5 signs you're in a toxic workplace

5 signs you’re in a toxic workplace

With the children back at school and the summer holiday just a happy memory it’s the time of year when we return to work, and settle in for what can seem like a long haul towards Christmas. But how can you tell if it’s just back to work blues or if something worse is going on at work?

You may think that it’s just returning to work that’s getting you down, or that you need to upskill or stretch yourself. However, people can find themselves in a toxic workplace where they can never be fulfilled. Here are 5 signs that you’re working in a toxic workplace.

1 – There’s a revolving door for joiners and leavers.

If there’s a high degree of staff turnover in your workplace that can be a sign that all is not well. Are people joining and becoming disillusioned? That can be a sign that all is not well, especially if that means constant recruitment to replace people constantly leaving.

2 – Everyone is angry

What’s the general mood like in your workplace? If meetings happen do they start with general moaning, repeat unresolved issues, and end in disagreement? Are you co-workers regularly irked, peeved, frustrated or indignant? Are people resorting to passive-aggressive sabotage and withdrawal? If you’ve come to accept this as a workplace norm, or the price of working in a particular sector, then it sounds as if you are in a toxic workplace.

3 – Email has a purpose that isn’t communication

Even in the best workplaces people can send too many emails, and forget that the best email is often a phone call instead. If you feel inundated with emails ask yourself what their purpose is. Is it to help you do your job better? Or is it transactional, and a way of transferring responsibility for a task from the sender to yourself? Or perhaps it’s for the sender’s protection, to help them establish a paper trail in case things go wrong?

Once email becomes a medium to offload responsibility your workplace isn’t healthy. And if you find yourself having to play by those rules then to toxicity is starting to affect you as well.

4 – The workplace runs on an unofficial workplace currency

The idea of “workplace currency” has become more widely acknowledged over the last couple of years. This is the idea that workplaces certain behaviours, and that exhibiting these is what leads to employees being valued. Typically these behaviours are intended to be teamwork, customer service, innovation, and so on.

However, toxic workplaces will run on an unofficial currency – a behavior that if you don’t comply with you will be penalized for. Typically for dysfunctional workplaces these will be behaviours like presenteeism, not saying “No”, or even aggression. Ask yourself what your real workplace currency is. If it’s not one your employer would put in their job advert then that can be a sign of a toxic workplace.

5 – All change is for the worse

It might seem counter-intuitive but staff in a toxic workplace will resist any change. This isn’t because they like things how they are. Rather it’s because they cannot trust the reasons for the change, or believe that improvement would be the outcome. Think about the way that change is greeted in your workplace. Whilst some resistance to change is normal greeting it with complete fear or absolute refusal is clear sign on of unhealthy workplace. Even if there is communication in that workplace, the trust necessary for it to work has long since evaporated.

If some or all of these ring a bell from your workplace then you have a choice. Do you carry on, and try and learn to react and behave differently, or do you move to another employer or even sector? The third option, of doing nothing, isn’t really an option at all.

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