How to Spot and Thrive in a Toxic Work Environment (or Better—How to Escape from It!)

7 min read

Are you already stressed before going to work? When at work, are you always in a defensive and high-alert mode? And when you are finally home, do you keep thinking about the exhausting events that occurred at work? If your answer to all of these questions is yes, then you are probably in a toxic work environment.

What is a Toxic Work Environment?

When does normal job-related stress reach unhealthy levels? A toxic work environment is hard to spot. This kind of workplace can form as a result of changes in rules and a lack of job security. It can worsen stress and anxiety levels, and pose risks to the health of both employers and employees. It can also cause physical and mental burden, thereby decreasing your productivity and work satisfaction.

A toxic work environment can be linked to many factors. These include an oppressive boss who leads the team, uncomfortable workspace, employees who are unfriendly and disrespectful, and colleagues with poor work ethic. Other factors may include insecurity and fear, lack of transparency, poor communication, conflict among employees, and heated arguments.

Signs You’re in a Toxic Work Environment

Stress at work is inevitable. In worse cases, the thought of going to work is in itself already tiring. As such, work is not just stressful—it is also toxic. For instance, you can find yourself in a toxic work environment if sexual harassment occurs, or if respect for boundaries is also lacking. These factors can cause stressful workplaces and negative health outcomes. In addition, this kind of workplace can demotivate you and negatively influence your attitude. Thus, it leads to poor performance.

Physical Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

In a toxic work environment, you get so stressed and exhausted. As such, you often have any of the following physical symptoms:

  • Hair loss
  • Sweating
  • Restless sleep
  • Tense or sore muscles
  • Weakened immune system
  • Physical and mental illnesses
Gossip At Work
How to Spot and Thrive in a Toxic Work Environment (or Better—How to Escape from It!) 1

Workplace Signs of a Toxic Environment

A tough job is not the same as a toxic workplace. A tough job may cause stress and disagreements among colleagues, but they rarely occur. Conversely, toxic workplaces may harbor the following:

1. Poor Leadership

When your boss is rude, disrespectful, and unprofessional, there is a high chance that you and your colleagues will follow suit. Leaders must ensure that the workplace is healthy and professional. They promote a positive workplace culture and create a healthy work environment. They also set a good example to their team members. If you cannot rely on your boss, then it is unlikely that your toxic workplace would change.

2. Lack of Enthusiasm

A toxic workplace demotivates employees. Instead of going to work, most of them would rather go on leave or even be AWOL to avoid work—a sign that they lack motivation. A positive work environment should inspire employees to reach targets.

3. Employee Burnout

Burnout is common in toxic work environments. This is likely because employees feel neglected. They also think that they are unappreciated. In addition, burnout leads to a high turnover rate.

4. Communication Problems

Communication is key to a company’s success. As an employee, you should be informed about your tasks. You should also know other factors relevant to your job. When you fail to receive such info, you may fail to accomplish what’s required of you.

Some colleagues may even have a passive-aggressive attitude, creating a hostile workplace. To improve communication between you and your boss, your team must have standard rules. However, if your boss disregards the importance of these rules, then you are in for a toxic environment.

5. Gossip

Gossip seems entertaining, especially if you are talking about innocent stuff and whatnot. Often, we shrug it off because it is not a big deal. But gossip should not be ignored. A form of abuse and unprofessionalism, it may seriously affect the physical and mental health of employees being talked about. They may feel threatened and demotivated. When your boss tolerates gossiping, they fail to maintain a positive work environment. Thus, you must not have to put up with gossip.

6. Toxic Employees/Colleagues

Good workplace culture is based on mutual respect. It also fosters psychological safety. However, it becomes damaged when it has toxic workers who weaken culture initiatives. They also degrade effective HR programs. Toxic employees may come in the following forms:

  • Excuse makers always have an excuse for their absenteeism, tardiness, poor performance, and low-quality work.
  • Gossipers are usually the source of a rumor or gossip.
  • Grouches are habitually grumpy. They constantly complain about almost everything, even minor stuff like missing staplers or misplaced scissors.
  • Know-it-alls tend to have an answer to everything. They do not listen to or accept different views. They are not receptive to feedback or constructive criticism.
  • Narcissists unlikely recognize the importance of being a part of a strong team. They prefer to work alone. They also underestimate the roles of other team members.
  • Procrastinators habitually postpone doing their tasks. So they end up missing deadlines or provide low-quality output.
  • Workaholics often work overtime. They never take a day off to meet strict deadlines. As such, they make stress-related errors or experience burnout.
  • Yes-men agree to whatever the boss tells them. They don’t add new ideas or ask relevant questions.
Work From Home Also Brings Work Stress
How to Spot and Thrive in a Toxic Work Environment (or Better—How to Escape from It!) 2

Signs of a Toxic Work-from-Home Setup

A toxic work environment can also exist in a work-from-home setup. Some of the red flags include the following:

1. From Physical Office Gossip to Virtual Office Gossip

With the increased use of gadgets and mobile apps, gossip in workplaces can be done online, which is probably more vicious than before. Employees can easily say bad things about a certain colleague or leave scathing comments to others in the same chat threads—which they cannot fiercely do in person. They can also talk about others past their office hours, or even their bedtime!

2. Exclusion During Remote Meetings

Virtual meetings have helped employees connect to others without leaving their homes. But these meetings can limit engagement. Some workers find it hard to speak up in video calls. Others feel that they are being ignored. This happens if some colleagues tend to dominate meetings.

3. Burnout while Working from Home

Our first impression on work-from-home setups is that they are cost saving, efficient, and fun. Who doesn’t want to work on a laptop while watching a movie on a flat screen TV or listening to your favorite songs in full volume like it’s time to party? But after some time, challenges come one by one—piling household chores, anxiety about job security, sleeplessness, and overlap of work and home life—and we are still battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burnt-out employees may negatively interact with others. They are drained and stressed. As such, they may show passive-aggressive behavior. They may also be rudely critical of others. They tend to leave them out of discussions.

Other signs of work-from-home burnout include:

  • Failing to cope
  • Reducing productivity
  • Excessively procrastinating
  • Scheduling unnecessary meetings
  • Exhibiting a negative attitude toward work
  • Feeling desolated when faced with problems
  • Having the urge to work more than you need to
  • Being completely exhausted by working around the clock
Team Building Is A Good Strategy To Promote Positive Work Environment
How to Spot and Thrive in a Toxic Work Environment (or Better—How to Escape from It!) 3

How to Manage a Toxic Work Environment

Work has many challenges. That’s why any workplace can quickly change from manageable to burdensome. In a toxic work environment, you initially think of escaping ASAP. But leaving is not usually your go-to option. As such, you tend to stay and deal with work-related problems until they are solved, or you finally have an exit plan.

If you cannot leave your job immediately, you can use these steps to thrive in a toxic work environment.

1. Have a support group.

A support group will be a great help for you, especially if you are in a toxic work environment. It should include your trusted friends and family. They will surely relate to your frustrations. But as much as possible, avoid venting to your colleagues—they may misinterpret your concerns.

2. Find an outlet.

When work-related events become intense, you need to find after-work activities every day. For example, have your regular workout at a nearby gym. Spend time doing your hobbies, or go out with your significant other. Do things that make your life fulfilling. In this way, you can tolerate stressful issues at work.

3. Think positively.

This step can be tricky, especially if you are surrounded by pessimists. Despite this, it helps to keep a positive perspective so that you won’t be severely affected by the persistent negativity in your toxic work environment.

But remember: You must avoid acting like there is nothing wrong in your workplace. Do your part; focus on your tasks, and be respectful, polite, and genuine. With these positive traits, you can keep your sanity intact and go a long way.

4. Prepare a to-do list.

There are instances when you feel lost or no longer find your job meaningful. Even time seems to pass by slowly. When this happens, prepare a list. Indicate your tasks, including mundane ones, so that you’ll have something to look forward to at work.

How to Create a Positive Work Environment

A toxic work environment creates negativity. It leads to poor outcomes and dissatisfaction. Conversely, a positive work environment favors good things—growth, satisfaction, creativity, and innovation. The more positive your workplace is, the higher your productivity will be. In turn, your company becomes successful.

For employers, they may apply some of the tips below to reduce workplace stress. These can significantly help create a positive work environment.

  • Prioritize work-life balance.
  • Engage employees in team-building activities.
  • Show your employees that you care by sending gifts.
  • Make work fulfilling by getting them involved in charities.
  • Have meaningful conversations with your employees and develop camaraderie.
  • Show appreciation, give praise accordingly, and recognize high-performing employees.
  • Hire employees with positive personalities to create a team that fosters healthy company culture.
  • Avoid micromanaging and show that you trust your employees to finish their tasks with high quality.
  • Implement individual development plans so that employees can achieve their short- and long-term career goals.
  • Greet your team every day with a simple good morning or hello. This creates a comfortable work atmosphere.
  • Give feedback, constructive criticism, and positive recognition to help employees enhance their performance.

To maintain a positive work environment, leaders must practice these tips every day. They need to show the team how important they are in the company. Problems may occur from time to time, but with an effective leader’s assurance, encouragement, and motivation, the team has a better chance of being proactive instead of reactive. Even if there’s one toxic employee, the rest of the team can surely handle the toxicity. Who knows—that toxic employee can also change for the better, thus making the workplace stress-free.

A Bad Boss Contributes To A Toxic Work Environment
How to Spot and Thrive in a Toxic Work Environment (or Better—How to Escape from It!) 4

When to Leave Your Toxic Work Environment

When you have done all possible solutions to deal with your toxic work environment and yet all of them failed, then you probably have to search for a job in a more favorable work environment.

But are you too stressed and burnt out to start with your job search? No worries. Our resume writing experts are here to help you create a well-crafted resume. Simply choose from our resume writing services and we will do the rest.

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