5 Signs You’re in a Toxic Work Environment

Even if you absolutely love your job, there’s always going to be something about it that you wish you could change. That’s the ideal scenario; if you’re lucky, you have an issue or two that you’d like to resolve, but nothing that impacts your job satisfaction as a whole. On the other hand, if your problems are beyond minor complaints – if you feel threatened, suffocated, or compromised on your principles, work ethic, or professional and personal well-being – you may be working in a toxic environment.


(Photo Credit: HaPe_Gera/Flickr)

Here are five telling signs:

1. There’s a lot of competition – and there’s nothing healthy about it

Everyone in your team seems to be trying to prove their worth … by putting somebody else down. It seems that the intention is not to succeed but to make somebody else look bad. If you’re spending more time trying to explain yourself to your boss because of what your colleague did or doing damage control in all your projects, you’re probably getting sucked into a toxic environment.

2. Your manager is just not managing well

Bad managers are everywhere. They yell, make inappropriate comments, reprimand you in public and so on. In a toxic environment, you might also see your manager only assign projects, or give raises and promotions to her pets, overlooking and not caring about the rest of the team. While many managers can be aggressive, there’s a line that most do not cross – the one that calls into question their ethics. If your manager is advising you to break laws and code of conduct, you have to report her.

3. HR doesn’t help

If HR is threatening you – “be careful or you may have no job,” “just suck it up and do your job” – when you reach out to them for help or support, you really don’t have a reliable third-party in the office. They’re not doing what they’re supposed to do and in all probability, they never will. Get away from the place if you can.

4. Bullying is an accepted behavior

If the team feels cornered and helpless because of the reckless and insensitive behavior of a few, and if their behavior is condoned, you’re caught in an environment where it’s just not possible to do your work effectively.

5. Leadership does not “see” it

If your executive team just wants results and does not want to have anything to do with how its employees are going about achieving them, they’re encouraging a questionable culture. A stressful work environment, where everybody is supposed to deliver, whatever the means, can affect the health and well-being of employees. The leadership team is building caustic behavior in the company, and you’re not even able to bring it up to them, because frankly, they do not want to hear about it.

Sometimes, there’s little you can do in a company that has a pervasive toxic culture. However, if the problem is isolated to your team, you have options. Avoid the toxic person(s), and bring the issue up with your manager, manager’s manager, or an internal neutral third-party like an ombudsperson or HR.

If you see that none of these options are available to you and you may be putting your own health, career, and reputation in jeopardy, maybe it’s time to run and never look back.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you worked in a toxic work environment? What did you do? Share your experience with our community on Twitter.