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4 Signs You're in A Toxic Workplace

Toxic Workplace
Jessie Miño
Published on

You’ve spoken up to offer yourself for extra projects. Rejected. You’re constantly being gatekept with no opportunities to move forward in your career. Your interest & motivation for your work begin to dwindle. 

Sorry to break it to you, but you may have found  yourself in a toxic workplace. For some it’s easier to identify. For others, however, this may be a bit muddled. So how can you tell if you’re in a toxic work environment? 

4 Signs You're in A Toxic Workplace

  1. Career Gatekeeping

I’ll share a personal story to give you an idea, although, if you’ve experienced this, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I was hired at a startup as the company was rebranding, so our team was small and there was a lot of work to be done. Exciting times, right? It started off that way. 

Despite being involved in many initiatives that contributed to the growth of the company, the leadership in place simply prevented any form of career growth.  If you’re in a situation where you are truly putting in the work, but are constantly being glazed over, it’s time to reconsider your options. 

Employee growth requires good management, you won’t get far without it.

  1. Abusive Management

Abuse can be hidden well, which is why you need to be aware of the signs. Passive aggressive communication, hostility, lack of trust, and guilt tripping are just a few ways abuse manifests. In fear of losing our jobs or being seen as a bad employee, many times we’ll simply accept the treatment & tack it to “that’s just the way it is here”. Truth is, it shouldn’t be. 

A Gallup study of 7,272 U.S. adults revealed that one in two had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career. 

Gallup explains that when you have a bad boss, it creates a compounding effect that’s really damaging. Results? Employees are miserable at work, that misery then follows them home, seeping into their personal lives. 

I recently communicated with Chris Murray, Sr. Director, Human Resources, Head of HR at Triumvira Immunologics, Inc., about one of his most recent posts on LinkedIn


Chris’ experience resonates with many of us who have been in this same situation. The response to this post was overwhelmingly positive and he shared “my inbox exploded with people sharing their stories and giving me the courage to keep moving!” If you’re in the same position, you can also find the support you need to move past and find the right opportunity for you. 

  1. High Employee Turnover

Though at times, fear is an obstacle to changing our circumstances, there are times when leaving becomes a necessity. Recently, we saw the “Great Resignation”, where leaving was the only option for many.

Among the top reasons why workers left: 

  • No opportunity for advancement (“Career Gatekeeping”)
  • Felt disrespected at work 

A toxic workplace will force people out of the door. If you’re seeing this happen in your company, it’s a good sign that something’s not right. 

  1. Disrespectful Behavior

Having different points of view and expressing those in a professional manner is very different from speaking to or acting disrespectfully towards a colleague. Companies that tolerate this type of behavior from employees affect the entire company culture beyond measure. 

Sean Sessel, executive director at the personal development firm The Oculus Institute, says “Tolerance for someone who disrespects their colleagues or undermines the mission (is a sign of a toxic work environment). Once one person can engage in such behavior and others see it is tolerated, standards will slip across the board and the culture will deteriorate rapidly.” 

Paul Mastrangelo, Ph.D., principal strategist at CultureIQ, which specializes in company culture and employee engagement solutions also expresses how lack of respect among colleagues in a work environment can lead to “stress, frustration, harassment and even abuse.”

How To Navigate A Toxic Workplace

There’s hope! If you’re in a toxic workplace right now, there are a few things you can do to cope with the situation as it stands. 

  • Find your allies - We all need someone we can commiserate with, and it’s likely there are others who feel the same way. 
  • Focus on what you can control - Focusing your attention and energy on what you can affect will help you stay motivated and productive, until you find your next opportunity. 
  • Speak to your management - This won’t be easy. Nonetheless, muster the courage to have a transparent and honest conversation. Pull in HR as needed, and express what you're experiencing, what your expectations are and ask questions. Do this sooner rather than later, once you’ve identified your situation. 
  • Move on - If nothing else works, then it’s simply time for you to do what is best for you. Polish that resume and start looking for a new opportunity. Staying in a toxic work environment will only hurt you more in the long run. 
Quote from Sean Sessel

Workplaces that work for you

One thing to remember: not all companies are the same! 

You’ll find places that actually put people first; who care for their employees and are inclusive of everyone. Those are the kinds of organizations that promote a great employee culture & find ways to enhance the employee experience. If you’re part of a team entrusted to find ways to do this, see how Robin can help make that easier than ever.

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