19 Signs Your Work Environment Is Toxic

by Raven Ishak
Business woman sitting in front of computer screen to plan business work
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Working in a toxic environment is no one's ideal situation. But now that the job market is doing well, it might be a good time to start searching for a new job, especially if you're seeing signs that you work in a work environment. While it's normal to have a stressful day every now and then at the office, there are key signs that you may have a toxic work environment. But what exactly do some of these signs entail?

"A toxic work environment is any that makes you feel uncomfortable, unappreciated, or undervalued. This can range from all out bullying, screaming and talked down to, to more subtle forms of poor communication, setting people up for failure, mismanagement and an air of hostility. It can come from your boss, your peers, your juniors and even your clients. No one should ever have to work in an environment that causes your stomach to go in quivers but the unfortunate reality is it's more normal than we'd prefer. Often professionals 'accept it' as is, which can do more harm for you in the long-run, both professionally and also personally," says Certified Professional Coach Lori Scherwin to Bustle over email.

But what if these signs sound familiar, but no one at your company has quit? Is it just you? Are you overreacting? Probably not. "Don’t rely on turnover — just because a lot of people aren’t leaving the company, doesn’t mean the environment isn’t toxic. People may be immune to the bad environment and convince themselves it’s worse to leave. It’s unfortunate when fear supersedes a bright future, but it happens. Retention may be high even though there’s a poor environment. Even if you approach human resources about the toxicity with concrete evidence, they still may say, 'Turnover is relatively low, so clearly there aren’t any problems here.'" says career expert for Monster Vicki Salemi in an interview with Bustle over email.

If anything, it's important to listen to your gut. You and only you know what's best for your future. While not every job is perfect, you want to work in an environment that will not make you feel devalued or worthless. Before you put in your two weeks notice, here are 19 signs you might be working in a toxic work environment.

1. Your Boss Has Poor Leadership Skills

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Sometimes toxic work environments are derived from how the boss treats their employees. Supervisors can take advantage of their power, and make their staff feel inferior by bullying them. "When you’re working with a boss who’s a bully and/or tyrant and there’s lack of intelligent leadership, that’s certainly toxic," says Salemi.

2. Your Colleagues Are Unprofessional

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If your fellow employees don't take their job seriously or they love to spread rumors, it might be time to talk to HR or hit the road. It can be hard for you to work in an environment properly if you don't feel supported by your team. "Colleagues who throw you under the bus, take credit for your work and constantly gossip also constitute a toxic work environment," says Salemi.

3. Your Work-Life Balance Is Out Of Whack

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While it's nearly impossible to have the perfect work-life balance, it's vital to have a healthy relationship with your career. "Even if the elements of your toxic workplace aren’t quite that obvious, you may notice your morale plummeting, a lack of work-life balance (what life?) and an inability to learn and grow, as well as constant stress and deteriorating mental and physical health," says Salemi.

4. You're Not Excited About Going To Work Anymore

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OK, let's be real: there are just some days when you don't feel up to working. And while those days are completely normal to have every once in a while, it's a huge sign that you might be working in a bad work environment if you're feeling this dread all the time. "Toxic work environments can also develop over time. Perhaps you used to have a healthy work environment, but then got a new boss and all of the sudden, you’re noticing that you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, are constantly defending your work and simply no longer enjoy your job," says Salemi.

5. You Started To Become More Aware Of The Red Flags

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When you first start a job, it might be hard to see the red flags because you're so excited. But as time goes on, you may begin to realize that once you take off your rose-colored glasses, things aren't what they seem. "There are different levels, but if you find yourself questioning things and complaining, that’s a sure sign you’ve entered the land of toxicity. Keep in mind that these environments only tend to get worse. You may convince yourself that it’s not that bad, but then the more you notice red flags, the more they don’t seem to improve," says Salemi.

6. Your Boss Doesn't Support You

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I'm not saying that your boss needs to be your BFF, but a good leader supports your dreams and ideas rather than just using you for their own purposes. "Your boss can definitely make your environment worse by not supporting you — this isn’t uncommon, unfortunately. According to a recent Monster poll, 32 percent of participants described their boss as horrible, and only 15 percent said their boss is excellent," says Salemi.

7. Your Boss Is Preventing You From Growing

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Sometimes it's hard to imagine you could live in a world where your boss doesn't want you to grow, and instead, controls your career path by preventing you from getting a promotion. Most of us, ideally would like to work with someone who sees our potential and wants us to grow. "Your boss may start getting jealous of your performance and start blocking opportunities for you to advance to the next level. Your boss may start taking credit for your work, undermining you, and giving you 'busy' work even though you’re capable of so much more. There are a variety of bad bosses that can contribute to a toxic work environment — a bully, someone who plays favorites, someone who’s unethical, a micromanager — the list goes on." says Salemi.

8. You're Not As Happy As You Used To Be

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Whether you like it or not, there will always be those days when your work causes you stress. However, that doesn't mean that it should steal your happiness entirely. Your job should be fueling you because you're doing work that you're proud of, not sucking your energy and preventing you from enjoying life. "You’re depressed or you lack energy — or both. Do you want to do activities outside of work and spend time with people, or even just have time to sleep and be alone? Or, do you go out anyway but feel like a total zombie, not really present and certainly not enjoying life?" says Salemi.

9. Your Gut Is Telling You To Leave

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"That gut feeling is there for a reason, so trust your instincts – if you sense you work in a toxic environment, chances are you do," says Salemi. You might be second-guessing your gut for a numerous of reasons, but if you find the same thoughts happening over and over again, it might be time to examine why that's happening.

10. You're Constantly Getting Sick

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Sometimes people get sick not because the flu is going around, but simply because they are feeling stressed. "Are you getting sick? I worked in a toxic environment a few years ago and had numerous doctors’ visits for ailments I had never previously encountered. Plus, I was severely sleep deprived (falling asleep on the bus on a Saturday is a sure sign you are overworked!)," says Salemi.

11. Your Personal Life Has Taken A Nose Dive

"Take stock of your mental and physical health and look at your personal life — what are your nutrition, sleep and exercise like? Has anything changed significantly? And are you spending time outside the office? If you never feel like doing anything after work and on the weekends, that’s definitely a bad sign," says Salemi. In order to do the best job possible, your mental health should be top notch. Constantly feeling guilty or stressed because of your job or boss is a huge sign that you need to make some changes.

12. Your Friends & Family Are Noticing A Difference In Your Character

Your close friends and family usually know you the best. If they start expressing that they're noticing a difference ever since you've taken a particular job, it might be a good idea to listen to them. "Also, ask the people closest to you — friends, partner, family — if they’ve noticed a difference in your attitude and behavior. If your gut feeling alone isn’t enough to convince you, ask your friends if they’ve seen a change in your attitude socially and in how you talk about your job. If they say you’re constantly complaining and seem to dread going back to the office on a Monday, well, that should tell you something," says Salemi.

13. You're Not Feeling Respected

It's important for you to be taken seriously when you're working at your job. Your boss shouldn't be ignoring your thoughts or disrespecting you when you're giving 110 percent. "Are you respected? If not, demand it. Don't assume they are jerks, assume you are not assertive in demanding respect. Believe you deserve it, act it, put boundaries up, limits and lines you draw in the sand," says Michele Paiva.

14. Your Employer Encourages Competitive Conflict

While a little bit of competition can be healthy, you don't want to surround yourself in an environment similar to The Hunger Games. "Conflict is encouraged. Team members are driven to unhealthy levels of competition. Some motivational comparisons can be good, but when team members are thrown against each other with public repercussions, it can hit at you personally," says Scherwin.

15. Your Time Boundaries Are Not Being Respected

It really sucks when you see a good employee being taken advantage of because the boss doesn't know how to delegate or is not willing to hire another employee when the work load has become overwhelming. It's important to work in an environment where your time is respected (AKA not working 20 hours on the weekend in addition to 40 hours during the week). "Having a demanding job might mean you are contacted in 'off hours.' It happens. When it is 24/7 and you are forced to be immediately responsive at all times, even with advance notice of time off or other considerations, this can be an unhealthy environment," says Scherwin.

16. Your Boss Or Employees Communicate Poorly

In any type of relationship, communication is vital to make things go more smoothly. No one wants to be surrounded by negativity, especially from a boss who communicates poorly. "Negative communication — substance as well as form — whether its outright screaming/yelling, nasty e-mails, derogatory comments or snide hallway remarks, no one has the right to talk down to their colleagues," says Scherwin.

17. Your Boss Encourages Bad Behavior

"If your boss tells you what your co-workers aren't doing well or what he/she doesn't like about them, it's unhealthy and can feed tension. It also might suggest they are doing the same to you behind your back," says Scherwin. Hearing your boss talk badly about another employee will not be beneficial for you. It's toxic because it will show that your boss isn't being a good leader and may even make you wonder if they are doing the same to you. Plus, it can bring more negative energy into an already stressful environment, and no one wants that.

18. Your POV Isn't Heard Or Appreciated

Your opinion and ideas are just as important as anyone else, and it especially sucks when you don't feel appreciated at your job especially when you put your whole heart into your work. "If you have lots of ideas for the business and your career, and your boss pays you no mind — that is unhealthy. We all deserve to be heard and weigh in," says Scherwin.

19. You Begin To Question Your Own Worth

No person or job should ever make you feel like you're not smart enough or good enough for the position you are in, especially when you're giving it your all. Sometimes bosses are just not good leaders and you should try not to take it personally. "You might feel nervous all the time, and worried that everything you do is wrong. It's common to take it personally and begin to question your own worth. Never let that happen/get to that point," says Scherwin

Just because you have a job doesn't mean you need to deal with a toxic work environment. If you find that you're dealing with the majority of these signs, it might be a good idea to make some changes in your career. Remember: your personal well-being should be first priority, and just because it's not working out at this current job doesn't mean it won't work out with other jobs.

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