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Toxic workplace- Signs and solutions

Toxic workplace- Signs and solutions

Toxic workplaces nowadays are ever-growing. With more and more people experiencing burnout, we all need to stop and take a long hard look at the environment we work in.
As Aristotle put it: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”
But, if a person starts to fail at their job, and feels unhappy, how can they know if it’s them – or the workplace itself? Has the air in your office ever felt heavy? Is there tension? Are deadlines getting closer to each other, and people seem stressed out? In this article, we reveal signs of a toxic workplace, explore factors that lead to it, and offer advice on how to combat such an environment.

What does “toxic work environment” mean?

A toxic work environment is one where employees find it difficult to work or progress in their careers due to the negative atmosphere created by coworkers, supervisors, or the company culture itself.
But this wasn’t always the case.
Using “toxic” to describe a workplace dates back to the late 60s. Certain work environments exhibited literal toxicity risks in the form of cancerous chemicals and infectious microbes. In the 80s, the meaning expanded to include workplace behavior and regulations.

Workplace signs of a toxic environment

These are some solid indicators that you're working in a toxic office environment:

1-Poor Communication

Insufficient, confusing, or scattered communication is the culprit of so many problems in the workplace.
In fact, communication skills are the most important skills needed in any successful organization. Why?
So much falls under the communication umbrella—including listening skills (both as a manager and an employee), verbal communication, written communication, preferences on how to communicate—the list goes on! 
Communication is the root cause of bad organizations—or good organizations operating poorly. Bad communication often leads to confusion and a lack of purpose for employees. From here, problems arise and compound, often leading to all the other items on our list.

2-Cliques, Exclusion, and Gossipy Behavior 

When it does feel like you're back in a middle school cafeteria, it can be pretty deflating.
We all know what a clique looks like. It’s the group of people—whether at work or at school—that sticks together, grabs each other coffee, laughs at inside jokes (of which they somehow have roughly one million), and generally excludes anyone outside of their tight-knit ring.
And, while we are all adults here, it can feel extremely alienating to exist on the outside of an active clique. 
Simply put, cliques are counterproductive in the workplace. While having workplace friends and acquaintances is good, any behavior that can be described as “clique-ish” is best to be avoided. Steer clear of any cliques, workplace bullies, or exclusionary groups. Nobody wants to go back to middle school, no matter how good the benefits might be. 
Here are a few warning signs you’ve got some Heathers (or Harveys?) in your office:
Constant feeling of exclusion from a group of people
A particular group of toxic employees that lunches, grabs coffee, and organizes happy hours together
Projects often are offered to a particular group, regardless of talent or experience
Large parts of the workday are spent whispering or chatting on messaging platforms
General outward disinterest from the group in anyone else—unless it involves gossip or “drama”

3-no boundaries around work. 

Toxic cultures often normalize and glorify a lack of healthy boundaries, Bohemond says, encouraging you to prioritize work over everything else. Management might push themselves to burnout and exhaustion and expect their teams to do the same, whether they’re working in the office or virtually. Maybe they expect employees to stay as late as they do in the office, for instance, or respond to messages and emails at all hours on the weekend.
Bohemond advises job seekers to look out for this trait during the recruiting process, as it can often become visible early. “If the hiring manager is giving you a task on a Friday afternoon and wants it back by Monday morning, or expects you to respond to emails on a quick turnaround early in the morning or late at night, that’s a red flag,” he says.

4-There’s no room to make mistakes. 

It can be called “aggressive, dog-eat-dog” cultures. employees are very blame-heavy: There’s no room to make an error and learn from it. If you make a mistake, you’re hauled over the coals. In an environment like this, people start to do whatever it takes to avoid being in the line of blame and to get ahead of their colleagues—like not sharing work-related information with teammates or throwing coworkers under the bus when something goes wrong.

This type of culture can be especially hard on minorities, who already have to deal with the expectation of always-on excellence and perfection.

5-The interpersonal relationships aren’t healthy.

You can often gauge the emotional health of a workplace by looking at how people within it are interacting with one another, Are they smiling and chit-chatting together while brewing their morning coffee, or are most people just scowling and typing? Do they share memes and jokes, or just send blunt messages tinged with contempt? You can pick up on the energy of a workplace through the general ambience and body language of individuals.

6-There is no support for employee growth. 

Many people in toxic workplaces have to “figure it out” on their own because there’s no mentorship or support to help them grow, He This has gotten worse virtually since it’s that much easier to become disconnected from your manager or team. And it takes its toll in particular on entry-level employees—who are left to their own devices in such a workplace, leading to demotivation and disillusionment—as well as employees from marginalized communities, who already tend to get very little support to translate potential into growth opportunities, Simon says.

7-People frequently feel gaslighted. 

When someone gaslights you, they make you question your own feelings, perceptions, or sanity. I once had a manager, for example, who would assign projects to me and my teammates with a specific goal and methodology in mind. But when it came time to review, they would ask why the project had been done that way and change the goals on us, often entirely misremembering or forgetting their initial brief. The result: My teammates and I would walk away doubting our skills and, over time, we began to dread working on that team entirely.
Like other toxic behaviors, gaslighting can be doubly harmful for inclusion and equity in the workplace. For example, if a Black person speaks up about a colleague who made a racist remark, they may be told that the colleague didn’t mean it, or that they must have misheard. Incidents like this can often cause minorities to question their own reality and lived experience in the workplace, not to mention feel demoralized due to the lack of support.

8-People regularly experience physical symptoms of work stress. 

In a toxic work environment, mental stress may start to affect you physically. You might feel that your body and brain are on high alert—and you’d be right, because our brains are constantly scanning for threats—and as far as your brain is concerned, you’re in danger. Being in “fight or flight” mode for a prolonged period of time can affect your long-term physical health, and you may start to experience some of the more common symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression, which include digestive issues, sleep problems, fatigue, aches, and panic attacks.

9-People are disengaged and turnover is high. 

In a toxic work environment, employees start to mentally shut down and disengage from the work, their team, and the company overall. This translates to virtual environments, where people might keep their cameras off during meetings and communicate only with short-form comments. ??Over time, people start to leave toxic workplaces at high rates. “Turnover is definitely a good sign that you are sniffing around some toxicity, especially if you are seeing a specific department or segment that is struggling to keep people over 12 months”.

10-No Work-Life Balance

You deserve to have a full life outside of work.
You should be able to toggle your whatsapp notifications to OFF. You should be able to leave an email unread after dinner on a Tuesday. You should be able to make your dentist appointment without feeling guilty.
Work-life balance is essential to survival. No human should be expected to be on the clock at all times. If your job requires that you be on-call at all times, it’s toxic. If your boss requires you to answer emails mid-Saturday—every Saturday—your job is toxic.
Yes, at times, things come up at inopportune hours. However, if you are working under the expectation that you are always to be available for work, your job is toxic garbage.

Toxic workplace vs. Healthy one

The word “Toxic workplace” became popular after Virginia K. Baillie used it in her book “Effective Nursing Leadership: A Practical Guide”, to shed light on the poor work environment nurses faced every day. She revealed the rules that dictated how nurses had to behave – to have the leadership skills of a man and the caring demeanor of a woman – and explained how harmful they were. Guidelines like those were so strict, they created unhealthy work environments, on top of sexism and discrimination.
And reading the following table, you won’t find much difference between toxic environments today and those of Bailie’s time.
Toxic workplace- Signs and solutions13

When in a job interview, look out for these

If you’ve seen their job ads pop up quite often, ask them about it: “I’ve noticed you’re hiring often. Are you expanding? How long have you worked here?” This could be a sign of a lot of people quitting or getting fried often.
The hiring process moves too fast (to fill in the spot) or takes too long (you aren’t among their first choices so they leave you waiting without any information).
The recruiters/employers seem aloof and indifferent. They ask very little about you, your ambitions and plans, mostly focusing on what you have achieved and what you can do for them.
The recruiters/employers don’t look like they want to sell you on the job. It seems as though they would be fine either way. This is a sign of a disinterested workplace that could care less about where your career goes.
The recruiters/employers keep reminding you how numerous candidates applied for the same job. It’s a tactic to get you nervous and accepting of a lowball offer.
The recruiters/employers ask you questions that show they have no idea what your job entails. This frequently happens to programmers and developers, when they’re being asked about different languages. In this kind of workplace, you will probably have switched roles, not know what your goals are, or receive proper feedback.
“We work hard, and we play hard!” Sugarcoating the most likely common practice of making employees work overtime. There are actually laws that regulate work hours, especially overtime. Californian regulations are among the most notable ones, so looking up if there are similar ones in your country can only benefit you.
The recruiters/employers avoid answering questions about work hours, promotions, or growth opportunities. There is no established way of progressing, and they are most likely offering promotions and bonuses “on the fly” and without structure. Expect a workplace where you will probably have to chase the employer for them.

Phrases you'll always hear in the toxic workplace

Toxic situations stem from toxic phrases. They’re usually the first clear-as-day indicator that you’re in a bad environment. We’ve compiled a list of most commonly heard examples:
-“Who is the manager here, me or you?” 
-“I’ve been here longer than you to know that… “
-“Can you take your holiday at a later date? This period is really important for the company.”
-“If you don’t want this job, there’s always someone who will gladly take your place.”
-“Stop making excuses and just do what you were asked to” 
-“Work is not supposed to be fun – that’s why they call it ‘work’.”
-I don’t like your attitude.” 
-“We/They can replace you just like that, so I’d watch it if I were you.” 
-“Look at _____, she’s also having personal problems/difficulties at work, and she’s not complaining!” 
-“It is not my fault, _____ was supposed to do X/Y but he didn’t deliver!”
-“If no one complains of your work – it means you’re doing fine. Just keep working.”

How to handle a toxic work environment

Since it takes time to find a new job and you can't just walk away from this difficult situation immediately, it helps to develop ways to handle the dysfunction until you can step into a new job somewhere else:
Find people who feel the same way you do. Develop friendships with people who feel the same way as you. The hope is that you'll watch each other's back and will share any news with the group.
Do something after work that can help relieve stress. Go to the gym, do home repairs, or learn a new skill. The key is to make sure you're living a fulfilling life outside of work to combat the drama of your 9 to 5.
Create lists to keep yourself busy. A list can help you stay focused on your tasks instead of the toxic atmosphere and gives you a reason to keep going every day.
Document everything you do. Save emails and write down comments and decisions from meetings, phone calls, and every person who interacts with you. If you need to file a complaint, you will need the evidence to back your claim.
Start your exit strategy. It is possible that things could improve at your job, in which case it might make sense to stay. However, while waiting it out, begin your search for a new job. This will help you stay positive when things get rough. If you needed to leave yesterday, consider a bridge job that will keep you active while you find something in line with your career.

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