Is Your Work Environment Toxic?

Challenges at work are inevitable, and sometimes even positive things that help you to build resilience. When we have a bad day or a bad week it’s never fun and we may even resent our jobs a little, but we always push through and end up on the other side of things completely fine. However, sometimes these challenges are unending and you never seem to get a reprieve. They may follow you home and play on your mind at all times, affecting your quality of life outside of work as well as during office hours. In this case, you may need to consider whether or not your work environment is toxic.

A toxic work environment can breed all sorts of negativity that a job that’s simply challenging wouldn’t. There can be unrest, harmful competition, low morale, constant stress, negativity, sickness, high employee turnover, burnout and in some cases even bullying. It’s clear that the environment is affecting it’s employees and creating disastrous consequences that will inevitably compromise your ability to successfully work as a team.

Everybody deserves to be satisfied with their job, even through difficult times. Here are 10 signs that you may need to reconsider whether or not your working environment is healthy.

Bad Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any workplace. If this essential skill is lacking in your coworkers, then things are bound to turn sour pretty quickly. If you consider that communication includes listening (from higher ups too), verbals and writing, it’s clear to see that it’s absolutely fundamental to making a company run smoothly. When communication is confusing or insufficient, there will be all sorts of chaos and frustration. Some signs of bad communication include:

  • A lack of clarity
  • Different employees being given different or mixed messages
  • Passive aggression or rudeness
  • Refusal or inability to listen
  • Communication outside of working hours

Cliques, Exclusion and Gossip

You may think that you escaped the school “popular crowd” long ago, but in a toxic working environment it can feel like you’ve been thrown back into highschool. It’s not a problem to have friends in the workplace – in fact it’s a big positive to be connecting with your coworkers. However, there needs to be some social cohesion and cliques create the opposite of that. If you’re feeling excluded by a particular group of people who seem to be attached at the hip and have little to no interest in anybody else unless there’s drama involved, then you have a problem on your hands. It can even go so far that they are favoured in the allocation of projects regardless of their ability or experience, and it may even turn into bullying. It’s best not to engage with these people and bring the issue up with your superior if you feel that that’s appropriate.

Bad Leadership

This is a big one that often stems from bad communication. It can be difficult to deal with somebody who you feel has more power than you, but if they’re really affecting your enjoyment of and ability to perform your work then the problem needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, your bad boss might have a bad boss themselves, and on and on all the way to the top. This means there’s an ingrained company-wide issue that will be very hard to fix and will likely continue to be toxic. Whether they’re a controlling micromanager, won’t take responsibility for their own bad leadership or are just downright disrespectful, a bad boss can be a really harmful thing.

Unmotivated Co-workers

When there’s a toxic work environment, there’s bound to be a lack of motivation. Who’s excited about working under bad conditions? Just like coworkers can spur you on and inspire you, they can also wear you down if there’s constant negative energy in the workplace. You may end up helping out an idle coworker who asks you to shoulder some of their workload and end up burnt out, or you may just end up feeling underchallenged, uninspired and bored. This is usually a result of a bigger issue with your organisation. If employees are disillusioned it is likely because of bad leadership that breeds a lack of trust.

Stifled Growth

Your job is a place where you should have unending opportunities to learn and grow. If there’s no room to bloom, then management is likely not interested in employee satisfaction and improvement. Being stagnant for too long is never good. We want to be moving onwards and upwards as much as possible. Lack of growth opportunities can affect the entirety of the company or just you personally. Remember that it’s not always the job itself that’s responsible for motivating you – self-motivation is important too. However, if you feel truly stuck then it might be time to move on.

Rapid Employee Turnover

If there seems to be people leaving constantly, whether through resigning or being fired, there’s cause for concern. If several people are making the hard decision to leave their job then it’s very likely that there’s something pretty significant to be unsatisfied with. Equally, if people are being fired left right and centre then management may be too harsh and have unrealistic expectations of their employees. You may want to chat to the people who have left to find out what went wrong to give you a little more clarity on the situation.

No Work-Life Balance

Having a break from work is absolutely non-negotiable. If you want to have a long and healthy professional life, you need to give yourself time off. Set yourself boundaries with regards to when work hours are. Don’t answer emails after a certain time or on weekends, take all of your vacation days, do whatever you feel you need to do to ensure that you have time for yourself. If your boss expects you to always be available and won’t at least compromise on your boundaries, then it’s time to leave.


Lacking a work-life balance will inevitably result in becoming burnt out. Burnout can be so bad that it’s recognised by the World Health Organisation as a legitimate medical concern that can have dire consequences for your physical and mental health. There are 3 common types of burnout:

  • Frenetic burnout occurs when you’re putting huge amounts of energy into your work and getting nothing out of it.
  • Underchallenged burnout is the result of boredom that results in low mood and a lack of satisfaction.
  • Worn-out burnout happens when you’ve experienced consistent work stress for a long period of time without really getting anything out of your job. You then become completely disillusioned with work which has negative consequences on your life as a whole.

Burnout can be genuinely dangerous for your health, so make sure you’re keeping an eye out for yourself and actively making time for self-care.

Lack of Momentum

Similarly, to a lack of room to grow, when there’s no forward movement in your company it’s probably indicative of a bigger issue. It may be the case that when you first began working your job you were experiencing lots of rapid growth, inciting excitement about future possibilities. After a while, you and the company may lose momentum. This is a sign that things may be becoming toxic.

Gut Feeling

Finally, you can always trust your gut. If you have an intuitive feeling that something is wrong, then it’s very likely that there is. Don’t suppress your gut feeling and stay in a harmful environment. You deserve to be working somewhere that you’re valued and happy!

In light of COVID, many of us have been working from home. Just because you’re physically out of the office doesn’t mean that you can’t have a toxic work environment. Remember – it’s the people and the institution, not the place! All of the above signs translate to your home office too. You should be your priority, so remember to take good care of yourself.

Let us know in the comments below if any of you are struggling with these types of work environments and what you are doing to better the situation?

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22 thoughts on “Is Your Work Environment Toxic?

  1. Zinhle S. says:

    What a mouthful and such powerful knowledge we got. Thank you for such a piece where one needs to dig deep in the work place and see all the signs and take accountable action as well.

  2. Jolene S. says:

    Thank you for this much needed article @Rubybox. Ive had my fair share with a toxic work environment. Thank God he took me out of that situation and put me right where He needed me to be. Prayer gives strength. Stay positive and be patient. If you don’t like your world, change it. Strongs to every Rubie that needs to make a change. Change and Growth is part of life. Do what makes you happy.

  3. Nokuthula M. says:

    we still working from home but we have to go to the twice a week, sometimes others won’t go and say they thought it was suppose to be so and so. but they have the schedule and if you really need to know you should have emailed others to check. Lack of communication is really bad. If I keep my days and go in these two days others think I’m being too serious. I would like a Mr Price Voucher.

  4. Cynthia A. says:

    I remember that wrenching feeling of working in a place where there was just no momentum at all. It’s really drained me every morning as I felt trapped in a routine where it was obvious that the position one was in was the one they were to keep with no prospects of promotion. I eventually left but it was a place I would never want to be in ever

  5. Sheron Penlope D. says:

    Our work environment is getting toxic currently there is a new person and they want to make our work life exhausting but these are very informative and helpful. Done. Mr Price please