Home Student & Career Tips  11 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

 11 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

 This article aims at highlighting and explaining the 11 signs that you work in a toxic workplace.

Toxic Workplace

It is normal to have bad days at work. This could be due to one reason or the other. What’s important is that these periods don’t last. After a given period of time, things go back to normal. This is not the case with a toxic work environment.

A toxic work environment has all of the bad days on repeat. You can have a terrible week or month as a result of not smashing a goal but this feeling doesn’t always last. This is never the case with a toxic work environment.

A toxic work environment is filled with so much negativity, breed unrest, competition, low morale, sickness and even bullying. Ordinarily, you may think it only ends at the office but the sad reality is that it robs off on your life outside work. Unconsciously, it follows you even to your home. It interferes with your normal life.

As terrible as it is, a lot of people are in toxic workplaces but have failed to realize it. Sometimes, I’m left to wonder why it’s so difficult for people to realize when a work environment have become toxic and requires a change. Upon interacting with a few people, I realized that some of the people in toxic work environments do not even realize what they are into.

So, if you’re in the category of people who are not particularly sure if you’re in an unhealthy work environment, you’re at the right place. This article will help you identify if you’re actually in a toxic work environment. Hence, here are possible signs you’re wallowing in a toxic work environment:


1. Bad Communication

Like we all know, there is power in effective communication. It enhanced a strong relationship between two or more people or an organization.

On the other hand, lack of communication is the root cause of bad organizations. Poor communication often leads to confusion amongst employees.

Insufficient, inconsistent or confusing communication is the cause of so many problems in the workplace. In fact, excellent communication skills are the most important skills needed in any successful organization. It encompasses listening skills, verbal communication, written communication, and lots more.

You might be wondering how bad communication is connected to work place toxicity. Well, here are a few examples.

Bad communication leads to constant lack of clarity around projects, it stirs up confusion resulting from different employees receiving different messages. More so, it results to passive-aggressive communication and constant “off-hours” communication. If this is the case in your workplace, soon, it will degenerate from just bad communication to something more grievous.

2. Having Cliques

I want to believe you know what this entails and what it looks like to have a clique. This is a group of people that sticks together, does things together. They tend to do everything together at one place, including grabbing coffee, laughing at jokes, etc. At a workplace, this happens a lot and consciously or unconsciously leads to segregation because, in most cases, those in a clique tend to cut off others who are not in their circle.

It would be easy to say this isn’t much of a problem but hey, even as an adult, it can feel extremely discomforting being alienated in a work place that should foster team spirit.

While having workplace friends and acquaintances is cool, anything that seems like a clique should be avoided totally.

These are signs of possible clique existence in a workplace:

  • A particular group grabbing lunch, coffee, and organizes fun hours together.
  • Constant feeling of exclusion from a particular group of people
  • Projects often are offered to a particular group, regardless of the talent or experience of others.
  • Greater part of the workday are spent whispering or chatting.
  • Avoid cliques. It should never exist in a work environment where working together as a team should be the goal.

3. Bad Leadership

From the situations in many countries today, you have an idea of the effects of bad leadership in an organization.

Having a bad boss can be a terrible nightmare.

They come in various forms. He can be the type that constantly talks down on you  publicly, corrects you with disrespect,  disallow you from doing your job, undermines your decisions, blames others for everything that goes wrong, doesn’t respect your private life and places official calls at odd hours and lots more.

It is easier to survive in a work environment with cliques than with a horrible boss. They tend to make life so miserable and unbearable for their subordinates and this sometimes begin to affect the productivity of the employee. Oftentimes, this is the major reason a lot of employees quit their jobs.

So, if you have a boss who exhibits any of the traits mentioned above, you may want to look elsewhere for your sanity’s sake.

4. A Toxic Workplace Has Unmotivated Workers

It is the desire of every focused career minded individual to associate with an organization that encourages them to become better. A number of times, people tend to apply in companies that will enable them to get better in their various fields.

Sadly, there are numerous organizations where this is not encouraged. Rather than become a better person, you tend to diminish drastically the moment you join such organizations.

When you find yourself in a workplace full of unmotivated coworkers, it is a red flag that the work environment isn’t healthy.

Naturally, your coworkers can motivate you to be better, and generate new ideas, they can wear you down but in a toxic environment, the reverse is the case.

Whatever the case or the cause may be, if everyone around you is unmotivated at work, you’re in a toxic work environment and it’s advisable not to work in such an environment to avoid work burnout which is likely to occur from you doing all the work alone.

5. Stifled Growth

The major reason a lot of people quit their jobs is to secure a better job that will enhance growth in all ramifications.

A workplace that has at the heart the growth of the organization and most of all, the employees, would always be willing to invest in activities that will promote growth.

While you don’t have to solely rely on an organization for your personal growth, if your workplace doesn’t seem to offer any learning opportunities for advancing your skills or career regardless of how little, then it is likely not the best place to be.

6. No Work-Life Balance

The major aim of working is basically for the financial gains in order to be able to have a comfortable life. However, the nature of work in many organizations has made it impossible for employees to have a work life balance.

Every worker deserves to have a life outside of work. This is to enable you to spend time with loved ones, have time to attend to personal engagements and better still, and go for vacation.

Asides the fact that work-life balance is essential for survival; it also refreshes the mind for better performance at the workplace. No individual should be expected to work round the clock at all times. No doubt, there may be times you will be required to work at odd hours, maybe for emergency reasons. For these times, it is understandable, given that you’re expected to be always available for such.

However, if your job requires that you be on-call at all times, it’s toxic. You will need to set work boundaries and if that is not respected, then you should consider looking elsewhere.

7. A Toxic Workplace Sometimes Has Rapid Employee Turnover

Ever noticed an organization that replaces employees like the speed of light? I once had a super market in my vicinity. They started off well, had good customer service but their shortcoming was in retaining employees. In two weeks I could count about 5 different faces. When it appears I was getting familiar with one, a different face would be employed.

This kept happening till I lost interest in them. Sometimes, cuts may not be the fault of the company but the employees.

Regardless, high employee turnover is likely a sure sign of a toxic workplace.

Leaving a job could be a difficult decision to make but when you notice that many people are making that decision at ease, then something is amiss in the company. Try to find out why. If it has to do with the organization, don’t be reluctant to join the list of employees who left for a good course.

8. No Excitement Going to Work

It is normal to feel tired and unmotivated to prepare for work on some days. This may be caused by a lot of things such as ill health, mood swings or even tiredness to get involved with work. Where this isn’t normal is where you constantly have this feeling of not wanting to go to work.

Overtime, this feeling is likely to set in and when this happens, there must be something that went wrong in the organization.

When you see yourself not being excited about going to work, you need a change of environment.

9. A Toxic Workplace Leaves You Battling Burnout

Burnout is a type of work-related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment or unfulfillment. There are various causes of burnouts which include:

  • Inability to influence decisions that affect your job. For instance, not having enough work resources but can do little or nothing about it.
  • Unclear job expectations.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics such as bullying, nepotism and favouritism, etc.
  • Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous, you need maximum energy to stay focused. This can lead to fatigue and job burnout in most cases.

Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health. There are basically three types of job burnout:

  • Frenetic Burnout: This type is experienced by employees who put a lot of energy into their work in the hopes that the result will be rewarding but in the end, it turns out to be unrewarding.
  • Underchallenged Burnout: This type of burnout occurs when an employee feels under challenged and bored at work, hence, inactivity sets in.
  • Worn-out Burnout: This is the point where an employee is resigned about their work after experiencing constant work stress over a long period of time and as such feels uninspired to work.

If at any point you begin to experience burnout in your workplace, it’s a sign the environment is no longer friendly and conducive.

10. Your Employer Encourages Competitive Conflict

I understand that a little bit of comparison can be healthy and sometimes spur others to take actions, but on the other hand, it breeds competitive conflicts among colleagues at work if not properly checked. If you have an employer who derives joy in using this approach to motivate you to work while building unhealthy competition among his workers, then such an environment may eventually turn you into a sadist.

11. A Toxic Workplace Triggers a Gut Feeling

It might be difficult to have this feeling when you first start a job. This can be due to excitement for landing a job.  Overtime, you may realize that things aren’t what they seem. If you find yourself questioning things and complaining about your workplace, that’s a sure sign you’ve entered a toxic place. At this point, trust your feelings and look elsewhere.


As an employee, I’m familiar with all of these signs. It is important to understand that some workplaces were not always toxic. Something probably went wrong in the long run. This could be change of executives, new policies, etc.

However, whether the workplace has always been toxic and just turned out to become toxic, the signs are always there. It may be difficult to spot out these signs if most of your colleagues don’t see anything wrong. But, that none of your colleagues seem relaxed about the unhealthy environment doesn’t mean it’s not toxic.

So, if you find yourself in a toxic work environment, you can strive to change the situation by speaking to the appropriate offices, particularly the human resources department. If it has become obvious that you cannot make the change, take a walk.

A lot of people have chosen to stick to working in toxic environments as a result of fear of getting a better place.

This shouldn’t be you. Before you decide to remain in that job out of fear of the unknown, remember your mental health should be your utmost priority. Mouthwatering salary is not worth your sanity.

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