Toxic Work Environment: 9 Red Flags To Avoid For A Healthy Work-Life Balance

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You spend a significant portion of your life at work, and it’s only natural to want a positive and healthy work environment. In reality, unsupportive management practices and a lack of corporate accountability means toxic work environments are a dime a dozen. You may not even realize how harmful your current job is and how it can affect you long after you clock out for the day.

Toxic work environments can have long-lasting effects on your mental health, leading to decreased productivity, higher levels of anxiety and depression, and lower elf-esteem. In addition to job satisfaction, this type of workplace can deteriorate your health and make you feel helpless and stuck.

In this blog post, we will delve into the signs of a toxic work environment, the consequences it can have on you, and most importantly, how to recognize and address such toxicity before it affects you after work hours. So, get ready to uncover the silent killer in the modern workplace – toxic work environments.

What is a Toxic Work Environment?

A toxic work environment is characterized by harmful behavior from colleagues, managers, or overall company culture. This can include bullying, harassment, discrimination, micromanagement, lack of communication, and excessive workload without proper support.

These toxic behaviors can create a hostile and unhealthy work environment that affects not only you directly involved, it also affects those who witness it. Such environments harm your morale, mental health, and overall job satisfaction.

Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

A toxic work environment can have severe impacts on your mental health. Although each workplace has its own ecosystem of experiences, toxic workplaces often have several character flaws.

9 Toxic Work Environment Red Flags:

  1. High levels of stress and anxiety: If you endure significant stress at work every day, you may experience signs of anxiety, depression, or burnout.
  2. Lack of work-life balance: You may feel pressured to constantly be on call and sacrifice personal time for work. This can also lead to burnout, depression, and other mental health issues.
  3. Poor communication and lack of trust: Toxic workplaces often have a culture of mistrust and poor communication. This can lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, and a lack of support among team members.
  4. Bullying or harassment: Unfortunately, bullying and harassment can also be prevalent in unsupportive work environments. This type of behavior creates a hostile and unsafe atmosphere to work without being verbally attacked.
  5. Constant criticism and negative feedback: While constructive criticism is essential for growth, consistent negative feedback can harm your self-esteem and mental health. The longer this goes on, the more deeply it can affect you.
  6. Lack of support and recognition from colleagues or superiors: In a toxic work environment, you may feel isolated and unsupported by your coworkers or superiors. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.
  7. Unhealthy power dynamics: Toxic workplaces often have unhealthy power dynamics, where certain people or groups hold all the decision-making power. This can lead to feelings of disempowerment and exclusion.
  8. Poor conflict resolution: In a toxic work environment, conflicts are often handled poorly or ignored. This can create tension and resentment among team members.
  9. High turnover rates: If employees are constantly leaving the company, it may be a red flag for an unhealthy workplace culture.

The Consequences of Toxic Work Environments

The effects of negative work environments can be devastating for both you and the organization. 

Some consequences of toxic workplaces include:

  • Decreased productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Increased absenteeism and sick leaves.
  • High employee turnover rates lead to costly hiring processes.
  • Damage to company reputation and brand image.
  • Legal repercussions in cases of harassment or discrimination.

Addressing Toxicity in the Workplace

Companies need to address and eradicate toxic behavior in the workplace. Often, it is up to you to report discrimination or unfair work practices for changes to be made. It can feel overwhelming to know where to start in the reporting process.

Here are some steps that you can take to report employees creating a toxic workplace: 

1. Document the incidents and gather evidence: 

  • If you notice repeating behaviors, harassment, or management practices that cause high levels of distress, keep track of days, times, emails, encounters, and the context of any interaction with the offending employees. This helps paint a picture to HR of patterned behavior over time and could lead to disciplinary action. 
  • Without this information, the situation could be dismissed as a one-time occasion or a “You say/They say” argument, which doesn’t lead to significant change.

2. Speak with HR or a trusted manager about your concerns:

  • If there is someone at your workplace in a position of power (HR, management, team lead) with whom you can have an open and honest conversation about your experiences, this is a great place to start. You can explain your experience and get insight into how to proceed from their perspective, which could result in swifter changes by management.
  • If the person you go to has the ability, they could speak on your behalf to someone above their position to expedite change and consequences to the responsible employees.

3. Utilize any anonymous reporting systems in place if necessary:

  • If you are afraid to report coworkers or management, some companies have anonymous reporting practices to protect your identity while holding offending employees responsible. This is usually done by an anonymous phone line, where you can report your experiences without revealing your identity when the report is sent to management.

4. Consider seeking legal advice if necessary:

  • If you feel your federal or state rights have been violated and your company refuses to protect your rights, seek legal counsel from an employee discrimination lawyer. Most law offices have free consultations to understand the situation, whether laws are indeed broken, and if their services can help you get justice for your experience.
  • Sometimes, law offices specialize in certain parts of employee protection laws. For instance, a lawyer may specialize in protected classes of employees, such as disabled employees, employees who identify as LGBTQ, or employees who are part of a minority group. The lawyer may only accept your service request if you fall under those parameters.
  • There may still be law services that can help you, so it is essential to ask the types of employee issues the law office caters to.

Coping with a Toxic Work Environment

If you are currently in an unsupportive workplace, it’s essential to prioritize your mental health and well-being. By utilizing and practicing these tips, you can learn to cope better with the stress of your job, demonstrate the respect you deserve, and potentially create a new career path along the way.

Here are some tips for coping with a toxic workplace:

  • Set boundaries: Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life is essential. This may mean limiting the time spent on work-related tasks outside of working hours or saying no to extra responsibilities that add to your workload.
  • Practice self-care: Make sure to prioritize self-care activities such as relaxation techniques, an evening walk, or any activity that you find a job in. This can help reduce your stress level and increase your stress threshold so that work pressure can affect you less over time.
  • Seek support: Talk to trusted friends or family members about your experiences at work. You can also seek support from a Makin Wellness therapist who can provide valuable coping strategies and emotional support. Both ways of seeking support create a connection with others, allow you to talk about what you are affected by, and open the door for validation from those you feel close to. This is important, especially if your workplace invalidates your claims or gaslights you about them.
  • Develop a support system at work: Try to build relationships with coworkers who may be experiencing similar difficulties. A support system at work can provide a sense of belonging and help alleviate feelings of isolation.
  • Look for opportunities elsewhere: If the toxic environment cannot be changed, it may be time to look for job opportunities elsewhere. Remember that your mental health should always come first, and it’s okay to prioritize yourself over a toxic work environment.  

Conclusion

Toxic work environments are unfortunately prevalent in today’s society. If you are experiencing a this type of negative workplace or acts of discrimination, speak up and report it. There are direct ways, like speaking to your supervisor or an HR representative, or more protected ways, like calling the anonymous hotline provided by your employer to protect your identity and avoid repercussions of the report.

The first step is becoming aware of signs of toxic workplace behavior. Sometimes, higher-up management can be unaware of toxic management or discrimination that may be occurring. Keep a log of your experiences, and remember the date, time, who was involved and what happened.

By reporting toxic behaviors, you let the company know what is happening and allow them to investigate and make changes based on their findings. Remember, taking your concerns seriously is in the company’s best interest. If they ignore these types of reports, they could be legally liable. 

If you are in a toxic work environment and feel overwhelmed with your experience, a therapist can help you process what you’ve gone through, as well as help you learn coping strategies to reduce your stress. A therapist can also help create a plan for you to report the behavior and help you feel safe in the process.

For support in dealing with the stress and anxiety that come with a toxic workplace, call us at (833)-274-heal or schedule an appointment today with one of our therapists who can guide and support you to feel empowered and respected inside and outside of your workplace.

More On This Topic: 

Your 7-Step Self-Care Guide To Creating A Helpful Practice That Works For You

How To Set Boundaries: Your Top 5 Most Important Relationships

9 Practical Coping Skills For Depression

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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