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10 Red Flags that Point to a Toxic Workplace


Do you often feel down and unproductive? Have mood swings been a common occurrence for you lately? If your answer is yes, but you don’t know why you might be experiencing symptoms of working in a toxic workplace. How do you know your workplace is toxic? You know your workplace is toxic when it has the following red flags.

1. A manager who is more of a Boss than a Leader

The most common red flag is a bad boss. You may not notice this right away but you start to connect the dots with time. A good leader supports his employees and assists when needed. He allows them to grow and thrive.

A bad boss, however, is domineering and controlling. He often comes across as overbearing and micromanaging. Your workplace is toxic to you when your boss constantly puts you down and discredits your efforts.

What you can do:

Bring your boss’s behavior to his notice politely in a physical meeting. While communicating the effects of his actions in the meeting, focus on how it affects your work productivity and that of the team.

2. Poor communication

When you are scared of airing your views, or feel like you are constantly in a competition with your coworkers, that’s a serious red flag that says your workplace is toxic. Poor communication provides a conducive environment for conflicts and negative emotions to breed and grow. Working in a company with a poor communication system will leave you dissatisfied and unable to complain. The worst part? A toxic workplace that is sponsored by poor communication only gets worse with time.

What you can do:

As an employee, there’s not a lot you can do. However, if you are the manager, you can encourage proper communication by setting up communication channels like a complaints box or an e-mail for queries. Employees will be more inclined to open up about challenges they are facing when the complaints they have made are properly addressed.

3. Office politics

Remember the cliques from secondary school that made everyone else feel like a loser for not understanding their slang and inside jokes? Well, if you have the grown-up version of that at your workplace, that’s a red flag that your workplace is toxic. Office cliques often tend to hoard incentives for themselves and gossip about others who are not part of their circle. When senior executive officers are part of this clique, they play a very selfish version of office politics. This behavior could severely damage other coworkers’ self-esteem. That makes the workplace toxic.

Traits of a typical clique:

  • Giving the best projects to their team members regardless of qualifications
  • Always teaming together.
  • Always stirring up office drama and spreading gossip.
  • Sucking up to the boss to get better benefits and more bonuses.
  • Relegating work to other coworkers outside of their circle
  • Teaming up against an outsider to “punish” him for not doing their work.

What you can do:

Ignore them and stay away from their gossip. If you are a part of the group that exhibits this behavior, please stop it – you are making the workplace uncomfortable for the rest of us.

4. Redundant growth

When the work stops being challenging to you, and you feel like you are no longer growing, it may be time for you to switch jobs. That does not necessarily mean that the work is toxic, but that you need to make progress. However, when a company is resistant to change and has no interest in investing in up-to-date tools or systems to make the work better, the workplace is toxic.

A company that does not seem to be growing itself, will in turn hinder the growth of its employees. It is a serious red flag if your workplace’s management focuses on leveraging the best minds rather than training all staff to be the best minds.

What you can do:

Invest in your growth yourself. If you are certain that there are no more opportunities for growth for you, in the company, you may need to leave.

5. Employees who are disinterested in the company’s growth.

If you resume work in a new office and your proposed coworkers are giving the “I just wan dey” vibe, there’s an 85 percent chance that the workplace will be toxic to you. Do you know why? When workers are no longer interested in contributing their best to a company’s growth, they tend to slack on their duties. This leaves a lot of tasks undone which will get re-delegated to someone who is still motivated to work aka, you.

 Shouldering a workload that is twice as much as you are supposed to will take a toll on your health and instigate a breakdown sooner than later.

Just like a team of productive people can inspire you to be more productive, working in a team of people who complain about their job and deliver less quality work will make you lose the passion for your job in no time. Like a smile, energy is contagious – bad energy is even more contagious.

What you can do:

Leave – your chances of being the hero who revitalizes the team’s work spirit are slim unless you are in a leadership position. If you are the team leader or project manager, put your conflict resolution skills to work and identify the cause of the collective demotivation.

Most of the time, it may be because the employees feel overworked and underpaid, in which case incentives and hiring more staff will work fine. If employees disclose that it’s because of bad management, you may have to fix your attitude.

6. Bad work-life balance

Your private life is as important as your work life. If your work schedule doesn’t let you have a life outside of work, then it is toxic to you. To avoid an unhealthy work-life balance, you should set boundaries and stick with them. You don’t take work home? Leave it in the office and say no to taking on a coworker’s tasks if you would rather not. If your boss objects to your boundaries or constantly makes you compromise, you may need to try another job.

7. Too many ex-employees

Does your company have a track record of employees coming and going too often? That’s a bright red flag that the workplace is toxic. While job hopping is a sign that a person has commitment issues, employee-hopping is a sign that the company has bad character. It doesn’t matter if these employees worked out the door on their own or were directed to – too many ex-employees in a short while? Something is fishy.

What you can do:

If you can, reach out to your predecessor and inquire why they left. Evaluate their reply and weigh your options – if you can cope, stay. If their reason sounds intolerable to you, please apply for another job – there are tons of job listings available on HubforJobs.

8. Toxic work culture

If your company’s policies put you in a box and limit you from expressing your individuality, it is unhealthy and that workplace is toxic. “No free time even in the case of an emergency without prior notice”? “All employees have to wait for the boss to leave before they can regardless of how late”?? “any mistake in project execution attracts a pay cut for all team members”??? These are ridiculous rules and if your workplace observes such or similar ones, you need to rethink your position in the company.

9. Burn-outs are “part of the job”

When burn-outs become normal and you find yourself popping more painkillers every day to deal with an ever-present headache, your workplace has become toxic to you. This is often the case when a worker feels overworked and underpaid, or is forced to deliver tasks outside of his expertise constantly. If you find yourself in such a position, it’s time to leverage your annual leave and go on that vacation you’ve always dreamed of. If you still feel no excitement at coming back to the job after your vacation, don’t.

10. Work-induced anxiety

A job that constantly fills you with anxiety is toxic and bad for your mental health. If you have a great job, fat paycheck, good work-life balance, and still no job satisfaction, it could be your gut telling you that the job is not right for you. It may be time for you to further your career journey.

You Deserve Better than a Toxic Workplace

Monday is universally the most hated day of the week. It’s just hard to pull ourselves away from the euphoria of being able to do what we want, to come back and follow a steady routine. However, you know your workplace is toxic when you drag your feet to work every day and not just on Mondays. Like a toxic relationship, a toxic workplace will leave you feeling down and unproductive most of the time.

However, it is harder to see the red flags in a workplace than it is in a relationship because the office is painted as a hard-pressed, no-strings-attached place. So we put up with gas lighting, passive-aggressive insults, and erect no solid boundaries outside of our company’s policies. In the long run, the workplace becomes toxic and detrimental to our mental health.

If you notice that your current workplace has any of these red flags, it may be time to switch jobs. You could get a new one on HubforJobs in no time, tap here.

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Oputa Okwanuzor is a freelance writer skilled in the art of weaving words into stories for brand boost through copywriting, or make a soothing read using creative writing. In her free time, she loves to share personal development talks, fashion inspos and writing tricks on her blog.

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