We spend most of our days working at our jobs, whether it is a 9 to 5 desk job or something that involves moving around. Our jobs give us purpose and allow us to earn money to not only put food on the table but also live in relative comfort and happiness. So why is it that most people feel stressed out, burned out, and utterly miserable when it comes to their workplace?

Here are seven signs that your workplace is toxic:

Unrealistic Expectations – when your employer sets deadlines that are impossible to meet or a target that is too hard for just one person to achieve, that’s definitely a toxic setup that will burn you out. A situation where you’re set to fail from the get-go because the workload is too much for a single person to handle is one you should consider getting out of immediately. The problem gets compounded by the lack of employee protest; if you’re threatened with losing your job for raising your voice, that’s definitely a toxic space to be in!

No Loyalty – it could start out small such as you signing a contract that says that the company has the right to fire you at any time and without reason, which may be an indicator that your employer doesn’t want a permanent relationship and has zero loyalty to its employees. In such a setting, even employees won’t have loyalty towards one another; back-biting, taking credit for another’s work, dumping work on one person, etc., all could happen in a rat race to the top that your employer manipulates from the start.

Zero Work-Life Balance – when work starts cutting into your other commitments and your employer demands that you work overtime, miss lunch breaks, or come in on holidays, then you know you’re in a toxic place. Being forced to choose between having a life outside your workplace and your job is a clear indicator that your employer thinks of you as a productivity factor and not a human being to be respected and valued.

Dysfunctional Leadership – it goes without saying that toxic workplaces have leaders who are usually immature. Most of them have characteristics such as:

  • Emotional imbalance – either they’re highly emotional and react inappropriately in public or they’re highly cold and distanced, refusing to understand any humane perspectives.
  • Unreasonable expectations when it comes to goals and increasing productivity.
  • Refusal to listen to others, both fellow managers and employees.
  • Lack of empathy – they don’t accept anything that cuts into their productivity. For instance, if you’re sick and need a day off, they still expect you to show up and do work.
  • Lack of communication – they expect that things get done without telling you their expectations.
  • Aggressive behavior, to the point where they bully their workers into doing their work.
  • No morality – they want to make sure the company’s goals, and sometimes their own, are achieved, even if at the expense of the employees welfare.
  • Highly hypocritical – they often talk about “trust” and “teamwork” but are untrustworthy and only want things done their way.

Scapegoating – this is one problem that is particularly compounded by the employees themselves. When work doesn’t get completed, the blame gets passed around – the higher ups criticize the workers, the workers accuse one another, upper management, and company bullies. Any work you do is either belittled or credit is given to someone else.

Poor Communication – when you get only negative feedback on your performance, even when you know you’ve done a good job, or when you’re left completely in the dark about a particular issue, job, or plan, you know it’s a toxic place to be in.

Fractured Team – overall, the company isn’t a team to work with. There’s favoritism, back-biting, grudge holding, no honesty or transparency, etc., because the team is fractured and everyone simply wants to keep their head above water.

All these are signs that you’re in a toxic workplace. Abuse isn’t obvious always, such as bullying or sexual abuse – it’s insidious, sometimes to the point where you end up blaming yourself. Remember, it isn’t your fault, don’t blame yourself. Get out, find a new job or a way to be your own boss!

All the best, 

Dr. Antwala