Is Your Work Environment Toxic? How to Identify The Signs

Pre-pandemic I was working in a company where the culture was particularly toxic. They had the biggest turnover rate I’ve ever seen and the level of frustration / unhappiness among my colleagues was over the roof. I suppose I have that company to thank for because it triggered my desire to quit my job without anything else lined up, just to travel. How often do you have the opportunity to take a break for several months in life? I believe everything happens for a reason and if I was happy at work I wouldn’t have had the occasion to make this incredible trip in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. Life is too short! It’s never been so important to work in a healthy and supportive environment, so watch out for these signs:

Employees are desperate to impress the boss

If there is a “brown nose club” (as I affectionally call them) whose sole purpose is to be noticed by the boss, it’s a strong sign of individualism. Not only will it impact the trust between people, but unnecessary energy will be spent on office politics. Collaboration will reduce and everyone will look at what’s best for themselves… Not exactly a type of environment you can thrive in! I remember having the feeling I had to watch my back and worry someone would throw me under the bus if that allowed them to shine brighter. Stupid.

Results are more important than employees’ wellbeing

In my previous company, an easy way to be “valued” was to forget about your work-life balance and spend as much time as possible in the office. Presence and commitment were important factors, but it was not exactly a give and take situation. It felt like the business mattered more than our wellbeing… It didn’t bother anyone to see an employee not taking any lunch break and working all weekend, every week. I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, you don’t own the business. The business doesn’t own you either. You’re entitled to use your free time for whatever makes you happy: hobbies, family time, etc. Otherwise, watch out for that burnout!

Examples of other red flags: if they discourage you to take a lunch break with your teammates (“divide to conquer” approach) and are being difficult with your holiday request(s), approving them as late as possible.

Employees don’t feel like they have a voice

If you think you might as well keep your thoughts to yourself because you’re afraid to speak your mind, it’s a pretty good sign you don’t feel “safe”. Working in an office where you’re terrified of looking stupid or making mistakes is not good for your self-confidence. You shouldn’t feel punished for raising concerns! It also makes innovation impossible. If they don’t want to hear about your ideas, give them to someone else who will listen to you.

same shit different day

There is toxicity at an individual level

A toxic employee can spread fear or negativity and drag down morale for the entire team. I remember working with a very insecure woman who was clearly in search of power. She was very aggressive and liked to humiliate people by email or in meetings, usually with an audience. As a result, most people were scared of her. Unfortunately, she contributed to the overall toxicity like other senior managers. Culture starts at the top, so if you feel like there is no hope for improvements, just run away and don’t look back.

The company is reluctant to pay for bonuses

Here’s another sign that something is wrong. As an employer, why wouldn’t you want to reward your biggest asset (aka your employees) when they have been working hard to hit their target? If the bonus structure they give you is blurry to say the least, or includes variables you don’t directly have an impact on, it probably means they want to find an easy way to underpay you. Same if they reward you for hitting your target by doubling it the following month and make it impossible to achieve. Again, I speak from personal experience. My advice would be to look for a company who is more than happy to reward you, because you deserve it. And after all, it’s the best way for them to guarantee they’ll keep happy employees who will do their best to perform.

Is your work environment toxic? Or are you lucky enough to work in a healthy and supportive environment? I’ve started a new job 4 months ago (hence why my blog has taken a back seat for now, sorry…) and I can tell you I feel much happier now. It’s a great way for me to confirm what I already knew: my previous workplace was impacting me negatively, even outside of business hours. If you feel it’s also the case for you, leave me a comment below. I would love to hear about your own experience!

Big Girl x

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