Is My Workplace Toxic?

Coping with a toxic workplace is a skill that we shouldn’t have to learn, but unfortunately might be a necessary means of survival.

A lot of my clients come to me with deteriorating mental health, but many don’t realise that the situations or behaviour they put up with at work might be contributing.

Since you’ll spend an average of 90,000 hours of your life at work (yes, I’m afraid that is true), you deserve those hours to be spent in a safe environment where you feel appreciated.

In this post, we’re going to walk through:

  • What is toxicity in the workplace?
  • How to identify the signs of a toxic workplace

Keep your eyes peeled for part two of this post where I’ll walk you through ways to cope with a toxic workplace.

What is toxicity in the workplace?

Toxicity in the workplace has been described as an environment in which you feel ‘psychologically unsafe.’

The normalisation of bullying, conflict, harassment or mistreatment has become baked into the culture of the company, making a serious impact on the mental well-being of employees.

A common issue with workplace toxicity is that you might not always notice it happening. Sometimes, it can be so subtle that it’s almost imperceptible. Perhaps it occurs so often that employees start becoming numb to bullying and accept it as normal work culture.

In some cases, employees might begin gaslighting themselves and convince themselves that they are the problem. This is the case for many of my clients.

Is my workplace toxic? Three telltale signs

Since the signs of a toxic workplace may not always be obvious, you can usually identify them by analysing:

  • Employee mental health
  • Attitudes surrounding results
  • Leadership style

Employee Mental Health

The quickest way to assess toxicity in the workplace is to analyse the employees, since they tend to take the brunt of it. A toxic work environment may possess the following telltale traits:

  • Employees are frequently sick, tired or burnt-out
  • Employees feel under-valued and unappreciated
  • The company has a low staff retention rate, meaning employees frequently resign from their role

Many of my clients come to me in a state of burn-out, a lot of whom have been consistently devalued in their role whilst still working to ridiculously high expectations.

The quicker you realise you’re in a toxic work environment, the less time you’ll lose to burn-out recovery.

Attitudes Surrounding Results

Often, toxic workplaces are hugely performance-based; toxicity could transpire in a number of ways:

  • The company set ridiculously ambitious targets that create pressure
  • The company seems to favour results over people
  • Inconsistency/inequality in promotions/pay rises

A client came to me after enduring a nervous breakdown last year.

He had unattainably high targets which, somehow, he managed to achieve whilst sacrificing his sleep, his relationship with his son and his mental health. When it came to the end of the year, a select few employees were getting promoted in the company.

My client was not on the list.

He had given up years of his life and sacrificed time with his family for a company who refused to reward him for his hard work. Somehow, he blamed himself. He told me he clearly wasn’t “management material.”

In just six weeks of cognitive hypnotherapy, he managed to un-pick the brainwashing he had endured in the last decade of his life, freeing himself from the self-limiting beliefs that he was not worthy of more. He quit his job soon after.

Leadership Style

One of the most telling signs of workplace toxicity is to assess the way leaders treat their employees. This could look like:

  • Frequent micromanagement
  • Unpredictable/irrational/harsh leadership
  • Your leader has low emotional intelligence/compassion
  • Frequent conflict and poor conflict resolution
  • Poor communication skills from above

Although it is important for employees to set boundaries and try to call out mistreatment when possible, they also shouldn’t be expected to take full responsibility of ending a toxic work environment.

So, tell your boss to click here if you think any of the above applies to them.

If you recognise any of these signs in your workplace, stay tuned for my next post in which I break down ways to cope with workplace toxicity.

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