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Signs of Toxic Work Environment and Best Tips to Avoid in 2023

Signs of Toxic Work Environment and Best Tips to Avoid in 2023


Astrid Tran 28 Feb 2023 6 min read

How do you know you are in a toxic work environment? Is it OK to quit a toxic work environment? Let’s check out the 7 signals long with 7 solutions to solve in 2023.

A toxic work environment properly is a result of poor management. It can lead to many negative impacts for both employees and organizations. It is important that learning about a toxic work environment can help employers and employees have better strategies to deal with it and improve a healthy workplace. Toxicity happens not only in offices but also in hybrid working.

If you are looking for the answers to these above questions, this article might probably give you some crucial hints.

Table of Contents

Avoid toxic work environment
Avoid toxic work environment | Source: Shutterstock

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What is a toxic work environment?

Research conducted by MIT Sloan Management researchers indicates about 30 million Americans find their workplace toxic, which means that at least 1 in 10 workers undergo their working environment as toxic. In addition, about 70% of Brits admit they have experienced a toxic work culture. A toxic work environment is no longer a trivial issue, it is nowadays the biggest concern of every company, from small entrepreneurs to large corporations. 

A toxic work environment happens when there is a lack of effective leadership, work design, and social norms. When it conflicts against your values and beliefs. Employees working in a toxic workplace are more likely to get stressed, burn out, and quit their jobs. It can affect employees’ mental health and greatly affects productivity and ethics.

Some specific industries are more toxic than others, with 88% of marketing, PR, and advertising becoming the worst work culture, 86% in environment and agriculture come to the second spot, followed by 81% in healthcare and 76% in charity and voluntary work. Meanwhile, science and pharmaceuticals (46%), property and construction (55%), and media and internet (57%) are much less toxic work cultures, said the UK-based online printer instantprint.

Seven signs of a toxic work environment you should avoid

According to the survey conducted by the UK-based online printer instantprint with 1000 UK employees, key red flags and toxic traits in a toxic work environment involve bullying (46%), passive-aggressive communications (46%), cliques (37%), bias from seniors (35%), gossip and rumors (35%), poor communication (32%), and more. Moreover, it is also believed that poor leadership, unethical behaviors, and job design contribute to a toxic work environment.

So, what qualifies as a toxic work environment? Here, we try to combine and select the 7 most common toxicity signs to help you identify whether you have been experiencing harmful and destructive work culture.

Sign #1: You are in a toxic work relationship

You can ask yourself some questions to know whether you have a poor work relationship, such as: Do you get respected by your co-workers? Do they genuinely appreciate your achievement? Do you feel socially connected to your team? If the answer is no, it warns you that your work relationship isn’t as good as you thought. In the cutthroat work culture, the obvious signs are cliquey behavior, bias, bullying, and unsupported. You are alone and isolated in your team.

Sign #2: Your manager or leader possesses toxic leadership

Leaders play a significant role in setting the tone of teamwork and building up a company’s momentum. If your leader has the following traits, about 99% are among the most toxic leaders you should avoid. They abuse power to force employees to serve their purposes at the expense of others. They will likely have nepotism, favoritism, or overprotect their followers with unfair perks and punishments. In addition, they have poor emotional intelligence, ignore employee feedback, lack empathy, and underestimate those who are not loyal to them.

Sign #3: You are facing a work-life imbalance

In a toxic work environment, you are more likely to be depressed and burn out because of work-life imbalance. You have to work overtime frequently, along with long hours, tirelessly. You don’t have time for yourself and your beloved ones. You are so busy with your rigorous deadline that your health seems to worsen. You cannot claim flexible work hours or get an absence to attend your family’s important events. And over time, you lose motivation to work.

Sign #4: There is no room for professional growth

As the workplace gets worse and more toxic, finding an opportunity to learn and develop is hard. You don’t get a reason to work harder, it is a dead-end job. Your employers don’t care about you. There is no good model for you to follow. You become more expert and experienced in your field, but what you do now is the same as the previous two years. These examples can be a sign that you won’t get an advancement or be higher up very quickly. 

Sign #5: Your co-workers show toxic social norms

When you see your co-worker behave like a jerk, never be on time, and exhibit verbal or nonverbal aggression, they can be listed as dysfunctional behaviors. Additionally, you should be very careful and fully awaked if your teammate takes unethical actions or if some employees in your department do dirty tricks to get work done. Your co-workers take credit for your work and make you look bad in front of managers.

Sign #6: The company goals and values are unclear

Listen to your gut if your company’s goals and values are against yours because it can signify a toxic work environment. Sometimes, it takes time to realize that you are on the right track in your career or it is an ideal workplace culture for you to commit to. If you have been working hard but still conflict with the organization’s values, the time is right to leave your job and find better opportunities. 

Sign #7: You are in stress due to ineffective job design

Don’t let yourself get confused or manipulated into being responsible regarding unclear job roles. In many toxic work environments, you might encounter some situations where you have to work more than others or job requirements but get the same salary, or you can be blamed for other mistakes because it is undefined in the job design.

How to deal with a toxic work environment: 7 best tips

The causes of a toxic work environment vary from company to company. By understanding the root of toxic work culture, by identifying and addressing these toxicities, employers can make the decision of implementing cultural detox or employees reconsider leaving the job.

How to deal with a toxic work environment – Source: Shutterstock

For employees

  • Remind yourself of what you can change and what aren’t
  • Set boundaries and learn the power of saying “no.”
  • Try to handle the issues and conflicts by talking with coworkers and managers

For employers:

The Bottom Line

Over time, a toxic working environment might take a heavy toll on business performance. “What is in close contact with ink will be black, what is near light will be illuminating“. It is hard for employees to be better in a place full of dysfunctional behaviors and toxic leadership. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy and rewarding workplace. 

AhaSlides can be your best tool when it comes to interactive and safety surveys, along with virtual team-building events and training. Your employees can stay at home, or on their vacation, and join company events.

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