Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment

By Annette Franz

Image courtesy of lambert03

Is your work environment toxic?

You wake up every morning and drag yourself into the office. You know there’s a reason you drag and don’t skip. The thought of being in your office makes your stomach turn, and you wake up every morning checking your temperature to determine if today might be a sick day rather than a work day.

Don’t worry. We’ve all been there!

I recently read an article in Forbes titled 5 Signs You’re in a Toxic Workplace. I’ll briefly summarize the five here:

  1. Narcissists on top: Leaders believe they can do no wrong and don’t believe the rules apply to them. They seek perfection from others, even though they don’t meet those standards themselves. And they believe disagreement is defection: it’s my way or the highway.
  2. Commiserating colleagues: Employees drown out the bad environment by listening to music with earbuds in their ears and then commiserate about their leaders through chat or text. When their bosses aren’t around, employees happily interact, gossip, and count down the hours til the days is over.
  3. Lack of transparency: Are your performance expectations clearly defined? Do you know how your performance will be measured? Do you know what your position entails? Is there a clear job description for your role?
  4. Inconsistent rule book: This one’s pretty self-explanatory; rules aren’t applied equally across all staff, including the leadership team.
  5. The place is sick, literally: Employees are often calling in sick, fighting off colds at their desks, etc.

A few years ago, I wrote a post called A Culture of Distrust. It lists 19 signs that you’re in a culture of distrust and even includes a couple of the items mentioned in the Forbes article. Take a look, as this type of culture is definitely toxic.

Shortly after writing that post, I wrote another one about culture issues called Circle the Wagons and Shoot Inward. My favorite lines from that one?

What happens when they circle the wagons and shoot inward? It’s exhausting. And quite toxic.

What does that look like? It’s like an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, thinking it’s an antigen. Quite simply, the culture and the employee experience are a mess.

So why am I writing about this yet again? Nothing much has changed since 2014, right?

Exactly. Three years later, employee engagement is still dismal, and you hear more and more stories about toxic workplaces. Have you read about Uber’s culture lately? That’s not a unique story, sadly. Stories like that bring to light other, uglier issues that make the workplace quite toxic.

I’ve been thinking about more about this topic and wanted to add a few more signs to the lists in my earlier posts. I may have mentioned some of them in the previous posts, but if I have, it just means they’re worth mentioning frequently! Here goes…