We all know that feeling—that icky, uneasy feeling in your stomach when you're at work. You can't put your finger on it, but something just doesn't feel right. Chances are, if you're experiencing these symptoms, your organization might be toxic. There are some definite signs that can point to a poisonous work environment. Read on for an insight into the markers of a toxic workplace.
What is a Toxic Environment?
A toxic work environment is a colloquial term for an organizational climate characterized by personal conflicts, negativity, and/or hostility that impact employees' psychological and/or physical well-being and diminish their work performance.
A toxic work environment can have serious consequences for the viability of an organization. Employees who routinely experience stress, fear, or humiliation in the workplace are more likely to suffer from burnout, depression, chronic health problems, and increased absenteeism. They may also be less likely to feel motivated to contribute their best effort or to stay with the organization long-term.
Signs of a Toxic Work Environment
There can be many signs of a toxic work environment, but some of the most common include:
Feeling Constantly Overwhelmed or Stressed Out
When you're feeling constantly overwhelmed or stressed out, it can be a sign that your work environment is toxic. This feeling can be caused by unrealistic deadlines, excessive workloads, demands, or an unreasonable boss. If you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed on Sunday night because you know you have to go back to work on Monday morning, that's definitely not a good sign. A toxic workplace will sap your energy and make you feel unhappy.
When an organization has inflexible communication, it can be difficult to get your point across. This is because communication is often used as a tool to assert power and control. As a result, people in positions of power may feel the need to control the way information is relayed to minimize their own risk. This can lead to a communication style that is rigid and unyielding.
In a toxic work environment, inflexible communication can cause frustration and resentment among employees. It can also lead to misunderstandings and confusion. If you find yourself constantly struggling to get your point across or feel that your voice isn't being heard, it may be a sign that your organization has inflexible communication.
Unclear Work Responsibilities and Boundaries
When employees are unsure of their responsibilities and boundaries, it can lead to a toxic work environment. This is because it can create chaos and confusion, resulting in conflict. It is important to have clear boundaries and structure to avoid toxicity. This includes defining areas of responsibility, policies, and processes clearly and transparently.
Cronyism and Favoritism
Cronyism is the favoritism shown by people in positions of power to those with whom they are close, most often friends or relatives. Favoritism is when someone gives unfair preference to one person or thing, typically in return for personal gain.
Cronyism and favoritism can lead to a toxic work environment because it creates a culture of inequality in which some employees feel like they are more valued than others. This can create tension and resentment among coworkers and make it difficult for everyone to work together harmoniously. It also creates a feeling of entitlement among those who are favored, leading to complacency and decreased productivity. Finally, it undermines the organization's integrity and destroys trust among employees.
Negative, Hostile, or Aggressive Interactions With Co-workers
There can be many signs that a work environment is toxic, but hostile or negative interactions with colleagues may be one of the most obvious. It's important to note that not every negative interaction is indicative of a toxic work environment. Still, if there are frequent episodes of hostility or negativity, it may be cause for concern.
Symptoms of a hostile work environment can include but are not limited to anger, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, fear, and depression. Frequent and ongoing conflicts between employees often characterize hostile work environments. This conflict can lead to negative interactions such as verbal aggression, gossiping, backstabbing, and blaming. These negative interactions can be very harmful to an individual's well-being and can often result in decreased job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and even job loss.
Difficulty Concentrating or Completing Tasks
People typically have more difficulties focusing when they are stressed out because their minds are too occupied by their problems at work to keep up with what is going on around them.
Most people who feel overwhelmed at work spend a lot of time thinking about their problems throughout the day, which can interfere with other tasks they should be accomplishing. Many people resort to zoning out or spacing out to keep from becoming too distraught by their daily stressors to get through the day.
People who feel stressed out or overwhelmed suffer from many physical and mental health problems. Feeling constantly overwhelmed or stressed out can also cause physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or dizziness. And, when employees constantly experience surmounting stress, they might develop more serious conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, digestive problems, and ulcers. If you notice these signs popping up more often than usual at work—or even while you're not working—it could be a sign that your workplace environment is toxic.
Having Negative Thoughts About Work or the Company
Employees often have no enthusiasm for going to work when exposed to a toxic work environment for an extended period of time. This is because there is nothing positive left inside that wants them to look forward to their jobs- not even for a paycheck anymore.
Developing Drinking or Eating Problems
People may turn to drink or eating when experiencing stress in the workplace. Drinking heavily is one sign of coping with problems at work while also contributing to alcoholism. Stress can also manifest itself into compulsive overeating. If you find yourself turning to food for comfort every day after work, not because you are actually hungry, but just because it feels good in your mouth, then this may indicate a problem at work. This can quickly lead to problems with addiction or obesity and can take a toll on both physical and mental health.
Stifled Career growth
If you feel like you are not able to advance in your career, it may be a sign of a toxic work environment. Many employers have policies that prohibit their employees from continuing with further education or training for higher-paying positions. This will prevent you from growing as a professional and achieving greater success.
When employers treat their employees unfairly and cause them undue workloads without proper compensation, this causes high turnover rates among employees who don't want to stay in such an environment.
Leadership is an integral part of any company's success which is why it needs to be fair and just while also inspiring workers to excel at what they do. However, not all leadership styles are effective for making this goal happen. One thing that can lead to poor work performance is leaders who may suffer from Narcissistic personality disorder.
A person with this condition feels overly entitled, arrogant, sure of themselves, lacks empathy or understanding of others, constantly forces others to submit themselves to their will, has a desperate need for admiration and attention. This type of personality can cause employees to feel like they are being abused by the leader, which leads to resentment among workers who will either choose not to work hard or may even sabotage company operations secretly.
Cliques, Gossip, and Rumors
A lack of diversity in the workplace can lead to cliques emerging based on similar interests or self-interests. These groups often keep outsiders out by ridiculing them with gossip and rumors. When cliques, gossip, and rumors take over your workplace, it can lead to a toxic work environment.
If people are spending too much time talking about other coworkers behind their backs or spreading false information around the office, there is likely some underlying tension among coworkers. This type of behavior causes stress and anxiety for many individuals in the workplace. Whenever you witness this social stratification, it's important to ask yourself if the company culture supports teamwork and inclusion or cultivates exclusionary behavior.
Poor Work-Life Balance
When work starts to take over your life, it is time to assess whether or not you are working in a toxic environment. When stress becomes overwhelming, individuals will neglect their social relationships and responsibilities outside of work when they cannot cope with their stress levels at work. This can cause problems in relationships. Your job should not infringe on your social life or family. If you find yourself constantly thinking about work and feel like you can't get away from it, this could signify a toxic environment.
Unsupportive Management or Micromanagement
There are times when an employer may tend to micromanage their employees. This lack of trust in the abilities of their workers causes them to always be looking over their shoulders which can lead to high levels of stress among employees who will feel like they cannot do anything right and therefore start experiencing anxiety and other health problems due to the constant stress caused by this work environment.
This affects business operations by increasing the turnover rate, decreasing morale among workers, which decreases productivity levels, decreases the quality of work because people become more concerned about getting caught for doing something wrong than doing things correctly.
Bullying or Harassment From Co-workers or Managers
A toxic work environment can be created when there is bullying or harassment from coworkers or managers. This can include intimidation, ridicule, and offensive comments. It can make the workday miserable and lead to a decline in productivity. Victims of this type of behavior may feel helpless and stressed out. They may also start to doubt their abilities and feel like they are not good enough.
People may feel insecure about their position in the company if they're constantly harassed by members of upper management who repeatedly point out mistakes and flaws in everything they do while ignoring all positive contributions that come their way.
Racial Slurs, Sexism, or Any Type of Discrimination
If you feel like there is a lack of diversity at your workplace due to race, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity/expression, etc., this could lead to a toxic workforce. If people within the office are making discriminatory remarks towards individuals with different backgrounds, they are not showing respect or care for them. This behavior should not be allowed in the office and could eventually cause one employee to leave due to feeling unwelcome.
The signs mentioned above can occur in any work environment, but when they start becoming common among your employees there is a good chance it is a toxic one. Feelings of hopelessness and frustration caused by poor communication, lack of support from management, and insufficient career growth opportunities are all warning signs that should be taken seriously. If left untreated the number of issues will continue to grow, resulting in further complications for both current staff members and the business as a whole.
At Flexispot, we are advocates for mind, body, and soul wellness. Therefore, follow up with us on our next article for more on how to handle a toxic work environment.