We can all agree that our jobs can be exhausting, yes? Between juggling meetings, managing employees and co-workers and executing your own duties, you can easily find yourself worn out. But, when you work in a toxic work environment everything is tenfold. (Stressed because your boss is stressed? Try having a boss who is literally screaming at you over Zoom.) That said, it can be difficult to decipher what constitutes a toxic job versus the ebbs and flows that come with being a working adult. That’s why we compiled a list of six sure signs you’re in a toxic workplace.
1. There’s an abject lack of communication
Good communication is the key to any successful relationship, and when it comes to making a company run smoothly, it’s the difference between toxic and nontoxic company culture. Improper communication means that people are often scattered or confused about expectations from leadership. Projects may seem complicated, stressful and difficult to execute either because there aren't enough hands on deck, or there are too many people who want to take the reins. You may also notice leaders talking down to employees in entry-level positions or taking immediate sides in conflicts, instead of allowing everyone to chime in and express their concerns.
2. Gossip culture is prevalent
One big by-product of poor communication? Office gossip. After all, when there’s no anchoring code of conduct, things can easily go from, “Sally doesn’t show up to work meetings” to “We heard Sally is late because she's dating Robert from tech.” In addition to spreading false info, gossip can lead to cliques forming, which consequently means there’s an exclusionist culture in place. People can lose their jobs, arguments arise more quickly and the office vibe becomes less Parks and Recreation and more Mean Girls. Not good.
3. There’s no room for growth
We all do our best work when we know it counts for something. But if you’re working for a company that’s stuck in their decades-old routine and is resistant to new ideas, you can easily feel stifled. If you can’t pitch new ideas or improve upon your skillset, that may be one sign. It’s also good to take stock of the people you work with and evaluate whether or not they’ve grown. If you notice that your cubicle mate has been in an assistant position for three years, yet she knows the business in and out, you may just be working for a company that doesn’t support progression.
4. You can’t create a work-life balance
If your boss demands that your job come before your boyfriend’s birthday or Dad’s visit from Chicago a la Devil Wears Prada, then yes, you’re in a toxic workplace. Of course, it’s important to give your all from nine to five (or whatever your prescribed work hours). But if you’re constantly receiving emails, text messages or phone calls during your days off, and can’t make plans with your loved ones because you may have to hop in a meeting, it’s time to reconsider.
5. Employees are unmotivated
If managers are not communicating, not giving their employees room to grow and not compensating them appropriately for their hard work, odds are, morale is low. That can mean none of the old employees are willing to help new hires assimilate, everyone only interacts with members on their team and no one is willing to step up and do double duty during peak seasons. This may happen not just because there’s no incentive to go above and beyond your daily duties, but also because everyone is already juggling so much, there’s literally no room to add anything else to their plates.
6. There’s high turnover
One tell-tale sign that something is wrong within the workplace is when employees come and go at breakneck speed. With so many people (especially millennials) prioritizing their wellness and mental health, no one is going to want to stay in a place that disrupts that. So, if you find that your co-workers are dropping like flies, it’s wise to analyze the culture.
How to Cope with a Toxic Work Environment
Unhappy as you may be at your job, leaving is not always an option. So, if you find yourself having to put up with toxic work culture, there are a few things you can try to make your experience better. For one, you can take a stab at building a circle of trusted co-workers, people you know will help you reach your goals and won’t bring any unnecessary drama your way. You can also create boundaries—whether that’s letting people know you’re not into the gossip or making it clear that your personal time is not for work. Above everything else, make sure that you keep your professionalism and remain kind to people, hard as it may be. After all, it’s easy to get sucked into petty gossip or low morale, but staying focused on your long-term goals, upkeeping your work ethic and treating people well will never go out of style. (Just don’t be afraid to simultaneously update that resume.)