time to time.

Leadership going wrong is the first telltale sign that you are in a toxic environment.

Running away is definitely not a solution. You need to find out what your manager’s goals and interests are, what he/she values, how he/she processes information and takes decisions. Once you know your manager, you can be better prepared to deal with him/her and kill toxicity. If nothing within your limit brings good results, you can escalate the issue with the higher authority.

Your Team Member is Difficult to Work With

Does your team member often take credit of your work? Does your team member not have any idea about cubical etiquettes? Are you frequently interrupted by the same team member in project meetings? In short, does this team member drive you crazy by his/ her obnoxious behavior? If your answer is in affirmation, you are working with a toxic team member.

Is there any way to fix this situation?

Saumya Raghav suggested, “Many a time, underachievers in the workplace can feel neglected and create a toxic working environment. So, it is important for managers to ensure that the overachievers stay grounded, push the achievers to strive for higher targets, and counsel and motivate the underachievers. This heightens every employee’s self-worth and creates a more convivial work environment.”

There is No Fairness

Has your colleague got promoted in spite of being less skilled than you are? Does your colleague enjoy some privileges in office, which you are denied outrightly? If your answer is yes, then you are not treated fairly. And when a workplace is not fair, it leaves a corrosive effect on the work culture and employees’ morale. Eventually, the entire work environment becomes toxic.

Rupam Manna, having 7 years of work experience at multiple organizations, an independent digital marketer, last worked at Next Screen Infotech Private Limited, opined, “Toxic workplace increases inequality and unfair treatment with biases which form an unhealthy workplace culture. That feeling that the situation is unfair leads employees to ask whether they are truly a part of the organization’s community. And when employees start feeling this, the overall productivity of a company gets hampered.”

How can you deal with favoritism?

Here are a few tips:

  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Avoid gossip
  • Speak up- talk to HR and senior managers
  • Stay trustworthy
  • Keep all communication channels open

Frankly speaking, if favoritism is deep-rooted, there is often little you can do about it. Looking for other options is the best choice in such a situation.

Toxicity at workplace is a reality. We all face it some time or other in our professional life. The important thing is to realize that you are in a toxic work environment and take corrective steps. If it is beyond your limit to bust toxicity, switching the job is the right decision.

How good or bad is your workplace? Can it ever improve?

Each year, Fortune Magazine publishes a list of the best companies to work for. But what about the worst workplaces? We know what makes a workplace great—good pay, benefits, outstanding leadership, good colleagues—but what are the signs of a really bad company? Here are some of the key warning signs of toxic work environments.

1. You have to keep your head down.

The first sign of a toxic workplace is a punitive environment, where workers learn that if they stand out—make a mistake, criticize, or make a suggestion—they get attacked or punished. This shut-up-and-keep-working environment is guaranteed to stifle any sort of creativity or innovation, and leads to ongoing worker stress because employees never know when the hammer will drop—directly on their heads.

2. The bullies run the show.

A sure sign of a toxic workplace is a company full of bullies—especially when those very same toxic individuals, who put down and belittle others, are the ones who get ahead in the organization. It is bad enough to have bullying co-workers, but bullying bosses are a very good sign that you are in a toxic workplace. [Here’s more on bullying in the workplace and bully bosses.]

3. It takes an act of God to get anything done.

When you are a motivated, dedicated, professional worker, an overly bureaucratic or do-nothing organization can be considered toxic. It kills your motivation and your chances of success. Leaders in good organizations work to remove obstacles to getting work done and provide ongoing support and encouragement.

4. No matter what you do, you can’t get ahead.

Nothing kills motivation like a dead-end job, and organizations that don’t recognize good performance are destined to fail. Moreover, the people in charge likely lack good leadership and probably got ahead through means other than proving their worth.

5. It’s all sweat—and no heart.

Organizations that have a singular focus on money—profits, cost-cutting, etc.—without considering the critical role of employees in achieving success are, by definition, toxic. The very worst organizations chew up employees and spit them out. The short-term bottom line looks good, but in the long term, the organization will fail as employees wise up and move on.

In order to fix a toxic workplace, it requires bold leadership. Think of it as renovating a house. If the foundation is bad, a major overhaul is needed. Sometimes, it requires only a moderate amount of work.

So, what makes a workplace great? The very best companies are those that genuinely care about their workers and their welfare. The emphasis needs to be on the “human” in the terms “human capital” and “human resources.” Leaders need to continually ask how policies and practices impact workers. There needs to be genuine concern and caring for people to make an organization a great place to work.

Share your own experiences with toxic workplaces in the comments.

Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

The culture of your workplace has a direct and significant impact on the quality and quantity of the day-to-day work of your employees. A toxic workplace can affect not only the efficiency but also the mental well-being of the workers.

Employees who experience negativity in their working environment degrade their performance and settle on a cognizant decision to invest less energy at work. Many working professionals admit that getting the assigned task done is the easiest thing to do.

It is having to deal with politics, unfair policies, stringent rules, and negative vibes at the workplace, that makes their job difficult. This is because a stressful environment can make every other thing stressful too. A lot of competent individuals give up their jobs not on the account of the actual work or pay but solely because they get tired of working in a negative and toxic environment.

Thus, every organisation needs to ensure that it instils a positive, supportive and healthy culture in its workplace. However, we understand that it is easier said than done. Therefore, in this blog, we will try to list some of the top signs of toxicity in the workplace culture that every organisation should look out for.

1. No growth opportunities for employees

With various technological advancements and innovations taking place every day, it has become important both, personally and professionally, for employees to learn and hone new skills. Every employee puts in his individual efforts to upskill himself/herself, but as a member of your organization, he also looks up to your management to offer him reliable resources and opportunities to grow. With various e-Learning systems and training software that are now available in the market, training employees has become easy for organizations as well.

Thus, even after such ease, if you are failing to provide the required training and guidance to your employees, then it’s a major red flag for you to check.

2. Rapid employee turnover

We all know that quitting a job is no one’s first choice. Thus, if you have noticed a large number of your employees making this choice recently, this is a sign that something is going horribly wrong. Now, for a certain number of employees, a better salary package or a higher job title can be a reason to leave you, but a high employee turnover usually results from disorganization, lack of direction, poor management, and little or no growth opportunity.

3. No work-life balance

On being constantly subjected to close deadlines and unjustified long working hours, your employees can refuse to go that extra mile to get your work done. So, if you have been noticing a downward curve in the productivity of your employees, it could be a sign that your work is now interfering with their personal lives.

Every professional wants to leave his office worries in his cubicle, but, if your employees are being forced to work even after office hours, then you are disturbing their work-life balance. This is one of the most commonly found toxic traits of the workplaces.

4. Poor communication channel

Communication is the key. Without having an effective communication channel in place, you cannot expect an efficient workplace. Now, it can be argued upon as how a poor communication channel can support toxicity in the workplace. The answer to this lies in the fact that toxicity doesn’t always require something bad to happen. Important processes not being executed in the right way can also result in toxicity.

Misleading information, lack of clarity, single subordinate receiving orders from multiple superiors, and managers being unavailable for long hours are a few characteristics of a toxic workplace.

5. Groupism

With time, employees tend to form small groups at their workplaces, naturally. This also helps organizations in developing a friendly and positive work environment. However, the effects can quickly get reversed if employees start performing groupism. Members of different groups start focusing more on outshining the other group rather than achieving their own goals.

If your workplace is exhibiting any one or more of the signs mentioned above, it’s time for you to start making efforts to establish a more supportive and positive workplace.

Signs of a toxic workplace and how to deal with it

Let’s not kid ourselves: Not a few workplaces are toxic. (Photo: Getty Images)

I don’t work for one of those cool small businesses you always talk about. Instead, my manager is a jerk, the owner is absent and this place runs on fear. I wish I had known before I started, but for various reasons, I’m stuck here. — Jerry

Yes, it is easy for pundits like me to wax poetic about positive workplace cultures, the importance of being a good boss, and why money shouldn’t be the bottom line, but let’s not kid ourselves:

Not a few workplaces are toxic.

While that is not surprising, what does amaze me is how these sorts of companies stay in business. One of my mantras is that happy employees make for happy customers and happy customers are repeat customers. But obviously, that is not always true. Sometimes, too often really, a horrible place to work is still a moneymaker.

That said, how do you know if your office is toxic, or, if the business you want to work for is a toxic one?

Here are 10 signs of a toxic office:

1. Bad bosses: I once had a boss who threatened to put his cigarette out in my forehead. Different era. Today I would sue. Back then, I just quit.

We all know the bad boss. This is the guy or gal who berates people or ignores them. It’s the boss who engages in office gossip or who pits one employee against another. It’s the one who takes credit for other people’s work. The boss who never gives a raise.

Bad bosses create toxic work environments. They belittle people and make work, well, a four-letter word.

2. High turnover: The correlation to No. 1 is that the toxic office has a tough time keeping people around; either they quit or are fired. If you are looking for a job and find out that the place has a high turnover rate, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

3. “It just doesn’t matter”: Did you ever see the movie Meatballs starring Bill Murray? At one point, the Murray as the head camp counselor is trying to tell his campers not to worry about the big match against the cool camp across the lake. To reinforce that, he starts a chant: “it just doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter!”

Well, that could easily be the rallying cry of the toxic office. Show me an apathetic workforce and I will show you a company with a bad culture, terrible bosses, low pay, or all of the above.

4. Communication breakdown: Why don’t people care? One reason is that the higher-ups don’t communicate well, or at all. A non-toxic office is one where there is, among other things, an open line of communication between management and staff.

And yes, vice-versa.

5. Gossip rules the day: Oh sure, there will always be office gossip. That is human nature and half the fun. But there is a difference between harmless and harmful gossip. The former is, typically, innocent, the latter is intentional.

6. Intimidation station: Another sign that your office is toxic is that it is run on intimidation. There are many ways to motivate people, and yes, frightening them is one, but it sure isn’t fun and studies show it doesn’t work nearly as well as positive reinforcement.

7. Money is the bottom line: Yes, we all like to make money, and a business can’t survive without turning a profit, but toxic businesses take that to a whole other level. They pay people poorly and put a premium on profit at the expense of everything else.

8. Policies trump people: Small businesses especially are a different animal. What we can do that bigger businesses cannot as easily is offer that personal touch, whether it be with a customer or a staff member. Toxic workplaces thrive on bureaucracy. Policies become a crutch and a wall to hide behind, masking all sorts of bad behavior.

9. Cliques rule: In a toxic office, people are not on the same team and, worse, the teams often gang up on one another. Teamwork, so critical in business and sports success, is absent in the toxic office.

10. People work too hard, or not enough: Ironically, though people hate working at toxic offices, they are often forced to by their bosses. Other employees have learned how to skate by. Whatever the case, it’s bad.

The good news is that most offices are not nearly this bad, and changing the bad ones is often simply a matter of getting the right people in positions of authority.