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14 Signs Your Workplace is Toxic (and what to do about it)



You absolutely do not want to go to work.


Too often I speak with professionals that are in an incredibly toxic workplace, and we're increasingly seeing reporting about them in the news.


What can keep people stuck, aside from the obvious gaslighting that happens in a toxic workplace, is people don't recognize the signs. There are 15 signs your workplace is toxic - do you know what they are? If you don't, keep reading...


Toxic Workplace Sign #1: Gossip

I have to qualify by saying I'm not talking about the good gossip that just keeps you in the loop in terms of what's actually happening at the company. I'm talking about the bad gossip.


The gossip about people, your colleagues' personal lives, the judgmental gossip of who's going to get fired next. That is not productive gossip, and it's a big red flag.


Toxic Workplace Sign #2: Disrespect

Another tipoff might be a culture of disrespect. If you see colleagues that are bickering, especially if you see senior or executive leadership being publically volatile.


Toxic Workplace Sign #3: Poor Communication

While many companies do struggle with communication, there is a difference between unintentional silos which people are making an effort to bridge, and intentional siloes being built.


It is the persistent lack of communication where people just don't talk to each other or where there is intentional withholding of information and that leads to the next sign...


Toxic Workplace Sign #4: Lack of Trust

This could be between team members, leadership, leadership and their teams, or even between the company and their clients.


Anytime that there is an assumption that people should not be trusted alarm bells are sounding; people who don't trust generally aren't very trustworthy.


Toxic Workplace Sign #5: Credit Thieves

Another thing that you'll frequently see in a toxic workplace is people are taking credit for each other's work. I know a lot of women experience this casually in terms of they throw an idea and someone else takes credit for it, and it definitely can be that, but it can also go a lot deeper.


Anytime that you're in a place that is so cut-throat, that owning your own work is something that is going to be questionable, that is a sign.


Toxic Workplace Sign #6: Demanding Hours

Next is one I know is going to resonate with so many of you, and that is they demand you to work an excessive number of hours regularly.


Huge demands in terms of your hours, your expenditure and your effort, like a regularly 8a-8p workday, where you see your colleagues wasting time but putting in the appearance of working is a big sign.


Toxic Workplace Sign #7: Requiring you to do everything

Sure, you may work at a small or growing company where you need to wear a lot of hats. And in most offices, we all have to pull our weight, and that can include doing things like cleaning up the kitchen.


But if you're in a white-collar job and being tasked to clean the bathroom or do other demeaning (and irrelevant to what you do) tasks, that is a big (toxic) difference.


Toxic Workplace Sign #8: Lazy Leadership

Specifically, this is when there a big culture of a hierarchy that is matched with a lack of effort. You know the one, the executive who doesn't seem to do anything at all.


Toxic Workplace Sign #9: Bad Leadership

Whether it's the jerk boss, the bad boss, the narcissistic boss, if the quality of leadership is low, the workplace culture will suffer. And if your boss is toxic, there is no way for your workplace to not become toxic.


Toxic Workplace Sign #10: Gaslighting

This is one that I don't see discussed nearly enough. Gaslighting is a massive problem... but what is it?


It looks like this: you are putting up a stellar performance, you're smashing all of your KPIs, maybe you're even overachieving on the most important things to your company. But when it comes to review (and especially raise) time you're being told that you're barely meeting expectations.


Toxic Workplace Sign #11: High Turnover

Especially if you are considering joining a company to assess the environment, watch out for high turnover.


Some companies may qualify that, that they are generating the turnover themselves; they see a bad fit, they fire quickly (and this is another pile of BS, but also a bigger rant for another day).


Even if it is company initiated, you have to ask yourself: is it normal?


Yes, some turnover is normal and expected, however, if there is a complete turn in terms of leadership or substantial percentage of the team at a regular cadence, you really need to find out why.


Toxic Workplace Sign #12: The Boys' Club

This often is thought of as being harmful to women, and of course, worst-case it is, but it doesn't just harm women. It harms people of all gender identities.


Let's be real, toxic masculinity hurts everyone.