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.
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.
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.
I’m a career optimization strategist and the CEO of Optimized Career Solutions. I’m a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) who spent my career as a