15 Signs of a Toxic Work Culture

October 2023

There is no doubt that our jobs can have a huge impact on our lives. The average person will spend 90,000 hours  in their lifetime at work - that is roughly 10.2 years. Imagine spending multiple years of your life in a toxic environment, draining not only your professional life but also your personal life. 

It can be hard to spot how toxic an environment is when you’re working in it day to day. This is why we have put together 15 of the most common signs of a toxic work culture to help you recognise when it may be time to move on. 

A high turnover rate is one of the most common signs of a toxic work culture. Leaving a job can be a tough decision to make. If your team or company is struggling to retain staff, it is very likely due to the work environment. 
‘Quiet quitting’ is seen when an employee stops trying to collaborate with co-workers or engage in company initiatives. Employees who choose to quietly quit will do the minimum amount of work needed for their job and completely disengage from everything else. 
Any form of bullying, discrimination, or harassment should never be tolerated in the workplace. Unfortunately, toxic environments often create a space where bullying and harassment can easily happen. This can include verbal or psychological bullying and any actions that humiliate or demean another worker. This type of behaviour tends to be found in a toxic work culture, creating an element of fear and additional stress. 
A toxic work culture often lacks clear direction and frequently shifts its goals and priorities without proper communication or justification. This constant flux can leave employees feeling disoriented, making it difficult to focus on their tasks and contribute effectively to the organization's success. It can also lead to a sense of futility and frustration, as efforts put into one set of goals may be abruptly discarded for new ones, creating a cycle of confusion and demotivation.
Ideally in any job, clear and open communication lines are required to have a positive effect on performance and employee morale. When there is a lack of open communication and information sharing, it can create uncertainty and distrust among fellow employees and employers. 
When management has little trust in your work, it can feel like every move you make is monitored. This can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety and have a negative impact on performance. Recent studies show that 70% of workers consider quitting due to the negative effects that micromanagement can have on their well-being. 
In a toxic environment, the importance of your personal wellbeing and life outside of work will be regularly disregarded. Continuously putting all your focus on work can have a huge impact on your health and well-being. It can also lead to high levels of stress and burnout that can even damage your relationships outside of work.  
Toxic environments tend to have unrealistic and unattainable expectations of their employees while also offering very little support. If you find yourself always being left to figure it out on your own, then chances are you have an inadequate support system. 
A toxic work environment is usually very stagnant with extremely limited access to career development opportunities. Regular growth in a role helps you stay engaged and motivated. If you find yourself in a monotonous role with no opportunities for growth, then it’s likely you’re in a toxic working environment. 
It’s very common to have some harmless office gossip going around, but in a toxic atmosphere, negative or malicious rumours can thrive, creating an extremely unhealthy workplace dynamic.
Healthy competition can drive innovation, but when your work environment becomes extremely competitive and cut-throat, it completely undermines teamwork, damaging team morale and the overall work culture.
A dysfunctional workplace will never give credit or recognition to its employees. A lack of acknowledgment for hard work undermines employee morale and diminishes job satisfaction levels.
Studies show that 75% of employees have left at least one role because of poor leadership. Weak and toxic leadership can trickle down to the team and negatively impact an entire organisation. 
Company values and mission statements help everyone align their behaviours with the same goals. When an organisation lacks a clear direction or purpose, it can lead to confusion and disengagement among employees.
A combination of constant pressure, unrealistic deadlines, and a lack of support systems can contribute to elevated stress levels, which can be detrimental to your well-being.
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