Identifying a Toxic Workplace

A toxic work environment makes employees feel unhappy and even fearful.

A toxic work environment makes employees feel unhappy and even fearful.

Companies that focus solely on the bottom line with no regard for the employees often result in a toxic workplace. Human resources veteran Marie McIntyre says that in these poisonous environments, no one is truly immune from the effects, and it can start to affect the employees on and off the job. Over time, employees may adjust to the aberrant behavior as their new normal, and they may even blame themselves for the situation. If you think your office environment is toxic and you don’t see a leadership change in the near future, it may be time to dust off your resume.

No Work-Life Balance

In many toxic workplaces, excessively long hours and disregard for holidays and weekends is a way of life. Remember, the focus in this type of company is on the bottom line and not on you and your family. Working long hours alone doesn’t necessarily mean your work environment is poor, as many companies need their employees to bite the bullet at specific times during the year. A toy company, for example, might need extra help around the Christmas holidays, while a caterer might be exceptionally busy during the spring bridal season.

Fear is the Primary Motivator

When fear is the primary motivator used to get you to do your job, you are working in a toxic environment. Unlike a toxic relationship that you can leave at any time, your job is what puts a roof over your head and food on the table, and your boss knows it. If you find management using public humiliation or threats of being fired, demoted or laid off to motivate employees, your workplace is not all that it should be.

Bullies and Scapegoats

In a healthy workplace, bullies are put in their place and reports of inappropriate behavior are investigated and dealt with. This is not true in a toxic workplace. In this type of environment, bullies are subtly or overtly admired for their aggressive and manipulative behavior. Their favorite pastime seems to be blaming each mistake or indiscretion on someone else, leaving a path of scapegoats behind them. Workplace bullies seem especially fond of blaming problems on employees who have left the company. If this is the case in your office and if your coworkers actually believe the bullies’ stories, you are probably working in a toxic environment.

Unprofessional Behavior

Take a look around you. If your workplace is filled with turf wars and other conflicts, and if your coworkers engage in intimidating or discriminating tactics, it may be time to leave. In a workplace that is toxic, you will often see a high rate of absenteeism and turnover. Customer complaints and worker’s compensation claims may be higher than expected, and social functions are almost non-existent.

 

About the Author

After attending Fairfield University, Hannah Wickford spent more than 15 years in market research and marketing in the consumer packaged goods industry. In 2003 she decided to shift careers and now maintains three successful food-related blogs and writes online articles, website copy and newsletters for multiple clients.

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