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4 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment

In 2018, The Oxford English Dictionary named “toxic” its word of the year, stating that it “reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the previous year”. This isn’t necessarily a badge of honor. It is, though, a clear indication of how popular (bordering on ubiquitous) the word has become. 

That was 3 years ago, but “toxic” is still going strong today as a buzzword in business, relationships, and all walks of life. It is often paired with other words to form often-used collocates such as, “toxic masculinity”, “toxic stress”, or “toxic work environment”. 

Its original meaning has become a bit diluted through overuse. People toss the word around casually to refer to most anything that brings them down or makes them upset. But, in this article, we want to go back to the word’s original intent: to refer to an environment, situation, or relationship that is so negative that it can potentially take a toll on one’s mental health.

While toxic work environments overwhelmingly tend to get worse and not better, there are still some things to try before quitting your job. And it’s worth noting that because the term “toxic” is linked to mental health, what may be toxic for one person may not be toxic for another. However, there are a few red flags you should keep an eye out for. 

1 - High Employee Turnover

It’s normal for employees to want to move on to bigger and better positions, one with more responsibility and higher pay. Ideally, these kinds of positions would open up internally and the company would promote from within.

If you notice that there seem to be a lot of new employees on your team or in your department, before you jump to conclusions, find out how long the members of upper management have been at their positions and from what positions or companies they came from. A low turnover in upper management and a high turnover in lower-level jobs should be a telling indicator that something isn’t right.

Conversely, If a lot of senior positions are being filled by lower-level employees, then this means that the company promotes from within. This would explain the disparity in turnover rates.

If everyone is getting out early, the chances are high that you will end up doing the same.

2 - Dread and Angst

It’s normal to feel sluggish or perhaps even a little sad when, after a fun or relaxing weekend, you need to go back to work for another long week. However, there is more than a fine line between feeling sluggish or sad and feeling dread and angst.

When you dread returning to work, the feeling nags at you. It keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep the night before. You experience physical symptoms such as tense shoulders, shortness of breath, or uncustomary fidgeting or teeth grinding.

An important part of any strategy for how to deal with difficult people at work is getting a good night’s rest and arriving at work in good spirits. If a typical workday is preceded by feelings of dread or angst, you will quickly get caught in an unhealthy cycle - lack of sleep leads to more dread which leads to a further lack of sleep, etc.

3 - You Are Unable to Clock Out or Log Out

A good work-life balance is important for a healthy mind and spirit. You should be able to leave your work at the workplace and not bring it home with you. There are 3 reasons why this might not be the case.

A boss who does not respect boundaries

The days and hours you are expected to work should be made clear from the very start. When a boss goes against those expectations, that’s a very slippery slope. What else about you and your relationship with the company are they not willing to respect?

You are a workaholic obsessed with your work

The term “workaholic” should not be taken as a compliment. It is a problem. If untreated, it will invariably lead to burnout. This means that your work is having a negative effect on your mental health. That is the very definition of “toxic”.

The negative experiences you have at work are so strong you can’t shake them easily

Negative experiences will happen - and in some jobs, they happen regularly. However, a toxic work environment is one where the employees are not given the tools or help to allow them to move past those experiences quickly and come out unscathed. 

You should make management aware that you are regularly taking your work home with you - or, at least, taking the stress you have at work home with you. A healthy work environment has competent and empathetic people in place who can take measures to mitigate, if not remove, the problem.

Be it out of incompetence or a lack of concern, if no one can help you at work, this means that your work is having a negative effect on your mental health. This is the very definition of “toxic”.

4 - You Feel You Have No Voice

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When problems arise at the workplace - and problems will invariably arise - there should be communication channels open for you to voice your concern, seek help, and find a solution. Finding the solution to a problem isn’t always easy to do, but hearing out an employee always is.

Not giving someone a voice is synonymous with not giving them any respect. Without the possibility to voice your concerns and expect to find a sympathetic ear, there is nowhere positive we can go from there. Some reasons why you may feel you have no voice include:

Office politics and cliques

Treating people not as equals but as tools to be leveraged against one another in the pursuit of a self-serving ulterior motive - does that accurately describe the workplace dynamic at your work? 

Where there are clearly recognizable cliques, there are allegiances and favoritism. This is not an environment where people are comfortable expressing their views or concerns.

Incompetent management

Sometimes poor communication isn’t as nefarious as intentionally trying to keep people down or keep them quiet. Sometimes, it’s just a result of sheer incompetence. However, in most cases, either explanation produces equally damaging results.

The Bottom Line

We have been loosely tossing the word “toxic” around so much lately, that it has begun to lose its bite. However, toxic workplaces are still very much a reality. “Toxic” should be reserved for environments that have a negative effect on one’s mental health, despite efforts that have been taken to try and mitigate the situation.

Toxic environments generally get worse over time and not better. So, “waiting it out” is a poor solution if other options are available to you.

Syandita Malakar
Hi guys this is Syandita. I started Business Module Hub to help you all to post updated articles on technologies, gadgets. Although I love to write about travel, food, fashion and so on. I quite love reading the articles of Business Module Hub it always update me about the new technologies and the inventions. Hope you will find Business Module Hub interesting in various way and help you accordingly. Keep blogging and stay connected....!
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