How to avoid a toxic work culture


April 2023 

A toxic work environment can take many forms. Learning to recognise what a toxic work culture looks like and how to avoid it can be a huge help when navigating your career as an expat.

A toxic work environment is a workplace where the atmosphere is overshadowed by negativity, hostility, and/or aggression. This type of environment can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor management and a lack of resources. 
Companies with a toxic work culture can have a significant effect on the mental health and well-being of their employees. A study by the Harvard business review found that not only do teams lose confidence in their work, but also in their co-workers. While outside the office, employees reported feeling more emotionally drained and had an increase in conflict in their personal lives. 
As an expat, you are already facing new and unexpected challenges. Dealing with a toxic environment at work is something you will want to avoid. Learning to spot the subtle clues in the interview process can help you avoid a toxic company altogether. We have gathered a few clues to help you with this.
A low employee retention rate could be your first red flag in the interview process. A simple way to find this out is by asking your interviewer about the current team, and how long they have all been working there for. If they are struggling to keep staff for more than 12 months, then it’s a tell-tale sign there is a toxic environment at play. 
Consider asking your interviewer what development opportunities they have in place and what mentorship you will have in the team. Being left to your own devices may directly impact your ability to grow in your new role. Most organisations have budgets allocated for the professional development of their employees. A lack of focus on employee growth is a very common issue in toxic work environments
Even if you ask the right questions, a toxic culture can sometimes only become apparent once you have started your new role. If you’re starting to question the behaviour in your office, it might be time to get familiar with the most common signs of a toxic work environment.
A lack of boundaries in the workplace can stem from management prioritising workload over everything else. If you feel there are expectations on your team to stay late at work or even respond to emails on the weekend, then this may be a sign that you’re working in a toxic environment.
Effective communication is one of the most important skills needed in a successful business. Without proper communication, things can quickly become confusing. This often leads to more problems and conflict in a toxic environment.
A key component of a positive working environment is trust and transparency. If you feel afraid to voice your opinions on work-related issues, it can indicate a major problem within the organisation. Working in an environment where you feel unheard will only create more negativity. 
Finding support from a trustworthy team member who understands your frustrations will help you navigate your way forward. Building your own support system with a likeminded team member will also bring some positivity to your day.
A study on the effects of office gossip found that 96% of people surveyed admitted to partaking in gossip once in a while. It might seem harmless, but nothing positive comes from chatting about your co-workers. If your manager isn’t taking steps to stop negative drama and gossip within the team, it can lead to an environment that allows bullying and discrimination to happen. 
Sometimes the best way to get through a challenging environment is to focus on what you can control. Stay focused on your own goals and your own reactions. This will help you to avoid engaging in negativity and spending your own time and energy on things you can’t control. 
Sometimes the only way to avoid a toxic work culture is to find a new role. If you find yourself in an environment that has little hope for improvement, you might consider moving on. Learning from this experience will help you find a healthy work environment that truly fits your expectations. 
At Allianz Partners, our Expat Assistance Programme allows you to speak to a professional offering multilingual and confidential support for mental, financial, physical, and emotional well-being. We’re here to help you plan for the future with support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.